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).

10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Find Grounding in Overwhelming Foreign-ness)

It happens sooner or later — as a traveller, you find yourself overwhelmed by simply how “different” and “foreign” the place where you are is. The diversity and complexity of our world is something to cherish and appreciate, but it’s hard to process, much less distill into something relatable and comprehensible in your writing. Here’s a list of ten travel writing prompts to help yourself find grounding in the most foreign-feeling of places, and to help you write through the curtain of “foreign-ness.”

  1. Select a food that you don’t really like, that you don’t really connect with, and write about the moment you’d crave it. Whether it’s a soup that would be perfect on a cold, rainy day, or a sweet pastry that is absolutely what you’d want for a brunch with friends, or a street food that is the absolute must-eat for that panoramic view, describe the food in its most perfect context.
  2. Walk around for a while, and describe people. Give a sentence or two to each person. See them as people. Include yourself, as just another person on the street, being described in a sentence or two. Make yourself one of the crowd, in third person. Find the parts of yourself that aren’t so foreign, and just mention those. Continue writing about the people you see. Let yourself just melt in.
  3. Write about your process of going home, whether to an apartment, a guesthouse, or to an overnight bus. Describe how you “closed up” for the night. Did you pay the bill and walk home? Did you zip up a backpack and head for the bus station? Describe your sense of closure and routine, regardless of whether you have either. Write about the evening as a conclusion, and welcome the evening as a homecoming. Greet the moon.
  4. Write about experiencing a familiar smell, amongst absolutely unfamiliar sights, sounds, and feelings. Situate that familiarity within the unknown, allowing for the simultaneous combination of both. Allow yourself to find comfort in the speck of familiar. Breathe deep, and write about how you carry that smell with you, through unfamiliar streets.
  5. Seek out an interaction, however substantial or insubstantial. Write about the interaction with great appreciation. Do not comment or critique, neither the other person nor yourself. Just describe it, in as much detail as possible. Describe it in overwhelming detail, yet focus on the ordinary. Do not concern yourself with exotic dress or foreign flavours — focus on their fingernails, the wrinkles near their eyes, the depth of their voice. Write about the crinkles in the currency, the texture of the receipt, what the paper plate looked like. Did the neon flicker? Did you tap your toe? Become lost in the mundane details. Don’t frame the interaction as “foreign.”
  6. Describe what parts of the place you’re in give you energy. What feeds you; what opens your eyes wide and makes you smile like a child? Describe whatever gives you a pep in your step, the little café you keep returning to, the “secret” spot you’ve come to love for sunset, that crazy thing you’ve noticed here that always makes you smile. When you woke up this morning, what were you excited to experience again?
  7. Write about how overwhelmed you are! Admit what you don’t know. Instead of focusing on the place, frame the foreignness as a gap in your own understanding of the place. List your questions, identify your misunderstandings, and enumerate your curiosities. Write your to-do list, your to-understand list, your to-learn list. Embrace the excitement of everything being new. Concretise the overwhelming nature of the whole experience. 
  8. Select a boring errand, and describe how it works where you are. Buy toothpaste, do your laundry, find a public restroom. Write about the process, the ordinary routine of fulfilling your needs in a foreign place. Write about the people you encounter along the way, the places you end up along your mission. Celebrate your minor accomplishment.
  9. Describe the parallels between here and home. Focus on the little things which feel familiar, no matter how random or small. Smile at the window frames which feel like home, high-five the street signs, and notice that the voice announcing incoming trains sounds just like the one in your hometown.
  10. What have you figured out? What challenges of this place have you overcome? Surely, there are things you didn’t know how to do yesterday that you are capable of today. What has this place taught you? What growth has it sparked? Write about the things you can do now, after being in this foreign place, that you weren’t previously sure you’d be able to do.

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 Smile During Travel Delays).

10 Travel Writing Prompts (To Smile During Travel Delays)

This is exactly what it sounds like — ten travel writing prompts, which I’d recommend saving for when you’re sitting on an airport (or bus station, or train station, or wherever sort of station) floor, waiting for some delayed transportation. Your trip isn’t going how you thought, but I hope these prompts bring you to a place of joy (or at least appreciation for the journey), and make you smile during your delay.

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. Describe today from the perspective of someone working on the transportation you’re waiting for, whether the driver/pilot, baggage handler, gate agent, or person selling snacks through the window of the bus.
  2. Pick one person you see, and write about them for one minute. At exactly one minute, start a new paragraph and begin writing about another person you see. Repeat until your transportation leaves.
  3. Describe yourself, as you wait. Write about where you’re sitting, what you’re wearing, how bad you smell, how long it’s been since you last ate anything. Write about how hard the floor is. You’re probably fine, but write something overdramatic about the suffering you’ve endured (no matter how minimal), the tenuous nature of your current predicament. Become philosophical about how horrendously difficult this delay has been for you. Write like this until you laugh, until you are overcome by the giggles.
  4. Write a gourmet food review of whatever mediocre food is available in the bus station, ferry terminal, airport, or wherever you are. Whether it’s some random street food, junky fast food, or a tiny packet of airplane pretzels, write a sensational review, highlighting the unique flavour combinations of whatever you just pulled out of your pocket.
  5. Describe your journey to reach your boarding gate/area as an epic adventure, full of trials and tribulations and grandiose chase scenes. Narrate the overtures of finding your taxi, reading the subway map, dragging your bags across deserts and rainforests. Emphasis the disappointing irony of having rushed there, only to wait. Be dramatic as possible in the contrast.
  6. Look around and find the calmest person you can see — the one who seems entirely unaffected by the six hour delay. Channel their energy. Write about what you think they’re thinking, where they’re going, how content they are just to wait. Interview them in your head, and write their profile for the in-flight magazine. Feature them as a superstar passenger, a model for us all.
  7. Write about how people are connecting to the ground, whether that be through shoes, suitcase wheels, or butts straight on the ground. Describe what is happening, what people are doing, how they are feeling, how fast time is passing, focusing on the horizon between land and air.
  8. Describe where you’re waiting in magnificent terms — soaring architecture, gleaming engineering, jaw-dropping natural features, and the best people you’ve ever met. Write the luxury feature article for the glossiest of travel magazines. Convince your reader that they’d do anything to be in your place. Write the lie of an experience that you’d want to post on your Instagram feed. Then, slowly add details until the facade crumbles. Write a gorgeous piece of literature, and then poke holes in your beautiful balloon until it shrivels before your reader’s eyes.
  9. Write about the philosophy of time, and how it connects to the place you’re in. Reflect on your own conceptions (and misconceptions) about the importance of punctuality. Discuss whether it really matters that you’re late at all, or whether the transport is even really late. What does late mean? How do we measure it? Other than the numbers on your phone screen, why do you even think there’s a problem? Perhaps you’re just early. 
  10. Write a thank you note for the pilot/driver/company for the delay. Tell them how much you appreciate the extra time, wherever you are. Describe everything that you’ve experienced during the delay, the unique sensory stimulation you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy. Share your gratitude for the delay with them.

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.

grey sky, view from airport window during travel delay
Stuck in an airport on a dreary, rainy day? All the seats taken? No outlets left? Indefinite delays? Try these writing prompts to put things in perspective and put the smile back on your face.