Travel Tuesdays: Writing and Reflecting

I've been working this post around my mind for weeks now, trying to find the right way to express what I want to express that would also be useful for you, my readers.

I've blogged about the value of keeping a journal of your travel experiences, but I wanted this post to be about something more, about reflecting on and writing about your experience once you return home.

Lately, I've been working on an essay about my family's experience traveling to India. I've been reading old blog posts and my journal, and revisiting the place in my mind, trying to synthesize the most significant insights and learning from that experience. All this digging around in my own story has indeed led to some new insights on my part, and I wanted to encourage you, my readers, to consider writing about your travel experiences once you return home-maybe even months or years later. By extension, I also wanted to suggest you encourage your children (or students) to do the same.

But, I realize I'm a writer, and not all of you are writers. The thought of writing might be scary to you or just not sound like much fun. Yet, there's a different kind of insight that comes from looking back on your experiences and writing about them. To quote Robin Hemley, "There's always some place you're going in your writing, some destination of which you had no idea when you started. Writing is transformative in the same way that travel is."(A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel, p. 108).

Joseph Dispenza, in The Way of the Traveler, provides specific actions you can take to make your travel more meaningful. He also encourages travelers to keep a travel journal and to write about their journey reflectively once they've returned home. "Now you may want to write something entirely different: the story of your trip as you lived it – not from the inside, as it were, but from the outside, as if you were the major character in your drama."  (p. 99)

My daughter journaling in Italy
So, as I sat here at my computer, trying to compose this blogpost in a way that will convey my message without turning off those of you who don't like to write, an amazing thing happened. My first grade daughter has a playmate here playing with her this morning and she ran in to tell me that she has been reading her Italy journal with her friend. She was recounting her trip to Italy. She was telling about her favorite parts and what she had learned during our trip. The cool thing is.. I had NO part in this. I have not discussed my current writing projects or this blogpost with my kids. We haven't even talked about her journal in months. Yet, my daughter is still working through her own travel experiences in her own way.

While my daughter likes to write, she is only a first grader, so recounting her travel tale is more of an oral exercise. The girls read every page of my daughter's journal. My daughter even added an additional page that she felt she had neglected when she completed her journal back in July. My daughter and her friend demonstrated to me, in real time, why keeping a travel journal can be so important and why later sharing the story of your trip is equally important to your understanding of what happened during your trip.

And so, I encourage you to write your travel stories and to encourage your children to do the same. You never have to show them to anyone. It's entirely up to you. If you have young children, let them tell their stories- maybe even record them using a digital recorder. 

Whether your travels take you across town or across the world, every trip can be transformative if you just take the time to reflect on it.

How might you work this idea into your life? How about into your children's lives?

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