Tuesday, November 6, 2012

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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  1. YES! YES! I just wish I hadn't lost most of my journals in my constant moving from one nation to another!

    1. Oh, that's a bummer Joanna. Any chance they might turn up in storage somewhere?

      You know what, though? This idea of reflecting on your travels and writing about them doesn't require a journal. I kept a haphazard journal(of sorts) when I lived in the Philippines but it's mostly drivel about boys (I was 16 after all). However, I've written about that experience often, and continue to do so, by traveling back there in my mind. In some ways, the learning that comes from remembering can be even more transformative because you remember what was most important and life-changing over time.

  2. Hi Michelle: I kept a journal when we first went overseas as teachers and our kids were one and two years old. My son, who is now 22, recently unearthed my journals and read them cover to cover. He didn't remember much as he was so young, but enjoyed reading about what we all went through at that time. After that my husband and son gave me the idea of writing our memoir of those 10 years living and working in four different countries. My memoir is now published and available and is called, HERE WE ARE & THERE WE GO: Teaching and Traveling With Kids in Tow. I am proud of it because it is about our lives and is a legacy for our kids who lived it. Thanks! Jill Dobbe, Author (www.facebook.com/JillDobbeAuthor

    1. Hello Jill, Thanks for visiting. If I were your son I would have loved reading about that time in my life, too! How wonderful that you kept journals.

      Thanks for sharing your story. I'll check your book out- it sounds right up my alley.

  3. I'm inspired now to go back through my own journal of our family trip to Italy in 2011 and coalesce it into some type of memoir. I've just discovered your blog (Through Travel Memoir writers FB page), and I love it.

    P.S. I, too, am a children's picture book author!

    1. Hello Julie! I didn't realize you were in the memoir writers group. Of course I already know you from the PB 12X12 initative! Thanks for visiting and for your compliment.

      Thanks, also, for calling me a "children's picture book author," though I'm afraid I haven't earned that title, yet. I'm still "pre-published" but working hard at changing that. I have 2 mss out with editors/agents right now... fingers crossed.

  4. Michele,
    Thought you might be interested in this thoughtful piece on travel from The Atlantic:

    1. Marianne, I love this article. Thank you for sharing it. I'm going to share it more widely.

    2. Marianne, I don't know if you're a regular reader... did you see this post? http://michellecusolito.blogspot.com/2012/09/travel-tuesdays-take-break-from-internet.html