An everyday discipline that I have had for the past 27 years (ouch) is keeping a daily ”travel diary”. I started this arduous task way-back in 1988 during Australia’s bi-centenary year. This first diary was a Christmas gift from my sister, embellished with pictures of koalas, kangaroos, gum-nuts, and celebratory bi-centenary images of Governor Phillip triumphantly raising flags at Sydney Cove. Through my first diary, I started describing nights out on the booze, difficult friendships, and grand aspirations of seeing the world.
And the next year I had embarked on a voyage to conquer new lands. This was my first time out of Australia and like many Australians of the period, I thought it would be the only time!
When I triumphantly returned from a year in Europe and the US, I enrolled in a humanities degree at La Trobe University in Melbourne. And this is when all the trouble began. The diaries became another journey; the rich world of the humanities is both an internal and external journey.
Although I have never re-read my journals, I do recall that during my early years of education, they were rambling monsters with all sorts of treatises and manifestos, jaded letters, and tortured-observations, stapled to every other page. What a splendid time that was!
Then came are all those years of travel; of long summers in Asia, of study and road trips in the US, of good times in Kreuzberg in Berlin and late night drunken visits to chicken shops in Dalston in London. There was Hanoi, Mumbai and Ko Phan Ghan, Kathmandu, Vientiane, Hampi, Harlem, and Hoi Ann. And all those damn universities; UNSW, RMIT, Melbourne, King’s, Virginia, VU, and UCSC, each with their idiosyncratic style and ways to engage (or not engage) with the world.
But over the past few years, the diaries have become pedestrian (take this as a sign), concerning setting practical goals and writing about day-to-day administrative shite. And they started to take up a lot of room, in more ways than one, thus, it is time to move towards a minimalist future.
I see the process of diary writing as similar to physical work-out, it is a workout for the soul. And just as it is possible to notice those who have never been to a gym (sorry about that), you may also notice those who have never kept a diary nor traveled in their youth. They may look good on the outside but have few healthy perspectives developed from the inside.
Anyhow, after much deliberation, I decided to burn the f**kers; to set the diaries on fire and destroy that journey; to start at ”year zero” just like New Zealand with a new flag! Now I can be historically pure and arrive anywhere from nowhere like a contextually-challenging snake on a plane (there are no snakes in New Zealand).
But being a historian (and a digital one) I just could not do it (well, not completely). So I painstakingly digitised all the diaries before I burnt them (it took many weeks, and now my arm hurts). They were scanned and photographed (according to one of the many standards) and are now safely encrypted and stored on a cloud drive protected by an inactive account manager. So, if I don’t reply to the ‘are you still alive’ email sent by this particular service every six months, they will never see the light of day. This makes me very happy!
So, I won’t keep a daily diary any longer (at least, not in this form). That work is now done, and the fruits of that labour will forever carry me on my travels. Burn!