How to Write Better Travel Journals - A Wandering Scribbler
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How to Write Better Travel Journals

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How to Write Better Travel Journals

notebook.watermarkHaving a travel journal is really important for many reasons.  If you’re not a writer or blogger, a journal will be a lasting record of your trip, much like photos, but much more personal.  If you are a writer, whether novelist or blogger, a journal is essential to keeping track for later writing.  Pictures and memories only go so far when it comes time to actually put words on paper, or on the computer.

I always think my memory is better than it is.  And while I surprise myself with what I remember, when it comes time to write, I hate myself for not writing more in my journal.  I either know there’s something I forgot, like the name of the meal I had, at that one restaurant, the way that one person I met kept mispronouncing my name, or it’s things I can’t even remember that I forgot.  Either way, those details could add to a story or article, taking it from being vague or uninformative to full and vibrant.  So here are a few tips to write better travel journals.

  1. Carry your notebook everywhere. Even if it’s only a small one that can fit in a pocket, the closer it is, the more you’ll take it out, and the more you’ll write.  You don’t want to find yourself with a little down time but nothing to write in.
  2. Never think “I’ll remember this” because you won’t. No matter how different something seems, how exotic or bazaar, I’m most likely not going to remember it.  When traveling, you’r probably going to be faced with hundreds of new things everyday so that you can’t possibly remember every weird or strange thing you learn.  You’re bound to miss those small details.  Writing those things down will ensure you remember them, even if it’s only a small reminder, “girls on the bus,” to remember the weird conversation, or a word or phrase that caught your attention.  If nothing else, you can at least recall most of those moments.
  3. Try to think of a story or article before taking notes. Sometimes writing in a journal can be difficult because you might not know exactly what to write.  If you have a story or article in mind, you will for sure take down the important pieces that will go in your story.  I’ll try to have a story in mind so if I know I’ll want to write about the people, or a specific area of a city, I take extra care to remember those bits and take down as much as possible.  Also, having ideas in mind ahead of time can just get you ready for the writing that will come after and keep you from having to do research while writing because you’ll have it in a journal already.
  4. Make sure to capture the things photos can’t, sounds, smells, temperature, feelings.  Pictures are great for capturing large areas.  I use photos to remind myself of a color or shape of a place, but when it comes to senses and things not captured on a photo, the journal is essential.  Especially for novels or essays, as opposed to a more informational post, feelings and sensations cannot be missed.  I still hate myself for not remembering what Venice smelled like, or  the temperature in Istanbul.  At the time, those things don’t seem important, or, like I said before, I thought I’d remember later, and now I forgot! Those memories and experiences are lost forever!  One good idea is to write the 5 senses down beneath the place you’re visiting, or the activity you’re writing about, that way you are sure to write at least one word for each.
  5. Write everyday even when you think you don’t have time. I’ve heard so many people say they should have forced themselves to write even when they were tired.  At the end of the day it’s really tempting to go to sleep, or spend that time relaxing instead of writing.  But you won’t remember those times you relaxed, instead you might not remember a lot of things because you didn’t write it down!  Instead, try to write in the down times, even if it’s just a little.  You’d be surprised how much time there is to write when you force yourself to, when you don’t make it a option, but an essential.
  6. Write about yourself.  If you feel tired, sad, lonely, annoyed, extremely happy, whatever it is, write about it.  This is your trip so you should be part of your notes.  Just make sure you’re not only writing about you, and that you incorporate your actions and surroundings too.
  7. But, get out of your own head! Especially when traveling alone it can be really easy to get suck in your own head and only talk about yourself.  Watch other people, write down their interactions, conversations, mannerisms.  Watch what the locals are doing, eating, wearing.  Just look around you and watch.  You might be surprised t what you witness, and later, what you “relearn” when rereading your journal.
  8. Use other media besides writing. If it’s a video camera or voice recorder, these can be fast, easy ways to take notes when writing isn’t possible.  There are also other benefits to video or voice recorder, but for a post based on writing, we’ll keep it as a last resort.

 

How do you write travel journals? Give me your tips in the comments below.

2 Comments
  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    Posted at 12:32h, 13 February Reply

    Great tips here! Completely agree about never assuming you’ll remember things – there are so many places I’ve visited where I haven’t written down the details and when I finally getting round to doing the blog post 3 months later, I’m stuck!!

    • Mackenzie
      Posted at 12:47h, 13 February Reply

      Yes! A lot of the posts I’m writing right now for my blog are about trips that happened a while ago and I really didn’t do well writing in a journal so now I’m so angry with myself because I forgot so much! Let’s hope I can take my own advice!

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