One of my favorite things to do is to travel to new and exciting places. I was lucky enough as a child to have parents who took me on road trips all over the US during our summer breaks, covering almost all 50 states by the time I graduated from high school. Weekends and holidays were spent camping in the backcountry of the western states, usually in locations where we wouldn’t see another soul for a week at a time.
Just the Dabneys, our faithful dog Patch, and endless sunsets over red rocks and mountains.
When we reached middle school age, my mom and dad (when he could get away) began taking my sister and I across the ocean on far away adventures, covering most of Western Europe, all over Egypt, and up and down the beautiful country of Thailand. After high school I spent two weeks in Germany with a dear friend, and in college I studied abroad in the Caribbean nation of Dominica. As an adult I’ve covered Belize, Roatan, and the Cayman Islands.
One of my favorite things to do when I travel abroad is to journal daily. When I was younger and my mom encouraged my sister and me to write down our experiences in each country at the end of the day, I always thought of the activity as a drag. The last thing I wanted to do was settle down and scribble notes of what I did, saw, and experienced. But when I got home and the magic of the vacation wore off, I’d open my journal and read the words describing the scents and smells of the streets of Cairo, or recall the words sung by the gondola operator in the canals of Venice. And even though each time I’d travel I’d huff and puff about the homework of journaling, I still completed the task. To this day I can experience the awe of seeing a giant gold-covered Buddha in Bangkok, and taste the Absinth 18-year-old me was so excited to try in Germany, just by opening the pages of my written history.
Now as an adult and especially as an author, I find that not only are my journal entries fun to look back on, they are also useful for my sensory descriptions of different places and cultures.
***SMALL SPOLIER IF YOU HAVEN’T READ BOOK TWO***
In The Peace Keeper, for instance, as with book three, the characters end up in Iraq, and spend a lot of time in the Middle East. I can do endless research on the area over the internet and get a great idea of sights and people, but online information alone cannot give me the smells and sounds of a Middle Eastern market, or give me the thrill of riding in a dangerous taxi on perilous streets. Instead I draw on my experiences from my time in Egypt which, while being a very different country and culture from Iraq, is still an Arab nation with some serious similarities.
This week I am lucky enough to be traveling to Cuba for my next big adventure, and you better believe I have my blank notebook ready to go. Will I ever write a book about communism or socialism on an island nation? Who knows… But someday I will want to relive the memories--someday I will want to draw on the experiences for something, and I will have the reservoir to pull from.
If you’ve never journaled while traveling, that’s okay, but I’d encourage you to start now. Whether you write once a day, or once a week, I think you will find the task rewarding in so many ways. It’s a big, busy, and expensive world we live in, and chances are you won’t see the same place twice. Photos are a great way to immortalize a memory, but accompanied by words and the intangible senses, you will find yourself transported back to those places any time you want to go. You don’t have to be traveling anywhere exotic to journal and absorb the world around you. Go to a state or national park, check out a renaissance festival, take a kayak trip down the river. Everywhere in the world has unique smells, sounds, and sights for you to record and bring to life in the pages of your notes.
For next week’s blog I intend to share some of my journal entries and experiences traveling in Cuba. I hope everyone has an amazing week full of planning your next trip and picking out the journal to go with it!
Until then, adios and happy trails!