The Art and Craft of the Voyage of Discovery

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

Guest post by Joanna Paterson

Travel can be a great way not just to see new things but to see with ‘new eyes’.

Sometimes those shifts in insight and perspective come along as an unintended consequence of going to different places and absorbing so many new sights and sounds.

Sometimes you set off with the deliberate intention of learning a bit more about yourself as well as the places on your travel itinerary.

But how do you actually process all the learning that comes your way when you’re traveling? When you’re over-loaded with information, images, strangeness, wonder, insights, thoughts, emotions, and realisations… what do you do to make sense of all that stuff?

Here are some suggestions to help you learn from and process what you’re discovering:

Write things down

There’s nothing that can beat just writing things down, the old-fashioned pen and paper way. It’s a simple but effective way to process your thoughts, impressions, emotions and reactions, as well as to capture the detail of what you’ve seen and discovered.

Although it might come out scrawled and jumbled it’ll help you to order your thoughts (and get to sleep at night) and you might well find there are some gems of insights that you want to come back to later.

Write e-mails

Sitting down to compose a message to friends and family is another simple way of capturing and processing your thoughts. Take some time to look back at your messages after you come back from your travels and you might well notice patterns and themes emerging, or turns of phrase that seem to have particular significance. Giving yourself a bit of space to reflect on these can be a simple way to capture some of the learning from your journey (as well as reliving the pleasure of your travels!)

Keep a blog

Lots of people start blogging when they travel – there’s so much to say and to share, and it’s a great way to reach a lot of people. The framework of blogging can also help you to structure and organise your thoughts. Looking for a heading or caption, keeping the story short enough that people will read it, finding the right words to convey the quality of the experience, all this will help you to filter and process what you’ve encountered. It might also turn into a writing habit you’re stuck on once you get back!

Take photos

Okay, so you probably don’t need encouragement to take photos, for most of us that’s already a huge part of the pleasure of the travel experience. But photos aren’t just an instant image of a place or moment. They can also help you to remember a mood or a thought when you look back on them. Sometimes you’ll notice patterns, themes, colours or symbols emerging, or spot things that you’ve been (perhaps subconsciously) paying attention to. It’s all food for thought! Try asking yourself: what signs are your photos pointing to?

Photo by Joanna Paterson

Allow yourself to look differently

Travel gives us the chance to explore what’s new and different. Give yourself the chance when you’re away to ‘try on’ different eyes. That might be looking out for different kinds of images, or framing and editing them in different ways. It might be experimenting with writing about what you’ve seen, noticed, heard and discovered.

One of the most powerful things we learn from travel is letting go of some limiting beliefs about how things ‘should’ be done. That can be why culture shock feels so uncomfortable at times (shocking even!)

Applying some of that new way of looking at and thinking about the world can help you feel like a voyager even when you’re back home.

And it can help you reflect on and learn from what you’ve found while you were traveling with that new pair of eyes.


What techniques have you used to help you pay attention, notice and reflect when you’ve been travelling? Do you prefer digital means or old fashioned pen and paper?

How do you hold on to some of those noticing and reflecting habits once you’re back home again?

2 Comment to “The Art and Craft of the Voyage of Discovery”

  1. Alex says:

    If I were a heavy traveler I’d definitely consider a combo of blog and photos, which means I’d start a photoblog. A picture is worth 1000 words they say? Well, 1000 words, and then some more should be even better if you attach a story to that photo. 🙂

    Nice article Joanna!

  2. I’ve used a combo of photos, emails and short updates on my blog so far. Usually I write the full stories after the trip is over. It gives me time to order my thoughts and impressions and I also don’t waste to much of my traveling time writing extensive posts.

    Speaking of photos, I am definitelly a shutterbug. I take hundreds of photos every day. Sometimes I think I see most of the places I visit though my camera 😀 How’s that for a different perspective of frames and light?

    Great article, Joanna, as always!

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge