The Traveler, The Journal, The Moment

Journaling is a laborious task. For some I’d venture to say, it’s a passion. Others swear by it, claim it’s a self-healing tool, an ends to a means, a must do for inner quiet, or and often the case, the only way to distance themselves from the maddening crowd—also referred to as family, a high maintenance lover or needy friend. IMG_1271

For me it’s an imaginative way to procrastinate, a place to explore, ponder, whimper, and store ideas. Personally, I don’t have the dedication to this form of writing. Although, and I’ve said this before to anyone who asks and even if they don’t, I tell them anyway, keep a journal. Writing anything is restorative. Even for someone like me who lacks the tenacity, perhaps the will to give away all of my secret thoughts to pages that will not know the joy of adoring fans, oh my isn’t she brilliant, types of comments, I dabble. I do.

I love the idea of keeping detailed chapter and verse entries but I can’t or won’t, and definitely don’t. I do write—poorly, as in illegible script with pastel colored-Sharpies, like hot pink and luscious lavenders—in a leather notebook. I’ve been known to stoop so low as to write on the backs of receipts, napkins, and on the inside of book jacket (only if there is no other option), when struck by something the other writer in me deems noteworthy.

For a fiction writer, noteworthy is defined as a story idea, a great opening line, or happening on a questionable character—the man standing out of sight of the store cameras stuffing a bottle of drain cleaner into his pants. The voice in my head is on the spot with her Lois Lane type notebook asking Why? Why? Suicide? Rebel making a homemade bomb? The rush of doing something illegal and getting away it? Or maybe, his toilet was just backed up and he didn’t want to spend the $4.99.

Truth is I’ll never know, and in this case, I don’t really want to know. Still I took a moment to capture the scene in all it’s splendor. You never know when a story will require a disturbing character with a broken nose that never healed properly, wearing beige Dockers with frayed edges, a black V-neck Haynes, and a lettered high school jacket with the left pocket torn and flapping.  

So, if I don’t, can’t, and won’t, keep a detailed chronicle of my life, why do I when I travel?  Time to do anything, like sleep, is even limited when you’re on a whirlwind three cities in ten days trip. Just forget about applying evenly drawn eyeliner, wearing perfectly straitened locks, or unwrinkled clothing.  Why bother with journaling and capturing memories when you’re on borrowed time?

Let me share.

IMG_0678May 11th

We’re at the Tower of London today and I am giving way to my inner Queen Elizabeth—the first one. Off with his headWe shall see if he is a worthy opponent for us. Yes, we shall see.  And yes, off with his head straight away.


Each day I found time to dig out the moleskin from the depths of my bag. I opened the tattered thing to a blank page, dated it, and keeping with a plan I set for myself before the trip, I took out my glue stick and affixed a ticket, a piece of a menu, some little memento I had acquired during the day, onto the dated page. I distilled my thoughts looking for one moment, a cut above all the others, and jotted it down on the page in my pinks, greens, and lush lavenders.

On May 12, I tapped the business card from the tea hop, LAUDRÉE, into my book. Alongside it I wrote,

“Alice, hurry we’ll be late. And you know how the Red Queen behaves—very, very, very badly—when we are late,” the white rabbit said in a breathless voice. “And mind your manners, girl.”

IMG_0746‘We are dining on macaroons and drinking pink bubbly, watching the other guests, none of which is speaking English. Oh how cosmopolitan we feel setting inside a French teashop we stumbled upon inside of Harrods.  The woman with crimson, bouffant styled hair on my right is writing at a feverish space in her own moleskin. I wonder, is she like me, a writer taking notes about me as I write about her?’ 

Now, as I go back to fill the in blanks, I know where I was, what I was doing, how I was feeling, and the words flow. It’s a new kind experience for me, the distilled, cut above moment.  Thus, I’ve opted to continue my travel journal, newly remained to My Year of Magical Writing.

It’s not a daily ritual or even a must do for inner peace. Where I go with it is unknown, but I like the idea of having a single, undemanding, only for fun, place to write things like “Off with his head or Bon jour!  Bon jour to you, and you, and you.

Do you have a fun place to retreat to, far from the maddening crowd?


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I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

38 thoughts on “The Traveler, The Journal, The Moment

  1. Brenda,
    I love how fun you are and creative about characters. Like the man in the store, I think tons of writers are missing being able to bring to life the extraordinary in the mundane. This never stops impressing me when people can do this!

  2. I have 3 journals on the go though I too lack the discipline of daily journalling. I have tried and I do see its benefit. I wish I could do it, really I do! When I travel, however, I always chronicle, even if time only permits a point form entry. My then-boyfriend-now-husband and I backpacked for 6 months back in ’89 and kept a wonderful journal. I read it somedays and can sometimes barely recall living through one memory, yet other times re-living it so vividly. Funny how memories work. Lovely piece and love the Lewis Carroll woven in.
    Astra recently posted….Epic Dinner Fun!My Profile

    • Astra – I bet you love having that journal. I wish I had kept one the years I lived in London. Now I am left with fragments.

  3. … and you carry a glue stick with you! Awesome … truly! I feel very much like you about journaling. It’s one of those fine ideas that I don’t do. I do keep my tickets and bits and pieces of memorabilia tucked into a little travel book I carry to record restaurants, wines, etc, and then they all fall out when I get home and I put them away in a jumble forever. Duh! I am off to buy a small glue stick or two and will be armed with better intentions on the next voyage. Thanks to you!
    Patricia Sands recently posted….Join The FightMy Profile

    • Patricia – Yes, on this trip I did. My sister thought I was a wacko, but by the second day she was handing things to save. You must get a glue stick, it’s small and easy to do. Be prepared for strange looks, but you’re a writer, so you should be used to this.

  4. Love your travel journal, the brilliant colors, the tickets, the asides. I jotted down notes on my last trip too, but in her ever-handy steno pads, along with grocery lists and story ideas.

    Pink bubbly is may favorite kind. It’s so…. girl.
    Beverly Diehl recently posted….Slut of the Month: Anne BoleynMy Profile

    • Bev, of course, you’re right, the pink stuff is so very girly, but tasty too. I have found keeping a single journal for one stream of thought to be limiting, thus the need for no rules.

  5. Oh, to be in London drinking pink champagne in a French pastry shop and staring at a woman with crimson — crimson! — hair.

    Nice post, Brenda.

  6. Brenda, I used to keep a journal, but don’t do one daily anymore. However, I’m never without a trusty notebook in which I jot down ideas, phrases, descriptions – anything which I think I might possibly use later in a blog. Our minds can become so cluttered – if we don’t write things down when we think of them, we could lose them forever. Gasp!
    Loved your reflection here and the fun you had with it. Playful, indeed!
    Love and blessings!
    Martha Orlando recently posted….Taking Center StageMy Profile

  7. Brenda, I love the idea of keeping a travel journal but have to admit to not being very disciplined when it comes to writing in it. This summer I hope I will be able to mimic your actions and write and write and write. I have what I call a “feel good” journal where I keep little mementos of things from trips that have made me smile. A receipt from my favorite coffee shop, an empty sugar packet, a favorite photo, just about anything! :)

  8. I used to keep journals. I have about a half-dozen spiral notebooks full. But I felt I was rehashing the same stuff all the time, and was bored when I reread them years later, so I stopped. Now I’m thinking about burning them. I don’t want my poor kids thinking they should have to wade through them when I’m gone!

    Your journals sound so much more interesting and varied!

    Keeping travel journals is useful though. You forget so much if you don’t. I love my travel journals.
    Deborah J. Brasket recently posted….The Deer’s Scream, My Mother’s Eyes, and a Ripe StrawberryMy Profile

    • Deborah – I know what you mean about saying the same stuff over and over again, which is why I don’t keep a life journal. I hope my writing is a reflection of my mind – the blog and stories. Travel journal, now that is something I can do.

  9. Kat

    I really love your description of why and how you keep a journal. Writing with lavender markers…that even *sounds* lovely!

    I’ve only ever kept a journal sporadically, but I do always try to carry a pad of paper, a diary, something with me to write on. Lately I’ve been doing the Morning Pages, a half stream-of-consciousness, half daily journal each morning to help get my thoughts in order and avoid becoming overwhelmed by the day’s to-do list.
    Kat recently posted….Dissecting a SceneMy Profile

    • Kat – try it,you might be surprised just how much fun it is. Me, too, with the handy journal for writing. I do prefer typing my notes, but you’re not always in front of a computer.

  10. Brenda, in my youth, especially during college and post college, I kept a journal. Nothing fancy, though, and it helped me a lot. But now when I write, I prefer typing. Though, the first time I went to Europe, I kept a travel journal. That was fun and I have a good description of what I did each day. The second and last time I went, I didn’t keep a journal and I its now a blur. I regret that I didn’t, but at least I have the tons off photos I took. :)
    monicastangledweb recently posted….Lightning in a Jar: Saturday in the Park with JamesMy Profile

    • Monica – I’m like you, typing is faster and easier on my eyes. I like being able to look back at a particular day and know were I was. I have plans for the pictures, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet.

  11. Several times over the years I’ve tried to force myself to journal. When I was pregnant with my first daughter I think I made it 5 days, then it jumps to a week after she was born. It is just never going to happen for me. I do write notes to myself about characters, or scenes. It was great when the girls were old enough to write, I could dictate to them in the car. We often play a game were on of us picks something in the world around us and then flesh it out. My date book, rather than hold appointments is filled with ideas. I keep steno books in my car, that is my most consistent “journaling” place, if you can call it that.
    Lynne Favreau recently posted….Our Relay for Life TeamMy Profile

    • Lynne – we all have something. I have a writing journal/notebook/random thoughts that I keep, but that’s the extent of it. This new one isn’t a must do, which is why it’s fun and I am enjoying the discovery process.

  12. Brenda – I read this post last week and loved it, while I was, coincidentally, traveling.

    I have journals for my garden and journals for my travel, journals I draw in, journals that I clip and glue stick in, journals of ephemera, one little journal that’s just got space enough for a snippet a day – but it’s a 5 year journal – a quick jot. And it’s relatively small. I have a dream journal. I have journals from when my kids were very young. And I’m currently finishing up a pillow book – a journal to keep under my pillow in a pretty group of fabrics. They are treasures! I’ve never been intuitive or smart enough to have considered bringing a glue stick with me until reading here. What a fun post!
    Barbara recently posted….The Curmudgeon WhispererMy Profile

  13. There have been times in my life that I have kept a detailed “life event” journal but usually my journals are scatter-shot combinations of essay starts, ideas, poems, quotes, work meeting notes, grocery lists, and of course, doodles, lots and lots of doodles. When they are going through my stuff after the funeral they will find out exactly what I was doing and where I was in 1997 and 2005 through 2007. The rest they will have to puzzle out from records and fragments. Not that I expect that to happen anytime soon.

    Looks like you have had some exciting travels! Love the tea shop photo.
    Carol Apple recently posted….What to do about the news: Pay attention or block it out?My Profile

    • Carol – I wonder the same thing about my kids finding my ramblings. “Mad as a hatter,” they will say. And yes, it was a great time. Wishing and hoping for another trip. I have the bug something bag this year.

    • Adriana – I can’t stop thinking about Paris. If I could figure out a way to go back without depriving the mortgage company of yet another payment, or feeding my fat cat, I’d be on the next plane.

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