Living Wherever : Write a Travel Journal

You realize it’s wise to keep a journal. But what is a good way to go about it? In my experience, it has worked best to keep the journal private, the entries short, and the access easy.

Wait, what about starting a blog and signing up with a photo-sharing site? Been there done that. It’s not worth it, unless you plan to travel for a very long time, post religiously, censor nothing (details, thoughts, feelings), and make money off the site with ads and affiliate products. Otherwise, it’ll be a hinderance to you actually writing every day and being present.

Make it private

Write as if no one else will read your journal (and don’t let anyone). Be brutally honest. The point of a journal is to learn more about yourself and reflect on life. And that’s best done in private. Your family and friends can follow along via your social network updates. Let them hear the stories first-hand from you when you return.

Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. I chose to make my 2009 SE Asia travel journal public and didn’t keep a separate private one. I left out some things (both good and bad events) that would have been inappropriate to share with the whole world. I’m a bit sad now that I don’t have detailed entries for those days. What thoughts ran through my head that day? How did I process it? I can only guess now. Don’t let that happen to you. Life is a beautiful thing–if you can remember it.

Make it effortless

Have you ever started a journal before and let it taper off? You probably didn’t make it easy on yourself. That’s the key. Journaling should be effortless, easy, fun. You should be able to jot down something anywhere, anytime. The more you share in your journal, the more you will get out of it.

My solution is: have a simple, dedicated journal app on the home screen of my smartphone. I always have my phone on me, so I can whip it out at any time and jot down a few words about what just happened and my thoughts and feelings.

Make it short

Don’t let journaling overwhelm you. Keep the entries short and sweet.

Double points if you avoid writing “I went to the Louvre today” in your travel journal while actually in Paris. Quintuple points if you never write a full sentence at all.
- Margo Millure

What to write

Examine all the angles:

Be present. Pay attention to the details.

Don’t just write that a market is “bustling.” Describe the vendors vying for your attention, the noises, the smells, the people who jostle against you. Avoid vague adjectives, and look for specific details that define a place’s character.
- Dave Fox

Get started now

Got an iPhone, iPad, or Mac? Use the app: DayOne. I use the iPhone app to write most of my entries. I use the Mac version if I have a lot to say that day. I use the iPad app when I want to review it all and reflect. The data is synched well between devices via iCloud or Dropbox.

Got an Android phone or tablet? Or got a device/computer with a web browser? Use the app: Diaro. I don’t have experience with Diaro, but it comes highly recommended and, glancing at their website, it looks identical in form and function to DayOne.

Make it a daily habit

Did you notice that you don’t need to be traveling to follow these rules? That’s right. You should be journaling every day no matter what! The point is to learn about yourself and reflect on life. Keep writing and all those entries will add up to something invaluable.

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