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Travel Journaling Class Outline

Writing the Inner Journey: Self-Discovery Through Travel Journaling

A Lecture by Dave Fox

[This is the class outline used in the one-hour in-person version of Dave Fox’s travel journaling class. For more information on this class, please see the Classes page, or e-mail Dave.]

Benefits of Travel Journaling

  • Creates cheap and powerful souvenirs.
  • Self discovery: Using foreign cultures as a backdrop, we gain a deeper understanding of our core personalities.
  • Great writing practice. If you are interested in publishing your writing, journaling for yourself serves as a great foundation for what you write for others.

Being Foreign

  • When we step outside our “comfort zone” and go where we are foreign, it stirs up a lot of different emotions.
  • Being foreign can be stressful, but it can also be liberating.
  • When we don’t know the local “rules,” we can only rely on our instincts. We can experiment with parts of our personality we don’t usually explore.

Two Key Elements to a Great Travel Journal

  • The outer journey: All of our senses. What we see, hear, smell, taste, etc., as well as what we do, who we meet, etc.
  • The inner journey: Our thoughts, emotions, desires, fears, plans, anxieties, etc.
The Outer Journey: Capturing the Moment
  • As you journal about your day, picture the scene. Go back there in your mind and examine all the senses (sight, sound, smell, etc.) that you experienced there.
  • If journaling is a big part of your trip, make mental notes throughout the day. Journal in your mind. You won’t recall it all when you write about it later, but your writing will flow more quickly if you have already thought about it.
The Inner Journey: Eluding Your “Inner Censor”
  • Your “inner censor” is there to “protect” you from your subconscious mind. It means well, but it prevents us from exploring what’s really going on in our heads.
  • Your “inner censor” is inefficient. Avoiding our thoughts usually requires far more energy than experiencing them.
  • Natalie Goldberg’s Rules for Timed Writing
    1. Keep your hand moving.
    2. Lose control.
    3. Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
    4. Don’t cross out.
    5. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar.
    6. Be specific.
    7. You are free to write the worst junk in [the world].
    8. Go for the jugular.
    (From Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.)
  • “Timed Writing” is great because it’s fast, efficient, and it doesn’t censor. As a souvenir, some people prefer something more organized. (Timed writing is still a great starting point to loosen up your mind.)

Other Techniques for Travel Journaling

  • Take a “verbal snapshot.” Sit down and journal about the immediate scene.
  • Choose a specific event in your day rather than trying to document everything.
  • Instead of writing about everything in your day, choose a different theme each day and write about your overall experiences with that theme (i.e. transportation, food, children, telephones, toilets, art, money, night time, etc.)
  • Write about one person you encounter each day.
  • Draw cartoons or sketches and add captions.
  • Journal about a photograph you have taken each day. (Works great with digital cameras where you can review your photos on the spot.)
  • Poetry
  • E-mail: Send a copy to yourself.

Pre-Journaling, Post-Journaling, and Re-Journaling

  • Pre-journaling: Write about your trip before you go. Your plans, expectations, etc.
  • Post-journaling: It’s not too late to capture an old trip. Again, timed writing is a great starting point. It will jog your memory and splash a lot of thoughts down on the page quickly.
  • Re-journaling: Read a journal you wrote on a trip. Weeks, months, or years later, journal about what you wrote then, how you were feeling, and how you feel about the experience now.

Finding Time to Journal

  • Find “hidden moments” in your day. Trains, restaurants, while your travel partner is showering, etc.
  • Journal in a place where you are experiencing the culture at the same time so you don’t feel like you are skimping on your vacation: Cafes, parks, pubs, inside museums, etc.
  • To stay motivated, offer yourself rewards based on how much journaling you do. These can be small rewards, such as ice cream or a fancy meal on the days you write… or big rewards, such as a pricey souvenir you really want to buy at the end of your trip if you journal every day.

More Journaling Resources

Published on Thursday, January 1, 2004

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