Before heading off to Switzerland in 2018 I bought a lovely spiral notebook and dubbed it my travel journal. I could share many surprising lessons learned and side effects from writing about my travels, but I will limit myself to three for today.
First, though it may seem painfully obvious, I learned that telling a good story is often in the details.
No one wants to read “it was beautiful and they all had a great time.” What people want to hear is how I regretted wearing my wool dress pants on a three-and-a-half hour drive to a wedding in July, or how the venue was the only building on that street that wasn’t clearly marked and I passed it twice so I was relieved to get there on time. I ran into the groom’s party on my way in and got to hug my friend a few minutes before the ceremony. He looked radiantly happy and quite handsome in his tuxedo.
All that detail is more interesting to read than “It was hot. The wedding was lovely. The food was good.”
Second, a side effect was that I realized how often I went on adventures.
I tended to think my life was boring and I never did much of interest. I began to see more magic in events I had taken for granted.
I have two prerequisites for what is worthy of a travel journal entry. It has to be out of town and food has to be consumed at some point. Switzerland definitely qualifies, but so does a minor league baseball game in Little Rock with the church youth group or a trip to a fabric store in Batesville with a friend. Travelling to the family Christmas two states over, my nephew’s graduation, and my grandmother’s funeral were all adventures to be documented.
Third, I like to think I have a great memory, but there are so many details I forget.
When I was headed to Switzerland, on the flight from Little Rock to Atlanta I sat next to a lady who didn’t speak English. I snuck a peek at her passport cover lying on the seat while she stowed her bags away. I pulled up Google Translate for Korean and we started talking. I found out she had been in the states to visit her new grandbaby. I asked to see pictures but her phone was already in the overhead bin. I had to put my phone away before too long for the takeoff, but I could tell she really appreciated the effort that I’d made to connect. We hugged when we parted ways in Atlanta and wished each other well.
I love this memory, but it would most likely have been eclipsed by the subsequent transatlantic flight and visiting Europe. I remember it because I logged it in my journal. (You may think I’m terrible for potentially forgetting something like that, but transatlantic flights can mess with your sense of reality.) I end up with more ideas for writing because less is lost in the shuffle of daily life.
Having a travel journal has helped me grow tremendously in my writing. I encourage you to pick a facet of your life and start a journal of your journey. See where it takes you!