10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Process The Pre-Departure Roller Coaster)

If you want to write something about your travels before you actually go, but want to write something more substantial than a packing list, here are ten writing prompts to help you process what’s about to happen. Most of these are meant for long-term travel or moving abroad (ie. won’t be coming back for several months, at least), but could be adapted for shorter trips.

  1. Write a letter to your future self, describing what you know (and don’t know) about the countries and places you’re going to. Admit all the gaps in your knowledge, and embrace the things you think you know (but are very likely wrong about). Be humble, and be excited for your future self to look back and laugh at your innocence.
  2. Make some effort to learn something about where you’re headed. Make it something you’re interested in — food, history, music, art, nature, sports — whatever you want. Don’t write a generic “guide.” Write about some weird things you discovered that make you even more psyched to be going there. Find something fascinating. Fall into the wormhole, and take us with you.
  3. Share your epic saga or pre-departure logistics. Passport, visa, tickets, medical clearances, quitting a job, leaving an apartment, domestic flights, COVID tests — be dramatic as possible. Try and make the most tedious bureaucracy be an edge-of-the-seat affair. Write a thriller of paperwork and appointments.
  4. Attempt some basic language-learning for the country you’re headed to. Write about what it felt like. Did your head spin? How did the words taste? Can you imagine actually speaking this language on the street, to a person, and not just to your computer screen? Do you feel strong in this other language, or like a turtle who wants to go back inside its shell?
  5. This is not a packing list — don’t you dare list gear. Instead, write about how packing feels for you. Where are you doing it, standing above a neatly organised bed? Things strewn across the floor? How many times did you repack? Any amusing stories of trying to carry the suitcase down the stairs? How long until you were lying on the floor in tears? Let us into your experience, not your stuff.
  6. Write your manifesto — the reasons why you’re leaving, why you’re going where you’re going to do whatever you’re doing. What do you believe in? Write something you can look at and pull strength from when life on the road gets tough.
  7. Write about the moment when the trip felt real, when it transitioned from hypothetical to something so concrete your ears started ringing. When did you believe it was actually happening? Tell us about that moment.
  8. Admit your jitters — the still-unpacked suitcase, the things you’re nervous for, the bits you’re unsure of, the doubts, and all the reasons people have said you shouldn’t go. Throw them up against the wall, and tackle them. Acknowledge them, and then destroy them. Or accept them, as you wish. Just address them, however works for you.
  9. Write a goodbye letter to wherever you are now, or some aspect of that place. You can focus on the entire place, or just pick one thing you’ll miss and write to it. Goodbye, burrito. Goodbye, squeaky door. Be nostalgic and sentimental, or laugh and slam the door on the way out.
  10. Write about what you did the night before you left. Whatever happened, whatever you felt during it, write about those last few hours before your suitcase became your new home, and you headed for the check-in counter.

If you happen to use any of these prompts and post the results anywhere, please include the link back to this page, and let me know! I’d love to read what comes of this, if anything, and would love to share your writing, as well!

Want more travel writing prompts? Check out my list of 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Connect With Loved Ones Who Don’t Travel).

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