How to Journal While Abroad

During my three experiences abroad, I tried different tactics on how to journal. When I was 16 and in Japan for three weeks, I had a tiny journal which I made myself write in each night. While spending five and a half months in South Africa, I thought journaling on my computer would be easier for writing longer amounts – but it also meant that times when I couldn’t bring my computer, I had to remember what to write for later. While in Rwanda and Tanzania this March, I had a larger journal and wrote not only at night-time about the day, but also wrote on other random chances I got – while waiting for people to arrive at dinner, on the bus, etc. I also made sure I was writing about how others were reacting to the trip – and some of the difficulties we ran into – so that the ups and downs of doing the first international student travel would be well recorded.

The blog In An American Classroom had a wonderful post in May talking about what one should think about while journaling when abroad. The post opens like this:

“First of all, I tell them, there is no single way to keep a travel journal (except that you have to write in it or you won’t have one.) Your journal can be an old-fashioned diary— one that summarizes each day from dawn to dusk. This type of journal is sometimes called a chronicle because it details, in the order of what happened, everything about the day: what you did, who you saw, what you experienced, where you went, what you ate, or just some of this. Or, your journal can be topical (you write on just certain subjects and don’t necessarily record every last thing you did). It can be thematic (you write about ideas and how you see them play out in events and people you encounter). It can be a sketchbook. That’s right: You draw your way through the day—or in this case, the trip. It can be a scrapbook of odds and ends you collect as you go and paste right into the pages alongside your thoughts, observations, summaries, and sketches. In other words, the journal is yours—your business, your record, your expression of yourself, your portrait in words (mostly) of what you see hear, smell, taste, touch, sense, experience, and understand on your journey.”

The blog goes on to mention things such as how to write so you remember the experience more than just stories of who said what during the day. Some interesting things to try and make yourself write about include (combination of their lists and mine):

* things you would tell someone who would go same places you went to
* currency exchanges
* cultural norm differences
* key phrases you used (especially in a location that works with foreign languages)
* conversations (many of the conversations I had in South Africa focused on President Obama, why an American was studying a traditional tribal language, and if America was like it is portrayed in movies and television)
* create a floor plan / drawing of what your room looks like (or take photos so you can visualize it later on)

If you are going abroad soon – or have been abroad and are trying to figure out how to remember your experiences, check out the full detailed post on journaling abroad by In An American Classroom

I celebrated my semester abroad in South Africa by creating a scrapbook the summer I returned from being away. In that scrapbook, I also included some of the emails I had sent home and diary excerpts so I – and others – could really get inside the mind of who I was when I was 20 years old and studying abroad for an entire semester halfway around the world.

I am curious – what ways do you find journaling or keeping stories alive from your experiences abroad to be beneficial?