I kept a journal pretty religiously when I was in high school and college. (Chalk it up to all that teen angst I needed to process.) Unfortunately in my adult life, the consistency of my journaling habit has dropped off.
And while I hope to redevelop that daily muscle in my life, there is one time when I’m pretty good about it: travel.
I saw the incredible benefits that travel journaling brings while I was studying abroad in 2004—I wouldn’t have survived that semester without the ability to process all that I was experiencing emotionally, culturally, and spiritually. (And that time I thought I lost my study abroad journal in my 20s? I was crushed. Having my travel journal to look back on is the most profound keepsake I have of that semester.)
A really beneficial travel journal goes beyond noting what you did each day, though. It challenges you to dig deep, to process through your experiences, and reflect on your reactions to them.
Even if you’re not traveling cross-culturally and it’s just a fun vacation with friends, there’s opportunity for self-reflection when you’re out of your normal environment and spending all your time with new daily companions. It’s a chance to consider how you respond to challenging moments, or to spend time sitting still and thinking about what you want your daily life to look like back home.
To get you thinking more deeply about various aspects of travel and yourself, I’ve compiled this short list of travel journal writing prompts for self-reflection.
I don’t think you need a lot—in fact, you might choose just one (see the second list) and use it daily. I’ve included 15 so that you have enough to choose from without it being overwhelming. Print it out, take a screen shot on your phone, or better yet, physically write the list in the back of your journal so you always have them available (sans technology).
These questions will hopefully prompt you to write through the challenging and frustrating moments that travel sometimes brings, as well as dig deeper to reflect on the joyful and life-changing moments.
Self-Reflection Journal Prompts
- What are my initial feelings about being here: curiosity, frustration, joy, awe, sadness?
- What smell(s) have stuck out to me?
- What was a challenging experience I had? Why did I respond the way I did? What did I learn about my personality, values, or home culture through this?
- What has sparked my curiosity? What has fascinated me here?
- Describe a memorable interaction or conversation I’ve had with someone who lives here. (What were they like? What did I learn about this place or culture? Why did the interaction stand out to me? What do I want to remember about them?)
- What sound(s) have stuck out to me?
- What is something that has surprised me about this place/culture?
- What is different about me while on this trip (positive or negative—am I more adaptable, irritable, spontaneous, disorganized, peaceful)? Why do I think that is?
- What were my expectations about this place? How is the trip comparing with my expectations?
- One quality I really appreciate about someone I’m traveling with is….
- What will I be glad to leave behind from this trip?
- Is there anything I want to do more or less of when I get home?
Daily Travel Journal Prompts
- What’s my Kodak Moment from today—that experience, image, or feeling I don’t want to forget?
- If I had to describe today in one word, what would it be? Why?
- If I had to tell a 5-minute story about one thing that happened today, what would it be about? (Credit for this idea goes to storyteller Matthew Dicks. I highly recommend his TEDx Talk on this topic—check it out below.)