As we ease out of winter – at last! – I’m dreaming of travel. Maybe you are too? Whether far away or close to home, we can add to the experience by keeping a travel journal. Even if you never read it again, writing while far from home can help us more deeply appreciate those special moments.
Over the years, I’ve kept my musings in small spiral bound notebooks and fancy clothbound journals. All of them ended up in the back of my desk drawer. This year, I’ve decided to keep all my travel writing in one place, and maybe even consolidate some of those old jottings into a sturdy classic Moleskine Notebook.
Alternatively, Peter Pauper Press has a nice line available in fine bookstores and online. Some printed journals come with writing prompts, some are designed especially for women, and many have lined or blank pages or both. You can also add stickers or paste in tickets, maps and receipts from favorite shops. Shopping for the perfect journal adds to the joy of anticipating my trip.
Some people like to use digital journals such as Find Penguins or Journo. These can be great when you don’t want to pack a notebook or camera, as you can download your photos from your phone directly into the journal.
Whatever method you choose, it’s important to write every day. Missing a few days can lead you to forget important details when you finally get around to recording them. The scents of a flower market or the smell of a food court or that cute little child running down a beach evoke emotions you can relive again and again.
Don’t worry about writing well but do give yourself time to relax and think about your day. Whether over morning coffee, or evening tea, I like to think about these questions:
Where did I go; what did I eat; who did I meet? The answers give me personal insights I might have otherwise missed.
Consider giving your trip a theme. Are you on a learning adventure with a group like Road Scholars? Write in your journal a few notes about what you learned each day, the names of your guides, what resources they offered you, and what surprised you.
Was it a relaxing spa vacation? What did you do each day to relax, and how might you bring a bit of that at home?
Are you tracing your roots? When my husband and I traveled to Poland, all our days touched on the birthplaces, food and customs of our ancestors, and I recorded my delight at the similarities I found with my relatives back home.
Use bullet points. Even if you don’t have a lot to say, or time to write, jot down the names of your hotels, favorite restaurants and cafes and the meal you ordered, the little shops where you bought a great souvenir, and even the ones you don’t recommend.
You don’t have to write a lot about them all, but when you get home, you’ll want to give recommendations – or not – to friends who will follow in your footsteps.
Make a little sketch while you’re in that café or on that park bench. A tree across the way, your coffee cup, a mountain in the distance can be enough. A quick snapshot doesn’t give you quite the same connection in the moment as a pencil sketch. Try it and see if I’m right!
Have a place on each page or in a special section of your journal to paste or tuck in tickets, postcards, or parts of brochures you want to save.
If you’re not ready to head out into the big wide world, you can still keep a travel journal of past trips. Take out the photos you’ve printed, posted on social media, or stored on your phone, and use them as prompts for your writing.
Exact dates are not necessary but try to record as much as you can remember from the day that photo was taken. It could inspire you to return there or venture out to somewhere new.
Do you have a favorite journal or notebook you like to use on a trip? A digital app on your phone? What memories do you want to preserve? Where do you like to write? A café, your hotel room, a train? Share with us before you go!