Keeping a travel journal

When you travel, do you jot down your thoughts?

Do you still have that fistful of sand you grabbed from that beach that looked straight out of a movie? Do you love to doodle about the location you’re in?

I have always journaled but my first travel journal began when I went on my first international trip to the US. Although I wrote fleeting thoughts in a star-spangled, ring-bound notebook I picked up in a bargain bin, it was a start.

Writing Away by Lavinia Spalding is a great book for anyone who wants to learn more about the art of keeping a travel journal. Her style is pretty conversational and she doles out great practical tips.  Even if you don’t know where to start, she offers a list of journal prompts to get those juices flowing. So how do you write a travel journal that’s worth reading? Here are a few of Spalding’s tips about keeping it old school.

1. Start writing now.

Think you can only crack open that baby when the trip starts? Why wait? Spalding recommends getting down those expectations and goals before you arrive at your destination. In this way, you can compare them with the ones you have post-trip.

2. Take notes when you can’t journal.

Sometimes, it’s just not practical to write long-winded paragraphs because you’re climbing a mountain or scuba diving with Nemo. Spalding recommends taking notes (trigger words, phrases etc.) as soon as you can while the memory’s fresh and then writing longer stuff during downtime (but not too long after the event).

3. Don’t just write.

Spalding suggests filling your travel journal with more than words: quotes from people you meet on the road, rubbings, drawings (even if you’re not an artist), handprints, messages from other travelers, ticket stubs, maps, dried flowers, menus, anything you like!

4. Don’t just blog about it.

Spalding emphasizes that a blog can never truly replace a travel journal. Remember a blog usually has a very public audience (unless you set your blog to private mode) and there are some things you can’t or shouldn’t share with strangers in cyberspace. Many beginner travel bloggers (including myself when I started in 2011) treat blog posts as diary entries, writing about mundane details like what they had for breakfast and how long they waited in the train station. Spare your readers those boring details.

There are many other gems in Writing Away but I can’t just give it all away. It’s not fair to the writer. Also note, I am not paid to write these things about the book so please make your own mind up about it. Happy journaling!