I used to keep travel journals on every family holiday I went on as a kid. My parents encouraged my creativity throughout my childhood, and I largely attribute my love of prose to this, alongside the fact I barely took my nose out of a book.
Part collage, part scrapbook, occasionally part fiction, but mostly diary, I kept up the journals until I was nearly a teenager. Most of them document our trips around the UK, taking our trusty tent across the country. From Northumbria to Pembrokeshire, I’ve got my wonderful memories bound in paper that I can look back on and reminisce forever. At some point in my childhood, I picked up Pokemon Silver, its large cartridge sticking out the back of my Game Boy Advance, as an accompaniment on long car journeys when my journaling was complete. Nowadays, I unfortunately journal much less, but I still play Pokemon.
Pokemon Go is the ultimate game to take on your travels, although some people disagree with that assessment. I took 12 months off the game in its second year, but other than that I’ve played for the entirety of its lifespan, and I've caught Pokemon in some special places. I caught Celebi in the beautiful lake town of Wanaka in New Zealand, and a shiny Metagross from down the road in Queenstown. I have a Chatot that I caught in the underground Australian city of Coober Pedy, an Entei from Kowloon, and a Darkrai from Kyoto – neither remotely raided, before you ask. I’m rambling and reminiscing now, but that’s kind of the point.
I can scroll through my favourited Pokemon to relive my holidays, but there’s a better way. If you head to your Gym Badges list in Pokemon Go, you can select the map option in the bottom left corner. This brings up a pixel art world map detailing the Gyms you’ve visited, and I’ve spent hours scrolling through since I found out about it. This map acts as a journal of my Pokemon Go adventures, but also my trips across the world, and it’s a really nice way to remember the things you did and people you met in the game.
I zoom in on a random Gym in Japan and see a viewpoint overlooking Mt. Fuji. I scroll across to Karazawa and a badge reminds me of the best sushi I’ve ever eaten. There’s a great aquarium I spent a day exploring in Lisbon, and the cable car in Hong Kong is properly terrifying, but worth experiencing. The thing about Gyms is, they don’t just say ‘you’ve been to Hong Kong’, they point to very specific events or places and remind you of tiny experiences that might otherwise be forgotten.
The nature of Pokemon Go plays a part in it, too. I’m not constantly on my phone grinding when I’m away, I usually pull my phone out in evenings, queues, or pubs and restaurants when I get a minute to relax. These quiet moments are the parts of holidays that can easily be forgotten if you’re not journaling your every moment, but they’re often the most beautiful too. I don’t remember a lot about my day grinding Go Fest, but I think back fondly of enjoying a sunset with a beer as I waited for a raid timer to count down, or quickly catching a regional Pokemon as I tried to translate a restaurant menu.
Pokemon Go is about exploring, although the gameplay sometimes seems to counteract that. And exploring is the best way to play the game, rather than grinding XP or raiding a hundred Mewtwos for a shundo. This little map, hidden away in a menu, reminded me of the joys of playing Pokemon Go casually as much as it reminded me of the trips themselves, and I’m thankful for that.
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