The healing power of keeping a travel journal
by Jill Dutton
As a travel writer, it’s part of my job to journal and take notes. Still, whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, the act of journaling can lead to insights and memories you’ll cherish long after you’ve returned home.
I was traveling through Colorado with a fellow travel writer when I asked her how she was able to write with such clarity and detail in her travel articles. She gave me a tip – and a practice – that has stayed with me to this day: Conduct a “brain dump” each day while memories are still vivid. Focus on the senses – sights, sounds, smells, touch, taste – to bring the memories to life.
So when I was in Panama last month, each day, other guests at the eco-adventure lodge (Casa Cayuco) found me furiously scribbling notes while sitting at the dinner table, on the boat, or while relaxing on the dock. A young doctor from Germany who was a guest at the lodge asked me about it at dinner one night and asked if I would read a random section from my notes.
I flipped to a page and read:
“A symphony of jungle sounds surrounds me as I’m cocooned in my mosquito-netted bed. I glance at the netting and see two lizards, light and almost translucent, holding tight as if on a trapeze net. I learn that the lizards are drawn to insects, and the insects are drawn to the light. I turn off the light and tuck the netting in tighter in the hopes of keeping them from making their way inside my enveloped haven during the night.”
Scribbling these insights provides me with a deeper look at the trip, and what I was feeling, and offers memories I might have let slip if they weren’t written.
Your travel journal can provide similar insights and work as a powerful tool for personal growth and self-discovery. Here are 6 reasons for keeping a travel journal.
The act of keeping a travel journal encourages mindfulness. In the midst of exploring new landscapes and experiencing different cultures, taking the time to reflect on your thoughts and emotions provides a sense of grounding. This practice not only enhances your travel experience but also fosters a deeper connection with the present moment.
Action: Set Aside Dedicated Journaling Time
Allocate a few minutes each day to reflect and write in your travel journal. This intentional practice enhances the quality of your entries and helps you stay present during your travels.
Catharsis Through Expression:
Writing in a travel journal allows for the expression of emotions and experiences that may be difficult to articulate verbally. Whether it's the awe-inspiring beauty of a sunset, the challenges of navigating a foreign city, or the joy of connecting with new people, putting pen to paper becomes a therapeutic outlet. This cathartic release aids in emotional processing, reducing stress and promoting mental clarity.
Action: Use Prompts for Inspiration
If you ever feel stuck, use prompts to jumpstart your writing. Describe a sensory experience, recount a meaningful conversation, or express your emotions about a particular moment. Prompts can serve as valuable tools for overcoming writer's block.
Travel journals serve as tangible keepsakes, preserving memories that might otherwise fade with time. Flipping through the pages transports you back to the sights, sounds, and feelings of your adventures. The nostalgia experienced through revisiting these written accounts can trigger positive emotions, serving as a reminder of the richness of life beyond the routine.
Action: Incorporate Visuals and Mementos
Enhance your journal entries by pasting ticket stubs, postcards, or small mementos. Visual elements make your journal visually appealing and trigger vivid memories when you revisit them.
A travel journal is an excellent tool for cultivating gratitude. By documenting moments of appreciation for the beauty around you, the kindness of strangers, or the personal growth you've achieved, you develop a heightened awareness of the positive aspects of your life. This shift in perspective contributes to overall well-being by fostering gratitude, which has been linked to improved mental and emotional health.
Action: Begin and End with Gratitude Lists
Start and finish your journal entries with a list of things you're grateful for during your travels. This simple practice helps shift your focus towards positive aspects, fostering a mindset of gratitude.
Travel often pushes us out of our comfort zones, presenting opportunities for self-discovery. Regularly recording your thoughts and reactions in a travel journal allows you to track personal growth over time. Whether it's overcoming fears, embracing new perspectives, or discovering hidden passions, the travel journal becomes a chronicle of your evolving self.
Action: Document Challenges and Growth
Be honest about the challenges you face during your travels and how you overcome them. This not only provides a record of personal growth but also serves as a reminder that difficulties can lead to valuable lessons.
Stress Reduction and Relaxation:
The act of journaling itself has been proven to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Taking a few moments each day to record your experiences can be a meditative practice, offering a mental break from the demands of everyday life. This simple yet profound ritual contributes to inner calm and balance.
Action: Create a Relaxation Ritual
Before or after journaling, incorporate a short relaxation ritual, such as deep breathing or mindfulness meditation. This helps center your mind and enhances the therapeutic benefits of journaling.
A travel journal becomes a beacon of well-being. It is not merely a collection of stories but a transformative tool that promotes mindfulness, self-expression, gratitude, and personal growth. Embracing the practice of keeping a travel journal is an investment in your mental health, a journey within that transcends the physical boundaries of the destinations you explore. As you embark on your next adventure, consider bringing along a journal – a companion that will not only document your travels but also serve as a guide to a more mindful and fulfilling life.
Author’s note: Some sections of this article were written with the help of ChatGPT.
Jill Dutton is the publisher of Evolving Magazine as well as a travel writer. Follow her travels at Global Journeys with Jill Dutton.