Mark Twain filled some 50 journals before he died, many of which were travel logs. He used his notebooks to record observations of people he met, musings on cultural influence and identity, and write down ideas for books, recording his ideas in the moment as he traveled. His entries in these travel notebooks consisted of the pithy, clever sentences he's now famous for. It's these fleeting thoughts we have during travel—observations, glittering moments of synchronicity, huge feelings of expansion—that make our vacation time truly meaningful.
There's a reason we have such distinct experiences during travel. Immersion in a new culture, even a new environment, can open up the mind and increase cognitive flexibility—the stuff creativity is often made of. Keeping a travel journal allows you to record those valuable thoughts and feelings and make sure they stay with you after you return home. It's one of the best ways to help create, enhance, and preserve the magic of travel in your life.
Here's how to use one effectively to maximize the value of your next trip, even if it's just a visit home for the holidays.
Before your trip:
1. Prepare yourself.
Consider the kind of journal you'll need. Ideally, it will be super easy to write or jot notes in on the go. Also consider how, aside from writing, you will be collecting memories. Does your journal need flaps, pockets, blank pages? Additional envelopes? The goal is to be able to capture the moment as easily as you can. How do you anticipate you might want to do that on this particular trip? Bring a journal that supports that.
2. Set your intentions.
Aside from the physical tools needed, what do you need to prepare ahead of time in order to make sure your travel journal practice is effective? Decide on what specific goals you have for your personal growth or expansion on this trip and how your travel journal can serve as a catalyst to achieving those goals. Some questions you may want to ask yourself as a starting point include, How do I want to feel during this trip? How do I want to feel when I return? What in my life will this trip change? Write the answers in your journal. Like a road map, these will help provide direction for your musings.
During your trip:
1. Don't ditch your daily mindfulness practice en route.
Our ability to spot and experience magic in the present moment is only as good as our ability to live in the moment. Mindfulness is a muscle. The more we practice it, the easier it comes day by day. Don't ditch your 10-minute morning meditation because there are croissants outside your balcony. If making a point to meditate usually clears your mind and staves off thoughts of work, pets at home, etc., it is worth doing.
2. Adopt an attitude of nonjudgment.
Remaining fully present and aware can't happen if we're caught up in judgment. Keep your expectations in check. Let each day just wash over you. Write as if you are experiencing things for the first time. Let your inner child see the world through your eyes and record as him or her. Exist purely as your senses. Write about food from the perspective of your mouth. Write about air from the perspective of your nose. Be fully in tune with each of your senses such that you let them "own" the pen as you write.
After your trip:
Upon your return, incorporate direct quotes from your journal into your scrapbook or superimpose them onto pictures and print them. Make your words part of your visual memories and keep them where you see them regularly.
If you like, you can also edit, print, and bind your journal to share with your travel companions. They'll love seeing the trip from your perspective. You can also share your firsthand experience with others and keep the magic of your trip alive by publishing a blog. The possibilities really are endless.