Everyone feels the same way when they get back home after sipping tropical drinks for a week on a white sandy beach. It’s hard to believe the week passed so quickly. You close your eyes and imagine dipping your toes in the crystal-clear water. But almost immediately upon your return, the memories of the sound of the waves start to fade. By the time you remember that you have a work report to turn in tomorrow, the marimbas in your head start sounding like honking horns. That vacation you waited to take for a year is slipping away into your mental archives. How do you keep it alive? Remembering your trip will inspire you to plan another one and make you feel happy in between.
Flickr: If you take a lot of photos with your phone, you probably have thousands of pictures that don’t really go together, and when you clear out your phone, they end up in folders where they might get misplaced. Flickr gives you 1 TB of free space to post your photos. As soon as I get back from a trip, I sort my pics into a folder, put them on a backup hard drive and upload them to my free Flickr account. I can access them from anywhere and share them with anyone I choose. One of the coolest features is that you can use your Apple TV or Roku to create a slideshow from your Flickr account. That way, you can have your memories on your TV screen anytime you’re not watching a program.
Refrigerator magnets: They’re pure kitsch, but no matter: every country, big or small, usually has them for sale. The greatest thing is that you can review your geography conquests without having to decipher illegible visa stamps in your passport.
YouTube videos: I record the highlights of my trips and edit out most of the boring parts in Movie Maker. Then I put them on YouTube so I can look at them anytime I want and share them with my friends. You can list your name in the tags as well as the places that you visited to make them easy to search later, or create a channel just for your travel videos. If you don’t do video, you can always create a slideshow from still photos, add music and upload that as well.
Restaurants: A friend of mine lived in Japan for a couple of years. Whenever she visits a Japanese restaurant, it transports her back to her life overseas as she experiences the smells and tastes of the country. Trying out restaurants that specialize in cuisine from countries you’ve never visited can sometimes feel like you’re having a mini-vacation. Most people have had Mexican or Japanese food, but what about Korean? Ethiopian? Some specialty imported stores carry foreign foods as well. Hong Kong Food Market and Phoenicia in Houston have an amazing selection of interesting wines, meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables from around the globe. Sampling new flavors and savoring imported goodies can transport you to a whole different continent without ever leaving your town.
Decorating your home: My entire home is geared around my trips abroad. I have a Chinese room, an African bedroom, an Egyptian game room with mummies and Easter Island statues by my pool. I know, I know: most people aren’t quite that obsessive about travel decor, but collecting paintings, musical instruments or carvings from your adventures can put a smile on your face when you’re sitting at home on a rainy day. Collect coffee cups or shot glasses if you don’t have a lot of room for souvenirs. The strangest items usually make the best stories.
A journal or blog: If you really want to remember all the details details of your travels, a journal can be very entertaining to read later, and it’s really the only way to keep remember everything. If you feel that other people might enjoy your ramblings, put your journal online. Not only might it be helpful to others making a similar trip—it will be accessible from anywhere, unlike a notebook, which might get lost or destroyed.
Surprise yourself! One of my friends emails pictures from his trip to himself with setup time delays. Six months after his vacation, he still has photos being delivered to his inbox. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to time traveling. Ship home souvenirs too. You won’t have to carry them, and you’ll be happy when they show up in your mailbox a week or two later.
Book another trip: Subscribe to travel sites and follow airfare deals and promotions. Traveling regularly, even for short trips, can make your life happier. I always have my next trip booked or somewhat planned as soon as I complete my last trip. It gives me something to look forward to, and I have an answer when my friends ask me where I’m going next.
Learn another language: You could enroll in a class or even learn a foreign language from listening to CDs or watching YouTube videos. You can’t help but think of chocolate croissants and the Eiffel Tower while you’re repeating French phrases back to your car stereo. You’ll be inspired to go someplace where you can use your newly discovered vocabulary.
Visit a festival: Many cities host a Greek, Italian, Eastern European and/or International festival. Watching folklore dancers, sampling foods and wines and meeting expats can make for a great Saturday afternoon. Who knows? You might even make a great connection that you can use when you visit the country.