At the end of a travel day, journal about the events, people, and places you encountered.
In “Launch Your Travels” blog, the independent traveler Jen made several suggestions that a woman traveling alone can do in the evenings. It is rich with ideas for not only her niche audience, but for other travelers as well.
I had one thing to add to her suggestions, I’d like to share it with you here. If you do nothing else but this at the end of each day, you will have succeeded as being a thoughtful, purposeful, intentional traveler.
Journal about your travels. During dinner alone jot some notes while waiting for your meal to arrive. Make more full bodied reports of your travels that day after returning to your lodging. Here are some ideas to consider writing about.
Record a conversation you had with a child, stranger or tour guide.
Describe a place, person you met, or an experience you had, using all your senses.
Write your reactions (emotions, thoughts, challenged beliefs) to what you encountered during this day.
Reflect on a theme you set for your journey (i.e., as big as history or architecture, as small as slang or t-shirt sayings).
Report your progress on an intention you set for yourself before traveling (such as do something each day you’ve never done before or practice your second language with locals).
How do you define adventure, escapade, exploration, quest, or venture?
An adventure can be the outdoor, physically demanding kind. Like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, mountain biking, or canoeing the North Woods. But not all of us are that physically fit or daring. Many of us travel for other kinds of adventures. One of mine is to learn to pay attention to what I experience.
How do you define travel adventure for yourself?
Chiapas from the back of a van
One year, at the invitation of two other women, I went along from Isla Mujeres to practice paying attention while seeing another part of Mexico, the southernmost state of Mexico, Chiapas. Once there we decided to take a tour to three different scenic and historical sites in a single day. What we did not calculate was the amount of time we would be in the van.
We left at 4:30 a.m., got home at midnight, spent 3 hours at three sites total, hurried through meals to ensure a potty stop, and bounced on the back axle of the van the rest of the trip.
My biggest surprise was not the beauty, or the history learned at the three sites, but what I gleaned from the back window of the bus about the way people lived in Chiapas.
Each household had cleared a spot in the tropical forest and built a house on an earthen plot with no vegetation. The houses, painted or not, sat enclosed by jungle. Most yards accommodated a large, non-specific breed of dog, some on a chain, others not. Yet they all barked at whatever passed by and barked with the children who played in the dusty yards. Even at a distance I could see happy kids in tattered clothing. Occasional goats, chickens, or other farm animals roamed free, well-fed and housed in an open shed or simply in the yard.
Because the houses were built close to the road and there was nowhere else to play, homeowners had laid massive nautical ropes in front of their homes. Much higher than most speed bumps and without the merging incline and leaving decline on each side, they made for a torturous journey. Therefore, our ride took the rhythm of down-shift, slow down, (first axle) up and over, then (back axle) up and over again, shift, and speed away. Parents and extended family settled on protecting their children’s safety over the convenience of tourists or even other locals.
As we returned in the fading sunlight, a single light bulb lit the interior of homes. We could tell because they left the doors and windows open for air—their native air conditioning. Inhabitants circled a table under that light bulb for dinner, reading and/or homework, sewing, or other life requirements.
I could see bare necessities were all they had, but they looked cheerful and well-fed to me. They seemed determined to make a life with little at hand.
Americans often feel denied if we don’t have the right brand of clothing, the best margarita on vacation, or a bonus at the end of the year. Often we find it tough to be happy with blessed lives.
From the back of the bus, I could see their poverty, joy, and ability to make the most of what they had.
Is your adventure to try using your rusty French or German, or your newly acquired Japanese; eat different foods than you normally would; or simply to write about your experiences in your journal to turn them into stories later? Any of these and many more can lead you to discoveries you would not have imagined before.
How do you define adventure for yourself? Please send an answer to that question so others can consider it, too.
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. Continue reading “Vacation Travel Journal Writing Workshop”→
Travel Touchstones: Transformative Travel through Creative Journal Writing
I had always thought that travel books and travel writers were all about where to go and how to get there. “Been there, done it, got the t-shirt” mentality. But the following quote from Arthur Frommer dispelled my thinking.
“The only things that interest me are people and ideas. I love going on trips that shock me, where everything I believe in my religion, my politics, my social outlook is immediately challenged with diametrically different viewpoints.” – Arthur Frommer –
Frommer took his interest in people and ideas and turned it into an international travel business. His advice is one way to start thinking about the Travel Touchstones workshop, where we attempt to turn standard excursions into transformative travel.
How? Several ways.
Anticipate (play out in our mind or rehearse) what you may encounter and decide how you want to experience what lies in front of you. Often setting a ‘theme’ for your travel may be sufficient to help you get more from the journey into the world. What do I mean by theme? Choosing a cultural phenomenon, like the place of food in the French lifestyle, to investigate as you meet people, eat in restaurants, or shop in grocery stores. Or say, select something about yourselves you want to explore, like notice when you feel threatened, defensive, or uncomfortable and why.
Learn to pay attention to the little things. Use your senses to experience all there is along the way. Not just through the eye of the camera, but sounds and scents, textures and tastes. Note how children are viewed by the country’s culture. Watch for body language in place of verbal attempts. Put your brain and your senses on high alert to help you experience more than you typically would.
Discover what kind of journal writing tools you want and need for the particular journey, find journal writing techniques that make it fast and fun and fulfilling to write, and anticipate topics and themes you may want to pursue. With tools, techniques, and topics in your toolkit, you are ready to hit the road.
These are the three key areas that participants will explore in the upcoming “Travel Touchstones: Transformative Travel through Creative Journal Writing” workshops.
Dates and Locations
Saturday, January 14, 1-4 pm; Kerrville, Texas
Tuesday, February 7, 6-9 pm; Isla Mujeres, Mexico, at the Red Buddha Studio
Join me and others to learn how to enjoy transformative travel through creative journal writing. For details and registration, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.