How do you track your travels?

Jul 5, 2022
By Christy Johnson, founder & CEO of United Goods

Do you keep track of the states and countries you’ve traveled to? I do! I’m actually planning for a vacation next month and it got me thinking about how other people document the places they’ve visited.

Some ideas I’ve heard of include collecting jewelry charms, making scrapbooks, using apps, and creating photo albums through Shutterfly or other brands. Here are the three ways I pay tribute to my travels.

1. Refrigerator magnets. I’ve had a tradition ever since I was in high school that when I spend time in a state or country that’s new to me, I buy a refrigerator magnet that I feel represents that location well. Why a refrigerator magnet, you ask? I think it’s because of my Uncle Gary, who was a truck driver. When I was a little kid, I remember he'd frequently bring home one of those simple, all-one-color magnets in the shape of whatever state he’d just worked in. I liked that tradition because I could just look at his ‘fridge and see allllll of the places he’d gotten to discover. And when I became old enough to travel on my own, I eagerly adopted his habit. 

Like Gary, when I can I choose magnets that are shaped like the state or country I'm paying tribute to. I also love when my selections have the city or cities pictured that I visited. These, these, and these are some of my favorite styles.

Searching for refrigerator magnets on trips has become a dorky sort of game with my husband and me. I never want the hunt to take up too much of our time because I’d rather explore a city by eating, drinking, and going on adventures than traipsing through every cheesy souvenir shop and tourist trap. So we usually try to make quick stops to these tchotchke palaces early on in our stay so we can get it out of the way. We’ve definitely gone home without a magnet because there wasn’t one we felt was worthy!

I’m extremely happy when I find a winner that’s in the $2 to $3 range, but I’m embarrassed to report that I’ve spent up to $8 on a couple of them. Those were usually the ones I had to purchase at an airport shop (cha-ching!) on the way home since I couldn’t find a “keeper” while on the trip…or forgot until I got to the airport…oops.

2. Push pin map. Another way my husband and I have kept track of the cities we’ve been to is with a world map and push pins. We found a huge world map on that was reasonably priced and matched our home’s aesthetic. We cut foam core to the size of the map, and fused them together with spray adhesive. A frame was made by buying inexpensive wood trim from the hardware store, cutting it to fit each of the map’s four sides, mitering the corners, gluing the pieces together, and painting it. Finally, we secured the finished piece to our wall with WallBuddies, which are fantastic hooks if you have large or heavy pieces to hang. Our map is not heavy, but it is large. And awesome! (These days you can find lots of beautiful options for maps that are already backed with foam, so you can bypass going the DIY route.)

Since both my husband and I had been avid travelers before we got together, there are places we’ve been without each other. So we decided to keep them separate until we get to experience these spots as a couple. Here’s our system: He uses blue pins to mark on the map the cities he’s traveled to, I mark mine with red, and for ones we’ve been as a duo, we use a purple pin (get it? Red and blue make purple! So clever. Ha). 

Our map is my favorite way to commemorate our travels. When we get home, I love putting a pin in the city or cities we encountered. And if there’s a location that one of us had been to but now we both were able to see, when we come home we’ll remove that blue or red pin and replace it with a purple one. Aww. 

We actually have rules around what’s “pin worthy” and what isn’t (nerds!). For instance, we have to have at least stayed the night in a city for it to get a pin. We don’t mark places we just drove through or only spent a few hours in. 

3. Journal. This past Christmas, my mother- and father-in-law gave me a beautiful blank journal for us to document the destinations we explore. I teared up! It was such a thoughtful gift. During our trips to Hayward, Wisconsin, and Palm Springs, California, earlier this year, I jotted down all the fun things we did each day of our travels, which was so fun. I look forward to continuing to do this until the pages are filled up! Then I’ll of course start a new one. This notebook is going to be a fabulous way to get into detail about what we saw, ate, drank, and experienced every day of our trips. And it’ll be a great thing I can refer back to when I want to recommend a particular restaurant, museum, etc., to a friend who's planning to be in that town. I loooove giving and receiving destination referrals.

We’ve had lots of people at in-person events we’ve been part of tell us they buy one of our State Icons each time they visit a place that was especially meaningful, or they buy one for every state they and their partner spent time in together. Another way people have used State Icons is to honor the states they’ve lived in. The popular pieces that those people tend to choose are the “Welcome to” signs that we draw, which I think is so fun.

Every time I take time to look at my refrigerator magnets, or marvel at the push pins scattered over my world map, it makes me nostalgic for the fascinating states and countries I’ve visited. It's nice to reminisce about the cool opportunities I’ve had (so far!) in my lifetime. Seeing these travel markers also boosts my excitement for future trips and planning my next adventure.


OK, I told you three ways travels are memorialized in my household. Now I wanna know: Do you mark the places you’ve been? If so, how do you do it? Comment here, or send us a message!

1 comment

  • Jeff Johnson July 11, 2022 at 3:41 pm

    My first job was Field Service maintenance and repair of electronic and mechanical equipment for medical and then industrial equipment.
    I first traveled all over the US and collected postcards that all hotels had in their rooms. I still have a pile of them and have always thought of embedding them into a bar top or table, but never did.

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