Evernote as all-around travel companion


I realize it’s de rigeur to squawk about how taking photos of important or memorable things is the kind of thing an idiot does instead of “taking in the moment” or “actually being present,” but I’m a pretty firm believer in taking photos of cool things I see and experience when traveling. Perhaps that makes me a philistine, but whatever.

It won’t surprise those who know me to find out that the vast majority of my spiffy travel memories begin their lives in Evernote. Truthfully, most of them never leave.

Sure, Evernote lends itself nicely to organizing travel-related documents—flight and hotel confirmations and the like—and it’s hard to argue that having all such minutiae tucked away inside your smart phone does help one breathe a little easier when trying to herd cats travel with small children.

But the memory capture thing is, if you ask me, a far more compelling Evernote use case for itinerant iPhone operators. If you’ll allow me to present my case…

Photos made better

About a year ago, my family and I went on vacation to New Hampshire. Even discounting the oodles of beautiful scenery that surrounded us, we had tons of excellent photo opportunities when visiting various sights, restaurants, and other activities.

I had two options:

  1. Take a ton of photos using the stock Camera application on my iPhone.
  2. Take an equally large number of photos using Evernote.

Unsurprisingly, I chose option #2.

Reason being, I knew I was going to end up with lots and lots of photos and I wanted to be able to easily group them according to where we were and what we were doing. It only took a few extra seconds at each stop to stick the pictures into Evernote and I ended up with a couple dozen miniature photo albums (“The Castle in the Clouds”, “That enormous horse we saw”, etc.)

I had the same photos I would have taken otherwise, but I was able to front-load a lot of the curation work. I’m not a smart guy, but this seemed pretty un-stupid to me.

Context tastes good

Memories become much more powerful in context rather than in isolation. Continuing to use our New Hampshire trip as an example, everything I captured during our trip is kept in a single Evernote notebook that I can revisit whenever I like. And it contains more than just pictures:

  • Funny comments made in the evening after the kids had gone to bed and the drinks came out in earnest.
  • Quick textual descriptions of how a given meal tasted.
  • Completely unrelated things I happened to think of while we were on the trip.

Because I can quickly call up all of the notes in my account that were created while were away (using the created: search operator), I’m able to get much fuller picture of what I was thinking about during that time in my life. I’m not a computer scientist, but I don’t believe that data is embedded in the photos I took.

(Selectively) Share and share alike

Since I have our vacation photos neatly organized (one note = one event), I can send the sushi photos to my foodie friends, the Luau photos to my traveler buddy, and the ones where the kids are super cute to the grandmothers. I don’t need to invite a couple dozen people over and torture them with an unending slideshow filled with mountains and weird looking birds.

It’s really an act of mercy, if you want to get right down to it.

I enjoy looking through everything we saw and did while traveling because I was there and I’m able to recall it when prompted by photos and other bits. Not so much for Uncle Larry who’d really rather be watching the sports ball game.

In conclusion…

For me, the benefits of capturing your travel memories in Evernote are obvious and the necessary effort needed to do it properly is negligible.

And let’s not forget the bonus feature: all of your stuff is quickly synced to the great big servers at Evernote, so you don’t have to worry about dropping your iPhone into the toilet or the Pacific ocean.

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