In college, I developed a habit. Every time I went to a new large city, I’d try to find a free tourist map. Obviously, these maps are useful for finding your way around anyway, but they also became one of my most treasured souvenirs.
My map of NYC is nearly falling apart at the creases from having been folded and unfolded so many times. Each day after I got back from hiking around the sites and seeing the amazing landmarks of Manhattan, I’d take a black permanent marker and outline my route. This was before smart phones would do things like this for you on apps like Trackmywalk.
Now, I have a visual memory of everything I was able to do during the week I was there: the crazy detour we took through Tribeca on our way to Chinatown, wandering the city late at night after seeing the Blue Man Group, and obviously Central Park and Times Square. When I just try to think of the trip, my memories blur together, but when I look at the map, up on the wall of maps in my house, things come back to me as individual steps in the journey.
Some cities are only given a few lines of walking because I got the map on a day trip, but that still helps me remember simple days of visiting a brewery and a museum with someone I care about. Others are completely filled in: Madrid, in particular, got to the point where I’d criss-crossed almost every street in downtown over the 2 years that I lived there, and many of the streets of outlying neighborhoods as well.
I’d love to hear how you organize your travel memories so that you will remember them well; do you do anything with those free tourist maps after you are done with them? They aren’t as pretty as framed fancy map prints, but they certainly hold a lot of long-term memories for me.