How I prepare my files before I travel
Updated: Nov 22
I have met people who wing their travel. They book a trip and turn up on the day of departure, without having done any research or studying. Everything on the trip is then a new discovery for them. Sometimes, I truly envy them.
Me, I am the other sort of traveller. I want to research where I am going before I get there, the history behind the place, stories of people both past and present. Then when I am there, it often feels like deja vu. Both unsettling and familiar. I am also the traveller taking notes and writing these experiences in my journal.
There is no right or wrong way to travel, each experience is as unique as the person doing the journey.
However, people are increasingly asking me how I prepare for a trip. I am happy to share the way I do it. Please feel free to adapt it to your own style or requirements.
One thing most people do is take lots of photos. Smartphones are a fantastic way to preserve memories. Yet, the photos often stay on the phone. Have you ever been bored by someone flipping through a plethora of photos on their phone, most exactly the same? Don't be this person.
I create a new folder on my laptop/harddrive and label it with the date and place I am going BEFORE I leave.
ie 20230101 Turkey. I write the date as year, month and day. This way, when I have a few holiday folders, they will be in order of departure date, rather than day, month, year. That would get confusing.
Then I create subfolders within this folder.
One folder for each day of the trip, and I label them.
I keep it brief, but with enough information for me to know where I was and what is in that folder.
At the end of each day, I transfer the photos I took from my camera or phone and paste them into the appropriate folder. It is also a good opportunity to delete any pictures that I don't like or are duplicates.
In the main folder, I also keep a copy of the daily itinerary, and then my own notes. A map is vital.
If you right click in the folder and go new, text document, you can add your own notes that you might want to see straight away. I usually put in notes such as: date - Flight QFxxxx Ref xxxxxx Flight Istanbul to Brisbane
There are some days that are busier than others and might involve travelling to several different places. I create subfolders within the relevant day folder. When transferring the photos at night, it helps me to know exactly where each one was. This may not be necessary if you don't need to be really specific later.
Journal and notes
I create a template on a word document that I copy into each day and the make notes from my research (usually I copy and paste information from wikipaedia, for my own personal use only). For my list of questions below, I usually have 3-4 lines that I can fill in. I might not answer every question every day, but it is a good guideline to prompt me on what to write.
Often knowing what to write is the hardest part of note taking. I like to have a "best thing about today" line. Too often we can focus on things that go wrong for us when travelling, but when we focus on the best thing, our minds tend to stay more in the positive. It can also remind us afterwards of something that we may have forgotten.
Some of my best things from past travels have been:
"I learnt how to say how are you in the local language, and they understood me"
"I visited a school in Fiji. The kids danced for us, and got me up dancing with them, it was fun"
"I went to the mud baths and gone down and dirty, and laughed and laughed"
"I met an Austrian, a German and an American, and we went out drinking until 3am"
"I did 35,000 steps today"
When I transfer my photos over at the end of the day, I can go into the document, and make quick notes. This is the start of my journal. The itinerary prompts me to remember where I was and what I did. Trust me, after a full and busy day of sightseeing, it can be easy to forget what you did that morning.
Day 9 - Konya
All highlighted sections below are what is written in my word document before I travel.
This next bit is from the official itinerary:
After breakfast, travel to Konya, stopping for coffee and a rest along the way. Upon arrival enjoy lunch (not included). Visit the imposing green-tiled Mausoleum of Mevlana, the mystic founder of the Sufi sect the ‘Whirling Dervishes’.
The beige bit below is what I copy and paste from other sources, this is a reminder only. I like to use my own words later, but this gives me more information to prepare my notes.
Konya (Turkish pronunciation: [ˈkoɲ.ja]) is a large, industrially developed city in central Turkey, on the south-western edge of the Central Anatolian Plateau. It is the capital of Konya Province and has a reputation for social conservatism which is frequently belied by its many innovative urban projects. During antiquity and into Seljuk times it was known as Iconium (Greek: Ἰκόνιον), although the Seljuks also called it Darü'l-Mülk, meaning "seat of government". In 19th-century accounts of the city in English its name is usually spelt Konia or Koniah.
As of 2021, the population of the Metropolitan Province was 2,277,017, making it the seventh most populous city in Turkey. Of this, 1,390,051 lived in the three urban districts of Meram, Selçuklu and Karatay.
Konya is served by TCDD high-speed train (YHT) services from Istanbul and Ankara. The local airport (Konya Havalimanı, KYA) is served by flights from Istanbul. - wikipaedia
The below section is included every day. I normally have three blank lines to almost all the questions, so there is plenty of room for my notes.
What was the season?_________________________________________________________
Who did I spend time with/who did I meet? ______________________________________
What did I do? _______________________________________________________________
What was the best thing about today? ___________________________________________
How did I feel? _______________________________________________________________
What did I spend today? _______________________________________________________
What did I eat/drink today? ____________________________________________________
Did I do anything today that scared me, or excited me? What was it and why? ________
Did I learn anything today? _____________________________________________________
Where did I stay tonight? ______________________________________________________
I hope this helps some other travellers to become a bit better at planning. Even adopting just one of these steps on a consistent basis can help you became more organised.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other techniques you use, or if you try some of mine and they work for you.