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Hudson 00463AI am currently writing my autobiography through a musical lens, and of course story includes travel tales. Some of the journeys I’m writing about took place inthe 1990’s. So how did I remember what happened? The answer lies in two words: travel journals.

Today I want to talk about the importance of such writings in developing our cross-cultural competency and enhancing our lives.

Travel journals preserve the details. They allow us to analyze our thoughts in a non-judgmental space about the cultures we visit, and they bring visibility into our growth through the years.

I will never forget my first trip to India in 1997. As I rode the taxi to my guest house in Kolkata, my sense reeled with the colors and life of the city. I spent the next several days just drinking it all in. The experience was so much to process that I didn’t know how to write about it in my journal.

So I pulled out a trick I had used as a teen when writing about concerts I had been to: I wrote in images.

Here is an example from my India journal: “The amazing sunsets, the full moon over Bodhgaya, the dead being carried to the ghats, baby goats, laying in a sleeper train thinking life couldn’t get any better, onion pakoras, learning that working in another country is complicated, buffaloes in the river, animals grazing outside my window, Buddhist pilgrims cooking in front of the temple, my changing perspectives, the sound of firecrackers in the distance, my admiration for human beings and their ability to endure, serenity, chaos, and India, India, India.”

I kept and still keep journals religiously from every trip. In fact, my pages of cultural observations from my early trips to Asia became the basis for my company, Highroad Global Services, celebrating its 18th anniversary this month.

Why is the act of writing so important? Because details fade over time and perception clouds reality. The ability to reflect back on experiences and learn from them is key to our development in DEI.

Plus, writing helps you to process emotions which in turn can help you to be more objective when observing other cultures.

My invitation to you is as follows: Take a journal on every trip you take, domestic or international, for work or for vacation. The format does not matter: It can be written, dictated, electronic, or on paper. Here are some topics to consider for your writings:

  • What your senses are taking in: Colors, architecture, food, dress, animals, and more.
  • What emotions you feel: Whether you are ecstatic or irritated by your host culture, write it down. Watch those emotions come and go, and look for opportunities to view things more neutrally.
  • Cultural observations: Write down patterns you observe in your host culture. They may not always be accurate, but you can watch for shifts and adapt as needed.
  • Conversations with local people or work colleagues: Those you chat with, especially in a daily work situation, can provide incredible insight into your host culture. Capture those insights in your journal.
  • Cultural learnings: Learn something about the history or business practices of the country you’re visiting? Don’t let those be lost.

The rewards for your journaling efforts? Too many to list, but if you look back in twenty years at an entry, it will come to life again with vivid color. You will be reminded of what you learned and you can apply it in the present. And you’ll find yourself shouting, “Oh yeah, I forgot all about that!”

Vicki Flier Hudson

Vicki Flier Hudson, Chief Collaboration Officer for Highroad Global Services, Inc. inspires people to leverage the full power of differences. She has helped countless large-sized corporations establish successful operations across the globe and build bridges across cultures, distance, and time.

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