The Moleskine Promise

The turn of the year is an obvious time to reflect on the last 12 months, and to give some serious thought to the next 12.  It’s also the time when I move from one Moleskine to the next.  To the uninitiated the Moleskine  is just a (usually) black notebook, but for me (and others I’m sure) it’s where I capture my thoughts about my travels, including where I've been, where I am and where I’m contemplating for future trips.  I’ve tried a few notebooks and travel journals over the years, but the Moleskine is The Real Thing.  It slips into pockets and bags easily, is just the right size for boarding passes and my passport and it can cope with the wear and tear that travel can inflict. It may not be very Web 2.0 - but it is one of my travel essentials. It’s my aide memoire to help me label photographs after the event, it’s where I capture scenes when I can’t use a camera, it’s my companion when I’m eating on my own, and it’s my travel planner when I’m sitting in airports or on planes.

The just-retired Moleskine (with the FC sticker on it) took me as far east as Beijing, as far west as Montreal, as far north as the Cairngorms, and as far south as Sea Lion Island in the Falklands.   On 10 trips it and I have clocked up about 40,000 air miles, and spent 67 nights away from Oxford (including 2 on boats, 4 on planes and 2 in yurts).

As I flick through the old Moleskine I very quickly get pulled back into the experiences I’ve had over the last year and the people I met up with on my journeys.

There’s a little map showing where I abandoned my car in a blizzard at Brize Norton airbase (which I did need to find the car again).  There’s a reminder of the glorious heat on Ascension Island (a contrast after being literally stuck to the runway in Oxfordshire - the wheel-chocks were frozen to the ground).  There’s a reminder of the excitement of sitting amongst the Gentoo penguins on Sea Lion Island, and amongst the black-browed albatross on Saunders Island.  There’s a reminder of the impossibly salty curry served on Alderney, and of the just inedible breakfasts offered along the Silk Road in Xinjiang (I’d never fantasised about muesli and cold milk before). And the observations on how Budapest has changed since 1997 - then lots of US-style burger bars, now lots of US-style burger bars plus western coffee shops albeit with significantly better cakes than we get in the UK.

I also got a bit caught up in visiting places beginning with B.  Barcelona, Beijing, Bishkek, Boston, Budapest, Birmingham and Bromsgove.

There are reminders about the fun (and frustrations) of travelling with groups of people.  I’ve enjoyed meeting up with people who make my travelling efforts look positively amateur, and talked enviously with folks who make a living travelling.  I’ve also enjoyed having time to absorb being in new places without the distraction of crowds and companions.

There’s also a slightly smug entry about being able to get into a Business Lounge during a long lay-over at Istanbul airport where I was able to have a shower and get a bowl of cereal with cold milk. Sorry.

And there are even a few cryptic notes about work in various places - mostly ramblings about IMS specifications and about OERs.

The notebook also highlights my satisfaction in getting to places and doing things that have been on my to-do list for years.  I got to travel along the Silk Road and (at least) some of the Karakorum Highway (I’ve got old guidebooks for these dating from 1993 and 1996).  I got to photograph hump-back whales breaching off the Boston coast - and my bird photography came on leaps and bounds (OK - it’s difficult not to take decent bird photos in the Falklands).

So where is the new Moleskine promising to take me this year?

At the moment two trips are booked (to Shetland and to Svalbard) - so I should get further north this year than last but other than that the plan is blank.  I’d like to get to Japan - and it would be fun to go by train and boat rather than plane. I also feel that my travel pedigree is a bit lacking since I’ve still got one continent missing (Africa).  I’ve also got a real hankering to get back  to Antarctica & the Falklands (and to visit South Georgia for the first time) and to see more of Bhutan. And I’ve not been across the Pacific Ocean. And I’d like to spend more time in the Middle East....

Probably won’t get to do all of these this year. But where-ever I do get to will be captured in my Moleskine.

Happy travelling in 2010 - and may all your journeys be long haul.

P.S. In 2008 I came to the conclusion that my travelling carbon footprint was something like 16 tonnes of CO2 - in 2009 this dropped to just over 11 tonnes (7 from flying and 4 from driving).

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