By Sarah Bence
Read more from Sarah on her blog, Endless Distances.
For years, I thought I was too busy having adventures while traveling to bother writing about them in real time. Gradually, however, I began the process of travel journaling. Now, it’s become a habit, and it’s one of my favorite rituals when I travel.
Why you should keep a travel journal
I don’t journal on every trip I take, but when I do, I find I appreciate my adventures more in the moment and remember them more vividly afterward. Keeping notes on our day-to-day journeys encourages us to notice more, be more alert, and live in the moment. After all, you know (even subconsciously) that you’ll be writing those observations and experiences down in your journal each night. Plus, just the act of writing your adventures down will help imprint them into your memory.
Journaling also provides the opportunity to reflect, analyze, and process the complex experiences we often face as travelers. Most of us post filtered versions and highlight reels of our travels on social media, but by journaling you essentially do the opposite: You take the toughest and most real travel experiences, and reflect on them privately.
For example, when I recently trekked to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, I decided to journal my experience. I figured this would help me remember the physical feelings, the sights, and where we hiked each day. And while this was all valuable, the true benefit of journaling this experience was how it helped me process some pretty intense emotional and cultural experiences.
The act of writing makes us slow down. The process of putting transient thoughts and feelings down on paper can bring some pretty deep stuff to light:for my trip in Nepal, this was realizing how my own insecurities and cultural lens were impacting my experience.
Of course, there are simpler and more practical reasons to keep a travel journal, too. You can jot down the names of hostels you stay in, bars you discover, quirky museums, and even the names of new friends. These practical entries will serve as reminders of your trip’s details, and also make it easier to offer recommendations to friends when they travel.
How to keep a travel journal
The whole idea of journaling a trip can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
You don’t need to be a “writer” to keep a travel journal. You just need a pen and some paper! You can start out by writing short impressions (don’t even worry about writing in full sentences!) and simple information such as your accommodation name. From here, you may move on and be inspired to write about your feelings or experiences – no pressure, though!
Use a special notebook
I also recommend using a dedicated notebook for your travel journaling. Grab a cute notebook (I like moleskin – it’s a classic!) at the airport or before you leave for your trip. This may make you feel more excited to write, and of course will keep all your notes organized.
Get in the habit
No matter how long you’ve been travel journaling, routine is key. Whether you’re an early riser and want to journal each morning over your coffee, or would rather put pen to paper before you nod off at night, make a choice and stick to it. This will help you journal more regularly. But don’t feel guilty if you miss a few days. Keeping a travel journal should be an enjoyable experience, so find the schedule that works for you.
Let your travels inspire your journaling, and not the other way around. Allow yourself the freedom to express yourself, whether through sketches, taping in postcards or receipts, taking note of phrases you learn in new languages, or doing whatever else inspires you in the moment.
Ultimately, your travel journal should serve as a way to reflect on your travel in real-time. And after your trip, it’s like your own personal time machine back into your experience.
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