The Power of Travel Journaling

So this year is well underway and we’re sure you have many exciting travel plans coming up this year. Right now, it’s hard to imagine the exciting new places, adventures, and experiences the new year will bring, but they will surely be ones you’ll never want to forget. That’s why it’s so important to document your travels by journaling. 

That way, you won’t be caught off guard when the inevitable questions like “what was your favorite moment of the trip?” or “what didn’t you like about it?”. Or doubting if you even did anything at all because you made so many memories you somehow can’t recall any of them. Instead, you’ll have all the answers written down in your journal. 

Don’t just make memories, keep them! 

Whatever kind of memory book you decide to keep, you’ll find it’s a powerful way of holding onto memories you don’t want to let go of. Often, when we are traveling, we are so busy making new memories all the time that we forget to actually keep them. I don’t know about you, but all too often I think “I know I’ve done some really cool things on my travels if only I could remember what they were”. Once, a travel buddy reminded me we camped for four days in the Amazon. Embarrassingly, I had genuinely completely forgotten — and yes, I am going to blame the caipirinhas we had upon returning to civilization. Anyway.  

Other memories fade and even change as our minds subconsciously idealize or demonize them over time. Once that happens, the real experience is completely erased. For example, if you ask your sibling to recall a childhood memory, they will most likely remember it very differently from you. In this case, a journal is the only remedy. By writing your experiences and feelings about those experiences when they are fresh, you will get to keep them forever, completely untouched and intact.  

Photo by Darle La Vuelta

Wait, isn’t journaling too time-consuming? 

Many people are put off by the idea of journaling because it sounds dull or time-consuming or too much like work, but in reality, it’s only as dull or time-consuming as you make it! Besides, when you write down the heart-warming travel memories that you made that day, you relive them in your mind. And unless all you did that day was clean your fridge, you’re going to have fun journaling as you recall the day’s events. You may even find yourself not caring about how long you spend doing as you lose yourself in the moments and memories that shaped your experiences. 

Highlight reel or keepin’ it real? 

Naturally, we tend to only want to remember the good things that happened on our trips like finding the world’s best parking spot or making new friends. I mean, there’s a good reason why our Instagram accounts are referred to as our ‘highlight reel’, right? We love to document our favorite moments in life. However, there may be some joyful moments that are more personal. Ones that you want to keep all to yourself. The moments that mean so much to you, but wouldn’t mean a thing to anyone else. The ones that make you even more you. These are the moments where your journal comes in. Your very own private highlight reel. 

That said, life isn’t all about having fun and making treasurable memories. It’s not a highlight reel. With the ups come the downs and although most of them we don’t want to remember, they shape us in equal measure. Sometimes, we can look back on back experiences with a shy smile, acknowledging that they weren’t perhaps as bad as they seemed at the time. Most, though, while they may not have become easier to remember with time, we can acknowledge that they were part of the journey for better or for worse. By keeping a more realistic journal, documenting the good, the bad, and the darn right ugly, we are able to see that life is a balance. We may even be able to accept it. 

So what kind of journal keeper are you? Would you prefer to keep it light and entertaining or raw and candid? Maybe these popular journal prompts will help you filter your writing intentions.

Journal prompts for your travel journal

  • What was the most joyful moment of the day?  
  • What do I want to feel today?  
  • Who inspired me today and how did they inspire me?  
  • Did I go anywhere new today?  
  • Did I try something new today?  
  • How am I feeling today?  
  • What challenges have I overcome today and how?  
  • What would I like to tell my future self, about today? 

If you’re still not sure where to start, then why not buy a tailored travel journal? Instead of staring at a blank page wondering where to start, it allows you to simply fill in the prompts. This funky travel journal by Ban.do includes a map, dreams, packing, day-to-day, and notes section, as well as a blank section for moments you have a surge of inspiration. 

Practice gratitude journaling 

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

However you decide to approach journaling, there’s one practice that everyone should try: gratitude journaling. The practice of listing everything you are grateful for in your life at the time of writing. Beyond that, there are no rules to the process. It’s up to you what you feel grateful for. It could be your family, health, or career, or it could be something as simple as a kind gesture from a stranger, the sunshine, or even just your strength to get up and face the world that day.  

The purpose of gratitude journaling is to encourage mindfulness. The act of becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings in the present moment in order to rise above and feel more in control of them. By forcing ourselves to consider what we are grateful for instead of what has or could go wrong in our lives, our perspectives begin to shift towards a more positive outlook. In fact, gratitude journaling has been proven to result in a 5% to 15% increase in optimism. Now I have to admit, I could do with that extra 5%, couldn’t you? 

For more satisfying acts of self-care, check out our post on Mental Health & Buslife: Prioritizing Self-Care on the Road.

Creativity: who said crayons are for kids? 

For the creative cats out there, journaling is the perfect outlet for your ideas and there’s nothing better than a blank page. It doesn’t have to be all about writing lists and answering pre-empted questions. Use it as a playground for your mind. Grab the colored markers. Pick up the sketching pencils. Grab the glue. Take the crayons too because no, they aren’t just for kids. Then, without judgment, allow yourself the freedom to write, draw, stick and scribble whatever you want in it that might help you record your travel memories and experiences.  

Most people shy away from getting creative because their skill level doesn’t quite match that of Jane Austin or Georgia O’Keefe. Just remember though, creativity is not a competition. You don’t have to write an award-winning poem or draw a masterpiece. Draw stick men if it makes you happy and helps you remember your travel experiences. You might even find it therapeutic! 

The main thing to remember is your journal can look however you want it to look. Some like scribbles, ripped pages, and coffee stains. Others prefer structured entries with titles, dates, and headings underlined by a ruler. Either way, it’s ok because you are doing this for YOU and nobody else. 

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Here is some idea prompts to get those creative juices flowing: 

  • Draw your experiences instead of writing about them 
  • Print off a world map to mark as you travel 
  • Draw an object that’s culturally significant to the place you visited 
  • Add splashes of color to the pages with watercolors 
  • Stick tickets, flowers, and other keep-sakes to the pages 

Routine is not my strong point 

Sometimes, the idea of journaling your memories and feelings sounds appealing, but the execution of it is not so easy. If you’re anything like me, you find it hard to start new habits and stick to routines. If we could, we would all be a picture of fitness and health. The reality is, though, that our minds can become too busy to remember every task we intended to do that day. Other times, we might simply wish to rebel against our will and do nothing at all.  

First of all, what if, for whatever reason, we don’t stick to journaling every day? It’s not homework. Nobody is going to be chasing our tail if we decide to sit and watch murder documentaries with a glass of wine instead. Yes, journaling is rewarding, but occasionally, satisfying our morbid fascination with serial killers takes the cake. 

Secondly, there’s always a remedy for finding routines. The easiest way to create a routine or form a habit is by having a clear idea of where in the day-to-day you can fit in some journaling time. Can you spare 10 minutes while you have your morning coffee? Or could you stop scrolling sooner before you sleep and spend the time writing instead? Giving it a clearly defined, regular slot in your daily life is a good way to start. 

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash

Let technology do the hard work 

If you still find your journal pages half empty, then consider routine apps like the Fabulous Daily Routine Planner which helps you design and implement a routine that fits your strengths, weaknesses, goals, and lifestyle. It can be a game-changer. 

Alternatively, find a journaling app! We recommend the Day One journaling app because it is simple and easy-to-use, well-organized, and has all the features of a journal you might need. The app is particularly brilliant for travelers like us because it includes a map feature that allows you to record the places you’ve been. Over time, as you tick more places off your travel bucket list, the map provides a visual representation of the trip. It’s rewarding to see, quite literally, where our travels have taken us! 

The Day One app also includes: 

  • A daily entry section where you can write your thoughts, feelings, and experiences 
  • A photo feature that allows you to upload your favourite photos from each day 
  • A calendar that allows you to record important dates 
  • A completed journal section that allows you to scroll through and revisit past entries 
  • Hashtags to enable you to make different categories or tags to refer back to 

Reflecting on your journal 

Whether you’ve gone all out on a colorful and creative journal or kept things neat and concise in a virtual one, the benefits of keeping it will exceed your expectations. Firstly, it is such a gift to be able to have a physical memory bank for you to look back on for years to come, and even share with younger generations in your family as you grow older. Secondly, as you travel, you often grow and change as a person. If you journal your travel journey, it will become a valuable time capsule that allows you to track growth and change in all aspects of your life. There’s nothing more rewarding than looking back on your travels and remembering the fears and reservations you had at the time, and how you’ve overcome them.  

Essentially, a journal is a reminder to yourself that you can do anything. Even those things you truly believed you couldn’t do like drive across a continent or get out of that sticky situation you somehow found yourself in. Journaling is powerful and we can’t wait to hear how it gives you power on your travels.

Emily Draper
Author: Emily Draper

Having visited over 70 countries across all seven continents, it's safe to say Emily has the voice of a true traveler. She has lived with the Hare Krishnas in Chile, an Amazonian tribe in Peru, and a retiree named Jerry in a Wisconsin trailer park. Now, Emily has embarked on the coolest adventure yet: across Europe in her self-converted bus.

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