Excerpt from Chapter 9: Sharing Your Journals with Others

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.

Earlier, I encouraged you to “write like nobody’s looking,” to not censor your thoughts, dive deep into your mind and let the cultures around you draw out hidden parts of who you are. But what if somebody is looking? What if you want them to look?

It’s time now to cast our words into the world for others to read. Don’t worry. You get to decide how much you expose yourself, and to whom you expose yourself. Nobody gets to see your naked words without your permission.

There’s a wide spectrum of ways you can take your words public – from a journal you pass around to a few select people, to blogging, to published essays in newspapers or magazines, or even your own book. Sharing your journals with other people – friends and family, or an audience of strangers – is different from private travel journaling. When you write for others, you might not include as many personal insights and experiences as you do in a private journal. Writing for an audience, it’s okay to edit and censor, to decide what to share and what not to share.The raw, personal journals you’ve written for yourself will serve as launching pads.

Journaling for People You Know
What’s the first sentence out of everyone’s mouth when you come home from a vacation?

“How was your trip?”

For most of us, travel means a break from our everyday routines. While we’re out exploring, most of the world is doing what most of the world is usually doing: staying home. Most of us are lucky to get a couple of weeks to travel in any given year. So what do travel addicts do the rest of the year? Many of us travel vicariously, through the stories of others.

Sharing anecdotes from your journeys offers people a momentary escape of their own. Through the stories you bring home, they can imagine the places you’ve been. If you feed people enough details, they can picture themselves there. They hear the sounds and smell the smells. They get a sense of the emotions you’ve felt. They become just two degrees of separation from the characters whose paths you’ve crossed.

When we know others will read our journals, however, it affects our writing. You might have emotions too personal to share. Away from the people who know you best, you might have found yourself doing things outside of the normal “rules” we talked about in Chapter 6, and you might not feel comfortable revealing those behavioral detours. Then there’s the simple issue of quality. Although you might return home with a collection of scrawl that triggers memories for yourself, you might not feel like your writing is polished enough to share with others. All of these factors leave you with two options when others will be reading your journals: Share the raw, unedited pages you’ve scribbled, as they are, or do some editing, censoring, and revising.

I recommend writing your “first draft” journals for yourself alone. You’ll learn more from them that way. Write freely, and promise yourself you won’t ever have to share anything with anyone you don’t want to. If you travel intending from the start to share your journals with others, you’re likely to hold back certain details. In doing so, you’ll miss out on much of the powerful introspection that comes with journaling only for yourself.

When I travel, I keep a private journal for myself, and edit it later for other readers. This takes extra time, but for me, it’s worth it for the self-discovery aspect of the journey. If you’re like most people and don’t have a lot of time for rewriting, consider this: Just as you can journal quickly while traveling, you can take a similar approach at home. If you’ve spent 10 to 20 minutes writing each day on your trip, an equal amount of time once your trip is finished should be plenty for a basic revision of each entry. You can, of course, put a lot more time into your public journals if you want to. If you want to create well-polished writing, you’ll have to. It all depends on your own writing goals.

That having been said, some people prefer to share their journals without taking time to revise, and that’s fine. There’s just one important decision to make before you leave on your trip. Decide before you go whether you will share your “first draft” or whether you will keep it private and edit it later for others to read. If you go, uncertain as to whether or not you’ll share your journal in its original form, you’re bound to censor yourself…“just in case.”

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Published on Thursday, May 15, 2008

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