Thursday, July 18, 2013

Writing Projects: Travel Journals

Today's entry is a coming together of data from a variety of sources which have inspired me to create as well as move forward in my writing endeavors.  Chronologically, this is how it all melded together.

In January, 2012, I took an online travel writing class with Dave Fox, the author of Globejotting, a book I enjoyed reading prior to my trip to Paris.  In that book, Dave not only taught how to maintain a travel journal while on vacation, but he also encouraged pre-journaling as a way of exploring expectations and increasing anticipation prior to a trip.... and then post-journaling as a way of slowing down the memories and writing with depth of insight and awareness.

At the beginning of the summer I began an online journaling class from Susannah Conway in which she encouraged participants to maintain an every day journal as well as a "dream" journal.  I struggle greatly with the concept of dreams:  I rarely remember my night dreams once I wake up, and I keep a close rein on those I might ponder during the day.  I fear they would only lead to disappointment.  BUT... I do allow myself to dream of future vacation destinations.  I filed away her information, but chose to focus on the daily journal for the time being.

In June I took a Travel Writing class at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and through a series of writing prompts, solidified my travel dreams. Perhaps I will share the full essay in this space another time, but for now, I will just share the essence:
I do not yearn to travel the world.  It is not because I do not find other cultures worthy of visit or study, but it is because I wish to become intimate with every place I visit, and that is simply not possible on a breadth scale.  I suppose my travels mirror my friendships:  I would prefer to have a few intimate friends than several casual acquaintances.  I wish to travel and live and fully know a few cultures than experience the tourist relationship of several.
 The essay focused on four distinct places:  New York City... Paris... London... and Italy (I simply cannot narrow the choice to just one city in this captivating country).  But my desire goes beyond a short-term visit... that is simply not enough for me.  I yearn to take up residence for at least three months in each of these locations and experience the daily life as a native.  The class comments I received after sharing my piece were, "You write with such conviction... you will make this happen."  And that got me thinking....

Rather than creating one all-encompassing dream journal, I will create a dream travel journal.  And rather than cramming all the dreams into one large journal, I will develop one for each destination.  And rather than using collage materials culled from magazines, I would use my own photographs, and stickers, and paper collected for scrapbooking projects.  The wheels started turning... and the project took shape.

I already owned the photo boxes from an impromptu purchase two years ago.  I have quite the collection of decorative card stock and scrapbooking embellishments for imagined projects that have yet to take place.  My collection even extends to a few rubber stamp sets that embody the passion to travel.  I had recently purchased the "perfect" journal for New York City, and knew that others must exist for different popular cities.  It was all coming together:  the dreams, the supplies, the desire, the determination, and the purpose.  

While the timing of these extensive travels might be several years away, I can fan the flame in the present.  I can do some post-journaling of past trips and delve into the inner journey experience as well as recall the sensory details of the physical trip.  Using the decorative items, I could have some fun by adding color and whimsical images.  I could also do some pre-journaling exploration of what I would hope to accomplish by living as a native in these iconic cities.  And all of this activity would help me to hone my skills as a writer.

I have attempted arts and crafts too many times to trust myself to follow through on a project of this magnitude.  So I tried to develop a system to manage the process.  Each box is a self-contained unit with a pair of scissors, adhesive, and journaling pen; paper, stickers, stamps, etc that are focused on its particular region; and decorative washi tape in coordinating colors.  When the mood strikes to write about a particular experience... London for example... I need only grab my London box to capitalize on that thought.  

The supplies in the Zabar's bag (one of my favorite foodie shops on the Upper West Side of Manhattan) are general travel decorations, as well as useful cutting tools to trim paper or photos.  This bag will also be useful to the process, and allow for easy transport.

So while the days of carefree travel to exotic destinations may be a little ways off, the inspiration to make such trips a reality is right at my fingertips.

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