The Value of Journaling

Josie Major
Jul 23, 2023

On my first trip to India, as a 10 year old with two younger siblings and very brave parents, my brain nearly exploded with the colour, sensations, smells, noise, ideas, people and experiences that hit me all at once. Traveling was a brand new and overwhelming experience, and I couldn't possibly keep all of those feelings and thoughts inside my 10-year old blond-haired head.

So I picked up my 4-colour pen and my bright purple, ring-bound notebook and I emptied my head into its pages.

Reading over this journal since I, unsurprisingly, cringe and laugh at my own childish writing and ideas. But sometimes I’m amazed at the things I had recorded, but otherwise forgotten, about that very first trip. I wrote about the overwhelming colour and noise of the streets, the distinctive manner of Indian shopkeepers, and my reactions to the poverty I was seeing for the first time. Writing these things down helped me to process them at the time, and to reflect on them later as I read over them. Now, it gives me a way to remember my experiences through 10 year old eyes, and to relearn the lessons that were so important to me then, but that I might have forgotten if not for my journal.

Journaling is one of the best and easiest ways to enhance your travel experiences. It can help you get more out of your trip at the time, and to continue benefiting from it in the months and years that follow. These days I don't go anywhere without a pencil and notebook, and I still learn so much from writing down my thoughts. Journaling can make you a more attentive, thoughtful and GOOD traveler, so here's a few reasons why you should give it a go on your next adventure.

Anubhav Bora in Kathmandu. Photo by Michal Tesař.

Travel makes everyone a writer

Traveling makes you see the world in new and unexpected ways. Seeing new places and meeting new people is so inspiring, and can turn even the least creative of us into poets.

Travel helps us to see beauty in funny things that seem mundane at home, like a kid biking to school or a short conversation with a stranger. It's amazing how often we can be surprised or confused or shocked or awed while traveling, and writing these experiences down can help us to remember the feeling of seeing excitement and inspiration everywhere.

The great thing about journaling is that you can write all this down without anyone but you having to read it. It will stay pure and unfiltered in the pages of your notebook, solely for your own reflection.

Write to remember

Photos give you a memory aid to remember what things looked like, where you went, what you did. But only journaling can remind you how you felt. And that's what makes traveling so magical right? The rollercoaster of emotions you experience every day: the helplessness when you miss your train and joy when you meet someone like minded, and sadness when you're approached by a street beggar. These feelings are often strong in the moment but forgotten in the wake of a trip. We remember the places and people, but forget our reactions to them. Recording this emotional rollercoaster can enhance our travel by helping us remember the real essence of the trip, the stuff that is the most worthwhile and so often life changing.

Write to clear the mind

Journaling is a kind of meditation. It requires you to sit down, be quiet, and focus on one thing for a while. On a hectic holiday or backpacking trip, this kind of down time is so important. Without this time to reflect on what you're seeing and learning, a trip can become a blur. Days turn in to weeks and before you know it you're on the plane home saying things like “how has it been three weeks already?!”

By writing as you travel you can make the most of every day’s inspiration and allow yourself to be refreshed and clear-headed to take on each new challenge and experience.

Write for solace

As wonderful as travel can be, it can also be overwhelming and stressful at times. You get sick, you can't understand the language, your plane gets delayed. Bad days happen. But in these down moments, journaling can be extremely therapeutic.

I mostly travel alone, so for me in these moments my journal is my best friend, therapist and mum all rolled into one. Even traveling with other people, sometimes you just really need an outlet - and journaling could save your travel companions from a melt down or two!

Write to be GOOD

Journaling can help you to think more about the choices you make while traveling. You can reflect on things you've seen and learn from them just by taking the time to write them down. Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment that we don't take the time to reflect, and this can lead to decisions that might not align with your goals for GOOD travel.

Taking a moment to write things down can help you to put things in perspective and make better choices. When confronted by difficult experiences, maybe witnessing extreme poverty or different cultural practices, writing about them can help you to process what you've seen and avoid being judgmental or prejudiced. Instead, you can learn from these experiences for the benefit of yourself, your trip and the people around you.

So journaling is awesome, right? Here’s some tips to get started:

Get a journal you actually like:

You're way more likely to write if you have a journal that you’re excited to write in. I like blank pages because my writing is far too sporadic for anything else, but other people prefer lines for tidiness, or grids for doodling on. You can even get ones with in-built travel journaling inspiration like "what was the most valuable conversation you had today" or "learn and record three phrases in the local language".

Think about being GOOD when buying your journal too. There are so many cool companies making sustainable journals with eco-friendly materials and positive business goals (I love Misprint and Paperblanks). Or you could buy one while traveling from a locally owned handicraft store - GOOD and a great souvenir.

Good Travel journals are made with repurposed paper by The Misprint Co.

Make time for it, but don't make it a chore:

If you're a routine person, try setting yourself a manageable goal for your journaling, for example an entry every evening before bed, or every second day over breakfast.

If you’re not so organised (guilty) just make sure you always have a journal with you so you can write when inspiration strikes. Once you're in the habit, regularity is easy, and I guarantee you'll find yourself reaching for your pen more and more often.

Plus, journaling is a great way to pass the time on long bus, train and plane trips!

Don't sweat over the format:

The absolute best thing about a journal is that it's entirely yours. If you want to write huge run on sentences that no one will understand and that don't even really make sense and have no grammar or punctuation or any form to speak of and aren't even really about anything at all - do it! Doodle. Make lists. Invite other people to add notes or drawings. Write in fluorescent green. Glue in metro tickets and brochures and postcards. A train ticket your hostel sweetheart left behind. Whatever.

Point is, there are no rules. So don’t worry, have fun with it, and make it your own.

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” - Oscar Wilde
July 23, 2023
5 min read