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).

10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Connect With Loved Ones Who Don’t Travel)

One of the biggest challenges of travel (especially for those of us who travel a lot and/or live abroad) is connecting with friends and family who aren’t experiencing the same things we are. We want to connect and share our lives with them, but bridging that gap can be difficult.

So, here is a list of ten travel writing prompts to help you connect with your loved ones who don’t travel. Whether you use them to write a post card or a blog post, hopefully they bring you a little bit closer to the people who matter in your life.

  1. Write about what you’re experiencing in terms of your emotions and reactions, rather than focusing on the place. This goes against common thought for travel writing, but your loved ones care about you more than the foreign destination. Write about yourself, because that’s what they want to connect with.
  2. Describe an interaction you had, rather than focusing on the place. We all have interactions — the concept of connecting with another human is comprehensible, relatable. It’s easy to connect with, and easy to respond to. Write about a conversation with someone you’ve met.
  3. Write about a gaff, a social faux pas where you’ve messed up. If this is due to a lack of local knowledge, even better. Sometimes, stories about travel can be interpreted as bragging to those who don’t have the privilege of travel — telling a story about how you messed up can help with this. Plus, admitting you weren’t an expert on the region connects you with your non-travelled friends and family (who might be self-conscious about their own ignorances).
  4. Write a how-to guide about something in your daily routine. It can be hard to picture life abroad, which creates distance. Knock the distance away by telling them how you buy phone credit, how you shower, how you cook breakfast. Share the ordinary, mundane details — it’s not all that different from their lives, anyway.
  5. Draw a map of the city where you are, with the landmarks that matter for you. Write them a mini-guidebook, not of the tourist attractions, but of the places that matter to you — where you live, where you buy bread, where you like to walk at night. Like a world map at the beginning of the fantasy novel, this is what makes it feel tangible. Describe the little corners that make up your world.
  6. If you’re living abroad, write a letter about a friend — their name, where they’re from, what they’re like. Give details, enough that when you tell other stories, your friends and family at home know who you’re talking about. Give them the inside scoop. This is one to keep personal — letters or emails, not blogs or published writing.
  7. Write a recipe for a favourite dish you’ve tried abroad. Write it for a specific person you’re missing, with details that will apply to them. Use the measuring cup with the broken handle, you know, the one from the third shelf. Pour these spices into this foreign grain, but cook it in the pot your brother bought you. Intertwine your lives through food.
  8. Select a collection of photographs, taking from your point of view, from throughout your day. View from the kitchen window. View from the hotel door. View from the remote desk at work. View from the bathroom. Not the Instagram-ready shots — the honest ones. Write descriptions for each one, of what it’s really like. Focus on your routine, if you can, so that your people at home can imagine — what ceiling are you looking at when you wake up? What is the background noise where you’re working from? Make it less foreign for them.
  9. Write a short story that hinges on a few words in a foreign language. Teach them a few words that matter to you — I promise, they’ll remember them. Let them into the “insider knowledge,” the local lingo. Like an inside joke, knowing these words brings them into your world, and makes them know you’re a part of it.
  10. Draw a map of your travels, and write directions to go with it. Surprisingly often, our friends and family just aren’t really sure where we are, and that automatically creates distance. Don’t make them do research just to find you — draw a map, write about how you got there, what the travel was like. Where exactly you are now. What’s across the street? If the internet died right now, how could they get to you? How would you get to them?

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 Handle Reverse/Return Culture Shock)

10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Handle Reverse/Return Culture Shock)

Going back home after a long time abroad or away can be a rocky transition, especially if it doesn’t really feel like “home” anymore. Here’s a list of ten writing prompts to help you process the reverse culture shock.

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!

  1. Write about your “home” bus station or airport like you wrote about places abroad. Describe the people you see as though you are there for the first time. Maintain your perspective as a traveller, and bring those people-watching skills home with you. Remember that most people haven’t been to this place (even if you’ve been there a thousand times).
  2. Write about a restaurant at home, but then add in a character from your travels abroad to the scene. Imagine how they’d interact with the situation, if they’d be eating different food, how they’d try to order, what parts of this “foreign” restaurant would confuse and frustrate them. Express your frustrations with the place through this imaginary friend.
  3. Write a letter to a friend (or a stranger) abroad, admitting how frustrating this whole transition is. Express to them your nostalgia and appreciation for things abroad, even things you didn’t appreciate until you left. Focus on the gratitude you have for the experience, not the pain that it’s over.
  4. Walk around your area at home and try to notice things which are similar, or where your “abroad” home and “home-home” might mesh together well. Write about how nicely [something] might fit into [something]. Notice how the things you miss are also present here, even if you only ever noticed them abroad.
  5. Write a guide to your home area, for visitors from the places you were abroad. Think about including some local history, attractions, travel tips, and cultural norms. Be serious, be funny, just write for the people you’re missing. Welcome them to your home.
  6. Write a short memoir piece about your first days in the place you’re missing. Reflect on what it was like, back before you knew anything about it, much less before you had to leave. Compare how it used to feel, being homesick for the place you are now, and how it feels now, being homesick for the place where you used to be homesick.
  7. Find somewhere you can look at your hometown from a different perspective. Can you get on the roof somewhere? Write about what you see from somewhere different, like it’s an entirely new place.
  8. Try and make your favourite food from abroad. Write about how you struggled to find the specific foreign ingredients, and what you replaced them with. Write about cooking it in an entirely different kitchen. Write about the taste, the experience, and how it felt to close your eyes and for a moment be transported back to where you’re missing.
  9. Write about your reverse culture shock as though you are experiencing the stages of grief. Perhaps write a journal where each stage is one day. Write through that process, and allow yourself all the emotions. Document the roller coaster.
  10. Write a letter to someone from abroad, someone you’re missing. Convince them that you’re doing great, back home. Tell them how lovely it is, and how (while you definitely miss them), there are so many things happening “here” that everything is as it’s meant to be. Write this letter until you convince yourself it’s true. Be excited about where you are.

Happy writing, and don’t forget to comment/get in touch if you write something based on one of these prompts! I would love to read and share it.

Want more travel writing prompts? Check out my list of 10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Find Grounding in Overwhelming Foreign-ness).