The Importance of a Travel Journal

The Importance of a Travel Journal

The paper shuffles beneath my pen as I lay on my belly in my sleeping bag. The ground is much harder at 6 AM than it was when I fell asleep and I have to angle my elbows out past my shoulders in order to be able to write. Around me everyone else is still burrowed beneath their blankets sleeping off yesterday’s adventures. I am hesitant to make any further movement beyond my scribbling, afraid that one too many fidgety rustles will certainly wake someone up and ruin my content solitude in this early morning quiet.

It is two weeks into my road trip through the Australian outback and I am living almost every minute of the day with the three travel companions I discovered online. Another one of those situations where a backpacker with a car decided they needed others to share in the travel costs and fun times. While I was just looking for a cheap way to get to Katherine that would allow me time to see Uluru, I am so grateful that the last couple of weeks have been enjoyable and absent of clashing personalities.

For an hour or so, I can reflect on my journey, document the experiences I am having, and clear out my mind of any thoughts that have haunted me during the night.

This still doesn’t undercut the fact that I have come to love my morning writing sessions. Twisted in the most comfortable position I can find, I scribble across the page of my travel journal. This is my time. For an hour or so, I can reflect on my journey, document the experiences I am having, and clear out my mind of any thoughts that have haunted me during the night. I don’t need to share my time with my travel companions or split my present with people back home. I can just breathe and disappear into myself.

Time distorts when I am on the road and writing grounds these moments to exact dates. I’ve recorded in my journal the mixture of heartbreak and excitement I felt when I left Minnesota. Next, I have a description of the first good friend I made in Australia, a German looking to restart her life in Sydney and in constant search of the perfect soundproof windows. Then the unplanned month and a half I spent traveling around Tasmania, each week with new people and another beautiful bushwalk.

I save these memories because they are not just about my travels but because they are also my life. Back home I still have friends who don’t understand what I am doing on the other side of the world. They see my travels as a vacation from the life I am suppose to be having; a life with a 9 to 5 job that follows a set career path. They take it as an insult that I have chosen to travel instead of spend time with them. Constantly reiterating both points, which only makes me want to fight more for the way I want to live my life.

My journal serves as a reminder that what I am doing is right. Even now as I look back on the first pages, I see joy and I know that I am where I am meant to be. I find comfort in the idea that my future self will read my journal and simply laugh her way through the entire thing. That she will see the entries about our time camping along the Great Ocean Road during the middle of the winter and shiver at the thought of the cold nights. That she will remember the good times that were had and the friends that were made. That she will know the decisions that pulled apart my heart and made me cry were just moments I had to get through to get to the places I want to be.

My journal serves as a reminder that what I am doing is right. Even now as I look back on the first pages, I see joy and I know that I am where I am meant to be.

The light breaks over the horizon, a golden haze across the red soil. One of my travel companions emerges from his tent and the day is set in motion. After we eat breakfast, we will pack up the car before heading out to the opal mines in Coober Pedy. All of my thoughts neatly in place between the pages of my journal, I am ready to start the day. Tomorrow I will write again.

Top photo credit: Daniel Peckham

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About Kaitlin Lange

Kaitlin LangeCurrently writing her way through Australia on working holiday, Kaitlin is a Minnesotan with itchy feet and wide eyes. You can follow the rest of her travels on her blog at vitalwhim.com.

3 thoughts on “The Importance of a Travel Journal

  1. Jen Walker
    April 20, 2015
    Reply

    Capturing memories as they happen makes reading them later such a joy. I always struggled with keeping a actual travel journal so I started sending postcards to myself. Then I have both a written record and a photo of the place. Sometimes the card are waiting in my post box when I get home, other times they arrive after I get back. Still it’s a great reminder of the trip.

  2. Morgan Pettersson
    July 21, 2014
    Reply

    Kaitlin this piece is really beautiful and resonated with me. I too find that I don’t feel balanced when travelling until I have sat and wrote in my journal. I tend to do so at night as a way of recording all of the things I have seen that day. It is also a great way to go back and see how your way of seeing or identifying with a place has changed based on your experiences.

  3. Brittany Caumette
    Brittany Caumette
    July 8, 2014
    Reply

    Although I write in my own travel journey in the evening, as my dinner is cooking on my mini gas stove, I agree with the sentiments you share about the value of writing. I write reaaaalllly small, so I’ve had the same journal for 18 months now, and I love leafing back to the entry I wrote precisely one year before. Sometimes, I think to myself, “Wow, I had forgotten that!”. But most of the time, I think, “That felt like yesterday, and yet, it was a whole year ago. Man, time flies!”. So, I guess, in a way, my journal reminds me of the passing of time, helping me remember to hold onto moments before they fly away.

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