Travel journals vary widely, they can range from dry statements of what happened when – little more than an itinerary, to wildly evocative word pictures which transport the reader to far away places. The latter are a fascinating insight and can be rightly treasured by their owners. But what makes a great travel journal and how do you write one? Practice and experience helps, so lets make a start..
When you write your travel journal consider who you are writing it for. If it’s a private journal which only you will see, you will probably use a very different style than if you intend to allow the journal to be read by others.
Think about all of your senses – what you see, hear, feel. Be descriptive – “the softly crumbling honey coloured stone of the chapel walls sweltered in the oppressive midday heat” is more descriptive of a moment and a feeling than “it was very hot today when we visited the chapel”. The first phrase evokes more strongly the essence of the place and gives the reader a feel for what it was like to feel that heat and see the colour and age of the chapel walls.
Try reading what you write aloud – does it sound vivid and interesting or stilted and confused? Reading a passage aloud will allow you to identify if what you have written is in your voice and if it works. It may also trigger you to write something extra as memory sparks.
I find it’s best to keep the travel journal pocket sized, I can then easily carry the journal around with me and make a brief notes when having coffee or when something inspires.
It is often useful to record practicalities after the trip is over as well as descriptive word pictures. I find I often want to recall how much things cost, or the specifics of transport routes and methods. Such issues are quickly forgotten, (at least by me!) so noting them down in bullet point style helps in this respect.
You can use a camera as a useful memory jogger when taking notes is simply not possible. If you bear in mind this useful purpose you will take specific memory-trigger photographs as well as artistic travel photos. A shot of a menu for instance or a street map sign can be an enormous help if you don’t write your journal immediately.
Whatever style you decide to use in your travel journal, if it has loads of personality it will certainly be a more colourful and interesting record. I’ll leave you with a short checklist to help you find your own voice and make your travel journal meaningful.
Things to collect (use an envelope or attach directly using a glue stick):
costs and itinerary info clippings from found items (hotel, restaurant, tickets)
Make a note of:
Things forgotten or not anticipated which would have been useful What about the place was good, bad, ugly, beautiful? Let yourself imagination take over, immerse your thoughts and sense or remember the atmosphere, then try writing a short piece of poetry descriptive of place and impressions. What were the practical and pragmatic essential bullet points?
Trigger words and phrases for travel journal entries:
liked – why disliked – why seen colours smelled felt tasted overheard quiet noisy studied new old similarity dissimilarity my feelings – and the reasons why weather conditions and light quality people flora and fauna humour peculiarities unfamiliarity the same but different
In this article I have explored why it is important to let your personality into your travel journal writing and explored examples as well as ways to do this. To conclude: in travel journal writing there is no right or wrong but there is your way which should be as unique as you are.