Well-Traveled Tips: How To Keep A Travel Journal, With Tips From An Expert
Whether you're a seasoned journal master or a newbie to the idea of using pen and paper for fun, journaling while traveling is, for some reason, often more alluring than daily entries.
Nevertheless, knowing what to write about once you open your fresh book of lined sheets can leave you feeling like you just hurried up to wait by bringing it at all.
To come, her must-know tips.
First of all, don't stress about it
When I hopped on a call with Rubin, the first thing she told me was that journaling while traveling is something to be enjoyed. So if it causes you stress just thinking about it, then maybe you don't really need to do it at all.
"Because culturally, we've turned everything into a place where we have to excel in our pleasure zones," Rubin says. "So initially, what I want to say is that journaling is there to help you better enjoy your trip. It is not something for you to feel bad about," she adds.
Further, pick an approach that makes sense to you, and feel free to ditch that method if you get bored or it becomes a chore. There are so many different ways to put pen to paper, and you don't have to marry any of them. Just keep them on hand for future reference:
Write down your daily peaks
First up, Rubin's recommended way to recount your travel experiences in a timely and positive manner: by journaling about your daily peaks.
"Rather than trying to write down everything that happened over the course of the day, which could take you hours, what I like to do is pick what I call a peak," she explains. Some people may call it a daily high or a rose—it's just something in your day that made you feel good.
It doesn't have to be something super exciting but rather just an event or moment that delighted you or meant something, even if for an unknown reason.
It can be a significant moment or a small one. A new adventure or an eye-opening conversation. An adrenaline rush or a moment of true peace.
Once you have your peak in mind, write about it for a few minutes. You can explore the moment it happened, how it made you feel, if you want to take anything away from that experience, etc.
"By doing it on a consistent basis along your trip, you're almost creating a strand of pearls," Rubin says.
"It's really beautiful to look back on, and it helps you better enjoy your time." So yes, this approach can be great for those who love memorabilia, but it can also just exist in the moment and never meet your eyes again if that's what you choose.
Practice mindfulness through writing
For all of the meditation lovers out there, this one's for you. Enter, the five-senses exercise, as Rubin calls it.
"Just drop into your senses and write down what you're seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, [and] feeling," she explains. It's a quick snapshot of your environment that utilizes all of your senses to create presence while simultaneously serving as a vivid memory.
Now you don't have to wait for the "perfect shot" as if this is a photograph going up for an award. You can do this at any time. In fact, Rubin suggests switching up the time and place in which you practice this one.
Maybe complete an entry while you're traveling to your destination be it via car, train, or plane. Try again once you arrive. Do this exercise in the morning or at night. Inside or outside. You get the point.
Pick up some prompts before your trip
For those who journal on a regular basis, travel entries can feel like a daily habit to check off the list. Some may appreciate the consistency between vacation and normal life, but others may create something different to accompany their unique travel agenda.
If the latter resonates with you, invest in some journal prompts. Rubin's creation (and one of my favorite journaling tools) is the Allswell Deck—a carefully curated deck of cards with prompts for writing and drawing.
Take these with you, and pull one out when you have a free moment or when you get the urge to journal but don't know where to start.
Write stories about the people you see
Rubin has a tip fit for the daydreamers as well. "I love people-watching when I'm traveling—it's one of my great pleasures and has a way of increasing your creativity and your imagination," she says.
So while you're people-watching, choose a person and make up a story for them. What do they yearn for? Who is their best friend? Who's their lover? What about their greatest achievement?
Or go for an object. Maybe you found a rock you're taking home with you or a shell you're excited to put on your nightstand. Write an origin story for that item. Where did it come from? How did it get here? Who had this before you did? And so on.
Only go as deep as you want to
With all of those approaches in mind, you may be wondering: Is there anything I shouldn't journal about while on vacation?
As you might expect by now, the answer isn't so black and white. In fact, there are two sides to it, and your best bet for finding pleasure in journaling is to assess your situation and go from there—here's how:
"What I would avoid is anything that feels hard or confrontational because you probably don't have the same degree of support at your disposal," Rubin says.
Plus, vacation is meant to be enjoyed. "Pleasure is an underrated part of mental well-being," she notes, so maybe this isn't the best time to dig into really deep and dark territory or start the long journey of analyzing unresolved trauma.
But say you set out on vacation with the intention to dig deep into your thoughts and sort through tangles. In that case, maybe it is a good idea to sit down and really dive into your conflicts—but make sure you have emotional support when doing so, as you never know where this practice will take your mind.
Still, when you're out of your normal routine, you may gain more perspective because you're separated from the bubble that is your day-to-day life. This could be beneficial for making decisions you've previously felt at odds with or creating a positive plan of action for when you return home.
No matter what approach you take, remember that this endeavor is supposed to be enjoyable, not busywork. If it doesn't feel right, set the journal down and come back to it when you feel more aligned with the idea. And if you're not sure what you're going to want to do, pack it just in case—a compact book and a deck of cards don't take up much space, anyway.
While you don't have to keep a travel journal, it can be an enriching experience. This may not be the time to dig into deep unresolved trauma, but you can experiment with fun prompts, recount the highlights of your day, practice mindfulness, and flex those creative writing skills. More beginner-friendly tips here, if you're interested.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including skin care, women’s health, mental health, sustainability, social media trends, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends and innovations, women’s health research, brain health news, and plenty more.