With long hours spent in the car, road trips provide a unique opportunity for thought and reflection. This extra time to think can cause creativity to flourish. Journaling can be an excellent way to preserve thoughts and reflections during our travels. These road trip journal ideas will help you get started.
Focus on the Small Things
When journaling, we can sometimes get caught up in trying to record the big events taking place. Maybe we stopped off at an amusement park or visited a museum or famous landmark. These things can be great to take note of, but they often aren’t our most meaningful road trip memories.
On one of our family road trips, we drove cross country and back, stopping in multiple cities and traveling for over three weeks in total. You would think after such a trip, the kids might remember most vividly one of the particularly fun parks or places we visited.
Instead, the memory my twin daughters (who were four at the time) talked about the most was a small moment that we hadn’t even planned. Stepping out of a restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, just after a heavy rain, we saw a huge rainbow in the sky.
My daughters continued to talk about this experience for months afterwards. They periodically drew pictures of the scene: the rainstorm, our family eating dinner at the restaurant, then us standing outside the door looking up at the rainbow. This simple moment is what they’ve remembered most from our trip.
Writing about moments such as this–the small things–can make your road trip journal more meaningful. This can also be a great opportunity to draw or sketch in your journal. Instead of worrying about creating a realistic rendition of what you’ve seen, draw it the way that you experience it.
Write Poetry in Your Journal
Travel helps to take us out of our comfort zones. Maybe you’ve never really written poetry before. Perhaps you find it intimidating. This can be the perfect time to try your hand at writing a poem.
It doesn’t have to be long or sophisticated. Just give it a try and see how you do. On the journal page with your poem, you can draw or paste in pictures or small maps that will help you remember where you were at the time.
Try Your Hand at Flash Fiction
Journal entries don’t need to be long or laborious. Consider challenging yourself to write an intentionally short, but meaningful, piece in your journal.
Flash fiction is the art of writing a story that is extremely short but still meaningful. A good piece of flash fiction has a plot and conveys something to the reader but with very few words.
Within the scope of flash fiction, there are different lengths: the shortest is the six-word story. Longer versions usually range from 50-1000 words. A great road trip journal exercise can be to write a six-word story.
Perhaps the most famous example of flash fiction is the six-word story generally attributed to Ernest Hemingway. The entire story consists of these six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
Still with these brief words, we have a story, something we can think about and understand. Though short, flash fiction pieces can actually be quite difficult to compose well. If you’d like to read some flash fiction writing tips, you can check out this article from The Writer.
The time spent driving or riding in the car during a road trip lends itself particularly well to flash fiction, though. Even without a pen and paper, you can practice writing six-word stories. Once you compose one you like, remember it and take it down in your journal later that day. You may even find you have a talent for such writing.
Take out menus, printed maps, brochures, ticket stubs, hotel stationery, and even gas station receipts can be used to create collages in your journal. Use your creativity in cutting out pieces of each item you’d like to include. Paste them in your journal in a way that conveys meaning to you.
On long road trips, you can create collages for each state or for each day of your trip. Adding captions to the collages can help you remember special meanings.
Write About Memory Associations
Associative memory is often talked about as a hack to memorize new information or study for exams. It’s also a fundamental way that our brains work, though. We associate new things with what we’ve already experienced in the past.
On a road trip, you will be constantly encountering new places and sights. Your brain will keep associating these new experiences with others from your past. This provides a great opportunity to think about the past and reflect on those memories and how they relate to who you are today.
For a journal prompt, consider writing about memory associations you experienced throughout the day. If you set this goal for yourself in the morning, you will likely become more conscious of your memory associations as the day progresses.
As you travel and take in all of the new sights, try to focus on what memories they bring to your mind. Then take note of those observations in your road trip journal.
Imagine Your Life in One of the Cities or Towns You Visit
What if you lived in El Paso, Texas, or Laramie, Wyoming, or Cincinnati, Ohio? What if you just picked up and moved there one day? How would your life be different? How would it be the same?
These can be fun ideas and possibilities to think about on a road trip. Of course, it’s difficult to really know what our lives would be like without actually making the move. We can let our creativity and imagination guide us a bit though.
It can be interesting to think about how much our lives are affected by our external location and circumstances. Writing in your journal about this imagined life in one of the cities you pass through can help preserve any insights you come upon.
Write About the Natural Beauty You Encounter
One of the joys of a road trip is seeing all of the beauty of nature in its different elements and forms. Deserts, mountains, rivers, and plains are all unique and amazing in their own ways.
Driving through Louisiana, my family was particularly taken in by the mystery and beauty of the swamps. It was unlike anything we had seen before. Viewing such scenery with a writer’s eye, focusing on how to best describe what you see, can help you better remember and appreciate the beauty of nature.
Create Your Own Road Trip Quote
Online, you’ll find many lists with famous road trip and travel quotes. You’ll find quotes by everyone from Kerouac to Confucius. Read some of them and see what resonates with you.
What does travel mean to you? Has your road trip changed or affected you in a meaningful way? Think about what your own road trip quote would be. Once you come up with something you like, record it in your journal.
People-Watch and Write About the Experience
It’s all too easy to let a hectic road trip driving schedule keep you from spending much time in any one cafe or park. Take some time out one day to sit, open up your journal, drink a cup of tea or coffee, and people-watch for a while. This works particularly well if you’re sitting in a location where people are passing by frequently.
Try writing about the people you see. Imagine they are characters in a novel you’re writing. What assumptions are you making about them? What are the chances those assumptions are correct? If they are incorrect, what might the truth be?
Plan Your Next Road Trip
If you’re a traveler at heart, as your road trip comes to an end, you’ll likely start thinking about your next trip. Even on a cross country road trip, there’s so much you won’t have a chance to see.
What routes and highways would you like to drive next time? What places would you like to visit? Take down some notes in your journal that will be of help when the time comes to start really planning your next epic road trip.
Use This Experience to Continue Journaling When You Get Home
After creating and maintaining your road trip journal, you’ll be in the habit of writing. If you don’t already journal or keep a diary at home, this can be a great time to begin. Journaling doesn’t have to mean writing for a set amount of time each day or committing to filling a given number of pages.
Even just taking down a few ideas, plans, or memories each day can be beneficial. On days when you have more time, or feel like writing more, you can try following a journal writing prompt or working on writing something more in depth.
At the end of your road trip, look over your journal. Think about its value to you and the experience of creating it. If you found it worthwhile, now’s the perfect time to start a regular journaling habit.