I have written before on how to keep an effective travel journal. However, if you still need some convincing about the benefits of keeping a travel journal, then this article is for you.
Whether you are a regular jet-setter, or travel once in a blue moon, a travel journal is an incredible tool to capture those memories in a creative way. But that’s not all. You can also use your travels for life-enhancing experiences, and use your journal to to embrace those lessons.
The problem with us humans is that we often have selective memories. Often, when you go on a trip, you may remember selected highlights of your experience. Usually things that were either very good, very bad, very familiar, or very alien. That’s fine. But there is a range of experiences in-between those extremes. Such a conversations you have with strangers, navigating your way around a new city, the weather, doing ordinary things such as ordering food. Even that is barely scratching the surface.
When you travel, you see more than tourist spots. You see people all around you – both locals and other tourists. You see (but perhaps do not observe) things which are not on your itinerary. You have interactions – starting from airport at the arrival, all the way to the airport at the departure, which include meeting a multitude of people who somehow disappear from your travel narrative when you are telling your friends back home about your trip.
A travel journal captures these deeper experiences. Seemingly unimportant things, which will probably become even more important than the tourist highlights few months or few years down the line.
So here are five reasons why you should keep a travel journal:
1. Learn to see and observe
I’m all for visiting the tourist hot spots. After all, they are popular for a reason. But don’t close your mind and your eyes, in-between one highlight to the next. Pay attention. What else do you see? Make notes in your travel journal as you go. While you are looking at the tourist spots, what are the locals doing? How do people dress? What is the condition of the buildings? What kind of food is commonly available? How do people interact with each other? Have you noticed any interesting customs or traditions? Did you come across someone’s wedding or funeral? What have you observed? What things have surprised you? What things are very different from what you are used to? What things are similar to home? How do the locals react to tourists? Look deeper. Observe.
2. Capture the uniqueness of your experience
Your experience will be different from everyone else’s experience. No two people see the same thing. If you and I stand in the exact same spot for 5 minutes together, in silence, and compare notes, we would notice different things. Even more importantly, even when we see the same things, our perspective may be different. You may see a beggar on a street and feel compassion, whereas I may consider him a nuisance. You may see a museum and think how dull it is to waste time on old relics, whereas I may think about thousands of years of history I can experience. And thus, the differences continue.
Generally, most people who travel talk about their experiences in a superfluous manner. Eiffel tower was awesome, or the Buckingham Palace was beautiful. The pyramids were less impressive than expected, while the London Dungeons were spooky. Sure. But what does that really mean? It doesn’t tell us anything beyond what any travel guide could have told us. How did you actually feel while you were looking at these things? How can you capture that feeling?
3. Learn more about yourself
We travel to learn more about ourselves. Most of us hope that by seeing more of the world, by looking at new things, and meeting new people, we may open up our minds in new directions. We hope that we may find a way of seeing things that we had not before.
When you are travelling, capture the things that challenge your opinions. Write down when you see something that you don’t understand or don’t agree with. Write down things that prove you wrong, but also the things that confirm your view of things. Write down what you learn about yourself.
4. Improve your ability to articulate
If you try to articulate what you see and feel in your travel journal then you will find yourself attempting to go beyond “awesome” and “beautiful.” You will find yourself trying to be more specific in your description. It’s not always easy, and you certainly don’t need to labour over every word. After all, you are there to travel, not to create a piece of art. And in fact, I wouldn’t recommend that you labour over your sentences. Just focus on describing your feelings. Write regularly, and particularly write when you have visceral and emotional reactions to people and places.
The more you do it, the better you will get at articulating yourself.
5. Create a unique souvenir
Your travel journal is the best souvenir you can create. Sure you can buy the typical tourist items, but this will be the best thing you can bring back. It will have more memories than a t-shirt or a mug. It will last longer. It won’t cost you much money, and it will be something that you can enjoy for the rest of your life, and pass it down to loved ones. Your travel journal is your handmade, inexpensive, unique souvenir.
Travel journals don’t have to be a specific type. Depending on your level of experience with journaling, you can go with guided journals, or just get a blank notebook/scrapbook. It does not have to be, and in fact should not be, a stressful experience. It is not a chore. Look at your travel journal as a creative project that you can engage with during your trip, something that can take your travel experience to another level. Do your homework. Look up exercise and writing prompts. Work yourself up!
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:
Plan a travel journal for your next trip. If you are not planning an actual trip, you can do the same with your own city. Look at your local surroundings with new eyes.
P.S. if you are not convinced about travelling, then read this post: 5 Reasons You Should Go Travelling