Posted in journal writing, Travel, Travel Writing, Writing Workshops

Vacation Travel Journal Writing Workshop

Wrede Country School in Gillespie County, open 1896-1960

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

Heads down, writing away

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.

Amy & Olivia eating chocolate for their writing prompt

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.

Posted in Craft of writing, journal writing, Travel Writing, Writing exercises

Revise a draft using the five senses.

Another way to revise our travel stories (or any story or scene) is to use the senses to describe the setting, the characters, and the action. Using the words “I smell…, we heard…, or you may taste…” is NOT the point. We can imply the senses by using rhythm with our words or utilizing descriptors that convey the sense itself.  Continue reading “Revise a draft using the five senses.”

Posted in Craft of writing, journal writing, Memoir writing, Travel, Travel Writing, Workshops, Writing exercises, Writing Workshops

Flow Writing followed by 3-step Revision

Flow Writing 

In a recent Travel Touchstones: Transformative Travel through Creative JouMe w. handout (2)rnal Writing workshop with lively participants, I explained that I developed the writing exercises as a result of not having the right kind of material from my journals when drafting my coming-of-age travel memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away.

I offered a flow writing activity.  Continue reading “Flow Writing followed by 3-step Revision”

Posted in Craft of writing, journal writing, Memoir writing, Travel, Travel Writing, Writing exercises

Insight from Travel through Journal Writing Exercise

Ira Progoff’s “Stepping Stones” Journal Writing Exercise

Stepping Stones is a journal writing exercise developed by Ira Progoff. He conducted research about how individuals develop more fulfilling lives. In his role as psychotherapist, he found that clients who wrote about their life experiences were able to work through issues more rapidly. Through this research, he then developed and refined the Intensive Journal Method to provide a way to encourage the processes by which people learn, grow, and develop as individuals.  Continue reading “Insight from Travel through Journal Writing Exercise”