Monday, June 28, 2010

Travelling Writers; Writing Travellers: Why to Keep a Journal

A few years ago, on one of our March trips from Colorado to Las Vegas for the WAC, later the MWC, basketball tournament, my husband and I took a side trip off I-70 in Utah at Thompson Springs. I had read there were petroglyphs in nearby Sego Canyon. It was true, and we spent an hour or so exploring the area and studying the art on the rock.

In 2008, on a drive to visit family in Illinois, another side excursion took us through the Kickapoo Indian Reservation in northern Kansas. Since one of my characters in my almost-ready-to-submit historical novel set in Illinois is an old Kickapoo man, I wanted to see where some of People finally settled after they were forced west of the Mississippi.

Our mini-sense of adventure on driving trips sometimes backfires. My guy likes to travel without making reservations for the night, which gives us more flexibility on how long we travel and where we stop. I like knowing where I'm going to sleep and that a bed will be waiting for me when I get there.

We were foiled twice, both times in the south of France, by following my guy's flexible plan. The first time, we drove half the night and traveled many kilometers off the beaten path to finally find a room...the last room in a hotel...the room with a broken toilet. I didn't care.

The second time it happened, we again found a hotel well off the autoroute, up on a hill, surrounded by woods, early in the morning. The one available room had been reserved but the travelers had not shown up. The kind proprietor let us have the beds. I had a crazy moment when I wanted to hug him and cry.

These are the little moments and small incidents that can lead us to story ideas, whether we write articles, host a travel blog, are putting together a memoir, or writing fiction. If we travel, keeping a journal is a great idea. I have a folder of all the letters I sent to my mother during the two years my husband and I lived in the South of France. I have a journal I kept during my solo trek to Norway at the age of 56, and I filled a lot of pages with some pretty crazy stuff during one of the driving trips we took in Europe.

Here are some of the ways travelers make good use of their travel stories:

Alexis Grant is The Traveling Writer. I first "met" her through the online blog book tour class moderated by Dani Greer. Since our first contact, Alexis has found an agent and they are working on her memoir of her solo backtrack travels across Africa.

Cara Lopez Lee blogs at Girls Trek Too! The Life of an Adventurous Woman. Cara will be a guest here in September. Her memoir about life in Alaska, They Only Eat Their Husbands, will be available from Ghost Road Press later this year.

Speaking of blog book tours, it looks like Dani is going to conduct her 100% totally free Blog Book Tour class again, starting July 5th. I took the course last year and loved it. Not only did I make a lot of new blogger friends, but I received very valuable information on blogging and blog design.

I have a couple of questions for you:

1. When you travel, do you journal or take notes or catalog your photos with the thought of using them in your blog posts, articles, or fiction?

2. Do you visit any great travel blogs you'd like to recommend, or have you recently read an awesome travel memoir?

18 comments:

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Questions first: I take photos to use in my blog posts all the time. I drive Maree crazy because I'm always stopping the car. And, sorry, no.

I had to look up petroglyph. I have a notebook I write new words and meanings in. I'm hoping the word stays in my head for future use. I can always hope.

I love the title, They Only Eat Their Husbands. Gasp! I'll have to add that to my to buy list.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patricia - It's funny you'd be blogging about traveling. Some of the more memorable times I've had were those unexpected trips, and you're right; they're terrific fodder for writing. I have to admit I don't keep a travel journal or do scrapbooks or anything. Haven't done that in decades. But stories? I could tell you a million of 'em.

Padraic Murray said...

Like you, I love to know where I will be sleeping at night. Otherwise I spend the day worrying and not enjoying the travel. Against that, the best experiences are always the unplanned ones - just like parties.. On balance though - book. I enjoyed the post. P

Clarissa Draper said...

Before my crazy love for blogging... no. But I did carry around a notebook with me for writing inspiration. Now, I have a small handheld computer device I can put in my bag and make notes that way or by voice.

CD

Karen Walker said...

I do journal when I travel. It not only helps me personally, but it is fodder for stories and blogs. I'm like you, like knowing there's a bed waiting for me, but some of the best adventures have come from not having everything planned out. Like everything else, it's balance.
Karen

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I always carry my camera with me just in case there is a snapshot worth taking, I always write poems about where I have been, what was seen,,,,that sort of thing. I came to the US three years ago and made a booklet called The American Dream, all the different places we went and photo;s.
I hope to come to Nashville when the concert I was to have seen last week have another date so another few poems and pictures to be done,

Yvonne.

Terry Odell said...

I always take notes when I travel. I used to recap the trips for family (long before the days of Internet and blogs).

Patricia Stoltey said...

I just crafted a nice response and when I signed in, Blogger ate my comment. Anyway, I did say good morning and welcomed Padraic to my blog.

And mentioned digital cameras as one of the best inventions ever. And said I would have had photos today but they're all 35mm prints I would have to scan and edit first. Maybe tomorrow?

catwoods said...

I don't journal when I travel, but I do take pictures. Occasionally, I will scrap them and keep the memories and the pictures in one place.

Your post is very timely for me, however, as I will be going to Chicago late this summer. We will get to see--and sail on--historic ships. The kind with big masts that pirates used to swing from.

I'm thrilled for this opportunity and will take careful notes, as I am currently peddling my chapter book of an unlikely pirate family. A great photo op might make a fabulous back cover picture someday!

alexisgrant said...

Thanks for the mention, Patricia, you're so sweet! Haven't been here in a while (trying to focus on revising) and love the redesign!!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Cat -- sailing on historic ships sounds like a big photo/journal opportunity (and a lot of fun). Even if you just take notes on what you learn, you may find ways to enhance your pirate family book.

Alexis -- you're most welcome. I'm so excited that you have an agent. I'm looking forward to reading your published memoir, and I hope you think of me when you start scheduling stops for your blog book tour.

Jemi Fraser said...

We haven't had much chance to travel yet - once the kids are done school! :) I most definitely will take a bazillion pictures and probably won't keep a journal - the pics will trigger the memories - I hope!

arlee bird said...

In 1970, my college days, I sent off on a hitch-hiking odyssey. I kept a detailed daily journal highlighting the adventures of several weeks. I continued to add more journal entries and other writing in this thick spiral notebook for a decade. Then in 1981, when I was touring with a stage show, my van got broken into in the Holiday Inn parking lot in Greeley, CO and among the many things that were taken was my writing satchel that included my journel. It was devastating.

Even now I think about digging that journal out and remember it was stolen. I still remember much of what was there but there were so many names and details that I just can't remember.

But yes a travel journel is great. I still have many of my records and journaling from later years that I may use for some kind of writing project.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Alexandra Crocodile said...

I always write down an account of my travels as I go along, as well as a final commentary when I get back home. I have a fantastic notebook made especially for ut, with packing checklists and a section for the record of expenses!

Thank you so much for following my blog - it's funny that your grandfather was Norwegian! I've "met" so many Americans through my blog that have Norwegian ancestry, so there must be a lot of you out there!

Also, I think it's great that you write crime fiction, I do too! Most blogger's I know write fantasy, YA, or children's books, so it's great to find a fellow mystery-writer!

Anonymous said...

I almost always keep a travel journal. I started long before I even thought of being a writer - I just wanted to be able to go back and find details I knew I'd forget. Now it is a rich source for characters, plot lines etc. I must say that lately I've slacked off and so I thank you for the reminder. Oh, maybe it's because I'm not traveling much these days. Hoping that will change.

I also always carry my camera - these days on the lookout for photos for my blog. There are horses everywhere!

Stephen Tremp said...

I don't visit travel blogs althought that's a good idea. I do journal thoughts and such of trips. I can write or blog about them immediately or place them in my "junkyard" and visit them at a alter date.

STephen Tremp

pam2spicy said...

Good ideas, Pat...I have always journaled on trips, usually those are my best sources for all writing because I also have time to contemplate a bit. Photography is a blessing for me because the artist in me can take pictures of the same thing many pictures have been taken of but with my own flair. I love it. The curse part has to do with what to do with them. I am on the same process of printing the ones I like or think I will use and putting them in photo albums. Help I'm drowning in photo albums.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Arlee -- your comment stopped me cold. Losing your travel journal must have been terrible. How do you back up a journal? Maybe scan or photocopy the pages as you go? Seems a little tedious, doesn't it?

Looks as though many of us journal with our photos (Jemi, Stephen, Anon & Pam). I did a pretty good job of keeping photo albums when I used a 35mm camera, noting dates and locations on the back of each photo. Now I have photos on my computer and on a flashdrive, and they're not well organized. I have to say that Pam's practice of printing and putting her favorites in albums has a lot of appeal.

Alexandra, welcome to my blog. My Norwegian grandfather and uncles first settled in Montana and South Dakota, but I've visited Norwegian settlements in Wisconsin and Illinois as well. I know there are many more throughout the U.S. I loved visiting Norway and hope to get back there sometime in the next couple of years.