Travel writing or travel videos are some of the most popular themes to read and follow online. If you love to travel, then chances are you also enjoy reading about all the possible trips you could take. Certainly you can imagine yourself in a chic Parisien cafe, hiking to Angkor Wat, or sailing in the Aegean sea as you read about others’ adventures. And if you also enjoy writing, perhaps you’ve considered packing your laptop and documenting your journeys. Whether it’s just for the pleasure of recording your memories, or you’re hoping to encourage others to travel, figuring out how to write while you travel can be tricky.
Writing and creating art about the trips you take will inspire wanderlust. It’s one thing to remember what you’ve enjoyed about a trip, but when you re-read your account, it’s the next best thing to going back! As you capture the details and get them down on “paper”, they reinforce what you love about your travels and help you retain the memories. So are there any downsides to taking the time to write while you travel? What are the challenges you face if you want to write “on the road”? Here are a few things to consider and some great ideas to inspire you…
What should you pack for writing while you travel?
It’s already a chore to think of everything you need for a trip and not forget anything! If you want to document your trip as well, you’ll need to bring along a few extra things:
- Good supply of pens for jotting down notes as you go
- Travel journal (I like the kind that will lie flat for writing)
- Laptop for transferring hand-written notes into readable information
- Camera to document the sights you see and details you might forget
- You might even want a voice recorder to help you record thoughts quickly
- Extra power banks and batteries to power your phone, camera, recorder, etc.
- Microphone and additional lighting if you are creating videos
- Shoulder bag or tote to carry along many of these items with you
- Drone, if you want aerial footage
- Selfie stick for catching yourself in action
What about electricity?
Depending on where you are in the world, it’s generally not too hard to bring your laptop with you and dash off a few paragraphs of text in a cafe, but you need to make sure you’re prepared for anything. Your local sandwich shop may have facilities for plugging in a charger, but if you’re halfway across the world in a remote village, you might have fewer options. As a minimum, any travel writer should take an appropriate adaptor for electrical outlets wherever you’ll be visiting. Your travel journal or notebook come in handy for documenting when you can’t be plugged in. And this is also where a voice recorder can be helpful, as long as you have a source of power. You can even download a voice recorder app to your phone so you’re ready for impromptu situations.
How much Internet do you need?
One side effect of the pace of technological advancement is that we’re a lot less impressed by that which would have been astounding twenty years ago. At one time, you’d have been awestruck at the ability to stream video in your living room. Now, people are horrified if they can’t get the speeds they want in a remote Laotian village. Bear in mind that internet infrastructure differs massively across countries, even ones which neighbor one another.
You’ll need to ask around for restaurants or tourist attractions that may offer WiFi. Sometimes, you’ll happen upon internet cafes. Or plan your day to only need internet in the evenings when you are at your hotel or hostel. Also consider how your use of multiple apps can slow down your laptop or phone, as explained here, and make adjustments to get the most out of your devices. Delete unneeded files and photos, too, to make more room for efficient use. If you’re going to write while you travel, you want to plan and prepare accordingly before you depart.
Are you up-to-date on local laws?
Particularly if you are planning a video travelog, it is crucial to know what the laws are where you are visiting. For example, while you may be free to film more or less anywhere in your home town, there are strict laws about what you can depict in the Philippines. Ignorance of the law is never a defense, so it’s worth reading up on whether there are limitations on what you can photograph or film in a country you’re about to visit. There are probably even more restrictions for the use of a drone. For example, drones are banned in most national parks. Few things spoil a vacation more than being arrested or having your devices confiscated.
What’s the story you’re trying to tell?
While you’re vacationing, pay attention to the things that become the most meaningful to you. If you write when you travel, what is the “story” you want to tell?
- Will you write a travelogue with dates, schedules, and lists of what you did?
- Will you share the emotions you feel as you see specific sights or experience different events?
- You can look for and share both pros and cons of visiting each location.
- Will you try to persuade others to repeat your adventure?
- Will you write about relationships you develop or cultural tips you learn?
- Perhaps you will focus on dining experiences and different cuisines you sample.
- Will you interview the people you meet and make them part of your story?
Whatever you choose to write about, having a theme in mind, like one of the above, will help you know what to write as you travel and keep you focused.
Do you need a quiet place to write?
Not everyone can write on the run, with noise and activity going on around them. And maybe you don’t want to interfere with your travel activities by always trying to document them. You might want to live in the moment and leave the writing for later. Possible solutions include:
- Plan for some downtime at your hotel in the evening when you can catch up on journaling the day’s events.
- Perhaps the local library or park will provide just the right setting.
- Pass around a journal when you’re gathered with friends or family and let everyone be a part of writing.
More ideas for documenting your travels
- I know it may sound a little old-fashioned, but purchasing and writing details on postcards is an easy way to keep track of the details of a trip. Plus it comes with the bonus of having a beautiful photo to help trigger memories too. And if you like to collect foreign stamps, too, mail them home to yourself!
- Another way to keep track of your travel details is to write a daily email. You can send it to friends and family back home, or just mail it to your own inbox.
- Post daily photos on Instagram or other social media with brief captions about your travels.
- Start a travel blog, so you can write directly to a website others can view right away.
- While you’re traveling, you never think you’ll forget the names of the locations you visit. But months or years down the road, it’s very possible. As you’re traveling, take photos of entrance signs or information plaques, so you don’t have to stop and write those things down. If you’re consistent and take a photo of the name of a location before you start snapping photos of it, you’ll always know where the photos are taken. I even take photos of restaurant menus and attraction admission prices. It’s surprising how helpful that can be.
- Keep mementoes that will help you remember what you did — a receipt, a ticket stub, boarding pass, brochure, etc.
- Use an online photo book service to download your photos and create travel photo albums. You can add simple captions or longer dialogues to tell your travel story. Like they say, “A picture is often worth a thousand words”!
Traveling the world may well be one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have. Why not write while you travel? You’ll be able to preserve memories, share with others, and tell the most wonderful stories.