In the first couple days of 2020, I serendipitously noticed an old travel journal lying on the bottom of my bookshelf. Realizing that it was my collection of daily travel notes and memories from a January trip through Europe that I took in 2008, I thought it might be a good idea to read one entry per day, each one exactly twelve years later. All the better, I went on this month-long trip with two of my best friends—who I am still in regular touch with today—and decided to send them a daily historical recap via text message. Needless to say, we’ve had a great time reminiscing, and the journal has illuminated many otherwise-forgotten events, people, and experiences. Not only has it been a bonding experience, but in reading my writing from so long ago, I’ve noticed and appreciated ways in which I have grown since that time.
Whether while traveling or during our daily lives, sometimes we’re moving so fast that we cannot, or simply do not, take the time to stop and reflect. Yet I believe there’s enormous spiritual value in doing so, and as I’ve discovered over the course of this month, when it comes to journaling that value is far from finite. Rather, the act of journaling helps one to process and encode events and emotions as they occur, while granting accessibility to these feelings years later. In turn they can even serve as a source of support, encouragement, or contemplation, and one that can be revisited again and again as needed. I wonder if our predecessors had a better understanding of this value, as it’s interesting to consider how often historical figures seem to have kept journals. One might argue that they had more time to write, but perhaps it’s not that simple and they were onto something that we’ve largely forgotten.
Back in the present, this month I learned that a friend is quitting his job to travel the world with his wife for a year, in yet another deliciously serendipitous confluence of events. As someone who has taken a year-long trip in the past, I offered to meet with him to provide what perspective and advice I could. Among my suggestions—keeping a journal to capture his experiences. While I succeeded in maintaining a journal back in 2008, I did not capitalize on the months-long trips I took in 2011 and 2015, and now view that as a missed opportunity. My hope is that he will find an approach that works for him and will capture some important reflections while undergoing his potentially life-changing trip.
And now I’d like to make the same suggestion to all of you: Consider taking some time to slow down and incorporate journaling into your life. Based on my own experience, I’ll add a caveat—be realistic. The daily format I used for my 2008 trip was manageable with our frequent train trips and shorter overall timeframe, but in trying to create an extensive blog for my much longer 2011 trip, I ultimately burned out. So, if you’re interested in journaling, I would suggest writing about something of importance to you, and critically, with a frequency and thoroughness that is manageable. Journaling should be fun and perhaps spiritually illuminating, but certainly not a chore.
To bring all these thoughts full circle, I’m presently contemplating a new topic I want to journal and wish you luck and spiritual growth should you be considering starting a journal as well.