Excerpt from Chapter 10: Finding Time and Motivation

This is an excerpt from the bestselling book, Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!) by Dave Fox.You can order autographed copies on this website or download it for Kindle.


Finding Time
Knowing how to write a great travel journal is useless if you can’t find time to write. Finding that time can be tough though. Every journey has short slices of downtime. Learn to notice and write in those moments, and you’ll get your journaling done without sacrificing other experiences.

How often in any given trip do we wait? We wait for planes, trains, or buses. We wait for a meal to arrive at our table. We wait for our travel partner to wake up or shower. We wait in lines. We wait for performances or events to begin. We wait for our feet to stop aching. We wait for a restaurant or shop to open. We wait for an Internet terminal to become available. We wait to arrive at our next destination.

That’s a lot of waiting.

When I catch a train in Europe, I get to the station at least 20 minutes early. I allow a few extra minutes to find the right track – but usually, I can find that track in two or three minutes. That’s 17 minutes when I’m standing around, waiting, staring at the track as if my train might magically appear sooner if I stare hard enough. It’s a perfect length of time for some speed journaling.

Is it the ideal writing environment? Nope. Sure, I get distracted by announcements, people around me, or other trains pulling into or out of the station. But if we wait for the ideal writing environment to reveal itself, that time might never come. Writing in a crowded, noisy environment is hard for some people, but with practice, you’ll get better at tuning out distractions. And you might not do your best writing in such environments, but mediocre writing is better than no writing.

Time in transit is another time to catch up. Sometimes on trains, I want to kick back and enjoy the scenery, but scenery can grow redundant. I use a few minutes of my ride to write. I journal on planes and buses too. Messy handwriting on bumpy roads? No problem. Potholes just add artistic squiggles to the page. They’re part of the experience.

Traveling companions can distract you from journaling time. They want to go play and they want you to come. But hopefully, your partner is bathing on a regular basis. When he or she heads for the shower, let that be your cue to write. Let them know you’ll be doing this, and ask them to remind you to journal before they hit the shower.

Another time I get a lot of journaling done is when I do laundry. When I’m on the road for weeks on end, I wash my clothes in my hotel sink a lot, but every couple of weeks, I also hit a laundromat. In big, foreign cities, I’m not going to leave my clothes alone while they wash, for fear they might wander off. So I bring my journal with me. Usually, I find a big chunk of time to write.

I say “usually” because sometimes I meet fascinating people in laundromats. Perplexed by the washing machine instructions in Paris one time, I asked an elderly lady who lived in the neighborhood to help me. We ended up having a long conversation about how US-French relations had changed over the decades. In that moment, I wasn’t going to tell her I couldn’t talk because I needed to write. But on other occasions, I’ve been faced with a choice between writing and staring at soap suds for an hour. (And, for the record, Parisian soap suds are no more elegant than your soap suds at home.)

Many other “waiting times” are times when you won’t want to write. If you pause to rest your feet at a café, you might want to spend that time people-watching or striking up a conversation with someone at a nearby table. In a fancy restaurant, it might not be appropriate to pull out your notebook. But if you keep your journal with you during the day, you’ll be surprised how many moments of downtime you do find. Even if you don’t have time for a complete entry, jotting down a few thoughts for a couple of minutes means you’ll have more memory triggers later.

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Published on Thursday, May 15, 2008

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