For my birthday, I asked my parents for a few things: a new top, a couple of books, and a journal for traveling.
I’m excitedly packing one of the journals they got me away for my trip next week. Journaling has always been a haven for me to express my thoughts freely and unconsciously, a private place to look back on conversations, moments, and memories that have been tucked into drawers of my mind that I forgot existed until I read about an encounter and am flooded with overwhelming nostalgia. I kept one religiously while I studied abroad, that I still love to reflect on, and one while I traveled last summer. I try in between big trips to journal, but it doesn’t always pan out. My journals are filled with random thoughts for stories and characters, intermingled with daily life and scribbles of poems and tangles of personal “crises.”
I love travel journaling because it’s a keepsake of every small detail that I forget to consciously remember. One of my goals for myself is to start writing regularly, but until that happens, I’ll be working hard on pages and pages of adventures. (Note to self: FINISH JOURNALING YOUR SUMMER 2017 TRIP. HONESTLY.) Yes, there’s the obvious day-to-day things you saw, did, and ate, but it can be so much more fun to wriggle out all of the in-betweens.
And every time I pick up the pen and listen to the creak of a new journal opening for the first time, I try to incorporate something into my writings that I didn’t previously.
Like, when I studied abroad, I captured a lot of little moments during my day, like things that made me laugh in class or times I had a nice chat with someone, but I didn’t always write about the weather or where I was at the exact moment I was penning these things down. Everyone will recount travel in the way that matters to them, and that’s what makes it a meaningful project! Here, I’d like to share some suggestions for framing your journaling.
1. Plan to write a little bit every day
It sounds easy, right? Explore by day, review by night. Or, scribble while sat at a cafe and people watching, taking a breath from the whirlwind you may be experiencing. But soon you start forgetting to pack your journal, you’re too tired when you get back to your lodging, or you just don’t feel like doing it, and the days pile up and things start to blend together. Sometimes, it becomes hard to get back into it, or days are written out of order because you just don’t want to forget what’s just happened and will backtrack later, when you have time.
I generally bring my notebook with me everywhere I go, so that if the opportunity arises, I can catch up on the day and stay up to date. It’s also a lot easier to remember what’s happened since the morning, or the last time that I journaled. Telling yourself that at a certain time every day, like sitting down to eat or taking a break, or that when you get back, you will write, even if for five minutes.
2. Start with the logistics
The other day, one of my best friends was showing me her travel journal from 2 years ago and she began her entries for every new city with a breakdown of her expenses, which is something really awesome to consider. She included the conversion rates at the time (which are ever-changing and might bring on a different wave of nostalgia), and her lodging. Now she can look back and see what she did through finances, and it charts the planning of the actual trip. Add packing lists, fight itineraries, or distance covered. I want to try this one out!
3. Jot down conversations or overheard chatter
One of my favorite things to uncover is something I heard someone on the street say, or an exchange that I had with anyone about anything. It’s fun to remember these kinds of conversations with people that made you smile and that you can always carry with you. And it says something about what you were thinking or feeling at the time, making rereads almost a vision that comes to life and returns you to those places.
4. Note the weather, the time, and your surroundings
Another way to pull yourself back into the moment is to detail what it feels like to be where you are. Noting whether it’s sunny and you can tell you’re getting burned, or it’s cloudy and spattering rain and you’re thinking the skies will soon open up, is as important to your time there as the time of day you’re writing and where you are. Being present in your journal is another dimension of being present in your travels, because you’re honing in on what is making this place, this place, and your place.
5. Write what you’re listening to
A song on your iPod might quickly become attached to the time that you landed in the first country you trekked solo. The rumbling of trucks down a cobblestone street, making deliveries to nearby bakeries, might wake you up in the mornings and become synonymous with the sweet rise of day. A cacophony of languages could lead to unprecedented joy at foreignness and desire to travel wider and further than you ever thought you might. Soak up every last sense and capture it between your pages.
6. Try stream-of-consciousness journaling
This is something I’ve loved to include and regret never doing enough of it. A free write can be messy and hard to decipher sometimes, but eventually your mind feels detached, but its energies are all being pushed into your pen as you scrawl down lines and pages of your raw thoughts. It’s like your brain explodes all over the page, in the most magical way possible, and you’re really doing nothing except relaxing, not thinking, and letting what’s going to come, come.
Try stream-of-conscious writing at the end of a trip, at the end of the day when you’ve written all you can and have nothing, you think, left to say. It’s great to not only write about what’s going on outside, but what’s going on inside you. Traveling challenges and transforms, and you want to try to open yourself up to those things you didn’t realize were happening to you, too. It’s a two-way street that you’ll want to witness.
7. Be creative in the ways that matter to you
Sketch the buildings around you. Write poems. Create sheet music for an orchestral expression of your emotions. However it makes sense for you to document your travels, do that. That is where the heart of your experiences lie, and that’s how they should remind you of what special moments you were able to have.