Documenting a trip makes for a great keepsake, but it can also be a powerful tool for self-reflection, turning any journey into a spiritual one. In this article, we share 5 tips on how to journal while travelling.
As best-selling author, filmmaker, and tour leader Phil Cousineau reminds us in his book to the Art of Pilgrimage, The Art of Travel: Journal, “by honoring our travel experiences through writing stories, poems, songs or creating sketches or other artwork, we can transform virtually all our travels, whether around the world or around our backyard, and make them more meaningful.”
In this blog, we share 5 tips to make a meaningful travel journal.
1. Choose Your Materials Thoughtfully
The type of journal you buy is important. Your journal should allow you to capture things in a way that is meaningful to you.
The journal you choose should be big enough to capture your thoughts, but not so big that it doesn’t fit in your day bag or adds too much extra weight.
You should also consider how you want to capture your experiences – a journal with plain paper rather than lined will allow you to sketch as well as write. A journal that has some form of pocket will give you a place to keep items of interest that you may want to use in some form of collage on your return home.
So as you leaf through each journal at the bookstore, think about how it makes you feel – are you excited to write in it? Does it bring you pleasure when you open it?
And it’s not only the journal you should consider. What will you write or draw with? A good quality ink pen is always more pleasurable to write with than a cheap ballpoint. If you plan to sketch in your journal as well as write, do you have a good quality pencil or drawing pen? Do you want to add some colour to your entries?
Good materials will add some additional pleasure to journaling during your travels.
2. Plan Time To Journal
Travelling can be exhilarating and also quite tiring. It’s easy to get put things off until “later” when you are in the middle of a trip.
Having some quiet time each day for journaling will help you to create balance during your trip. It doesn’t have to rigidly be at the same time every day although 15-30 minutes before breakfast could well be the right formula for you.
As you set your intentions for your sacred journey, take a moment to visualize using your journal on a daily basis as part of more meaningful travel experience.
There are so many positive benefits of journaling, you won’t regret making the time to do it.
3. Think About Where You Write or Draw Best
Where do ideas come to you? Do you need to be alone so you can think aloud or do you prefer the stimulation of a busy coffee shop for inspiration?
You will need to be flexible when travelling and won’t always have the ideal writing space, but if you think carefully about what you need in the moment, your body and mind will guide you towards the place you need to be to best write or draw that day.
4. Notice the Small Details
By consciously slowing down and becoming present you can experience details you might have missed in a more excited state.
Use all your senses – notice what you see around you, what you smell, hear, touch, or taste, and notice how you feel at certain moments.
If you have a few minutes of quiet time at a café or restaurant take the opportunity to really look around you – let the experience seep into you. At sacred sites, be present, take a few quiet minutes for yourself to digest and soak everything up.
Take out your journal and see what comes:
- Write about what’s around you, what’s happening or happened, or about how you’re feeling in this moment.
- Draw what you see or what you’re seeing in your mind’s eye.
- Notice the people you meet – their physical appearance and also their energy – the more intangible elements of their character. How did they make you feel? How did they affect others or the natural world around them? What about the language they’re speaking – how does it sound to your ears?
- And the foods you’re eating – what colours are on your plate? What flavours do you experience when eating a particular dish – do others have the same reaction?
5. Let Go of Perfectionism
You may have the most beautiful travel journal in the world but that doesn’t mean everything that goes in it has to be perfect. Embrace the inherent imperfections in all creative pursuits and just go for it!
You can edit anything you write or draw later – what’s important right now is simply to put pen to paper and express what’s in your mind. The act of writing (or drawing), in itself, is a way for you to process the many incredible sites you have seen and the emotional experiences you have lived through on your spiritual travel adventure.
Stay curious and open to what flows out of you as you start journaling. Try not to judge anything you write or draw – simply enjoy the process!
As Phil Cousineau encourages us in The Art of Travel: Journal:
“If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
If not here, then where? How will you remember your travels?
As a blur or as a vision? As an unreal dream or as real as rain?
If you need any more encouragement remember what my first newspaper editor, Roger Turner, told me, ‘It ain’t real till it’s ink’.
Make it ink, make it real, make it now.
Join Us for a Special Writer’s Retreat in Ireland
Join bestselling author, scriptwriter and travel writer, Phil Cousineau on a life-changing retreat in mystical Ireland.
Writers of every level and genre are welcome to our weeklong gathering to spark new material, deepen your craft, or know when to release your work into the world. The experience will combine the spirit of a workshop with the contemplativeness of a writing retreat.
You will be encouraged to spend time developing your manuscript rather than critiquing others’ work, and there will be opportunities for one-on-one consultations with Phil, as well as inspiring excursions.
Learn more about this fantastic journey here.
See photos from our last Connemara Writers’ Retreat here.