It doesn’t matter whether you are a frequent traveler or only get to go away occasionally, if you know how to write a travel journal you will have a reminder that will be a permanent memory of your fabulous experiences. I still occasionally revisit my first ever journal that I wrote in 1981 during my year in Italy. If you already keep a general journal you might think you know how to write a travel journal, but there are some features and factors that can lift it from being a mundane litany of “what I did today” to be a captivating, evocative and thrilling collection of memories you’ll want to visit over and over again.
1. To Whom or for What Are You Writing?
First things first, when you begin a journal, travel or otherwise, you should determine for whom, for what or to whom you are writing. Is this journal all your own – to pour out your emotions and observations, to record your memories so that you might read back fondly on them later in life? Or is this journal to be shared with friends or with the world via a blog? This alone may determine how to write a travel journal, as it will influence what sort of things you might share, as well as what tone or style you write in. If you are writing for yourself, consider the personal feelings and experiences you’d really love to recall and remember. If you are writing for an audience, consider what they might gain from reading about your experiences.
2. Give It a Glowing Intro
Your travel journal’s intro might be used to set the scene with panache. This is no time or place to mince words or be blasé; put your all into it, your energy and enthusiasm, the same energy and enthusiasm you have for travel. This will put you or your reader into the traveler’s shoes, traipsing along the broken cobbled roads of an Italian square, the sandy beaches of a Chilean shore or winding through the sensory stimulating bazaar of a Chinese village. Whatever the scene, set it with vivid detail and you’ll inspire your readers to read on.
3. Create Colorful Characters
Just like a novel or a work of fiction, you can indulge your travel journal’s plot by creating colorful character descriptions of the people you meet along the way...and, if your journey is at all interesting, then you’re sure to meet many an eccentric. There’s no need to make stuff up or fictionalize your real life interlopers; simply be observant, include their quirks, comments and conversations, their dress and personalities, their influence on you. People are interesting, especially when you’re observing those of a different culture (and, particularly, in a language other than your native tongue). Don’t saturate your writing with settings – bring the people you meet to life on the page as well.
4. Sensory Details
The sweet scent of seaweed, the vivid clear aqua of the waves, the fine wet sand form-fitting your feet, the incoherent chatter of the seagulls, the taste of the salty sea air as you breathe in the morning. Sensory details will return you to a place and time when you felt alive in full force. It will do the same for your readers, if you’re planning to share the experience. Write while the senses are unfurling or are still fresh in your memory. If you’re simply doing too much living to sit down and write, keep a small notepad in your pocket to jot down words or phrases, which filter into your mind, so that you can elaborate upon them later in your “real” travel journal.
5. Style over Chronology
Do not give a rundown of your activities, as though you’re checking off a to-do list; not only will you find this taxing to write, but your reader will find it doubly taxing to read. Instead, try other writing styles that’ll be more interesting and intimate. For instance, stream-of-consciousness – write without letting up, without lifting your pen from the page. Write your thoughts as they’re coming, without worrying about grammar and syntax and run-on sentences. This will allow for a reading that’s like delving into a mind in all its random thought.
6. Scrap-book and Sketch It
Bring along a glue stick and create an interactive journal, with ticket stubs, train schedules, newspaper clippings, what have you. These will be physical mementos to prove to yourself that it wasn’t all a dream – you WERE actually on the French Riviera, you DID truly run with the bulls in Pamplona. If you’re an artist (or even if you can only, at best, sketch a stick figure), illustrations and other visual aids make travel journals all the more interesting and entertaining.
7. Fabuloso Finale
There is no recipe for how to write a travel journal, so write in a way that suits you, and go where the wind blows you. Certainly though, you can wrap up your writing in style instead of letting it peter out. One way to pull off a fantastic finale is to look back on your travels on the plane ride home, when they’re still fresh in your mind, and draw your conclusions – what you’ve learned, what your travel experience has taught you, the highs and lows of your journey, and all that you’ve taken away from being in a different city, in a different country, in a different culture at such an incredible point in your life.
Do you keep journals of your travels or are you now inspired to start doing so?