3 tips for journaling abroad

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Photo by Aaron Cranford

By Aaron Cranford

Journaling can be a fun activity while abroad, but it can also be hard to find the time necessary to write down all of your amazing adventures.

Experiencing new events, traveling to magnificent locations and interacting with new people makes you reexamine your own perspective of life, so journaling is a great way to track your own development as an individual.

Below are two excerpts of my journaling while in Italy and Belgium respectively.

30/6/2013

After walking for most of the day, we decide to take a break on a bench. It is nice and cool in the shade. We are currently on an island — Lake Trasimeno — that is located on a lake close to Cortona. We took a small ferry over to the island. The occasional passerby exchanges glances with me, but they usually chat in Italian with whomever they are with. I just said “ciao” to an old couple walking by, and it reminded me of how friendly people are here. Contrary to walking around campus at UNC-CH, people around here stare you down until you cross paths. I think they are waiting for a simple recognition of their presence from you, but being accustomed to people passing by me without acknowledging me, I simply will glance at them or exchange a friendly smile. When I do say “ciao,” they will always respond back. The Italian people seem so friendly.

5/7/2013

My trip to Brussels was superb. The trek through the sketchier areas of the city was worrisome to say the least; however, the whole experience was wonderful. Our landlord was odd, hilarious, and pleasantly helpful and kind. His English was decent to average, so we could not communicate for too long, but he was as helpful as he could be. Contrary to Italian people, the Belgian people gave me a weird vibe. Being in Italy for a while, I learned to look Italians in the eyes as I approached them, so as normal, I would look the Belgian people in the eyes as I passed by a person or a group; however, their expressions as they looked back at me were a little scary and a bit aggressive. I would constantly catch people staring at us as we walked by, and when I would turn to look at them, I would flash a quick, friendly smile. Unresponsive. Their expression when I smiled at them did not change from their normal scary and aggressive faces. They seemed to be telepathically saying to me that I do not belong here. Do not judge everyone in Belgium by my description however! Many people we met were kind and helpful. Maybe we were just on the wrong side of town.

These journal entries were centered around my idea of the native people. I was trying to identify common modes of communication in each country and show how cultural norms of communication change from place to place.

Journal entries do not need to be as focused as mine are, however. You simply can write about your actions in the day and places you went to visit, but as you begin to write, there are some things you must note. Below are my tips for journaling while on travel:

TIPS FOR JOURNALING ABROAD

  1.  Do not force feelings or emotions into your writing.
    • When you feel the urge to write, write! Otherwise, you should continue experiencing the wonders of travel. Let the words come to you. My two examples above came from moments when I had free time, and I also felt the need to write about my experiences. There were some moments and some events that were never recorded by my writing. I have never forced myself to write, and I never will because true emotion reads better than forced thoughts.
  2. Experience first; write later.
    • You never want to miss out on a unique experience, so if you have the option to go with a friend to visit an old church around the corner or take a train into the city to shop for some groceries, take the opportunity. You may miss something amazing or interesting if you worry about recording experiences first.
  3. Use words you know to describe the things you experience.
    • Your journal entries will not be graded or critiqued, so feel free to use diction you are comfortable with. There is no need to impress anyone with your writing style, so use words and phrases that make sense to you. Try to capture your experiences in your own words.

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