The trials of keeping a travel diary

Well, I returned from my last trip to the Himalayas in November, and I’ve just got round to getting my travel diary from my expedition to Cho Oyu online, six months later. Does anyone care? Half the team who might have done are now onto their next expedition. Three of them are currently on Everest, and three more are on Makalu just next door.

There are some pleasant places to write a diary. Here I am on a beach on the Knoydart peninsular in Northwest Scotland
There are some pleasant places to write a diary. Here I am on a beach on the Knoydart peninsular in Northwest Scotland

But in fact six months is a pretty good turnaround. I do contract work, and generally end up doing several expeditions back to back between contracts with the money I’ve saved up working, so I usually come back with masses of material to update my site with, hundreds of photos, hours of video footage, and pages and pages of expedition journal.

It’s something of a labour of love, but it’s always enjoyable wading through the photos. Most of them get binned, but I always end up keeping a few that are not particularly good quality simply because they remind me of a place in time. And you don’t have to be an especially good photographer to take half decent photos of the Himalayas as well. A monkey could do it if you showed it how to press the button on a camera. It’s always entertaining editing the video footage for my YouTube channel, as I’ve had the good fortune to travel with some very funny people.

The diaries are more of a chore, though. They’re usually written curled up in my tent at the end of a long day’s trekking or climbing, when I’d rather be relaxing with my book or grabbing some rest. I like to record conversations that I’ve had with people and insignificant incidents which help paint the scene and bring characters to life, and these have to be done straight away at the end of the day, because if I don’t then much of it’s gone from memory by the following day. And then I’ve got pages and pages to type up when I get back, for no optical character recognition software will ever be able to decipher my scrawl. Yes, I could take a laptop computer, but there’s always the issue of recharging the battery in a remote mountain location, and old-fashioned fellow that I am, I still find the words flow easier from the pen than the keyboard.

Cho Oyu and me
Cho Oyu and me

So why do I do it? For me personally, it brings back a fantastic holiday in a way that photos, even video, never can. And then there’s the fact that I’m lucky enough – between contracts – to experience a life that few others ever will, and probably find hard to imagine. A diary is my way of giving that window into my world for friends and family.

So finally, between getting the photos and video online, the small matter of starting another job and no longer having much time during the week, and escaping to the countryside on weekends, I’ve somehow managed to do all that typing-up for 2010 Expedition No.1 to Cho Oyu in Tibet, the 6th highest mountain in the world and my 3rd attempt at an 8000 metre peak. It turned out to be an extraordinary season on the mountain, with many highs and lows, and although it ultimately ended in disappointment (again!), there were many consolations.

And if any of you do me the honour of reading it, I hope all that scribbling and all that typing turns out to be worth it!

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2 thoughts on “The trials of keeping a travel diary

  • May 11, 2011 at 11:04 pm
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    Yes, absolutely people do care. I wont claim to have read every one but I dip in now and again to see how your trips went and I’m sure lots of others do the same. Most importantly, there may come a time when you aren’t able to climb big mountains anymore but will still enjoy looking back over past trips.

  • May 12, 2011 at 7:15 am
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    Hi Louisa, thanks for the comment. Mine are pretty tame, really, compared with your near-death experiences! Give me a shout when you’re back in the UK and we’ll catch up for a beer. 🙂

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