On April 27, 2019, the Wrede little one-room country schoolhouse, just outside of Fredericksburg, Texas, hosted ten students for inspiration and tutoring in the art of travel journal writing. The organizers promoted the workshop as Vacation Journal Writing, which attracted people from their early teens to their mid-seventies. One of the attendees had sat in the Wrede school as a student decades ago when growing up in the area. Another had attended another country schoolhouse in the county during her elementary school days (or did they call it ‘grammar or primary school’ then?).
First Writing Prompt: Getting Lost
The participants put their heads down to write on the prompt, “Recall a time when you were lost. It could be when you lost your mom or dad at Wal-Mart as a child, when you got lost driving, or found yourself in the woods without a sense of direction.” Then we discussed what it was like writing about that experience. Some were nostalgic. Others discovered the fear more real as they wrote about it.
Next, three or four writers read their entries aloud to the group. We talked about the writing in general that made it come alive, the words or metaphors that helped the rest of us feel like we were there.
Materials and Supplies
In addition we discussed choosing materials and supplies for journal writing on different types of trips. If you are in the rainforest, you will need waterproof pen and paper, which are available at specialty stores. If you are hiking in the desert, you will want lightweight journal to carry. If you’re touring Europe or Asia, you may want a fancy journal that lies flat in your lap while on trains, buses, and planes, with pockets to keep tickets, brochures, menus and the like.
Second Writing Prompt: Place
When asked to write about a place (the schoolhouse, which was new to most attendees), they gazed around the room and then went to work. We shared what it was like to write about a new place and whether they had noticed much upon their arrival. Then different participants read their journal entries.
Topics to Write about When Traveling
The group brainstormed topics they could write about when traveling.
- history, architecture, and culture
- people, conversations, children
- food, preparation, spices and flavors
- differences between countries
- t-shirt sayings, unique street signs, or billboard signs.
As the facilitator, I encouraged the group to think, “So what?” During their travel, they could ask themselves in their journal, “So what did I learn about architecture, history, or the way other people think? So what did I learn about myself when I met a person unlike myself? So what will I take home from this experience that has changed me?”
Third Writing Prompt: Sense of taste
The last prompt came with a piece of candy to write about the sensation of eating chocolate. I urged them to use all of their senses to describe the process of eating a bite of their choice of chocolate.
As before, they shared what it was like to write about the experience and then some of them read their journal writing. I encouraged them not just to take photos of their “awesome” plate of food, but to smell it, taste and savor it, compare the culture’s food specialties they were visiting to their own back home.
I believe, intentional travel begins by paying attention. Writing helps one pay attention.
The organizers of the workshop, The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools, provided bottled water, a handmade journal to each participant, and cookies for the road.