When I was 18, I packed up my truck with everything I owned and hit the road with almost zero clue where I was going. My dad had passed away about 6 months prior, and I needed some time and space to figure out what on Earth I’d do with my life.

Skis, boots, sleeping bag, tent, cooler, you name it. I had everything I needed to live on the road and seek adventure everywhere I went—from Colorado to Utah to California to Oregon to Idaho to Montana and beyond. But looking back on it all, the most important piece of gear I packed was also the most simple of them all: a journal.

Team Heli on a journal-worth trip to Japan. View ski trips.

The journal was originally a coping mechanism. I had so many thoughts in my head, so much to worry about, and absolutely nothing figured out. Writing day after day helped me work through all the fog, find the joy in each moment, and look forward to the road ahead.

What I didn’t expect: my journal turned into a time machine.

Today, I’m married, I have a daughter, and a little dog, too. I live in a house that I own, not a rusty old truck. I work a good 60 hours a week. And let me be clear: I love everything about my life. But I cherish those days on the road. And rather than wondering about the details—what National Parks I went to, what ski resorts I visited, what I ate, who I met—I can flip open that journal and simply reminisce.

It’s a special feeling, looking back on those memories. It costs nothing. And it ought to become more common among travelers, if I don’t say so myself.

Journals, people. They’re the best way to maximize your travel memories.