Here’s how keeping a travel diary can support your mental wellbeing

This article was created by Lauren Miles, proud Aussie and an ambassador for The Travel Project.

7/9/16
"Dear Diary, my anxiety is kicking in so bad right now. I’m eager to meet the other travellers but because I am shy I’m so scared that they won’t like me...”

23/9/16
"Dear Diary, my Contiki trip just ended and I don’t want to leave Amsterdam! These past two weeks have been incredible, and I feel stronger…”

These extracts reveal two very different emotions from my first ever overseas trip on Contiki’s European Highlights tour: fear and utter bewilderment. This adventure transformed my life. I know this through memories, souvenirs, photos and videos, however a stronger piece of evidence affirms this: a handwritten diary.

“Ugh, writing,” I hear you say, however taking a journal whilst travelling can be very effective in building self-esteem and reinforcing an overall positive well-being in 3 key ways.

Travel flat lay - Diary, passport and sunglasses

1. A diary shows the impact travel has on you

Using a diary can reveal how your emotions change in response to new experiences. If it’s your first-time travelling, leaving the comfort of familiar surroundings, flying on planes or meeting strangers can initially feel quite intimidating – however you could react very differently when doing these things in real life.

For example, I am an Australian who greatly feared navigating unfamiliar cities, and the idea of spending a day in London alone prior to my Contiki trip departure immensely triggered this stress. In response, I wrote my actual experience in my diary:

"It was surprisingly easy for me to find my way around due to so many maps on street blocks – much easier than Sydney! Today made me so proud of myself.”

Recording this change in feelings will help you understand the emotional impacts travel had upon you. Whilst these may differ for all of us, they are typically positive and will strengthen self-esteem.

RELATED: THERE IS ACTUAL DEFINITIVE PROOF THAT TRAVEL IMPROVES YOUR BRAIN HEALTH 

2. Writing a diary relieves stress

Writing down feelings of stress, worry and anger in a journal can provide significant emotional relief; this is important when travelling far from home as losing physical connections with family and friends can affect how you effectively cope with such pressures. Projecting this into a diary can help detach you from these tense feelings, and let you regain confidence and control.

“I suffered a huge panic attack. My transfer driver got stuck in traffic, but I didn’t know and thought he had left so I freaked out and almost cried. I’m still a bit shook”

"I suffered a huge panic attack. My transfer driver got stuck in traffic, but I didn’t know and thought he had left so I freaked out and almost cried. I’m still a bit shook”

You’re constantly moving when travelling, so effectively expressing all that unwanted stress becomes easier if you have a diary; write your doubt – get it out.

Diary close up

3. A diary is a great source of reassurance and inspiration

Re-reading diary entries from your travels reinforces a positive outlook. You remember the thrills, challenges, inspirations and pleasures. When you start feeling the weight of doubt, stress or sadness, reading your journal can revive all those electrifying feelings you experienced whilst travelling and help rebalance emotions.

RELATED: JOURNALING GOT ME THROUGH 4 YEARS OF ANXIETY AND HELPED ME FIND MY PASSION

All those breathtaking travel memories rush back with each word you read – seeing the Eiffel Tower glimmer at night, cruising along the Danube in Budapest, watching the beautiful sunset in Santorini and shouting ‘prost’ with friends at Oktoberfest – the feeling you get is both nostalgic and bliss.

When feeling blue, the entries you make in a diary can be very reassuring and encourage optimism upon your return home from travelling.
Diary on a girls lap

Don’t forget that your writing structure matters to achieve the greatest impact from your diary! For each recorded date, try this format:

Where you are
Who you are with
What happened that day
How it made you feel
Why you felt that way

A journal is essentially the storybook of your travels – it contains a beginning, conflict and ending.

Reliving this story can be key in improving self-esteem, releasing locked-up emotions, restoring positivity in your everyday life and giving you something to look back on and smile at. But who knows, your next big page-filling adventure may be waiting just around the corner! And when it finally arrives, start it off with a ‘dear diary…’

 

This piece was written by Lauren Miles for The Travel Project. If you’ve got similar experiences or travel stories to share with us, head here to find out more about how you could see your work published on six-two…

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