Sometimes photographs and video can fail to do a journey justice, something that Linda Fairbairn knows all too well. A revered travel blogger and map enthusiast, Linda is the proud owner of Journey Jottings – a colourful set of travel memory products available in souvenir shops across Australia. With everything from magnets to postcards on offer, Linda’s vibrant artwork aims to provide unforgettable visual memories of travellers’ Australian adventures.
We were recently lucky enough to get the chance to ask the cheerful cartographer a whole series of questions about map-making and Aussie travel, and in return, she provided us with heaps of great tips and advice:
If you had to pick just one, where would you say is your favourite travel destination?
The Red Centre – the Heart of Australia.
The desert landscape here is made up of a rich, rusty red-coloured sand interspersed with spiky balls of silvery green spinifex grass and wispy Desert Oaks, whose thin branches whistle evocatively in the wind.
Rising from this plain is Uluru, whose beauty is not in those distant monolithic sunset shots we’ve all seen a gazillion times, but in the intimacy you feel when immersing yourself amongst the Rock’s soft folds and crevices around its 9.5km base where, I was surprised to discover, waterholes lie.
Then there are the 36 domes of Kata Tjuta, which in Pitjantjatjara means ‘many heads’ that stand 200m higher than Uluru (349m). In the Valley of the Winds, its mammoth rock formations encompass you and then open out onto a powerful outback vista – a feast for all the senses.
Aboriginals talk of their ‘songlines’ – this landscape really makes your heart sing.
Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park is wildly remote, being between 2,000 and 2,800km as the crow flies from all coastal state capitals, and 450km south-west of the nearest town – Alice Springs.
Where did you first get the idea for your Travel Memory products?
On a road trip from Darwin to Brisbane. I was driving along thinking,’I’d love to combine a ‘map’ with a ‘travel journal’ so I could see where I’d been, alongside holiday highlights written in the borders.’
My initial thought saw it as a visual complement to my written journal, making it more fun for showing and sharing trips with family and friends. But I then realized how perfect it’d be for all those people I knew who found keeping a written record just too much like hard work, but would love the simplicity of summarizing their trip on a single sheet.
I published my hand-drawn 1st edition Australia Map Journal a year later!
Were you passionate about maps and travel growing up?
The thing I’ve always loved most about travel is the journey, and as Sir Francis Chichester said: “To a man with imagination, a map is a window to adventure.”
So, yes – I’ve always loved the adventure of going on a journey, and the map has been the window to take me there.
When I was about 10 and would be asked to take the dog for a walk, I’d get my mother to draw me a mud map of pictorial symbols to follow – they looked a bit like Pooh Bear’s 100 Aker (sic) wood map, which turned the dog-walking chore into a treasure hunt!
Then, when I was about 12, on weekends my father and I would go out on expeditions armed with a local topographic map. We’d drive to some spot where the magical FP (Public Footpath) would be signposted, then it was down to our skills to translate the symbols on the sheet into physical features that would guide us uphill and down dale to a PH (Public House) where we’d celebrate our find with a ploughman’s lunch in the bar garden.
What was it like for you to see your products in a store for the first time?
The thrilling thing was seeing a product in the market that would help more people experience the absolute joy of stepping back in time and reliving holiday memories.
If just one person beams in a few years when their moment for nostalgia strikes – my Journey Jottings work will be done!
What would be your tips for someone trying to map out their own trip?
Start small: Don’t put pressure on yourself by taking a big blank journal away with you, which will inevitably induce guilt at your failings for not filling it – or worse still – not even starting it.
Pick up a small notebook locally (so at least you’ll end up with a souvenir) and whenever you’re sitting in a bar/café enjoying a drink, jot a short postcard-like note to yourself.
Don’t feel you have to write a tome for it to be worthwhile – any marks, made at any intermittent frequency, are fantastic!
Integrate your jottings into the journey. Your travel journal isn’t holier than thou – make it a part of the story by using it to note train times, draw mud maps, ask a local to write the name of the attraction you can’t spell – these messy scribbles will magically reveal the trip in a way no neatly laid out account could ever do.
Don’t rely just on words…and I don’t therefore mean you have to be all arty-farty creating some fancy decorative visual journal either!
We all understand the language of symbols such as an aeroplane silhouette for airports and male and female figures for toilets – incorporating simple stick-like cartoons will express your experiences faster, and more emotively.
You’ll find even wobbly doodles squiggled on a page will bring grins of joy when seen afresh in years to come, bringing back to life fun times otherwise forgotten.
The feeling is priceless.
What’s been your best Australian hotel experience to date?
For a fun, funky, modern take on 50’s vintage – QT at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast.
I was recently there for a blogging conference and from the moment I drove onto their forecourt I was made to feel I belonged.
Their female concierge, decked out in a flouncy 50’s shocking pink uniform, greeted me and effortlessly whisked away the awkward assortment of bags I’d managed to throw into the back of the car, while I went to park.
After checking in, the reception staff – all zipped up in natty turquoise jumpsuits – offered me homemade lemonade from a stand sporting thick retro glass bottles, spunky stirring sticks and straws.
Life sized photo cut-outs of smiling 50’s surfy characters in the lift made me laugh; and in my room, decorating the wall was a coloured string bag with two pairs of flip flops ready for the beach.
And lest I become disorientated after dark, glowing on the side table was a frosted white glass cockatoo night light.
How could you not feel relaxed here?!
What destination is still on your bucket list?
As a lover of landscape it has to be somewhere geographically awe-inspiring.
I’ve yet to do the Gibb River Road and Purnululu National Park in the Kimberleys of Western Australia.