Travel Writing

When it comes to travel, photos have nearly become our memories.  I don’t suggest you ditch the camera altogether (I’m a sucker for a good travel photo), but that you also pack a journal or write a few postcards.  To give you a starting point, I looked back at my recent travels and the situational writing endeavors I experimented with in each place.

When You’ll Be In a Lot of Gift Shops:

Blog Pic of Rome

The Vatican Museum, Rome

My parents lived just outside of Salzburg, Austria for about two years and I was lucky to visit them twice and explore more of Europe.  This experience was not when my love for postcards was born, but when it blossomed.  While a more basic form of travel writing, finding postcards for friends and family turned out to be an absolute blast (from matching the right photos to the right recipient to searching for a post office) and I even began collecting postcards for myself.  The simple act of writing a brief letter about what I’d been up to gave me a chance to collect my thoughts and mindfully be where I was.

When You’ll Be Exhausted at Night:

Blog Pic of NZ

The South Island, New Zealand

If you are very physically active as you travel, you may find yourself barely able to keep your eyes open at night let alone able to write.  The method I practiced in New Zealand after day-long hikes up and down mountains was the same I suggest for those who believe they are too busy to journal:  (Try to) write every day.  Sometimes I wrote three words.  Many nights I even fell asleep mid-sentence. My favorite entries are the ones that I began planning to write very little and then suddenly found myself with so much to say.  In the midst of a physically exhausting adventure, it is important to dust off your brain at the day’s end. 

When You’ll Actually Have Free Time:

Blog Pic 2 for Morocco

A Tannery in Fez, Morocco

Granted, I was taking a Travel Writing course while in Morocco, but nonetheless, our class tactic of writing at least ten pages a day pushed me to reflect.   When you have the time, maybe an hour or so, giving yourself a minimum daily page limit will challenge you to think about where you are and the meaning of your being there.  Warning: When you have to dig deeper to fill each page, what you write may surprise you.  In the end, I used my Moroccan journal entries to write a travel piece about community that makes my time spent there even more worthwhile.

I have often been asked, “Why don’t you write a travel blog?”  And my honest answer is this: When I travel, I prefer to be away from the computer and Internet as much as possible. I want to be where I am and not logged in to a website like I could be almost anywhere else.  With a journal or a stack of postcards, I can plant myself in the spot of my choosing and write without the limbo-esque feeling of an Internet café and in the presence of something much more note-worthy.

Elsa Guenther
Creative Writing Specialist

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