You’re on a 4 day hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. Every day you enjoy the multi-coloured palette of layers. A warm symphony in ocher, brown and red. A reminder how ancient our earth is. You take lots of pictures. You try to retain the magnitude of passing of time in this breathtaking part of our planet.
But then you come home. You put down your suitcase and look around your house. You see a pile of letters, and scan through them. You open your suitcase to unpack the laundry.
You call close family so they know you’re home. You tell a bit about your travels and agree on meeting later in the week. You're already making lists in your head “what to do”. Before you know you're back in the rut and memories of your amazing trip fade away.
It happened to me.
After a 3 week journey, daily life knocked on the door. To keep my memories alive I had to take action. I decided to devote time to grounding my experiences in a conscious and practical way.
I followed the 5 steps below to solidify my precious holiday moments so I could use them for future projects.
1 - Remember by writing
When I travel, I write brief summaries of where I am and what I do (no high prose, for my eyes only). When something spectacular catches my eye I make a quick sketch or add a note. I glue leaflets of the travel area into my logbook. I leave lots of white space where I can add pictures or notes later on. (important!)
A logbook while travelling is like having an external memory disk. You can always go back and look things up when you need it.
Here a snapshot of my logbook:
2 - Uncover the gems in your pictures
When you're home, look through your pictures. Do you notice any themes?
I found I have a lot of pictures of erosion on stones and layers in the canyon. Beautiful weird patterns and fascinating earth colour variations. I put these pictures in seperate folders and give them meaningful names. Here's for instance a link to a folder called Earth Jewels. I go back into this folder when I want to look deeper into the theme it represents.
Pictures often tell you things you didn’t realize when you were there. Have you noticed this too?
3 - Re-connect in a meaningful way
Your friends and family love to see short impressions of your holiday. They don't want to be bored by your long unedited version.
I make a “quick view folder”. The trip from the Grand Canyon had 467 pictures which I cut down to 92 images. Curating images often feels difficult but I also find it fun. I get to re-live my experience and the reward is a coherent story of my journey. Buried memories miraculously come back. I write them down in my logbook.
Then it’s easy to sit down with friends or family with a glass of wine, relax and talk about your trip.
4 - Access your unconscious information
Normal life takes over.
And that is okay.
You can even use it to your advantage to incorporate your memories.
When doing routine tasks, let your mind wander over your holiday. Observe your thoughts. Work gives your hands something to do while your head can process what happened. Let time pass to deepen memories, so unconscious feelings can rise to the surface.
I get to work in my garden. After a holiday there's always a lot to do, weeding, mowing, trimming. Work that allows my mind to wander. Often leading to new insights and connecting me to what happens in my inner life. Giving me an “Ah Erlebnis”.
Some people use meditation to access this information. I find doing daily chores has the same effect and I can clean the house and garden at the same time.
Just one tip: Keep away from the TV. It will interfere with your process.
5 - Connect Consciously
Take time to sit down with your notebook and your picture files. Ponder over the essence of your trip. Let your experience seep through the veins of your mind (it has layers too). You'll have new things to add to your book. Sketch!
Try to express why you like certain images. What speaks to you? What don't you like? This is why I leave lots of white space in my logbook. When analysing, you ground your experience deeper into yourself. Everything gets a place. Like cleaning up and putting everything at the right spot so you can find it later.
Walk the extra mile to add valuable layers to your holiday
When you travel, you experience a landscape with childlike eyes.
Taking it in, with all the senses you have, being there.
Without judgment, full of wonder.
Back home you engage your grown-up self.
You get a grip through analysing and organisation.
This helps you recognise patterns.
I came to the Grand Canyon expecting to see layers. And yes, I did see them but there was so much more. The experience of walking in the Canyon. The hard work to get down and then up again, touching me on a deeper level.
Sorting my images and doing my daily tasks gave me processing time. By analysing the meaning of my experience, I could detect layers of information that I didn't know were there.
You can discover your own layers to use for future projects.
It’s as easy as sitting at your kitchen table. Enjoying a cup of coffee. Looking through your images. Have your logbook with a pencil on the side. Scribble down the thoughts that show up...
Help your inner child to access those layers of information.