Your travel legacy — leaving a trail to follow

By Randy Keck
This item appears on page 62 of the June 2014 issue.

It’s easy for committed world travelers like us to become a bit complacent about our international travel experiences. With many of us, friends and relatives show little interest in the details of our globetrotting adventures, even while acknowledging how important they know these are to us.

We rationally accept that we are fulfilling our goals and dreams and that they typically are not the same as those of people around us. Therefore, as we move from one fascinating international exploration to the next, we do not necessarily perceive a need to document our global adventures in a form designed to share with others, feeling that such efforts might be primarily self-serving.

Not so fast, globetrotter

The great thing about perspective is that it offers so many choices. It challenges us to look beyond surface-level reactions and the current state of affairs. Most of all, it allows for changing our minds or opinions.

Randy Keck at a roadside craft market in Zimbabwe in 1999.

The children or grandchildren who currently show little personal interest in your globetrotting adventures may, in the future, become very interested in exploring the planet, themselves.

This change of perspective and interest can be the result of education or the natural maturation process or the light suddenly turning on as the result of a particular experience in life. Access to the chronicling of your international adventures may, in some cases, play a role in this increased interest. 

Regardless of the level of interest these significant others may currently have, I would make a case that you owe it to those who follow you to document your international travel experiences. 

Making access to your travel legacy user-friendly

It is important that the documenting of your travels be as user-friendly as possible. Often, this means being parsimonious concerning your written descriptions. An online file or hard-copy file for each trip can include a one- to two-page description of your journey, including highlights, special experiences and your feelings about what you experienced plus, perhaps, recommendations for other travelers. 

Including a trip itinerary is also valuable. In a hard-copy file, you may wish to include a map or special brochure, but be selective about this. Often, less can be more, taking into consideration the attention spans of some who may view your inclusions. 

My wife, Gail, also suggests including a special file for your expired passports. These are an important aspect of your life journey and will likely be meaningful to at least some of those who follow you. 

If you have not done much documenting of previous journeys, I have two suggestions.

First, document your travels from now on. 

Second, to the best of your ability, I strongly encourage you to retrace your steps in an effort to document your past journeys, at least those of the greatest significance. If you do, I am quite confident that you will value both reliving the experience and the end result. Your old passports, with dated entry, exit and visa stamps, can help jog your memory.

Creative photo files

In the digital age, creating photo accounts of your journeys can be almost too easy.

Remember all the old jokes about the attention spans of travel slide show viewers? When you create an online EasyShare-type digital photo file for each of your journeys for the purpose of sharing with others, be very selective about which photos you include. 

Create special legacy photo journey files so you do not have to erase tons of photos from your original trip photo files, unless you wish to use this as a slimming-down exercise. 

Make sure to include photos of yourself at destinations, especially if you’re shown doing interesting things. Otherwise, photo inclusions should be limited to those that tell the story of your journey. 

Avoid including several photos of essentially the same subject just because you like them. Role reversal can be helpful with this selection task; imagine you are the viewer who wasn’t there. Always keep in mind that this photo file is not for you, and the more selective you are, the less likely you are to lose the attention of your valued viewer.

Traveling back in time

How many of you still have packets and boxes of old trip photos and slides from the pre-digital age? These are also a part of your travel legacy. But, really, what to do? 

With any hard-copy trip files you create, include a few storytelling prints, each with a brief caption of the subject and date on the back. Of course, old photos can also be scanned at home and placed in digital trip files. 

Slides and old photo negatives are a different matter. Perhaps there are some special slides or old photo negatives you want to convert to prints or digital photos for inclusion in trip files. If you wish to do a lot of converting, instead of visiting the photo counter in your favorite store, you may wish to undertake this project, yourself, with a “slide and film-negative converter.” There are many models available, generally ranging in price from $60 to $150. The magic of Google will assist, and remember to check product reviews.

Final perspective

The goal of this ongoing effort is to have the documentation of your personal travel legacy survive you. Keep the viewer in mind, as at some point you won’t be around to explain nuance in person. Do this thoughtfully, as if giving a gift to the generations within your circle who shall follow. Leave a travel trail to follow that will truly inspire others. 

Regarding the subject of sharing experiences of international travel, please keep in mind the option and opportunity of gifting ITN subscriptions to your circle of current and future international travelers. Consider providing a two- or three-year subscription as part of the educational primer for these future emissaries to the global village beyond.

Beyond the Garden Wall

❝If one travels to lands afar,
the stories of such journeys
must be captured, preserved in time, to be shared upon the calling❞
— Randy on creating a personal travel legacy