Journal Page: Road Trip to Tucson

Map of the road trip from Phoenix to Tucson. © Quinn McDonald, 2010

Journal writing is fun for me, but I don’t like to fill pages and pages with details. I won’t be able to find details if I have to read my handwriting. One of the reasons I began to draw in my journals is to create an easier way to find things, and to reduce the amount of writing. When you write for a living, writing some more to relax isn’t always the answer.

What I do love to do is draw maps. Drawing maps of road trips covers all the important details and doesn’t require a lot of writing. And because I use raw-art journaling, it doesn’t require me to be a cartographer or illustrator, either.

Last weekend we drove to Tucson and Tubac for the art fair. South of Phoenix, before I-8 turns off for San Diego, I noticed two groups of headstones in the middle of the desert. About 20 stones roughly 100 yards from the road.  No church, no fence, no formal graveyard. I’d seen them once before, and they seem just as lonely and forgotten as before. There were a lot of descansos, too–handmade roadside shrines to honor someone who died in a car accident.

On the way to Tucson, you see volcano vent mountains, copper mines, saguaro. By noting where I saw them, and then putting them on the map, I can create a detailed record of the trip. In a few months, when I want to check for a good Mexican restaurant, my map will remind me that we ate at El Charro Cafe. (Here’s the list of menus you can download.) When I want to remember that we had a perfect breakfast at that epitome of University hang-out, the Epic Cafe, I’ll check the map and find it.

Drawing a map is fun. You don’t have to be an illustrator to do it. I write details on my map and use a lot of symbols–the Epic is a steaming coffee cup; El Charro is a plate of tamales. OK, so the plate looks like it might have flying food on it. That’s fine with me. I’ll remember those tamales with a grin for a long time.

I don’t expect the map to be  GPS accurate. It’s a journal page that covers a lovely weekend and helps me keep the memories fresh. Best of all, it covers two pages in a journal that I can see with one glance. No flipping through the book, no wishing I had better handwriting.

Recently I’ve started a map of where rainwater flows in our neighborhood. We don’t have storm sewers in the desert, the roads are graded to have the water run into arroyos or creeks. It was complicated, because you don’t want the whole neighborhood to get pushed onto one street. Our water runs into Skunk Creek, but it takes amazing turns to get there. You can do a map of almost anything–events in time work as well as places in space. Try it and let me know how it works for you.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and raw-art journaler. © Quinn McDonald, 2010. All rights reserved.