Day 19-Tell a Story

One of my favorite journal entries was about a man I had observed entering a train I was traveling on. The train had been filled with tourists heading up Mount Snowden in Wales.  These were just ordinary people but then a very scary looking young man entered the train.  I did not know this person, but he exuded an intimidating air about him and he reeked of alcohol.  He was young.  He had a flask of alcohol and appeared intoxicated.  My sight seeing of the scenic journey had existed just beyond the window which he sat next to, it was an interesting juxta position of exploring while keeping one eye trained on this person and experiencing some discomfort at having to occupy a seat next to him.

This was a twist on my usual travel entries.  On that particular adventure, my journal entry would have typically   been limited to explaining how we had taken a train to the top of Mount Snowden in Wales.  I could have described the weather, the way the light flickered on the mountain and the climb in the elevation which had made me woozy.   Instead, I added this interesting character and included details which surrounded us as we shared the time together on the train.  As he stumbled off the train, I watched him head toward destinations unknown and built on this metaphor for my own travel adventures.

A story has a beginning, a middle and an end.  As you create an entry in your journal, consider writing in this form,


Day 18-Pick a Word



Do you ever look at your partner and see your entire future?  Our first ABC adventure, was on the Agawa Train Tour, you can read about it here.  I remember looking at my husband and thinking about all the ways I adore him. Adoration is defined by Webster’s dictionary, as deep love.  I love this mans quirks, the challenge he presents me and his strengths.  I want this time together, this time which is just for us.  I want him to know that in this moment, he is my priority.  I want to offer him my undivided attention, so he knows that I hear him.  I want to wake each morning and make him feel like the most important person in the world. I want to retire each night, satisfied that we have given our best, to the betterment of our marriage.  I want him to know that he is utterly and completely adored because this is exactly the way he makes me feel when we focus on our relationship.  This marriage, this friendship, this love, is the future I saw for us, the very first time we held hands.  It is the same one I still see every time I hold him.  Celebrating our adoration for each other, was the best place to begin our ABC adventures.

Document the Journey



Play the word game!  Mix up your journaling by focusing the content around a single word.

Day 17-Words Which Are The Same, But Different-Journal

When traveling abroad, and at times, even within our own country, we will hear different terms for familiar items.  Take for example the word pop versus soda.  Where you live in the United States, determines the usage.  When you are writing, you can give a more authentic flare to your journal by incorporating some of these terms and expressions into the piece.  Below is an excerpt from my travel journal while on a trip to Wales.   Remember, make sure to include enough context clues to assist the reader with deciphering the new vocabulary terms.


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Sept. 23, 2015                                                                                       Today we are in the Welsh village of Llangollen.  It is the last day of our three day-mini vacation. My poor legs are grateful for the cafe we have found, alongside the old steam trains.  I am knackered from all of our running around and ready to sit down for our meal! The weather has been cold today.  I am thankful I have brought my jumper.  With all the rain, wellies would have been good too, had I known it would be so wet!   With three full meals and several breaks for tea and/or snacks daily, we always seem to be eating when we are in England! I suppose it is one way to dodge the persistent rain, which falls often in the autumn.  Today is no exception.  Once again, we find ourselves standing in a queue, waiting to be served.  Alan is excited, as he has found a place that offers one of his favorite childhood meals, chip butties!  This is basically a french fry sandwich.  Slathered in tomato ketchup, Alan is in his glory.  A unique English custom, if ever there was one!   It is lovely to quietly sit in this station, where Queen Elizabeth once visited. Watching the trains move in and out of the depot, we are all thinking of Dad, and imagining how much he would have enjoyed being here.  We toast him over a pot of tea.  Soon we are warmed both inside and out, our souls and stomachs are both satisfied.

Day 16-In The News

Every day there is something happening in the world.  Sometimes, it is the kind of thing that may have a long term effect on history. Other times it may be shocking. Sometimes it seems insignificant, until many years later.  News is like a long thread that intertwines into the fabric of our lives, perhaps it is more visible in certain parts of the pattern, but it is forever being woven.  Vacation doesn’t move us away from the news.  We may be less or more aware of the events unfolding, depending upon our location at the time.  News and current events can be a great piece of information to include in a travel journal, or in any kind of journal really.  Perhaps future generations will be able to look at your writing, and make those all important connections to history, all because you chose to detail a little about the world at the time.








For as long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with the German manufactured, Volkswagen.  The first family car that I can remember, was a blue “beetle”, affectionately referred to as a “bug”. As of 2012, Volkswagen was considered the second largest car manufacturer worldwide.  The first car rolled off the assembly line in 1937 and they have had a strong worldwide presence ever since.  I fondly remember my own children playing “slug bug”, a game in which they would strive to be the first to punch  their sibling or friends, if they saw a beetle on the road.  While the beetle was the first of the cars that Volkswagen produced, there were many others which followed.  Each new model strove to better the mileage and emission output.  Eventually our little bug was sold, in exchange for an orange Datsun.  I hadn’t really considered that many of my family would continue to connect strongly to this manufacturer.  However, just recently, while traveling to Denver, my brother and I were watching a car show, where the now classic beetle was being proudly displayed.  The fact that it also happened to be blue, brought back good memories for both of us as we remembered our old car.  I then shared a ride, in my brother’s Volkswagen Jetta.   He educated me on the affiliation that the company also had with Audi, a brand owned by both my mother and her husband.  It was one of those conversations that was casual, a bit of trivia to learn at the time.  Just a couple of weeks later,  on September 21, 2015, I would be traveling in England when the news about Volkswagen broke worldwide.  They were embroiled in a scandal which would cost them billions.   It appears that they had knowingly falsified their emission results, claiming much better efficiency than their cars were actually getting.  Consumer trust was broken.  This wasn’t the first time that this company had seen massive controversy.  In 1998, they had admitted that 15,000 slaves were brought from concentration camps during World War II, to keep the production line moving.  I am sure that Volkswagen will recover.  I am sure that I will continue to enjoy seeing the classic little bugs, which grow fewer each year.  Like many stories that are heard these days, I am sad for the lack of integrity that seems to prevail with society today.  Perhaps the media just allows this to be more obvious now.  Perhaps, as Volkswagen has already demonstrated through history, a lack of integrity has always existed.

Day 15-Practice Your ABC’s!

Sometimes I find myself using the same descriptive terminology in my journals.  If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you will know I often use the alphabet to set a new goal when I am stumped. Adjectives are words that describe.  Like a comfortable pair of sweatpants, we all favor certain words.  As we try to paint a verbal image for our readers, our writing can become bogged down by the use of the same terminology over and over again.  For this technique, try using the ABC’s to create an ever expanding list of descriptive terminology.  Sometimes I choose a group of words before the trip.  Other times, I may look at my photos and compare them to my list, looking to see if I can use a unique adjective.  By keeping an ever expanding list of adjectives, it may inspire the way you take a photo, write a sentence or otherwise develop your journal entries.  It may help you to seek out interesting people, or document conversations.  Words are powerful triggers.  Here is a list of adjectives, one for each letter.  In the following examples, the photos were taken prior to choosing the adjective.




As we climbed toward the peak of the mountain, the  brown grass emerged in tufts among the jagged rocks.  I would have considered this land barren, had I not noted the grazing sheep alongside the tracks.










The provided windbreakers were no match for the gusty conditions we found at the base of Niagara Falls.  As we neared the falls, the disposable plastic coats flew up around our ears, offering a veiled view through the thin, red plastic. Our hands were busy, the choice being to save the camera from the misty conditions or get soaked ourselves.  I wonder if this was somehow humorous planning on the part of the boat operators.






















Day 14-Post Journaling








You’ve just returned from your trip, responsibilities call.  The laundry is piled high, dinner needs to be prepared.  You long for those leisurely moments, which you spent with your journal at that wonderful cafe’ along the river.  You know the journal isn’t complete.  There are still details missing.  You may have pages of hastily scrolled facts, but no substance.   So how do you complete the task?

1.  Every time you journal, reward yourself with a favorite cup of coffee, tea, ice cream, listening to music, a walk, or some other treat.  You’ll soon look forward to picking up your pen!

2.  Find someplace fun to write.  Sit by a river, sip coffee in a cafe’ or wherever inspires you.  You can return to this same spot daily, or make a new adventure by finding a different location to write each day.

3.  Connect writing to routine.  Do you sit down to watch tv each night?  Perhaps try to write for 10 minutes before allowing yourself to turn on the television.

4.  Make an appointment with yourself.  Block out a period of time to write, on the calendar.  Treat this appointment as you would any other and make sure to follow through.

5.  Post to a blog.  Your readers are generally curious about what you are up to, which in turn may provide some incentive for regular posting.

6.  Find a writing buddy.  We all have friends who are working on something…getting in better shape, eating better etc.  Partner with these people.  You write at the same time they are fulfilling a goal.  Check in and praise each other as you complete your goals for the day.

7.  Try not to think of writing as a chore.  Let yourself relive those travel memories for some part of the day, it will be like taking a mini vacation!

Day 13-Re-journaling

One of my biggest frustrations with writing is that I am never done.  I often edit and re-edit, expand or constrict the piece. I am a perfectionist.  If I allow it, every entry, would remain in constant motion.  I am not a natural writer, it is just something that I love to do.  Over the years, I have grown into my writing.  I am more accepting of it now, worrying less about perfection and choosing to grow with each new piece instead.  However, there are benefits to re-writing* certain pieces.  First, you may have just been too busy to get the specifics down while you were traveling.  Perhaps you did some speed journaling, or made a list of the things you want to remember.  This is a perfect time to rewrite the piece.  Second, as my writing style has evolved, I will often read an older entry and consider the details that are lacking.  Hopefully, the more observant traveler that I have become, the more this will be reflected in my journals and the less I will have to rewrite. Third, another great reason to rewrite, is that our perspectives change over time.  In my current middle years,  I am far more outgoing and likely to interact with people.  I am more adventurous.  My experiences tend to be richer as I seek to learn more from them.   So if you are stuck for something to say today, find an old piece and rewrite it!  Below you can find an example of one of my very early diary entries and how I would choose to rewrite the piece today .

*If you choose to re-write an original piece, please don’t discard it.  Instead, allow a comparison of the two pieces to reflect your personal growth.


Thursday-April 2, 1996

St. Thomas Virgin Islands                                                                                                                                                This morning we are slightly disappointed when they cancel our bike tour.  Then it starts raining.  No longer disappointed, we decide to make it a great shopping day.  We head out with the goal of  finding a Tanzenite tennis bracelet and a new wedding band for Alan.  We return to the ship with a Christmas ornament!

EDITED and RE-JOURNALED (Oct 13, 2015)








St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands                                                                                                                                         I have fallen in love with the semi precious stone of tanzanite.    Like the ocean that we are currently sailing upon, the color is ever changing.  These stones can be lavender and change to azure, or they might be a deep purple, similar to an amethyst, perhaps changing to dark blue like a sapphire. It all depends on the light it is viewed under.  There is only one place where tanzanite has been found, and that is in Tanzania.  St. Thomas seems to have a massive collection of stones, in all ranges of colors.  The highly coveted darker stones are plentiful here, whereas the lavender stones are more common near our home.  Perhaps this is because they are getting closer to the bottom of the mine and St. Thomas is a haven for jewelry so receives the best that is available at the time.  Landing at this port is like stepping into nearly a hundred jewelry stores. from around the world, all at the same time!  They line both sides of the street and extend down every alley.  We have been warned while on our ship, to only shop at the certified jewelers, since there is also a lot of corruption here.  We hadn’t planned on spending our day shopping, but rain had cancelled our bike tour scheduled for the morning.  Since this island is known for its discounts on jewelry, we decided to look for a tanzenite tennis bracelet for me and a new wedding band for Alan.  Several hours later, we returned to the ship, with only a new Christmas ornament to show for our efforts.  I had finally had enough of people.  Walking through the streets of Charlotte Amalie felt like a battleground.  Thousands of passengers had unloaded from one of the four ships currently in port.  They all seemed to be on the same mission. as they descended on the tiny capital city.  The air quickly filled with a cacaphone of foreign accents, as each store owner stood at the entrance of his shop, beckoning us to enter, instead of shopping at his rival.  Alan is claustrophobic, so we tend to avoid crowds like this.  Even though I know the women will be showing off their new prizes at dinner tonight, for me, there is no piece of jewelry that rivals the peace found on a balcony, a cold drink in hand while watching the colors of the sea as it changes throughout the day.  Maybe next time.


Day 12-Pre Journal

So you’re busy getting ready for that much anticipated trip.  There is still so much to do, the last thing you are thinking about is journaling.  The clothes need to be washed, ironed and packed, the kids have three more events to attend and you are leaving tomorrow.  You begin to hyperventilate, wondering how you will fit everything in.  This look into everyday life helps others connect with you, on a more personal level.  Our journals tend to reflect the positive news reels, the highlights if you will.  When you finally begin your journey, why not let a little day- to- day activity fill your pages?  Tell us what was happening before you finally started your adventure!


photoSept. 18, 2015

I am finally seated on the plane.  It has been a whirlwind of an adventure getting here.  This whole week was filled with hard labor.  We are currently working on renovating a house, with the intention of selling it in the next month or so.  This means there are deadlines to keep.  After hearing the kitchen countertops will take 4-6 weeks, from the measure date, we are in a panic to get the kitchen prepared.  Between Sunday and Wednesday of this week, we have worked late into the night, to completed the painting on the main floor,  lay the bamboo flooring in the kitchen and dining room and install all of the kitchen cabinets!  Thursday, the day of our departure, we nervously waited for the counters to be measured.  There couldn’t be more than 1/8 of an inch difference in the level across all of the cabinets.  We were due to leave Traverse City at lunchtime.  Measuring was taking place around 10am.  There would be no time for corrections or adjustments.  If this didn’t work the first time, we would be waiting 6-8 weeks for our installation, as we would need to reschedule our measuring for after we returned from our trip.  We needlessly worried.  Still, we didn’t depart on our road trip, a seven hour journey to Niagra Falls, Ontario until 3 p.m.  Somehow I managed to find house cleaning to do until then!  After finally getting going, we enjoyed a lovely roadside picnic dinner and pulled into Niagra at 11pm.  A midnight walk to the falls, a romantic sunrise, and a day of sightseeing, was followed by crazy drivers, extensive construction, another 1 1/2 hour long car ride to Toronto.  Then, we had trouble locating where we planned to drop the car off for the week, followed by long lines at the security point.   We had allowed nearly five hours for our short trip from the falls into Toronto.  As we sat wolfing hot dogs and fries down for dinner, the minutes to boarding passed quickly and we ended up throwing half of our meal away!  Surprisingly, it seems the remainder of the night passed uneventfully and we woke, following a peaceful night of sleep, just as the plane began to descend into Manchester airport.  We are now ready to “officially” begin our vacation!

Day 11-The Animals That You See

Have you ever considered the experiences, of a child living in Alaska, versus those living in the center of the United States.  While traveling along the inside passage of Alaska , I realized that children of this area would not be as familiar with cows, sheep and horses.  This was something that I brought to question with one of the tour directors. Since this area is too cold for regular farming,  he explained that these animals are kept for show.  Much like one would go to a zoo to see exotic animal, the area children are taken to a farm like setting to expose them to these animals, they are rarely free ranging. In contrast, children of this area grow up seeing whales, bear, eagles and salmon every day.  I realized I take the “normal” animals that I see daily for granted.  This was when I began adding photos and details of unique animals to my travel journals.  Imagine a child seeing a new animal for the first time.  Imagine that he is with you when you journey.  What makes this animal exotic? What would you want this child to know about this animal?  How is it different from those that you see at home?  Think of yourself as this child as you travel.  Explore the unusual, the unique and the unfamiliar and if you are anything like me, the first time you see a shaggy or horned cow, you might just shout out, “look, wildlife” and begin frantically clicking away on your camera to preserve the moment! Be warned, your husband might find you more than a little amusing, since he knows that this is really just a cow, in a new disguise.  What he doesn’t know is that as soon as you return from this trip, you will be scouring the internet to understand why some cows keep their horns and others are born without them all together.  He doesn’t know that you will learn that a cow may lead her herd with just a toss of that majestic headpiece.  He also doesn’t know that keeping these horns may allow for less anxiety among the herd and actually aid in digestion.  So the next time you see a crazy lady taking 50 pictures of an animal that you think of as common, just know that it is for a good cause.  That woman may be seeking a higher understanding of all that exists around her.

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Day 10-The People That You Meet


We meet so many people when we travel.  There are things about these people that you might want to remember.  How did they impact your vacation?  How did they change you?  How do you feel when you are around them?  Just a few descriptive sentences can often keep these people memorialized among your pages.

Mysteries in the Mist

FIL215His brow was deeply furrowed, as he stepped into our compartment of the train. Like his gloomy mood, he was dressed in a black leather jacket, black trousers and a dirty white t-shirt.  His hair was a similar dark color, but greasy, as if he hadn’t showered in a number of days. There was a faint odor of cheap cologne. The stubble of his beard and red rimmed eyes, gave an impression that perhaps he hadn’t slept in a while either.  Knowing that all the seats in this compartment were assigned for our return journey down the mountain, I began to think that I should say something to this man.  Perhaps I could encourage him to move to an unoccupied seat.  His mood bordered on angry.  Nothing about this person indicated that he wanted to communicate.  His clothes seemed to hang loose around him, as he retreated inside of himself.  Something about him frightened me, so I remained silent.  The carriage finally filled with all of its passengers, the extra traveler now making it a very uncomfortable journey for the next hour.  Even as I perched upon my husbands knees, to give the other elderly travelers a little more room, this man did not attempt to move to one of the vacant seats, in another car.  We began our decent down the mountain, at about the same time, a brown paper bag appeared with what was likely a bottle of alcohol.  As most of the passengers were trying to view the scenery out of the far side of the car, I kept my eye on the mysterious man as he swigged from his bottle.  His forehead was pressed tight against his own window, twisting his body away from the other passengers, perhaps in an attempt to hide his addiction.  As the alcohol began to work, an evil grin crept across his face.  In that moment, I knew he was not fully present with the rest of us.  I wondered if he was perhaps mentally ill, like my own father.  Unpredictable was the thought that kept swirling through my mind as my body screamed caution.  The train finally came to its destination, at the bottom of Mt. Snowden.  As my husband went to retrieve the car from a nearby parking lot, I watched the mysterious man for a moment longer. The alcohol now fully working, he stumbled across the road, seemingly searching for a bus or someone meant to pick him up.  I will never know his story.  Had he just lost his job?  Had he pulled a long shift on the mountain?  What drove him to drink?  Was he married, a father?  He might be easily forgotten to many, but to me, he is part of a collection of interesting people that I come across as I travel, many of whom are just trying to get through another day, most of whom I will never know anything about.  We are all connected in this big world of ours, so among my stories, he will live on.

Day9-Food Brings Us Together

Food brings people together, so why not let it be the subject of one of your next entries.  Consider the traditions that form around the food.  Who are the characters?  Is there a recipe that has been handed down? What stories get told around the food?  Does food trigger a memory from childhood?  These are all great things to include in your journal.  The next time you dig into your favorite food, try writing a bit about it.



                                                Lemon Meringue Pie

photo 1(11)As a new wife, I had toiled the entire day to make a lemon meringue pie for my husband, Alan.  I knew it was his favorite and I couldn’t wait for him to return form work to try it.  I had made the crust by hand, whipped the eggs into frothy peaks and even grated the lemon rind, to add a bit of decoration. It had taken the better part of a day to make, so when Alan bit into the pie and expressed that he preferred his mother’s recipe, I was initially disappointed.  However, we had promised honesty in our relationship, so I set out to make sure I added this recipe to my growing collection.  I knew that all 4 of Josie’s children loved her lemon meringue, it must be very special.  I anticipated a long discussion about the unique ingredients it would take to perfect this treat, on my second attempt.  We laughed together when she revealed that the coveted favorite, had come from a package! For the past 32 years, this has remained a humorous story for our family, retold every time the dessert is served. Needless to say, my husband has never again had the benefit of a lemon meringue pie made from scratch.  This sweet treat is now mostly enjoyed, when we get together with my mother-in-law, it is her specialty.  Upon arrival at her home, my husband stealthily searches the kitchen, looking for the pie.  He tries very hard not to be too obvious about his anticipation.  No matter how early our arrival,  he is never disappointed, to find the pie already baked and steadfastly waiting in the aging aluminum pan, on her counter.  During the years that she would travel to our home, Josie would always carry a box or two in her suitcase, ready to make the treat, once she arrived.  As a mother of three son’s myself, I understand when Alan is served a bigger piece, or at times maybe even a second helping, without requesting it. This man is blessed by two women who love him deeply.  Knowing this time and these memories are precious, I am happy to stand aside and let this Mama spoil her son during our visits.  When the time comes to hand down the recipe, this time, I’ll know right where to find it and I’ll be sure to teach my future daughter-in-laws the magic ingredients to add!

Day 8- Keep it Real!

The written story is more interesting when you can bring personality to the page.  What is it that makes people human?  Dare to be vulnerable, dare to tell the truth.  The following entry was posted to my travel journal, but the story would work equally well in a personal journal.

I admit, I am not the most observant person.  My husband often kindly smiles at me, as I notice a building for the first time, while he gently explains that it has been there for several years.  Every day, whether traveling or not, is a new adventure in my own head.  I am an auditory learner and as such, I am continuously discovering visual things for the first time.  While traveling through Wales, we were on the lookout for signs directing us to a scenic overview, of a specific waterfall we wanted to visit.

the-speeding-camera-sign-dtj4b5I noticed this sign.  Thinking it looked like a camera, I suggested that perhaps the turnout was nearby.  My poor husband nearly wet himself with laughter.   Had I been more observant, I would have noticed that these symbols exist all around the country.  They are often at intersections and usually bare the words “traffic signal cameras”.  We call these moments in my life, “Debbie isms”. These are the memories that will bring smiles to peoples faces for years after I am gone.  I am quite sure these are the stories that will be recalled in my eulogy some day!  I will bet, that the next time you travel to England, Scotland or Wales, at least one of you will have a laugh when you see this symbol, as you recollect my adventures to your travel partners!  I can also assure you that I have just educated a number of people about how to interpret this sign!  Happy travels.

Day 7-Use The Words of Others

Quotes, song lyrics, great titles, all can evoke strong feelings and memories.  Try mixing up your journal entries by including a few of these along with your favorite photos.

The following image was taken on an ordinary day.  Alan and I were working on “flipping” a house for profit.  The home is an hour away from our residence.  I was meeting contractors at the house extremely early in this day.  This was my view along the way.  I was running a few minutes behind and could have chosen to bypass the opportunity to capture this beauty, instead I pulled into a parking lot.  For one moment I just breathed and enjoyed the view.  I might have journalled about the beautiful sunrise that morning, perhaps even discussed the wildfires that were raging on the West coast as being the cause for such extreme beauty. I might have given extensive detail about the pressure we were under and the deadlines still to meet.  Instead, I have chosen to pair this image with a simple quote of inspiration, giving it as a gift to others who may see it.  Our interpretations of this image then become vastly different, by limiting the things I say.  When I choose to do this in my journals,  you may not know the background story of this image, but it may just leave you imagining your own beautiful, peaceful day which is still full of opportunity!  Creating images and words  like this might make a great cover page to a travel album. Perhaps it will lead you to want to discover what else took place along my journey!



Day 6- Eat Your Words

There are times when traveling, that there really doesn’t seem to be anything very exciting to write about. This can create a lull in my travel journals.  Once this happens, my journal may as well serve as ballast in the bottom of my suitcase.

On less than adventurous travel days, I must occasionally create a purpose to write.   What better way to do this than to “eat my words”!  Every country has some food that is unique to the locale.  Many of these, I am just too chicken to try, like Blood Pudding from Scotland, Century Eggs from China or Fried Spiders from Cambodia.  Even the American foods such as Rocky Mountain Oysters, otherwise known as bull testicles, would make a great story for someone visiting the U.S.A.  Just the thought of any of these foods turns my sensitive stomach.  I might be willing to photograph them, but I can promise. that I will probably never taste any of them!  So what is a girl to do when she knows that food can make a great topic for writing?  Grab dessert of course!  One such dessert, I sampled for the first time, while visiting Wales.  Below is the daily entry that went into my journal:

Bara Brith

Bara Brith

Sept 22, 2015.                                                                                                          I must have appeared confused as I stood outside the bakery window, trying to recollect the name of the Welsh bread, recommended by our hotel staff.  A local woman asked if she could help.  She explained that recipes for Bara Brith, also known as “speckled bread”, are handed down from generation to generation.  Some use honey to sweeten the simple bread, while others use brown sugar.  Some use yeast but more commonly, self rising flour is used, making the bread last much longer.  My loaf indicates that it will be good for nearly a full month!  All recipes include currents or other dried fruits that have been soaked overnight in brewed tea. As I taste Bara Brith for the first time, I am struck by its cake like consistency. Using a variety of spices, like all spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove to flavor the bread, images of cold autumn days immediately spring to mind.   I thank the lady for sharing this information.  I will never know her name, but I will think of her often, as I create this treat during the autumn months. Perhaps, many years from now, as my children read my journals, they will discover the day that I first sampled Bara Brith, turning it into a new autumn holiday tradition for them.

Day 5-Try A List of 10

Sometimes we make things too hard…okay, most of the time we do this, or at least I do!  Journals may be intimidating for many, simply because of the fears of correct grammar or spelling.  Journal entries often look something like:

“Sept 18, 2015-Today I went to Niagara Falls, Ontario.  It is a beautiful place.”

Yawn!  This would hardly inspire me to open the journal again in one year, let alone 5, 10 or 50 years from now.  The only helpful bit of information that you might glean from this entry is the date that you were in a particular place.  Think of all the information that is missing here.  We spoke in yesterdays exercise, about engaging all of the senses.  Today, I want to speak about getting down the details.

Sometimes it just isn’t appropriate to whip out the journal and make an entry, like when I was being deluged  while sailing under the falls!  While on vacation, my mind is always thinking about what I want to say about the place.  If I work towards learning 10 things about each place I visit, I usually have a pretty good list of places to begin.  So the minute that we dragged our water laden butts off of the boat, we sat down for an ice cream.  This was the perfect time to make a list of 10 things I wanted to remember about this special place.  Here they are in no particular order:

1.  The unusual heat of a Sept day

2. Getting drenched by taking a boat under the falls

3. The spectacular waterfalls

4. Crowds of people and numerous cultures

5. Casino, hotels and tourist traps

6. My camera lens fogging up with the spray from the falls

7. Getting up to see the sunrise over the falls

8. Amazing gardens, landscaping

9. Color everywhere

10. Crazy cost of everything










I have nearly 75 photos from our day long trip to this area.  There are many approaches I could make to my entry.  I could probably find an image, to correspond to each of the 10 items above.  I could single out each of the above topics and write on them individually, or I could summarize our day and add one or two pictures and some memorabilia.  By creating this list of 10, my writing is non-restrictive.  It doesn’t require me to make any decisions at the time, it is just 10 things I want to remember about this place.  In fact, if I chose to stop here, I could actually enter just these 10 items under a date and heading and call it good.  There would still be more information available in these 10 items than in the original post example which I had listed.


In the end, this is how the entry for this photo looked:


We began our day at 6:30 am, when we woke specifically to witness the sunrise over the waterfall.   We were able to stay in our hotel room to do this.

After an extremely overpriced breakfast at IHop, the cost of which was 50 U.S.  dollars for pancakes and coffee, we walked for miles in the unusually hot, September sun.  Some things never change in this beautiful place. Most notably, we have always remembered the gardens.  Thankfully, they remain everywhere on the Canadian side of the waterfalls.  They are meticulously planted and maintained, unspoiled and unchanged since our last visit, nearly 20 years ago.










Casinos and hotels have sprung up since we were last here, one skyscraper, trying to outdo the other by going higher and higher, trying to achieve the best view of the falls.  In fact, all that seems to have happened is the creation of numerous visual obstacles.  I am sure they are beneficial to accommodate the over 22 million visitors that journey here each year, but they take something away from the natural beauty of this area. Last night when we walked down to view the falls in the dark, we passed numerous bars with outside entertainment.  The air was electric with music. I remember the first time we saw these falls at night.  Our son’s were little.  They were awestruck by the variety of colors being painted across the thundering spray.  There was no competition for their attention.


Now, as I stroll along the walkway bordering the falls, I turn my back to these distractions.   The only obstacles preventing the thousands of daily visitors, from tumbling over the edge are a fence and low wall.  In this regard, not much has changed.  Just like the 150,000 gallons of water, which spill over the cliff every second, the faces lining up along the fence, shift constantly.  Technology has changed the way we view the falls.  People no longer observe them in quiet serenity.  Instead Ipads are waved in the air trying to capture the beauty and power of the falls as they tumble hundreds of feet below.  Selfie sticks poke in an out of images, as people utilize their cell phones, to document their lives.  I have come equipped with my camera.  The spray from the falls requires me to continuously wipe the lens, to maintain a clear view.  Maybe it is not so different from my observations of the day.

I am intrigued at the eclectic mix of cultures.  I am fading quickly in this heat.  Within minutes of beginning our walk, we are already seeking a shady refuge. I wonder what it must be like under the black burqas of the Muslim women. Many of the Asian women seem to have anticipated the warm sun, as they stroll through the crowds with their umbrellas.  Dressed in beautifully adorned Saris, there is a riot of color as a group of Indian women walk past us.  I realize we are but one couple, in a vast mixture of people enjoying this great space.  As Alan and I take our place along the fence, ready to capture our own memories, we are reminded once again of how very small we are in this great world of ours.


Day 4 Journaling Through Your Senses

My camera clicks as I take yet another picture, a feeble attempt to capture some of the details and beauty of this place I am currently visiting.  I note that I have already taken 359 images and we are only on day 5 of our vacation!  What is it that I am trying to preserve?  Is it a memory, a smell, the details of architecture?  Is it the people that are sharing this journey with me?  Is it perhaps the amazing tastes that I am experiencing for the first time?  Are there other memories that this place is evoking?  Is it perhaps all of these things at the same time? What is it that is important for me to remember?

I look up from my camera, considering these questions.  Knowing these photos will not stand on their own, I also pick up my pen.

In days past, my journal entry for this photo might have looked something like this:

“Day 5-Sept 21, 2015. We traveled by train, up Mt. Snowden in Wales.”  Pretty boring indeed!


If I utilize my 5 senses; touch, taste, sound, smell and hearing,  I am able to document this image much differently.  Here is the journal entry as it was actually made.

“Day 5-Sept 21, 2015. My camera clicks incessantly, as I sit with my nose pressed against the glass window of the train.  The window drips heavy with condensation, permanently fogged by the warm breath of the 69 passengers who have joined me on this journey. There is a quiet peace among us, as each person strains to see the beautiful views.  We are stacked 6 people to a bench, with 2 benches facing each other. Knowing I will be taking the pictures,  Alan has kindly given me the window seat and my mother in law sits across from me. How different are our views, as I look uphill and she looks down?  I am pleased that we have chosen the right side of the train to sit on.  Our experience might have felt differently, had we chosen the opposite side and only been able to view the mountain wall. But then, I think this limited view is often how people go through their lives.  Slowly we climb the 3,000 feet to the peak of Mt. Snowden.  The conductor must maintain a good visual of the ascending tracks, never sure if there will be rocks or sheep blocking our path.  This gives the one hour, uphill journey, a sense of adventure.  The sun is playing with me, as it peeks in and out of the low lying clouds.  Earlier in the day, as we were getting drenched by the rain, we feared that this “must do” trip would not be possible during our time in Wales.  What would be the point of having our heads in a permanent cloud?  Hoping for a brief break, we took a chance that the clouds would clear and booked our tickets anyway. As the scenery now unfolds, we are told these are the best views of the day.   Finally I give up clearing the window, with the single tissue I had in my purse. It is now too burdened by the water to be of much value.  I lower the top pane of glass on the window and point my camera toward the valley floor. In doing so, I sense myself opening fully to this experience. I’m sure people think I am crazy, as I seem to be snapping the same image, only seconds apart.  The sun is playing with me, highlighting first a lake, then a  craggy cliff, or a lone sheep grazing in the field beside the tracks.   I do not want to miss any of it! The brisk, fall air is cold and refreshing.  This seems to awaken many of the passengers.  Conversations and laughter now also fill the air.  People begin interacting, asking “where are you from” and listening with interest as stories and shared.  The smell of the diesel engine mixes with the damp, earthy fragrance emanating from this unspoiled land.  Memories of my father-in-law quickly ignite.  In his younger years,  he had been a fireman on the trains.  I linger on the edge of these memories, imagining how much he would have enjoyed this trip we are taking.  He so loved his trains.  I share this thought with a fellow passenger as I reach for my mother-in-laws hand.  It is in this way, that he journeys everywhere with us.  Will the other passenger remember this conversation days from now?  I am not sure.  Perhaps if they are a journaller like myself, this trip will have triggered a deeper emotion or personal memory for them.  Perhaps they will just recall me in their own notes as an outgoing, friendly, American girl, who shared a glimpse of her past and seemed to be taking pictures of everything.  Perhaps, like me, they will simply be grateful for this place, this time and these new memories that we are all making.  These are all the true gifts of this day. “

Day 3 Show Me Your Sign!


When Alan and I began using the alphabet to set the course for our adventures, I wanted a way to keep track of which letters we had already used.  We decided to begin each date by photographing ourselves while holding the current letter.  I made a set of signs by attaching vinyl stencils to colorful poster board.  We keep the full set of letters in a large zip lock baggie, in my car.   This way, they are ready to detour at all times, to any place that we decide to discover.  Eventually I will decorate these signs a little more, but I wanted something simple to get started.  I am thinking as we complete an adventure, we will sign them with the location and/or activity that we did and the date.

The fun part about using the letters is that people often ask us why we are holding them up.  By nature, Alan is an introvert and fairly quiet.  As he shares his passion for our travels and our relationship with others,  I have watched him change.  I am always surprised by peoples interest.  Both young and older people approach us, married or single.  Once people catch on to our antics, they often offer additional ideas for the area that we are exploring!  In turn, if we find other traveler’s along the way, we have been able to offer suggestions for great places to explore.

What other ways could you think of to document the letter you are currently working on?



Day 2 Journaler’s Journey-10 Reasons to Journal


Document the Journey


Writers Workshop-The Journaler’s Journey-Part II






Ten Reasons to Journal

1)      You are the keeper of your own life story.

Have you ever heard the same story told from two different people? Most of the time, it is never told exactly the way that you remember it. A journal allows you to keep a record of the details. Often, we think we will remember those details but here is a great lesson to try. Write the events of today, now try to do the same for yesterday or the day before. How far back can you go before the memories begin to get fuzzy? Daily journaling keeps the truth in the details preserved so that when you are ready to share your life story, you only have to take a walk through the pages of your journal.

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DAY 1 The Journaler’s Journey-Just Start

Document the Journey

The Journalers Journey includes 30 lessons, which allow you to grow your writing skills.  When you are stuck for a way to find words, look for the above symbol for prompts. Writing tools may also be found by filtering under the “ABC Documents” category, the “Journaler’s Journey” category or by clicking on the tag “writing”.

What is Journaling?

A journal is simply a record, that includes reflections, emotions, and musings of your daily activities. It is a way to share the stories which exist in your everyday life.  It does not need to be a written document.

It is different from a diary in that it does not need to be chronological.  It is also  different from the writing done in school,  there are no rules, no right or wrong.  A journal is simply a collection of personal thoughts and observations. Sharing the contents or keeping them completely private, is up to you.

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J is for the Journalers Journey

Why blog?

Truth be told I needed a place to practice writing.  Travel, writing, photography and scrapbooking have always been my passions.  These passions led me to open a scrapbook store in 2002.  My mission there was to give people their voice. Unfortunately I had to close the store shortly after the recession hit.  I had learned a great many things.   I love encouraging others to trump their own horns and to celebrate themselves and I needed a way to continue to be able to do that.  I also realized I had a great passion for story telling and adventure.

I truly believe that every day presents an opportunity to design your own life, living “on purpose” if you will.  But only you can tell your story.  Your perspective is completely unique.

We can use our creativity to take great pictures, but after years of teaching I often find that most people don’t take the time to really think about the “why”.  Why did you take this picture?  Aren’t photos a way to freeze time?

Have you ever looked at a photo and asked, “Who are these people”?  Have you questioned what they were doing or why they had gathered?  Have you seen great pictures of interesting places and wondered where the photo was taken?

Photos are a representation of the lives we have lived.  They are tiny snapshots of memories.  Each time a picture is viewed it should answer who, what, when, where and why.  It should never be left open to interpretation.

The same is somewhat true of writing.  Words on a paper will form a visual image, but it will be based on the readers experiences and interpretations, not necessarily on what actually happened.

I regularly taught my students the value of journalling.  I would begin my class by asking the students to view a photo of my sons playing in a cornfield.  I asked people to write a short note about what they thought the picture represented.  Most said kids having fun in the fall.  A few guessed a family reunion.  How far off the answer always was!  In actual fact, it was a funeral.

It was indeed one of my favorite pictures of my sons but without including this information, the photo was very difficult to connect with the event.

I began this blog as a way to push myself.  I want to lead a more purposeful life.  I am forever writing my own legacy, which means I have to constantly examine who I am, the values I am trying to teach and the ways I spend my days.

I am a perfectly imperfect human being.  I may not be a master at writing or photography but I can only improve with constant effort at learning better skills.   I love encouraging others to do the same.  So the blog has been born.

I hope you will join me on this adventure.  Life is a journey meant to be shared.

Let’s start at the beginning by getting to know each other.