Book Review: Globejotting - a Travel Journaling How to
One of the most difficult things to do while traveling is to capture the essence of your travels. For some of us, we take photos and try to remember that way. For others, travel journaling is the way to remember. Yet others just live, and remember. None of these ways is wrong - but there is always a better way to do anything, isn't there? I was previously satisfied with my (mostly photography) travel journals - which were mostly food journals, to be honest. I've since found a better way! Dave Fox, one hilarious author, has written a new book entitled Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!). When I delved into this book, I alternately laughed and took notes. Dave tells us easy ways to actually save - and remember - cool parts of our journeys. Even if we're not as funny as Dave, we can create readable, shareable travel journals that can only serve to enhance our travels.
I was lucky enough to sit down and chat with Dave about his new book. Here's what he had to say...
WE: Please tell us about your new book, Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip!)
DF: There are lots of books out there for aspiring freelance travel writers and people who want to get published, but very little has been written for travelers who simply want to document their journeys for themselves, or share their experiences with friends and family. Globejotting is a book for those people. I meet a lot of travelers who try to capture their trips in a personal travel diary. It's something many people struggle with for a variety of reasons.
Some people feel their writing doesn't capture the full spirit of their journeys.
Others just can't find time to write, and they give up. They're off having these great adventures, and they want to write things down so they remember what they've experienced, but when they take time to write, they feel like they're missing out on moments when they could be doing other things.
Globejotting teaches people how to journal about their travel experiences quickly and efficiently. It teaches them how to write about their trips in vivid detail so their travel diaries don't just sound like bland, step-by-step lists of what they've done. And, most importantly, it teaches people how their travel journals can enhance their trips and actually give them richer experiences, instead of gobbling up precious vacation time.
WE: What led you to write this book?
DF: Ever since I was a child, my two biggest obsessions have been writing and foreign cultures. If I'm traveling, I need to write or I feel like something is missing from my trip. Journaling helps me feel more in tune with the unique experiences I'm having.
I started teaching travel journaling classes about seven years ago. I eventually launched a website -- traveljournaling.com -- and I started getting
e-mails from people all over the world wanting to learn more. Over the years, I've developed a lot of different techniques, and I've also learned a lot from my students about how travel affects us emotionally, and how writing things down helps us process those emotions. So I decided to take what I knew and put it into a book.
Before the book was finished, and before I had even started looking for a publisher or an agent, Jeremy Solomon, the president of Inkwater Press, found my website, and he approached me to see if I was interested in working with him. I met with Jeremy and his staff, and I could tell they were a great fit for my book.
WE: Why is journaling important, for travelers?
DF: It's important for so many reasons. Most travelers rely on photography as the primary way of remembering their trips. I love to take pictures when I travel, but I find journaling to be a more holistic experience. There is so much we experience when traveling that's hard to capture with a camera. In a journal, we can write not only about what we see, but all of our senses. We meet people and we can take their pictures but we can't photograph the fascinating stories they tell us. Most importantly, travel can be such an emotional experience. When we're out of our comfort zones, away from our familiar cultures, hidden parts of our personalities start to emerge. We can really grow as people in these moments. But all too often, when we return home, we fall back into everyday life, and those personal growth experiences fade as we revert back to our default personalities. Writing about our emotions and our personal discoveries in foreign places cements those discoveries so we retain them once we are home.
In addition, our trips usually last for relatively short amounts of time, but they resonate in our minds for years afterward. Depending on where we go and how we like to travel, a two-week vacation can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. The money we spend is really an investment of sorts. We expect to come home with memories, and stories to tell. But memories grow fuzzy over time. They get covered up with the static of everyday life. When we take a few minutes each day to write about our experiences -- and really, just a few minutes of scribbling can go a long way -- we keep those memories bright. The stories we collect and the knowledge we attain stays with us more strongly.
WE: How can people enhance their experiences while traveling, through journaling? (we all know that it can enhance the journey when you get HOME!)...
DF: Great question! Most travel journalers write about their trips so they can recall their experiences later, but I also believe that if we write as we travel, it has a powerful and positive influence on our journeys as they unfold.
Writing things down makes us more aware of our surroundings, as well as our internal emotional landscape. It helps us process all of the unique emotions we encounter as we wander through unfamiliar places. We become more in tune with how the journey is transforming us personally. And, we notice all of the little details around us as well that we might not notice otherwise.
One of the things I encourage people to do before they start writing is take a quick mental scan of all of their senses. You can do this as you are sitting down to write, or even from time to time as you go about your day. I'll give you a quick personal example from Globejotting as to why this is important: I was walking though a spice market in Istanbul one time. And which senses are likely going to be boldest in a spice market? Our sense of smell, from all the fragrant, unfamiliar scents around us, and maybe our sense of sight, with so many baskets of bright yet earthy colored spices. That can be great to write about, but as I did a quick mental scan of my other senses, I noticed sounds in the market that had been tiptoing just beneath the surface of my awareness.
I noticed a clinking sound in the air -- the sound of little tea glasses jostling on metal trays that boys carried through the market for the merchants. It launched me on a quick essay about the Turkish obsession with tea. It's more than a beverage there. It's a social tool as well. The other two sounds
that jumped into my awareness once I stopped to pay attention were the Muslim call to prayer wafting from a minaret across the street, and Madonna's latest CD blaring from a merchant's boombox. The unlikely juxtaposition of these two sounds inspired me to write about a cultural rift in Turkey today. Some people want to modernize and Westernize, while others are keeping with more traditional values -- and they seem, for the most part, to peacefully co-exist there.
My point to this story is that walking through a spice market, it would have been easy to miss these observations and focus solely on the spices. In looking at my less dominant senses, I ended up with some fun mini-essays about Turkish life that went beyond the obvious parts of the world around me. If I hadn't been journaling, I don't think I would have been as likely to look for these details. So when we go about our days with the intent of writing things down later, we develop techniques that make us more aware of the stories that surround us.
WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
DF: I have a lot more travel journaling tips on my website at http://www.globejotting.com/
I've also got plans in the works for travel journaling tours next year in Botswana and Vietnam. In Botswana, I'll be teaming up with an African wildlife specialist. He'll introduce us to the animals, and I'll teach writing classes. I am off to Vietnam at the end of March to do research for a journaling tour there next year. I was there a year ago and fell in love with the country. It's a great place to learn about travel journaling, and an economical place to visit.
WE: Dave, thanks so much for a great (and inspiring!) interview.