Travel Journalling Tips

I have a small sketch of an elephant and next to it the word daruma. It was drawn after the sun set in very rural Cambodia right before Christmas 2006. Dumre was written with my host sitting next to me. 

When we travel, we step into another corner of the world. whether it’s here in the USA or several timezones away, it’s a fleeting experience, so document it. Even if you don’t normally keep a journal, there are great reasons to sit and write when you travel. If you’re heading out on a Kingdom Workers project, you have a mission. Spreading the gospel through some earthly activity. Maybe you’re teaching VBS, or pounding nails on a  construction site. Perhaps you’ll find yourself in a remote village in Africa standing side by side with a Christian brother looking up at a sea of stars. You owe it to yourself and your supporters to document it. 

1)  Be diligent and regular with it. 

When I travel, I like to write at the end of my day.  The events are still fresh in my mind. Others like to start their day reflecting. Whatever you decide, do it. Hold yourself to at least one entry everyday.

I strongly prefer to handwrite a journal and then rewrite on a computer when I get home. Maybe I’m old-fashion, but I still believe that a pen and paper can capture subtle details better than a keyboard.  When you get home, writing it up for the second time helps to bring clarity and fullness to the stories.  

2) Be specific. 

I have a few entries in my old journals that are definitely in my handwriting, but have no idea what they mean. Tell the entire story as clearly and completely as you can. Write down peoples’ names. You’ll forget them if you don’t. Your future self will thank you. 

I find that answering certain questions helps me to focus my thoughts. For example: "What do you wish you could bring home with you, but can’t?" Or "What element of the culture do you admire the most?” “How is God working here?” 

When you focus on a specific idea, others will organically come out. What was your biggest regret? What will you tell the donors that helped fund your project? 

3) Don’t feel limited to words.  

Like I said above, I have sketches in many of my journals. Many times, they were drawn when I have trying to communicate with a person when the spoken language wasn’t an option. Maybe you’re talking with a farmer, and you want to figure out what types of crops he grows, how much land he works and what the biggest challenge is. You don’t need words for that. Capture it graphically in your journal, and then write about it that evening. 

Bonus: Always keep a note card in your wallet. Sometimes your journal won’t be easily accessible. Pull out the note card, use it and then glue it into your book later. 

Triple-Point-Score: Write an entry before you travel. What are you anticipating? Fears? Goals? Prayers? Leave it at home on your fridge. Compare your notes after you return.  

Photo Credits: Tingting Schwartz, 

About the Author:  Dan Jaspersen is Director of Marketing Communication for Kingdom Workers. Before joining KW, he worked in Global Web-Marketing, International Relations in Asia, backpacked Eastern Europe and studied in South America.