I’m currently taking a travel writing course, and one of the topics of discussion recently was whether or not to keep a journal while travelling.
Admittedly, I’m a fairly recent journalling fan, as my previous methods consisted of jotting down daily notes of what I ate, where I went, funny quotes, etc. on hotel stationery and then returning home from a trip and discovering a pile of crumpled papers at the bottom of my suitcase. Or worse, in the washing machine. For my round-the-world trip, I decided to splash out and purchase a proper Moleskin, and I glued EVERYTHING I came across in that sucker and made pretty detailed entries. I like looking through it occasionally for reflection, to laugh at myself, or ideas.
Like the art of letter-writing, however, I’m sure the popularity of journal writing has taken a backseat to blogging. But here’s why I think you should pack a journal next time you travel:
1. Audience of One: Unlike a blog, where you have to be fairly conscientious (or at least you SHOULD be) of your audience, you’re just writing a journal for you. I may have written a blog post in a fairly neutral tone because I like to keep my blog generally on the positive side. My journal however – a different story. Stuff got REAL in my journal. There’s cursing, complaining when I was exhausted, comments about why I should never visit X again, etc. A journal can be exactly how you want it to be.
2. Souvenir: I love sending and receiving postcards, and to me my travel journal is one giant postcard full of memories and moments that I can look back on. And as I mentioned, I glued everything in my book. Beer labels, event tickets, transportation stubs, restaurant business cards – all which help me remember moments that I may not have written about. To me, my journal is as much visual as it is based on the written word.
3. Conversation Ender (and Starter!): If you’re eating alone and you’d prefer to just have your own company, pulling out your journal while sipping a coffee or chowing down is a great way to pass the time and keep yourself busy without any unwanted interruptions. And sometimes, it provides a great conversation starter if you are open to company if others comment on it. So it works both ways.
4. Safety: Nothing says “rob me” like pulling out a laptop for the world to see. As long as your travel journal isn’t covered in crystals you’ll be less of a magnet for thieves.
Of course, there are always downsides to everything.
1. If You Don’t Finish: Nothing like a half-finished trip journal to remind yourself that you failed hard at something. Cue Debbie Downer music.
2. Extra Weight: If you’re really trying to pack light, carting around a hardcover journal might not be favourable in your mind.
3. If you Lose It: Hopefully someone kind will find it and return it, otherwise you’ve just lost your very personal account of your travels which could be both embarrassing and frustrating.
So, what do you do when you travel? Do you journal or blog? Leave a comment!