The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note — Edward Lear
A word about journaling in poetry
With the 2007 publication of the anthology Deep Travel: Contemporary American Poets Abroad, interest in travel poetry has increased in writing circles. But travel poetry has, of course, been around for thousands of years. The Odyssey, Canterbury Tales and Divine Comedy can all be considered travel poetry. And sometimes your recollections and observations just naturally seem to fall more easily into a poetic form than into prose.
Here’s an example from my very first Italian villa rental experience. I could have just jotted down, “The group had breakfast in the kitchen. The sun was shining. We decided not to go anywhere today and I did the laundry.” Instead, this is what evolved from my notes:
We sit at the kitchen table in the morning
Drinking the juice of mangoes and blood oranges
Eating creamy yogurt out of chipped white porcelain cups
Planning our day, as if we needed anything more than this
The early sun and strong black coffee are enough
The easy laughter and deep breathing are enough
Flowering magnolias and the scent of wild jasmine are enough
Anticipation and memory are enough
Today, we agree, we will go nowhere
Because for now, everything we need is right here
In the warm June breezes of plenty
Laundry dancing in the yard
These 12 lines have incorporated myriad details, some action and lots of emotion into a story about deciding not to do anything that day. And it gives the reader (and the writer) a valuable memory of the experience. I highly recommend that you try this at least once, even if you think you’re not a poet or think you don’t even like poetry very much. It’s a useful form, especially as an extension of the journaling process.
Place is a powerful force, and we’re all drawn to different kinds of places for different reasons. At the same time, travel is such a rich experience that, whether we go across town or across an ocean, we are always the better for it. We always learn something and we can make new discoveries and even new friends along the way. So write about your travel experiences. Use your journal to capture who you are in the moment. Use your words and drawings and photos to bridge back to the emotions you experience along the way. Share them if you want to.
Start by getting a blank book that sings to you. If you’d like to do some more reading before getting started, here are a few suggestions:
- Writing Away: a creative guide to awakening the journal-writing traveler by Lavinia Spalding
- The Mindful Traveler: A Guide to Journaling and Transformative Travel by Jim Currie
- Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals (and still have time to enjoy your trip) by Dave Fox
Whether you share your journal with others or keep it strictly for yourself, I guarantee that this will be a worthwhile endeavor. You’ll be able to not only answer the question, “How was your trip?” but you’ll be able to answer the bigger question, “Who are you?”
Here’s a 10-minute writing exercise to get you started…
Think about a trip you have taken or a place (not home) that you’ve recently spent time in. Then do at least one of these:
- Write about a room that you stayed in
- Write about what it’s like for you not to be home
- When you’re on the road, when do you feel most yourself? Write about that.
- Write five words, phrases, sentences that might lead to a travel poem. Try to write that.
 © 2009 Linda Dini Jenkins, Up at the Villa: Travels with my Husband