Secret {W} Business: Keep Calm and Vacation Journal

April 7, 2014

When I was 20, I took a summer trip to Paris with four friends. For one week, we soaked in museums, explored various neighbourhoods, and ate too many tarte aux framboises to count. We had many new experiences that week, though I have difficulty recalling the exact details.

I remember the week afterward in near perfect clarity. While my friends left for home, I remained in the city and spent my days getting lost down narrow cobblestone streets and in books while sipping café crèmes. One afternoon, I was reading in an all-white café when I looked up and was struck by an extremely elegant woman a table across from me.  Everything from her hair and make up, to blazer and charm bracelet screamed chic. I (tried to) discreetly pulled out my notebook and proceeded to write down exactly what she was wearing. Of course, what I wanted to remember wasn’t just the way she put her outfit together. I wanted to understand why her image was able to inspire me. What was she projecting that I wanted to embody? In writing notes about her outfit, I was able to process my emotions from the last week and ultimately better understand my internal debate on the type of woman I wanted to be.

Travelling often results in emotions are being pulled in ways we can’t comprehend in the moment. Vacation journaling can help jump-start the understanding process. Here are 3 reasons for why you should consider packing pen and paper next time you embark on an adventure.

Write to understand

When abroad, what is mundane to locals might be fascinating for you. The design of a bus stop or colour of a shop door may spark a hundred new ideas. One of the most wonderful aspects of travelling is the extent to which your comfort zone is challenged, but an overflow of emotions – both good and bad – can be overwhelming. Ask yourself, what unconscious thoughts are manifesting themselves in scattered inspirations? Writing is a meaning-making process; use it to process your thoughts and focus your inspirations into action points.

Write To Tell Your Brain to Remember

Keeping a vacation journal during my second week in Paris is a key reason why I am able to recall it so vividly. Not that I refer to my vacation journal frequently; the memories stay with me. A number of studies suggest that because writing requires evaluating and ordering information, it helps cement ideas in our minds. Anthropologist Dustin Max refers to this as a “mental Catch-22” because “the only way not to have to write things down is to write them down so you remember them well enough not to have written them down.”

Write So Your Brain Reminds You Not to Forget

To get more scientific, writing stimulates the reticular activating system (RAS), which refers to cells at the base of the brain. The RAS filters information the brain receives and gives priority to what you are actively focusing on in the moment; the act of writing signifies the importance of your words.

While I know that my Paris memories are safely stored in my vacation journal, my mind reminds me of my trip whenever my thoughts turn to self-discovery. Consider that vacation journaling is ideal for go-getter women as it maximizes impact while saving time.

Have you ever kept a vacation journal? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Image cover source: Anirudh Koul

This article first appeared on Secret {W} Business, a “community made to support female entrepreneurs, changemakers and innovators” in Asia Pacific. Click to read the article here.

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