Favorite Books: My Travel Journals

[singlepic=1563,325,,,right]These days many people who venture off on RTW travels tend to keep a blog. Whether it’s to keep in touch with friends & family or share their experiences with other travel dreamers, blogs have become a common place for detailing trips.

In addition to blogs, it’s just as important, if not more so, to keep a handwritten travel journal, especially if you are embarking on a trip for self-exploration such as a career break.

Blogs are great for sharing details of your hike up Machu Picchu and the crazy street food you tried in Cambodia, but a journal will allow you to open up more about what those experiences meant to you in your journey for self-discovery. And even in this day of sharing just about every aspect of your life online, there are moments that you will want to keep to yourself.

In her book, Writing Away: A Creative Guide to Awakening the Journal-Writing Traveler (Travelers’ Tales)Lavinia Spalding offers advice on using your travel journal to help you through personal development, starting with even the most basic of steps: selecting the ideal journal and writing device for yourself.

[singlepic=1561,200,,,left]After many years of experimenting, I find that the best journal for me is a Cachet Classic Wirebound Black Cover Sketchbook. The ringed-binding allows me to open up to any page easily (offering a flat surface) and the thickness of the paper allows for easy writing and sketching. I find the 5”x7” size is perfect if I want to add postcards to my pages – allowing for some visual elements to my words.

And you may laugh about selecting the perfect pen, but I find my words flow much easily and my hand can keep up with my racing thoughts with any type of uni-ball pen. I even hand wrote this post with one! Believe it or not, not having the right pen and journal can keep you from writing in your journal.

But that seems like the easy part. Most people have never kept any type of journal, so dedicating oneself to doing this during your travels can be daunting. Lavinia offers some great practice devices to prepare you for it, including opening up your notebook five times a day – not necessarily to write, but to develop the habit. And it pays off:

“As Henry Miller said, ‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ Keeping a travel journal will assist you in reaching that destination. It will enrich your experience, help you interpret the world, and it might even change your life. The payoffs will be incalculable, both during your travels and long after you return.”

[singlepic=1562,250,,,right]I can relate to that. I love thumbing through my previous journals as they transport me back to a time when I was in a very different place in my life. And I can see how that time influenced my personal growth and has helped shape whom I am today. I usually can’t get through an entry without laughing or crying over a memory that I hadn’t thought of in years.

That’s not as easy to do with a blog. Most travelers I know who kept (or keep) blogs, rarely revisit previous entries. Their photos and words are stored away on a network server for others to stumble upon.

And in addition to reliving distant memories, by flipping through the pages of my journals I’ve been able to find great source material to share on Briefcase to Backpack and my Inspiration Blog, including “Letting Go: Preparedness” and “Reflecting On Those Who Inspired Me On 9/11”.

Another aspect I love about keeping a journal is being able to note my journey in ways other than the written word. I got a giant grin on my face when Lavinia made reference to journals being a work of art for some:

[singlepic=1567,175,,,left]“Still other artists regard the journal itself as a work of art. One of the most famous among them is brilliant wildlife and fashion photographer Peter Beard. Beard’s diaries are an indescribable romp of images and words – thousands of pages of exquisitely controlled mayhem, they hold sprawling entries in cramped handwriting, scribbled telephone messages and business cards alongside fashion magazine cutouts, dried leaves, insects, composite photos of nudes and crocodiles, drawings by African artists, newspaper clippings, cartoons, snakeskin, bark and blood.”

[singlepic=1564,150,,,right]It was upon seeing Peter Beard’s personal journals at an exhibit in 2000 that inspired the way I journal.

I’ve even found a way to incorporate my journals into my artwork, using entries as the background image to some of my travel photos.

And I had a laugh when Lavinia recalled having to dig through her bag to show her National Parks Pass at a station booth – which by that point was already glued into her journal.

[singlepic=1566,200,,,left]I had a similar experience happen on a flight to Paris. My friend and I were off for a long weekend and were pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to first class. Within minutes of takeoff, our boarding passes were already glue-sticked into our journals as we sipped champagne. Moments later, we’d have to return to JFK and change planes due to mechanical error. We were told we could use our original boarding passes for our new plane. Luckily, Kim wasn’t too embarrassed trying to explain to the attendants why we needed new passes, showing our journals as to why.

[singlepic=1565,200,,,right]I also love keeping a journal to detail other moments – like keeping score of a card game or devising “how well do you know you’re new travel partners” questionnaire while trekking in Nepal. Those capture unique moments that sentences and paragraphs could not.

But the most important aspect to keeping a journal during your career break travels is to help you on your path to self-discovery.

As Lavinia writes:

“Travel carries with it the potential to be a sort of changing room for the psyche. More than a getaway, more of a gateway…cue the travel journal, for while any journal is a portal to expanded awareness, the travelogue in particular is an unparalleled avenue for self-discovery. Paired with the myriad rewards and ordeals of travel, it can solicit breakthroughs that other journals simply cannot.

In short, if you let it, the journal will help you become an improved traveler, and (dare I say it?) a better version of yourself to bring home – which might be the ultimate travel souvenir.”

So add another item to your packing list: your journal. And be ready to open doors to even greater insight.

Other comments

5 Comments on "Favorite Books: My Travel Journals"

  1. Tweets that mention Favorite Books: My Travel Journals | Briefcase to Backpack - Travel Advice for Career Breaks or Sabbaticals -- Topsy.com on Thu, 22nd Oct 2009 6:55 pm 

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BriefcasetoBackpack and BriefcasetoBackpack, Michaela Potter. Michaela Potter said: RT @CareerBreakHQs: Keeping a travel blog? Why it's more important to also keep a journal http://bit.ly/4uiaKt #travel #inspiration #lp […]

  2. Amy on Fri, 23rd Oct 2009 6:31 am 

    You know I know the importance of journaling. I love the idea of a travel journal. Not only can it remind you of where you’ve been, but if you share it, can inspire others to follow in the footsteps of your journey. Thanks for sharing this, Michaela.

  3. Alonna on Sun, 8th Nov 2009 1:38 pm 

    I’m going to take this advice to heart! I’ve gone 3 months traveling now without a personal journal and I wish I would have had one. But, it’s not too late to start and I’m going to get a journal and write in it for the rest of my career break. I will look up this book too for more tips on journal-writing. Thanks!

  4. Michaela Potter on Mon, 9th Nov 2009 10:26 am 

    Alonna – I totally regret not keeping a journal during my first backpacking trip through Europe when I was in college. I learned my lesson and now my travel journal is the first thing I pack on every trip!

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