Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Entry # 178 - "Do You Need A Travel Journal?"

Bellow Beach, Oahu - Jim Wilson - Sept. 2013
“What’s A Travel Journal?”

Oscar Wilde reportedly said, “ I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read.”  But what kinds of journals are best for jotting down the bits and pieces of life that have the potential for story seeds, particularly while traveling?  Should one use a multi-purpose journal to record multiple slices of life? And should it be divided into sections, or is it more useful to have single purpose journals that serve a specific type of entry?

Many people, who do not regard themselves as writers, record their ideas and experiences in all sorts of journals. Journals help people remember life moments, so the possibilities for choosing a journal vary according to the whim or needs of a given journal writer. I keep a number of single purpose journals. For example: one for garden notes, another for bird-watching notes, another for daily/weekly observations of story ideas, dreams, as well as other more general notes on books, films or music I like. Yes. My office is packed with journals and I am often misplacing them in my office. But when I find them again, reading them brings new joys and perspectives.

Photo Credit - Jan Bowman - 2012

But for me the travel journal is a time-honored favorite among my more popular single purpose journals.  I keep one specifically to record experiences from various travels.  I keep track of things I see in airports, hotels, restaurants and interesting places I’ve traveled, even keeping a separate journal of my cruise ships adventures. From my notes I can record observations, such as a pale sun-loving couple, who sit by the pool all day the first day of the cruise, and do not appear at the nearby table for meals for the next three days, because they are so badly sunburned they take their meals in their cabin. They can’t bear to wear clothes. On day four they reappear and describe the experience and have their table mates laughing. And all the while, I am imagining how funny and how terrible that experience might be. Maybe they’ll appear in a story someday. So I pay attention. I take note, not knowing which details will help serve up a perfect portion of story.

Alexandra Johnson says, “Travel Journals are the observing journal armed with a passport.” In her craft guide, Leaving A Trace, she says, “Journals prove more faithful than any camera.” Artists who keep travel sketchbooks collect wonderful materials that have potential for development and even a writer with modest sketching talents will find some happy discoveries later when reviewing the travel sketches, whether they've captured what they've seen in words or pictures.
Photo Credit - Alex Dunn - Hawaii - 2013

About Jan Bowman

Jan Bowman’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, a Pen/O’Henry award and a recent story was a finalist in the 2013 Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at www.janbowmanwriter.com or


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