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Other people. It’s crazy the way they can touch our lives and change us. And not just the ones we know and love. Even the total strangers. Have you ever had an innocent exchange with someone in passing, where they say or do something that seems totally innocuous & forgettable, but years later you still remember it? Maybe you even did something different because of it? I’ve had that happen so many times.

One of those moments happened for me many years ago on a Greek vacation with two of my best friends. On the flight from Crete to Skiathos, a woman juggling a bunch of items in her hands dropped a small, tattered, leatherbound book as she attempted to take the seat next to me. I picked it up for her, and that kicked off a brief conversation. Turned out she was a photographer who traveled frequently for work. The book she dropped was her personal travel journal.

The woman told me she started journaling to keep a record of all the places she visited, but quickly discovered journaling was so much more than that. Her journal was a travel buddy, someone to talk to during her solo travels. And when she had to kill time—like long flights—it was a welcome distraction from the chaos, making the time go faster.

As I tried to read my book on that flight, and she wrote away in her journal, I found myself pondering our exchange. Why hadn’t I thought to bring a cool-looking tattered travel journal instead of the only-partially-interesting beach read in my hand? I totally had FOMO before I even knew what FOMO was. Days later, I bought my first journal.

Fast forward to present day, even though I’ve happily swapped air travel for RV travel, one thing hasn’t changed—I’m still journaling. And here’s something funny. Just like the woman on the plane, I went into it with the plan that I’d journal to have a record of the places I visited. But, just like her discovery that record-keeping played only a minor part in journaling’s benefits, I had a similar epiphany.

For me, journaling is a chance to write for ME. I’ve done a lot of writing for others over the years— and that sort of writing is built around topics the readers would find interesting. When I write in my journal though, I’m not tailoring my content to an external audience. I’ve got a readership of one, and that allows me to speak unfiltered—the good, the bad, and everything in between. That’s just one of the many extra benefits journaling provides. The woman on the plane, all that time ago, warned me that journaling is so much more than record-keeping. It wasn’t until I was doing it myself that I finally heard her.

Here are some other bonus features I’ve discovered, and why I hope you’ll to give it a try, too:

Journaling lets you slow down and soak it all in.

Traveling can be a whirlwind, and if you aren’t careful, you can go through your trip in a rush without ever being fully present. To really absorb the experiences you’re having on your trip, journaling is a way for you to pause in the moment, and write about what you’re seeing, thinking, and feeling. It encourages you to be a more mindful participant in your travels.

Journaling stimulates your memory.

Science suggests that your brain stores information more efficiently when you write it down. So, when you write about your travels in your journal, you’re helping your brain file away the experience for easier access in the future. Many years from now, you’ll be able to recollect those memories better than if you hadn’t written them down.

Journaling helps you learn about yourself.

Traveling allows you to discover new things about yourself—perhaps things you didn’t know you liked, or even disliked. Journaling about these experiences helps you decode your self-discoveries in a more reflective and analytic way. Having a written conversation with yourself helps you make better sense of things, and can ultimately lead to improved self-awareness.

Journaling brings out your creativity.

There are no rules with journaling—no wrong or right way to do it. You can sketch in your journal, add in photos, postcards, ticket stubs, anything you want. The beauty of journaling is there’s no one—besides yourself—to pass judgement. Journaling encourages creativity, and we all need creative outlets as a way we can express ourselves and feel productive.

Journaling gives you somewhere to vent unfiltered.

Things go wrong on trips; we’ve all been there. If we were to vent about it to others, we may hold back a little, or filter what we say. When you vent to your journal, there’s no need to hold back. You can lay it all out; and your journal will take it without judgement. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel, too. Journaling can be cathartic in that way; letting you release your emotions, so you can look at problems more objectively.

A travel journal can double as a practical tool.

You can use your journal to keep all sorts of useful information. Me personally; I’m partial to lists. You can go many directions with lists: To Do lists, Travel Wishlists, Favorite Restaurant lists, pro/con lists. You can also plan future trips in your journal; identifying campgrounds or interesting destinations you’d like to visit.

Old journals are a goldmine to Future You.

Years later, when you look back at your old travel journals, you get something priceless. You get an intimate look at experiences you’ve perhaps almost forgotten—things that were once so important to you, whether good or bad, that you took the time to write them down. Old journals offer a rare perspective on who you were, and even better, they let you see how far you’ve come. They make you grateful for the journey you’ve had; and give you the inspiration to keep going, and keep finding the adventures out there. It’s a fascinating gift you can give yourself years from now.

So, next RV trip, give it a try! Perhaps it’ll be the start of a brand-new lifelong friendship; between you and the pages.