Travel Journal

Reasons to Keep a Travel Journal while on a Retreat

Have you just made a booking to come to one of my retreats? Maybe you are wondering if there is anything that you can do in preparation so that you can make the most of your time here. I encourage all who come to my retreats, whether it is my Introduction to Intermittent Fasting RetreatWalking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela retreatChristmas Binge Reading Retreats, New Year Retreats or my Connect with Horses Retreats to keep a travel journal of their retreat, for three very specific reasons:

Firstly – a travel journal can help you remember what you have discovered, learned and experienced during your retreat for the rest of your life, thus prolonging the beneficial effects of the retreat many years into the future.

Secondly – creating a travel journal is a form of creative meditation, and in addition to the walking meditation that you can do while you walk the Camino de Santiago, it will not only increase your creativity and enhance your problem-solving skills but also counteract rising stress levels.

Thirdly – writing in their travel journal enables my guests to slow down (as you know I am a fervent supporter of Slow Travel) and reflect. So often in the past, we rushed from place to place, trying to fit in all that we wanted to see and do, never taking a moment to stop and think. Reflecting helps you to mindfully analyse and process your experiences each day, so that the next day, you can choose experiences that will enable you to make the most of every moment while you are on retreat here.

Travel journaling records your experiences and impressions before, during and after your trip. It makes you more mindful, increases your self-awareness, heightens your understanding, provides you with unexpected insights and makes travelling much more rewarding and relaxing.

You are coming on retreat to an off-the-beaten-track part of France, unspoilt, timeless, relentlessly optimistic, unfashionably generous and endlessly unpredictable. Here you will discover that “Ce n’est que dans l’aventure que certaines personnes réussissent à se connaître – à se retrouver,” as André Gide, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, said. It means that some people only succeed in getting to know themselves, to find themselves, when they seek out adventures.

What do you need to keep a Travel Journal?

I encourage my guests to keep physical instead of digital journals. It might seem simpler to use an app or type your journal entries and add pictures digitally. However, putting pen to paper has distinct advantages, advantages that you do not get from keeping a digital diary. Scientists have found that the physical act of writing uses the analytical and logical left brain, which means your creative right brain is free to engage in thoughts, feelings and emotions. Writing by hand also helps you retain information and process memories more effectively.

A paper travel journal is so much more than a phone full of selfies. Reflecting on your experiences while you journal helps your brain to remember an experience longer and more vividly by storing the experience in your long-term memory bank.

So what will you need to keep a travel journal? Any pen and notebook will do. A4 spiral notebooks are especially useful. Some people also use coloured pens, pencils, crayons, marker pens etc. A tube of glue will also come in handy. That’s it.

The 3 Steps of Travel Journaling

Before you travel:

You have chosen to come to one of my retreats. I am very grateful and I feel very privileged that you have decided to spend your precious holiday time with me. To help me make this retreat as meaningful to you as possible, ponder the following questions and then answer them in your diary before you arrive: Why did you choose this specific retreat? What are your expectations? How do you hope your life will change once you have attended this retreat? What are you most looking forward to?

-Use your travel journal to plan your trip. How are you going to travel to my retreat centre? Planning and booking your travel arrangements creates anticipation – according to slow travel guidelines, your trip starts at this very moment, so enjoy. If you need any help, send me an e-mail or use the excellent website to check train and bus schedules.

-Use it for your pre-trip research. What will the weather be like when you get there? You may want to find out a bit more about the region you are travelling to, about the people who live there, their language and their culture. Print out a map of the area. Put all this information into your travel journal. If your retreat includes walking the Camino, there are loads of articles, blog posts, books and films that can tell you more about it.

-Make a list of what you want/need to take with you. Sturdy walking shoes, hat, suntan lotion, sunglasses, small rucksack, medication, travel documents etc. Make sure you have my mobile number jotted down somewhere in your journal, just in case you lose your phone.

While you are attending the retreat:

So here you are, sitting under a lime tree on your private patio with your journal open in front of you, a glass of wine/ a cup of coffee at your elbow. Instantly, your mind goes blank. Does this ever happen to you? It does to me.

Enter the travel journal prompt. An age-old method that writers rely on when they can’t think of how to start or they need a fresh approach. A writing prompt is simply a word, a phrase, a question or even an image–that gets those creative juices flowing.

-Start with a simple travel log: 8h00 Woke up and showered. 8h30 Breakfast. 9h00 Stretching exercises. Then add emotions and feeling. 10h00 Trip to start of the Camino – so excited! Worried at the same time, I hope I can do this! Etc.

-Use these prompts to describe your day: What was the most meaningful moment today? What was the most challenging moment today? What practical applications of what I’ve learned today can I use in my everyday life? Choose a couple of experiences/places/people and describe what you have learned from them in detail, using all 5 of your senses. Did you try something new today? What are you proudest of having mastered/achieved today?

-Make a list in your travel journal of everything that you are grateful you experienced and everyone that you are grateful you interacted with today. Choose a small act of kindness to do tomorrow – like tipping a waitress, leaving a thank you note to a family member, sending an encouraging e-mail to a friend, or complimenting a shop assistant.

-Enrich your travel journal by saving and adding pictures, plane, metro, train and bus tickets, drawings, quotes, wine/beer labels, restaurant receipts, business cards, coasters, cut-outs from local newspapers/magazines/tourist brochures, menus, dried flowers and leaves, tickets for museums, galleries, theatres and festivals, postcards, tourist maps etc

-Use your journal to note email addresses/telephone numbers of people you meet on the journey that you would like to stay in contact with, adding a short description to remind you where you met this person and in what circumstances.

-Make a note of anything you want to pursue when you get home: a book that was recommended to you, a blog post that you want to write, an app that you want to try, research that you want to do etc.

After the retreat, on the way back home:

– Ask yourself a few questions. What did you enjoy most about the retreat? The most important lesson you learned about yourself? What was the biggest challenge? Do you wish you reacted differently? Which moments made you feel most alive? Did you get what you wanted from the retreat? What would you do differently next time you travel/attend a retreat? What did you learn about yourself/others? Which activities would you like to continue once you are home? What were the highlights of the trip? What/who will you miss most?

-I would appreciate it enormously if you could take a moment to write a review of the retreat you attended and send it to me by e-mail. You can use your travel journal to keep your memories alive and to share your experiences with others, your family and friends, who want to know everything about your trip.

Final Thoughts

If you’re honest in your writing about yourself and your journey, it can teach you a lot about yourself. It can show what you what is important to you and what is not. It can help you grow. If you write about negative as well as positive experiences, you can learn how to handle challenging experiences better in future.

This is my all-time favourite travel quote – I leave it here for you to enjoy, in the original French. I am not even going to try to translate it – “Voyager, c’est vivre dans toute la plénitude du mot; c’est oublier le passé et l’avenir pour le présent; c’est respirer à pleine poitrine, jouir de tout, s’emparer de la création comme d’une chose qui est sienne, c’est chercher dans la terre des mines d’or que personne n’a fouillées, dans l’air des merveilles que personne n’a vues, c’est passer après la foule et ramasser sous l’herbe les perles et les diamants qu’elle a pris, ignorante et insoucieuse qu’elle est, pour des flocons de neige et des gouttes de rosée. ”― Alexandre Dumas

A très bientot,