Writing a travel journal

Planning a get-away? Going on a family or activity holiday or having a weekend break? Or may be it’s a once-in-a-lifetime round-the-world trip, a cruise, a touring holiday (by bike, car, on horseback), backpacking, a working holiday? Whatever it is, how about writing a travel journal to record all of those special moments and experiences?

Writing a travel journal is not only fun – it is also a great way to recall memories that may otherwise fade and disappear.

A good old-fashioned note book or a blog?

If you typically travel with a laptop or tablet and you want to be able to share your experiences on the go, then set up a blog. If, however, you yearn to scribble in a lovely old-fashioned note book or journal then you will find plenty to choose from both online and in stationery shops.

Choose one that you can easily carry around (you don’t want anything too bulky and heavy), go for hard backed if you think you will do most of your writing away from a desk or table and make sure it opens out flat – it is very hard to write in a notebook which keeps trying to close. Many travel journals have blank pages but if you find it hard to write on a blank page then choose one with lines.

When to write

One of the great things about going on holiday or travelling is that you are free from the daily routine. This does mean however, that if you are serious about writing a travel journal, you may have to grab any opportunity you can for writing. If writing early in the morning or writing late in the evening is not for you then look for other moments during the day when you could scribble a few lines. For example, waiting for a bus, passing time on a train or plane journey, sitting in a cafe or waiting for a meal to be served in a restaurant, standing in a queue, sitting on a park bench, perched on top of a mountain.

Who are you writing a travel journal for?

Are you writing a travel journal just for you or is it something you’d like to share (via a blog, for example, with family and friends) or maybe even publish? Knowing your audience will help you to decide what to include, what to leave out and what writing style and tone to adopt.

What to write about when writing a travel journal

Don’t just make a boring list of what you did – ‘I did this, then I did that, then I went there’. By all means make a note of the date and place for future reference but then look around you and write about what you can see – the buildings, the colours, the surroundings, the food, the traffic, the people, the hustle and bustle.

Sit in a cafe and watch the people go by – what do they look like, what are they wearing, what snippets of conversations do you overhear, what language(s) or dialects are they speaking? 

Are there any local delicacies or specialities you are tempted to try, what type of produce is available in the markets or on the streets, what do the street vendors have to offer?

Make a note of the smells and noises, observe how people get around and how this differs to home – all of these details help to define the unique character of a place or country.

Write about something you have experienced which is unusual, quirky, out of the ordinary, off-the-wall, eccentric, bizarre or just plain weird. Write about a place you visited off the usual tourist trail. If you are lucky enough to experience a rare or one-off event or celebration write down what it felt like to be there, what made the experience special.

You don’t have to write chronologically or include everything

You don’t need to add entries to your journal chronologically. Simply write when you feel inspired or when you spot or experience something special or unusual. And, don’t feel you have to record everything you did. Even if you are the only person to read your journal in the future, you may not subsequently be interested in all the boring little details but it is your journal and so no matter how humdrum, boring or geeky it may seem to others, if this is what makes your trip or journey memorable for you, then go for it.

Talk to people

Talking to people can be as simple as exchanging a few words in a shop or a bar or it could be someone you meet and engage in a longer conversation. When you sit down to write, try to recall what you talked about, describe what the person looked like, how they talked, how they made you feel, whether there was anything special or unusual about them.

Add photos and illustrations

If you have recorded your trip on camera, pick out your best or most evocative or memorable photos. If you are artistic and have spent time making a record of your trip through sketches and drawings these will have a very special meaning for you.

Finally

Don’t just write what you can find in any guide book. It is your own experiences and interactions with the people and places you visit that will make your travel journal unique. If you feel you do need to add some background facts and information make sure it is accurate and up to date just in case you decide to share your journal with other people. But the main thing is to have fun writing a travel journal. If you aren’t enjoying writing then find a way to make it fun.

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Writing a travel journal – some tips on how to get started
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