From the Archives: An Eight-Year-Old’s Travel Journal, 1987

Churpa writes: While researching for a memoir of my childhood on the road, I’ve been digging through old family photographs and journals, and I found this very detailed illustrated travel journal that I started when I was eight, in 1987. The journal is canvas-bound with a sweet splatter paint design on the cover, and spans from November 1987 to the spring of ’89. It covers two long trips, from Oregon to Baja to Guatemala and back again. At the time, my parents were researching The People’s Guide to RV Camping in Mexico and The Shopper’s Guide to Mexico. As I read, lost memories sprang back into focus. Here’s a few excerpts…Punctuation has been altered in a few places for your reading pleasure, but I’ve left most of the original spelling. 

Nov. 8, 1987

I felt sad at first. Like I was leaving something really special, which I was. The special thing was home. I didn’t feel exactly sad, but I didn’t feel secure. I don’t know why. We go to Mexico every year. But I got into school more this year. Maybe it was because I had more friends. I really don’t know. After we were on the road we all calmed down. Now I am happy to be on the road!

November 12, 1987

We stopped at a beautiful campground with lots of birds last night. I saw a titmouse, a goldfinch, and a mountain blue bird. Steve hasn’t been feeling well and we had to get the van jump started. And we are now in Los Angelos waiting for Daddy to get the batterie in. I hope we make it to Mexico today.

kid's drawing of cactus

baja cactus

November (no date) 1987

The day before yesterday we got off the fairy boat after a knight’s ride. We went to a trailer park. The next day we did most of the research. At the end of yesterday, we went to the aquarium. I think water faeries must ride sea horses. And just this morning we took out our map of Baja and I decided to make a map for my journey.

Map of baja drawing

Baja Norte

December (no date) 1987

We stayed at the beach for a week, then we traveled up to San Patricio, where our car broke down. (We had to stay the night at a Pemex station.) We got the car fixed and washed there. Then we went to Manzanillo and that was the day of my real birthday. (I got a cat shirt!) We went on and the next day we got to Paracho, Michoacan. They sell guitars and other wooden things. I got a set of doll furniture for my doll house. Now we are in Patzcuaro. It is very nice here. All the buildings here are painted red and white and most have tile roofs. I’ve seen about ten buildings that aren’t red and white.

Michoacan, kid's drawing


December (no date) 1987

We traveled up along the mountains to a place near Guadalajara by a lake, called Ajijic. We were going to research, but the stores were closed. So we drove out by the dock. Mama walked out on the dock to eat breakfast. I started to go with her, but she went ahead as though she was trying to get away from me. Of course I did not understand this. But as I stood there it seemed peaceful and I thought it seemed sad. No, not sad, just so beautiful. I’ve seen prettier places, but the combonotion of the abondoned boat and the rythamick sound of the voices made me feel like was in a living picture. Now I understand why sometimes Momma wants to be alone. (Of course I still am very sociabol.)


January (no date) 1988

…now we are back at Tenacatita. Yesterday I got a letter from Danell and Shiloh! A few days before that I got a letter from Maki. Which is very unusual. Today the sea is clear as crystal. It is very beautiful.

January (no date) 1988

We met Carl and Lorena with their tour and we stayed at a really fancy hotel called Posada Toledo. We stayed there for about three days or so. During that time, I went to Celestun and saw the millions of wild flamingos. They were beautiful. We had to on on a changa to get there. Some of my favorite parts of that day was a little swampy rivulet that led into a mangrove swamp.

Then we started on to Cancun and on the way, the axle just fell out!!!

March (no date) 1988

Time really flies, doesn’t it? Although, in a way it takes a thousand years for a month. It’s strange. Of course there a lot of things a nine-year-old can’t understand, but nowbody has truly figured out time, for time is really nothing. Ray and Leyla have left and we are in San Cristobol de los Casas. It’s nice to have Mama back. And it is sad that Tia and Jazmin are going.

May 23, 1988

After leaving San Cristobal de las Casas, we did many travels and had many breakdowns. One which made us arrive in San Miguel by bus, totally tired out. Frank found us a little house to stay in… I had a friend whose name is Theron. She is a very good friend, but she is rather bossy and I do not like being bossed around. Right now we are in Santa Fe!

May 24, 1988

Mama had to fly to Oregon ahead of time because Jean is fading, sinking or just plain dying, if you don’t like poetical stuff. We don’t know when he will go. I sorta don’t feel too sad because he had a long life for someone who drinks alot. To make this not too gloomy of a subject, I want to tell my readers…that Bette, Eve’s cat, has made a great move and is being much more friendlyer. Lila, Eve’s dog, is also friendly. But she always has been.

June 30, 1988

Jean did die on Thursday June 26. We also had to sell Zebu, our big white van! But we sold it to Pat. We all know Pat will take good care of him. We bot a little Datsun truck.

Nov 13, 1988

I guess I haven’t written in this for a while. But to catch you up, summer’s over now and we are home. We had a huge car saga with the Datsun. And you can ask me about that!


To be continued…

6 Responses to “From the Archives: An Eight-Year-Old’s Travel Journal, 1987”

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  1. Alyssa says:

    I love the map! I have always been geeky for cartography. Also, I love you. and your to the point observations. Still do.

  2. Tina says:

    Oh, I walked fast onto the dock to be alone, leaving you behind! But you understood….that is so amazing to me. I am thrilled to read this and see the drawings…..what a treasure. I love hearing the 8 year old you. I wish there was more! I hope you fill in the blanks, remembering! Gracias!

    • Fred Shumate says:

      Just the best of stories being churned/churped out by this talented young writer! “Got off the fairy boat, after a Knights ride”. Pure poetry!

      May I “borrow” that line from you, for a song?

  3. Jan and Margie says:

    Margie and I are sitting by the fire on a rainy evening reading this (where the light has a pink/orange quality), we were transported to a nine year old’s beautiful (and articulate enchanting) memory. Wonderful memories to share. I can really see why you are a writer Churpa.

  4. Steve Knight says:

    Really great stuff Churpa!
    I think that it may have been from around the time we met you and your mom and dad.
    The drawings of Baja California and the desert Cacti are priceless.
    The spellings are major cool from a very phonetic 8 year old.

  5. -El Codo- says:

    I beg of you to include more of this in your book. What a concept, life down here as told by an ever-maturing mind! Pilar, Dalia, Hermalinda and even baby Yvette, make it impossible for me to not switch gears (perspectives). Being so far over the hill that I near the valley, next, this treasure really has no price. Thank you for sharing.