It’s #GuestDayTuesday again, folks, and our caravanning friend, Jackie Lambert, is back with Part 2 of her #Writer’sTravelogueSeries post on keeping a travel journal. (Part 1 can be found HERE.) Jackie has written a wonderfully comprehensive and helpful post for us, so let’s get going. Jackie, you’re on!
Thanks, Marcia, and Hello Everybody!
10 Tips For Keeping A Travel Journal
(Without it Taking Over Your Trip!)
What’s wrong with this?
“Breakfast was horrible! I had cereal with a coffee but the others had tea instead! I fed the dogs, then we all went for a walk. It was beautiful! After lunch, we went shopping, then had dinner by the beach with a beautiful sunset. We’re having a great time!!!!”
If you think it’s fine, you don’t need this post.
If it makes you ask the following questions, read on;
- Is it interesting?
- What does it tell you about the place?
- Will you want to read it in a few years?
- Will it bring back vibrant memories about what you did, what you were feeling, or what you saw?
- Did it focus on the right things?
Here are ten tips on how to give your travel journal a bit more pizzazz;
1. Don’t Forget to Make a Note of Your Location & Who
You Were With
I know. Obvious isn’t it.
Except that I have forgotten this so many times and found myself trawling through the internet to see if we left a review, so I could work out where we stayed. And where was that ‘must see’ place that – ooh, what was their name again? – recommended? You need to write all that down.
2. Be Selective – Choose A Few Highlights
Just because it happened, you don’t need to include it. The example journal entry that I gave at the beginning is not very interesting because it’s about mundane things that you would do every day, anyway. I once read a blog that began with the author brushing her teeth. I didn’t want to read it and I am sure that in her frail dotage, the author would probably not want to read it either, never mind regale her grandchildren with fascinating tales of her dental hygiene routine while abroad.
I’m not saying you should never include these things, though. On my trip to Zimbabwe in 1994, I cleaned my teeth on a beach next to the Zambezi River after a night under the stars, using river water we had to collect in pairs, because one person had to watch out for crocodiles. That dental hygiene story might make the journal cut!
A blow-by-blow account of your day is unnecessary. Otherwise, you will write “Today, I sat down and wrote my journal all day…”
Select one or two interesting highlights. Here are some ideas to help you spot journal-worthy snippets. Was it;
- Who did you meet? People and conversations are often fascinating
- Quote of the day
- What went right or wrong?
Being selective will make your journal more interesting and it will give you more time to do what you’re there to do; enjoy your travel experience. In addition – and here’s the biggie – it will help you keep up-to-date with your journal entries.
3. Be Descriptive – Write With Five Senses
In the piece at the start, I described both the walk and the sunset as ‘beautiful’ and added a couple of exclamation marks. What sort of image does that conjure up in your mind?
Did you say “Nothing”? Get creative with your descriptions. Why were the walk and the sunset beautiful? I plan to explore this in more detail in my next post, but in brief, the point here is don’t just write about what you see. Include what you:
- Touch or feel
What if I had started the piece at the top like this instead?
“Breakfast was horrible. My cereal was like flaked cardboard filled with over-sweet faux chocolate chips. And you know the smell of mothballs at the back of your grandma’s wardrobe – they’ve made that into coffee. No wonder Fiona and Mike brought their own tea bags.”
It’s not Bruce Chatwin, but it records a considerably more detail than the paragraph at the top.
On our walk, what if we heard the high-pitched whistles of tree frogs and monkeys screeching in the treetops, smelled musty, damp soil, tasted tiny, sweet bananas straight off the tree, and were cooled from the stifling humidity by heavy droplets of water dripping off waterlogged leaves and trickling down our necks?
When we went shopping, what if the clamour of street vendors, grumbling camels and an asteroid field of humanity assaulted our ears? What if the air was thick with incense and exotic spices, and a stallholder tempted us with a thick glass of bitter black tea sweetened with cane sugar, while we ran our hands over handcrafted rugs with the texture of velvet?
Over dinner, what if we heard a steel band playing, and the warm wind rustling through the palm fronds carried the smoky scent of a barbeque? We might have taken a jug of rum punch filled with succulent slices of pineapple to the shoreline to watch the sunset, and found the fine white sand felt cool beneath our bare feet. and had the texture of flour.
These descriptions aren’t much longer than the original, but what images does this collection of sensations conjure up? In three paragraphs, I have crossed three continents!
4. Be Honest – Tell It As It Is
You’re on holiday. You’re writing a travel journal. Who’s it for?
- Hint – it’s for you!
It is your account of your travels and probably the only people who will see it are you and possibly trusted members of your family. So be honest. Record the warts and all. Write down your innermost feelings. Make a note of the bad and the good – the things that don’t quite go to plan often make the most interesting anecdotes. The story I tell most often about my honeymoon is not the beautiful mahogany cabin set in orange groves overlooking a sensational river canyon, but our accidental sojourn in a mangrove swamp with snakes, crocodiles and insects the size of Tonka trucks, in a place we later discovered was called Mosquito Beach!
5. Write Quickly
You might be Bill Bryson, but you’re not Bill Bryson writing his next bestseller, so don’t get hung up on grammar, punctuation or form. You’re writing a first-hand account of your travels as they unfold. Just get it written down quickly, while it’s fresh in your mind. I even carry a notebook, take photos, or make notes on my phone so that I can record interesting snippets as they happen, before I forget them.
Just sit down and spend 10 minutes writing whatever comes into your head without worrying about what or how it is written. Don’t stop. Don’t think. Just write.
Here are some tips and inspiration;
- Pledge to spend 10 minutes every day on your journal
- Just sit and write whatever comes into your head
- Imagine that you’re sending a postcard to yourself every day
- Pick out a photo from your day and write about that
- Describe a person or conversation that you had
- Note down a funny thing your child did or said – or their reaction to something
I’ve picked out a photo of Steely, the horse man on Magnetic Island. He was tanned, leathery & looked quite scary, but he was the kindest, loveliest man. He adored his horses; so much that he constantly sneaked treats to them & looked sheepish if you caught him doing it. He had an idiosyncratic way of pronouncing Curlew; “Curl. Ooo”
If you’re selective about which events you record, ten minutes should be enough. Spend more time if you like, but;
6. Don’t Let Your Journal Get In The Way Your Trip
The trip is why you’re there. Whatever you do, don’t let your journal interfere or become such a chore that you don’t even bother to fill it in!
7. Don’t Edit Too Much
Editing comes later. Much later. And only if you want to embellish, publish, or share your writing.
When speed writing, don’t allow your ‘Inner Editor’ to take over. I.E. will impede your flow of ideas and start nagging you about your punctuation or choice of words. I.E. might even start feeding you horrible untruths like “You can’t write!” and “You’ll never be Bill Bryson!” You must tell I.E. to get lost. You’re busy. You have a journal to write. You enjoy writing your journal and he’s spoiling your fun.
8. Record Your Thoughts
I was not selective about what I wrote, so today I sat down
and wrote my journal all day.
Travel frequently takes you out of your comfort zone. You might try something new on holiday, or visit a different country with an unfamiliar language and culture. This will add interest and depth to your journals – and will be fun to look back on, since it is a snapshot in time and a glimpse into your mind.
- What were you thinking?
- How did you feel?
- What were you afraid of?
- What surprised you?
- What challenges did you overcome?
- Anything else?
9. Write Before & After as Well As
During Your Trip
- Why did you want to go there?
- How did you plan your trip?
- What do you imagine it will be like?
- What do you want to do or see?
- What is your itinerary?
On your trip:
- Write daily, when things are fresh in your mind
- Read this blog for tips and inspiration on what to record!
- Was it how you imagined?
- Did it live up to expectations?
- What did you learn?
- What surprised or disappointed you?
- What would you change?
- Where next?!
10. Personalise Your Journal
It’s your journal. You can do it how you want. Adding mementos adds colour, interest or a memory jog. Things like;
- Doodles / Maps
- Postcards or Flyers
- Business cards from people, hotels, restaurants, etc
- Brass Rubbings – or rubbings of shells, leaves etc
- Wine / Beer Bottle Labels
- Anything else – it’s all part of the memory
Take a glue stick or some sticky tape and fasten them all in!
I hope that this gives you some inspiration to get started. Really, the only limits are your own creativity. You don’t even need to be chronological; what about grouping your entries in terms of historic sights, seafood restaurants, train rides, windsurfing sessions, or anything else…?
And – don’t forget to get the kids journaling too. It teaches them all kinds of skills; writing, observation, articulation – and in the future, they will thank you for it.
As I said last time, keep a diary and one day, if it doesn’t keep you, it will certainly keep you entertained!
10 Tips on Keeping A Travel Journal (Without it Taking Over Your Trip!)
- Where Were You & Who You Were With?
- Select A Few Highlights Each Day
- Write With Five Senses
- Be Honest
- Write Quickly – Commit To 10 mins/day
- Don’t Let Your Journal Become A Chore
- Banish Your Inner Editor
- Record Your Thoughts & Feelings
- Write Before, After & During Your Trip
- Personalise Your Journal With Mementos
Author Jackie Lambert
Fans of Jacqueline (Jackie) Lambert’s doggie/travel blog, www.WorldWideWalkies.com said, “You should write a book!” So, she did. In fact, she’s written five…
If you’ve ever considered giving up work to head off into the sunset with surfboards on the roof–or you just like dogs, travel and humour, her Adventure Caravanning With Dogs books are for you.
The first, Fur Babies in France, was described by one reviewer as, “Laugh out funny and a great travel guide”. It tells how she and husband Mark gave up work, accidentally bought their first ever caravan, then decided to rent out the house, sell most of their possessions, and tour Europe full-time with four dogs in tow.
Dog on the Rhine; “An inspirational travelogue” follows this intrepid couple as they get more adventurous, and head into Germany, The Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia and Italy. But just to prove that Living the Dream is not all sunshine and rainbows, they return home to a huge Fidose of reality…
Dogs ‘n’ Dracula; “Armchair travel delight” gives the full low down on how Jackie and Mark set off for Spain and Portugal, but decided to turn left…
Pups on Piste is a “Fun and interesting book” about the trials and tribulations of their first ski season in Italy, during which a ski instructor tells them, “Don’t miss the turn, or you’ll go over a cliff.”
In her latest memoir, It Never Rains But It Paws, released on 6th May 2022, Jackie and Mark race against time to leave the UK before Britain leaves the EU. Brexit could mean their four precious pups would be unable to travel. Then, a few months into their trip, the pandemic leaves them trapped in the epicentre of Europe’s No. 1 coronavirus hotspot…
She is currently working on her sixth book, To Hel In A Hound Cart – A Road Trip Through Poland In A Pandemic, which will be published later in 2022.
In her first year as a published author, Jacqueline was delighted to receive multiple five-star reviews, a letter from Prince Charles, an invitation to Bucharest to collect an award for Dogs ‘n’ Dracula, and Amazon No. 1 Bestseller status in the German Travel category for Dog on the Rhine. Some of her travel tales BC (Before Canines) have been featured in travel anthologies, alongside other bestselling and award-winning authors.
You can check out all of Jackie’s books on her Amazon Author Page HERE.
Or grab them one at a time here:
Year 1 – Fur Babies in France
Dog on the Rhine
Dogs n Dracula
It Never Rains but It Paws
And you can reach Jackie on social media here: