Processing travel means coming back from a trip somewhere, reflecting on what you experienced, and learning how to continue taking from that trip and implementing what you just experienced into your life post trip.
We all can travel to a place; near or far. However, what’s a trip somewhere if you don’t take a moment after you’ve arrived back home to focus on the things you just experienced? The people we met, the new foods we tried, the times we put ourselves out of our comfort zone, the breathtaking sights we finally took in for ourselves. As these things are happening, we sometimes don’t have time to react. We simply just process travel at a later time, and that is if we intend to. Sometimes when we come back home from a trip, and it’s easier to unpack our suitcases and put away our belongings, rather than unpack our minds and accommodate these newly fresh perspectives into ourselves and our life from here on out.
Below are just a few things that I do to process travel, and how in a world and culture of constant GO GO GO (especially if you’re from the U.S where we pride ourselves on how busy we are) we take the time to process travel, and understand what we just went through. Travel being transformative by nature, and beautiful because of what we experienced in another part of the world, it has to mean something, and we must allow it and ourselves time to make even more sense of it.
Play relaxing music
No really, it honestly gets your mind into a state of flow. Music and memory connection research has come a long way in determining the positive effects on dementia and other mental illnesses. An article on BBC explains that the melody of a song has the power to provide something more tangible, like a rhythm or rhyme that can help us go into our minds and unlock different memories with these rhythmic cues. They say it well by explaining that a song’s structure helps us remember things as well as remembering the lyrics of a song; only here the lyrics and melody bring images and feelings to us. It’s relaxing, it’s inviting, it’s the perfect setting to get ourselves into our memory.
A little jazz or classical music, or maybe a song that we heard while we were on our trip, local or popular. The typical music from that country or city that we visited. Doing this will allow us to prime our mind and get the memories flowing back. In order to process travel, the memories need to come to the surface, as well as the lessons and new perspectives that we were able to get on our trip. Now that the memories are coming back, it’s time to think about them now as we are back home, away from our previous surroundings.
Unpack the mind before the suitcase
Now that you’re home, and you’re remembering the things you saw, did, experienced with the power of music, it’s time to reflect on what you did. Giving ourselves that space and time to let the memories flow is an important part of processing travel. It doesn’t really matter the duration of the trip, the distance that we traveled because at the end of it all, despite it all, we come back with something new. A perspective, an experience that taught us something, and new favorite food, a new friend even. It’s these things that can slip away the moment we set foot in the door of our homes and decide to go on autopilot, and become flooded yet again, with a million things to do before xyz. Instead of getting sucked into this pattern (that we ironically just took a trip to escape for a bit) we must take the time to play some music, light a candle maybe and do what we need to do to make the space comfortable and inviting. Doing this before we start to physically unpack our bags, before we look at our mail, or tend to other things we left while on the trip, will help in ways that we will see the more we do it. Sit down, and just be for a moment with the thoughts.
Look back at the photos
Another personal favorite way I use to process travel is to look back on photos and videos taken on my trip. Like music, it’s a tangible item that will allow our brains to look at in an instant, and remember other things that happened. Perhaps before or after the photo was taken for example. Regardless, it’s always fun to go down memory lane and look back on photos that we take on our trips. Remembering and seeing how happy, real, and fearless we can be with each photo and video.
It’s not to say that we can’t be this way in our day to day lives, but at the same time, there’s something about the spontaneity, the mystery of being somewhere unknown, the thrill of perhaps not knowing many people and not many people knowing us, that is refreshing. It allows us to in a way, break out of a mold that we along with our circle and society have molded for ourselves. And when we travel with all these new factors, it can be exhilarating to just be, any way we want to.
So, looking at our travel photography can stir some or all of these emotions. It can provoke extended teachings from our travels, and it can influence our decisions in our day to day. To process travel by looking at photography means looking back, remembering what we learned, and allowing that to help create questions in our mind and to determine our decisions in our day to day, and the future. This is why it’s important.
Talk it out
If you traveled with someone, or even if you went on your own, talking about your travels with someone can be one of the most beneficial things you can do to process travel. Now, I know that there is a fine line between sharing a beautiful memory and boasting on an experience that we had on a trip. We definitely want to consider being careful about how we go about this, so we don’t come off as someone who doesn’t know how to talk about their travels without sounding like they’re bragging. However once we understand how to talk about our travels with someone, doing this can help us in releasing to someone what our trip was like, what we learned, what we liked and how we liked it.
Doing this, especially after we have taken the time to process our trip on our own, coming up with our own conclusions on how we want to keep the learning going, and overall deciphering the impact and change (even the most subtle) we would like to place into our life from now on, will help someone else just as much as it helps us.
Travel is meant to be experienced, yes, but it’s also meant to be shared. The stories we accumulate on our trips, the lessons, and even the practical tips, are all things that people communicate to others, and most of us do it to not only to talk about the beauty of it, but also to help one another. That’s why blogs like this one exist. It’s our way of processing travel. We are talking to you about our experiences, lessons, and new perspectives and goals because of what we experienced on our trip. So, for this, I thank you my friends 🙂
Keeping a journal on your travels is a time honored way of documenting a trip. From the times of the first explorers, to those that travel write for a living nowadays, journaling is an extremely positive, simple, and impactful way of keeping track of not only our travel experiences, but also what each day brings to us and how we feel about it. It’s our diary basically to share our impressions on finally seeing and experiencing things for ourselves, and what it means to us, and how it makes us feel.
An article on the effects of journaling while traveling explains perfectly that keeping a journal while we’re in new, exciting situations with a lack of routine, creates an elevated sense of awareness, perception, and spontaneity. Journaling from the moment we start a trip to the end, will allow us to look back on, and not just reflect on the cool things we did, but also the growth and development in ourselves while being in a new surrounding.
When it comes to ways to process travel, journaling after a trip can also be very beneficial, as the moment we come back from a trip, things are as fresh as they are going to be. This is our golden opportunity to write down all the memories, lessons and experiences that are coming back to us, and adding what it means now. If we experienced something big and impactful, how is it going to shape our life now that we’re back home? It only takes a few of these prompts to get our mind in a writing frenzy that may cramp our hand, but will help us process travel more for the greater good of our life. Travel (big and small) changes us somehow, but it’s up to us to keep it going for as long as we want. It doesn’t all necessarily stop at some arbitrary line.
Continue the adventure
…and the curiosity and education. Continue the fun of learning something new, of what it was like to learn a new word in a foreign language, of what it was like to see how locals of a city lived their life, and seeing what we liked about that and how we can implement it into our life. Cooking up a new dish that we tried on our trip, and everything else that left us with an “aha!” moment. Watch movies, listen to music of the country you just visited. We live in a time where we can go on Spotify and look up top hits in __________ country or on YouTube and watch music videos and famous YouTubers from different countries. Learn from the locals even when we’re not physically there. The world is so connected, we can use it to our advantage to continue learning about the world from our trip. Keep that up, and you’ll continue to process travel weeks, months, and years from now. Travel and the lessons we get from living it has as much power as we give it. If we intend to learn from what we just lived for years to come, we have to create the intention to do so.