I attribute the fact that I faithfully kept a journal during my semester abroad in Spain to having a richly crafted Italian leather journal. I’m kidding…well, mostly. The previous semester I had babysat for a family I dubbed the “richie riches.”The father was a vice-president at a national company, the mother was a stay at home worker although she had a degree in economics from a pretty well known university. Those things, paired with their living in a turn of the last century home (semi-mansion) in one of Pittsburgh’ ritiziest neighborhoods (it’s where a lot of the robber barons lived back in the day), only made them seem that much more like demi-gods (at least to my middle-class but still humble self). Before I went home for Christmas, the mom gave me a beautiful leather journal and fancy ballpoint pen (well, the pen stopped working shortly after) for me to chronicle my Spanish adventure. And chronicle I did.
While I had kept journals on my previous experiences abroad (in Mexico during high school, and in Costa Rica), it was not with as much fervor as I did in Spain. I wrote just about every day about both the good and the bad, or if I didn’t, I wrote enough to make up for any days I had missed. I was never really homesick in Spain. While I had certainly felt those feelings during my semester abroad in Costa Rica, in Spain I was much more proficient with the language and I was living in far nicer conditions. Plus, cockroaches weren’t around…so the bad had more to do with the time of when I contracted food poisoning and honestly wished I could have died due to the amount of any and everything that came out of my body for almost 24 hours straight, all the while living with four other people with only one bathroom. The bad continued when whatever bacteria I had in my system decided to linger and kept making me sick until I went and saw a Spanish doctor. The good were those instances when I was having the time of my life whether it was feeling sky high due to my Spanish skills rapidly improving, seeing such beautiful sights as the Plaza de Espana, or staying out until almost six in the morning.
In addition to keeping a daily chronicle of my time in Spain, I also wrote down things that years later I knew I would never be able to remember. I kept a list of all the movies I saw and whether or not they were dubbed or had subtitles. When I traveled to other cities and countries I kept a list of what I had spent money on. When I traveled I wasn’t adhering to a budget but it’s always fascinating to see where all your money goes when it’s just a couple of Euros. The other day I brought out my journal and got slightly misty eyed when I saw all of my Paris expenses listed there on the page. I went to the City of Lights for a weekend by myself and truly had a fantastic time. I even kept a list of all the gifts I bought for people. (Meticulous I am.)
After the time spent working in Mexico as a volunteer post-college, I have never lived abroad again. I am saddened by this since living in a foreign country is always such an incredible experience. And because all of my travel now is limited to trips that are less than a week, I just don’t have the time or energy in the evenings after a full day of touring to “journal.” While I do jot down the important things like restaurants that I ate at and what I had to eat, attractions I visited, I don’t go in-depth at all. So to me, that’s what makes this richly crafted Italian journal one of my most prized possessions.