The following is a guest post by Carrie Hokanson.
*If you’d like to share your story by blogging, here is our guide: How to Start a Travel Blog*
Riding camels in North Africa and petting elephants in Southeast Asia. Long nights and early mornings at Spanish Botellones and salsa bars. Tenting on a rooftop in Nepal, surrounded by 360 degrees of Himalayan Mountains. Holding baby crocodiles in Australia. The Taj Mahal, Mount Everest, La Alhambra, the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum, Buckingham Palace. Museums and castles and parks and rivers and oceans and coffee shops and hostels.
These are all actual experiences I have had over the years. As fun and wonderful as they all were, sometimes it is difficult to share about those experiences once I am “back to reality.”
What happens when you come home? What do you do when the dust settles, you’ve unpacked your suitcase, shown off your souvenirs, and—gasp—everyone moves on with life, regardless of the fact that you’ve been forever changed, completely transformed by the experiences you had overseas? How do you put words to your experiences?
This re-entry season is hard for anyone who has traveled, no matter how short or long. Here are some ways to help you both during and after you travels to experience your trip fully and share those experiences with others.
During Your Travels
Remember three things:
When you travel, it is easy to devote your attention to all the major landmarks like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Don’t forget the accordion player by that crepe place you love. What’s his story? And the locks along the bridge of the Seine. How many lovers have thrown their keys into the river below?
Engage every sense: the sound of leaves crunching beneath your feet as you mosey through the bright hues of the open-air market; the smell of fresh-baked bread; the taste of sparkling wine bubbling in your mouth. Take it all in, which leads to the next step…
This seems like a given, but it is amazing how many people get caught up with following an itinerary or capturing everything on camera that they actually miss out on the experience itself. Don’t overlook the little surprises, the subtle gifts, and the impromptu moments that can mean more than the schedule.
Take time to get away and process, however that looks for you: journaling, drawing, meditating. Try writing yourself a postcard from every city you visit, recording a memory, feeling, or experience you had there. Remember people you met and off-the-beaten path excursions you took.
Years from now, you will want to be able to look back on more than a souvenir spoon or magnet. As time passes, you’ll find there are memories that stick out more than others, but unfortunately, a million tiny ones that are lost forever. How will you capture those? I say write about it daily. It’s also good to process your experiences with someone traveling with you, like a classmate or friend.
Your story matters and you have to tell it
As difficult as it can be at times, you have to share your story. Your story gives voice and life to actual people and places around the globe. Your story can change lives and empower others.
Here are some ways to share your story:
Travel has a way a teaching you about the world and yourself. Few experiences offer the chance for self-discovery the way traveling does. Take time before, during, and after your trip to process your thoughts and feelings toward the experience and yourself.
Before you leave, ask yourself some questions:
- What are my goals for this trip?
- What do I want to get out of it?
- Who do I want to become?
Examine the emotions you’re feeling. Write these things down or sketch them out. It is amazing to go back and read about the you before you left and who you became through the process.
During your trip, follow the observe, experience, reflect suggestions listed above. Continue processing your thoughts, emotions, and reactions throughout and after your trip.
Meet one-on-one with friends over coffee or brunch to discuss your travels. Don’t wait for people to approach you about it, invite them first. Often when someone returns from a trip, her friends assume she is so tired from traveling or busy seeing other people, they back off. Then the traveler feels like no one wants to hear about her trip and decides not talk about it among friends. Take the initiative; you’ve traveled the world, sister, you can set up a happy hour date!
Throw a dinner party where everyone has a chance to share about their experiences and look through photos. You can even serve local cuisine from the places you traveled, or try a potluck where everyone brings food from a different location around the globe. The key is inviting people into your story and experiences.
Nowadays it’s easier than ever to document your travels and keep people at home up to date on what’s happening where you are. Not only is internet more accessible in more places than before, but apps like Instagram and Twitter make on-the-go journalism simple.
Blogging during your trip makes it easier for friends and family at home to keep up with your journey and feel like they are experiencing it with you.
>> Check out HPL’s guide on How to Start a Travel Blog
This also makes a difference when you come home. It can be too overwhelming for both you and your friend to try to sum up your entire trip in one sitting. A friend keeping up with your experience will be able to ask specific questions regarding your trip and you will be able to go into greater detail about things without having to give a long back story.
When you return from your trip, don’t stop blogging! Blogging is a great way to reach a wide audience, and connect with people you may not otherwise rub shoulders with. There are plenty of opportunities to guest post for other blogs and online publications.
There are always more stories, reflections, and memories to be shared. You may find yourself years after you’ve returned using a story from your travels as a metaphor for something going on in your life in the present. You never know what lessons you will continue learning from your time aboard long after you are home.
You will soon discover that your experiences and how they affect you will unfold slowly and all at once, for years and in a single moment.
Consider speaking for organizations, institutions, etc., that have to do with your experience. Go on a mission trip? Talk to a church or youth group. Volunteer with a non-profit? Arrange a speaking engagement with that nonprofit and other nonprofits that support similar causes. If you studied abroad, check with your university or third-party provider about opportunities to become a peer-mentor for prospective study abroad students, or to speak at an informational session.
The most important part is to be present wherever you are. Whether it’s a wine bar in Spain or a coffee shop in Austin, be honest—with yourself and those around you— and live life fully.
Don’t stop sharing your story—you never know just who needs to hear it.
About the Author: Carrie Hokanson is a silver-lining realist, both dreamer and doer. A writer in Austin, Texas, she’s been around the world and back again, making jokes and telling stories along the way. She also believes in giving a voice to those who have been silenced. Carrie is the Business Development Manager for Millennium Tours, and uses her storytelling and marketing skills to get people off the couch and into a full life. See what’s tweetin: @carriehokie.