Why you should keep a travel journal

These days, writing on a travel journal seems more like a task than a keepsake. Lugging around a notebook takes precious space in your bag, while the act of writing takes effort.

You’re probably wondering, why even bother writing in this digital age? You can document everything on your camera or your mobile phone. There are vacation albums on Facebook, curated shots on Instagram, and quick captures on Snapchat. You’ll never miss a single moment when everything’s preserved in digital photos.

While I believe in the magic of photos, I also believe in the power of words. There’s something about taking the time to slow down and immortalizing the moment in another way. In writing, you’re not only documenting your experiences, you’re also processing them. And that’s one of the gifts of traveling that some traveling folks don’t really take advantage of – the sense of awe, the feeling of gratitude, the journey of self-discovery.

Here are a couple of more good reasons why keeping a travel journal is worth your while:

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To keep you sane

This is especially true when you’ve been constantly moving around and you’re traveling solo. Yes, you’re meeting all these people and yes, you’re seeing all these places, but you’re so far removed from whatever constitutes as your physical and emotional home that it gets lonely sometimes. A journal grounds you to you, despite everything else that’s happening around you. You don’t even have to be writing well-thought out anecdotes or a tally of activities that you did in a day – personally, I love just jumping right into it and letting the words flow freely.

One of my favorite memories of my six week trip is writing in the back of a cab, stuck in traffic somewhere in Yangon. I was on my way from my hostel to the bus station, where I was supposed to be arriving 30 minutes before my bus departs. The traffic was horrible and I was close to throwing up from anxiety as I didn’t know whether I would make it on time. I started writing on my journal just so I can work out my anxiety, with only the street lights helping me in the dark.

For perspective and self-discovery

You’d think there’s no point in reliving the past, but going through my travel journal is like getting a much needed dose of travel ecstasy. I don’t do it all the time – just when I need inspiration or when I want to go back to a certain travel memory. It’s slightly therapeutic to be seeing this version of me, in another time and in another place.

I was full of stories to be told, with no one to really listen to them. In those pages, however, I could say whatever I wanted. I could document all the experiences I had and keep track of all the people I met. There was no fear of being judged – it was just me, a Moleskine and a pen.

As a unique souvenir

I honestly don’t write much when I’m home – I’ve recently said that I’m finding it hard to define my professional writing voice with the personal writing voice – but I wrote all the time when I was traveling. There was something about being alone and being in new places that brought out my desire to produce something.

I scratched out words everywhere: on top of a temple in Bagan, along the Thailand-Laos border, overlooking rice fields in Bali, during in between moments at the airport. Sometimes I taped train tickets, restaurant receipts, foreign currency, and other random travel mementos that don’t really serve any specific purpose other than keepsakes.

On the rare times that I read my journal and go through the pages, I not only see a past version of myself, I also get to revisit all these beautiful places I’ve been to. It’s an inexpensive, but more importantly, unique souvenir of your travels.

Have you ever kept a travel journal? I’d love to hear about it!

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