There is a meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Writing to Deepen Our Travel Experiences

Stockholm in August, for me, involved generations together, learning history in castles (one with a royal theatre for intimate family evenings), and picnics in parks. In my shadow photo here, I am ‘reading’ medieval runes carved into stone more than 1000 years ago on behalf of a timeless mother asking all passersby to remember her son who died for his lord.

Home now, my spirit is busy sorting out the meanings of my summer travels.

Journaling about a trip – before, during and after – can contribute to the impact of travel upon your growing self.  Setting intentions (such as travel lightly, be open to the unexpected) can expand possibilities.  Then, jotting down brief images and impressions during travel can sharpen perception and enhance attention. Finally, savoring the meanings of diverse experiences and observations through reflective or creative writing afterwards can foster imagination, generate insights into your way of being in the world, uncover lessons learned, and raise questions for further exploration.

NEWS – Writing Down Our Years Website – Updated

The website has been updated, with more drop-down menus and an Events tab for announcing coming events.  On the right of the Home Page is a new Search box and a link to Blog Archives where you can view the monthly blogs by topic.  See also the new Quick Links at the bottom right.

Writing Exercises – Savour Travel Experiences

These exercises can be used to focus on your most recent trip, or a significant trip from long ago.

Describe your travel experiences in terms of colours — not only the greens of  forest and metal grey of  skyscrapers, but also the shades of your feelings.  For example:  pink cherry blossom feeling when you first saw your granddaughter;  burst of primary colours when you finally reached the top of the long climb; flaming flag in your mind’s eye when you realized the tourist agent made a key mistake; palest blue of the winter sky for the ache of saying goodbye.

List 20 action verbs to describe your trip. Then write 10 minutes, including as many as possible.

Select 10 photos from your trip, then write a story of your trip working in the people, places, and activities displayed in the photos.

Write a letter to grandchildren after joint travels or traveling to visit them.  These can be wonderful keepsakes for both young and old (and the generation in-between).

Finally, you can list surprises or lessons learned during your trip and write about one of them quickly in as much concrete, sensory and action detail as possible.

Civic Engagement – Tips for Writers

Writers can offer services to senior centres or senior travel agencies to help groups journal during their trip to deepen their experiences. Alternatively, we could lead a discussion session, “What did I do in my summer holiday or winter trip?”, with writing exercises like those above. Volunteer visitors to the ill and homebound can elicit conversation and stories to record by asking individuals to talk about special trips over the years.  These could be to exotic places or the regular trips to the cottage or to visit specific relatives.


The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road

Paul Theroux         Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2011

Acclaimed travel writer, Paul Theroux, now age 71, has collected his favourite writings on travel to celebrate half a century of telling stories about his global wanderings.

Theroux has creatively organized best travel writings according to fascinating themes, beginning with his own favourite manner of travel: The Pleasures of the Railways. Some writers are given special sections for their travel wisdom include Henry Fielding, Samuel Johnson, Sir Francis Galton, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Claude Levi-Strauss.  Other authors have excerpts scattered throughout the book. Names you will recognize include: Marco Polo, Basho, Charles Dickens, Henry David Thoreau, Vladimir Nabokov, Anton Chekhov, D. H. Lawrence, and Mark Twain.

The table of contents meanders along the landscapes of travel to cover topics such as It is Solved by Walking, Murphy’s Rules of Travel, The Things They Carried, Classics of a Sense of Place, and Writers and the Places They Never Visited

Selections are organized creatively so as to provoke reflections on the meanings of travel – many good lines to start a morning’s journaling.

Theroux harvests his many travel books to offer his own long-lived perspective on the spirit of travel. Note the varying views of seeking home through travel.

Being invisible – the usual condition of the older traveler,
is much more useful than being obvious.

Travel is at its most rewarding
when it ceases to be about your reaching a destination
and becomes indistinguishable from living your life.

You go away for a long time and return a different person –
you never come all the way back.

Whatever else travel is, it is also an occasion to dream and remember.

You sit in an alien landscape and you are visited by the all the people who have been awful to you.
You have nightmares in strange beds.

You recall episodes that you have not thought of for years
and but for that noise from the street or that powerful odor of jasmine
you might have forgotten.

Travel is flight and pursuit in equal parts.

All travel is circular … After all, the grand tour is just the inspired man’s way of heading home.

It might be said that a great unstated reason for travel is to find places that exemplify where one has been happiest. Looking for the idealized version of home – indeed, looking for the perfect memory.

Travel is a vanishing act, a solitary trip down a pinched line of geography to oblivion.

One of the greatest rewards of travel is the return home to the reassurance of family and old friends, familiar sights and homely comforts and your own bed.


All good trips are, like love, about being carried out of yourself
and deposited in the midst of terror and wonder.

~ Pico Iyer

Travel to strange places can make us strangers to ourselves,
but it can also introduce us to all the exhilarating possibilities
of a new self in a new world.
~ Don George

Perhaps, then, this was what traveling was,
an exploration of the deserts of my mind rather than those surrounding me.
~ Claude Levi-Strauss

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
~ C. P. Cadafy

We shall not cease from exploring,
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
~ T S Eliot

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
~ John O’Donohue

With these intriguing travel quotations, I say adieu until next time,