≡ Menu

Buffer for Travelogue

At the end of my travels through the Middle East I found myself completely waterlogged with material to publish on the travelogue. I happenstancially began backdating my entries, and realized that I liked doing so.For a long time I always tried to published events immediately after they occurred. This is difficult to do on the [...]

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

At the end of my travels through the Middle East I found myself completely waterlogged with material to publish on the travelogue. I happenstancially began backdating my entries, and realized that I liked doing so.

For a long time I always tried to published events immediately after they occurred. This is difficult to do on the Road, but, through a good deal of diligence, I managed. But as my note taking procedure and information gathering techniques improved, I began amassing more information than what I could immediately process and publish.

I became waterlogged, and my boat began to sink.

Sometimes in travel — sometimes in life — there are periods of rapid stimulation and growth, and periods of reflection. I have realized that if I continue publishing events and observations as close as possible to the date of their occurrence, then there is the potential of missing much of the reflective aspects that they could otherwise have. If I were to allow a buffer of time to elapse between the experience and its publication, I found that I can write thicker.

The writers of travel books have one key advantage over travelogue writers: the advantage of time. They are able to experience events, people, places and then processes them slowly, find their context, and add an additional sheen of fiction that makes their stories worth reading.

This travelogue is written in a story format. This is a true story, though one that borrows without shame a little of Chatwin’s “fictional processes.”

I can remember asking an old traveler in the Peruvian Amazon in ’01 if he wrote of his travels. He said something to the effect of:

“No, it is not very interesting to write ‘I went here, did this, then went there, did that, then went to bed, then woke up, then when here, and then, and then, and then.'”

He is correct. This is not very interesting.

The closer to an actual event you write a final draft, the more it has the potential of sounding like an itinerary.

Humans have the ability to see the world in the form of a story. We have the ability to observe and compile masses of information, sleuth the important elements off of the top, and then repackage it into a tale. If a little time elapses between an event and the moment it is crystallized into a story, the better potential it has for being fatter.

There is a reason why the fish that got away continues to get bigger in direct proportion to how many times the tale is told.

The longer you stir the milk, the denser the cream will be at the top.

I take notes all day long wherever I am. I can be seen with a mini pencil stuck behind an ear and a pad of paper in my back pocket at all times. I write down events, experiences, thoughts, dialogue, mnemonic jottings. I often do not intend to do anything in particular with most of these notes — and most of the time I don’t — but having them means that I have them for potential use.

A traveler’s notes are like intersections on a path: you will not take every intersection that you come upon, but by stopping for a moment and looking to where it leads often provides a broader impression of where you are going.

Notes have the tendency of sticking themselves together like the pages of a porno mag. One set of notes combine with another, which is beefed up through memory before being combine with more notes. You can never know the context that a random jotting could eventually end up in.

If I am able to utilized the notes, memories, and photos of a larger block of time, then the raw materials for constructing a story greatly increases. It was by accident that I began adding a buffer time between the occurrence of events and their publication in the travelogue, but I really like the advantages of doing so.

Continuously publishing events as they occur is also a rigorous occupation. Sometimes the wave of living and traveling does not wait for the introspection necessary to construct a tale. To step off of this wave in order to write and publish is step out of rhythm with the tale that you not only intend to weave but to live.

The only problem with publishing the travelogue with a one week buffer comes when events have concrete dates. I got married on June 28th — I want this day marked in the travelogue, but the steady stream of narrative means that I was publishing the events of June 21st at the time I was saying my vows. This is awkward.

Renigging on a one week buffer in order to mark the date of my marriage without publishing the events that lead up to it is to leave a jagged narrative. This is awkward. Now, everyone knows that I am a married man, but this marriage may have come as a surprise, as the events happened before I could publish anything about them.

This is a major drawback to having a buffer, though one that can be worked through by being transparent.

A note of transparency: the Vagabond Journey Travelogue is published with a buffer. The events written herein have actually occurred one to two weeks before they are published into stories.

I take defacto notes in the moment, but these are notes are then dumped into a pile on my desk to be processed . . . later.

Note to readers — the date that is written in the author bio box is close to the actual date of the physical events that constitute the travelogue entry.

Just wanted to let you know.

Walk Slow,



The only way I can continue my travels and publishing this blog is by generous contributions from readers. If you can, please subscribe for just $5 per month:


If you like what you just read, please sign up for our newsletter!
* indicates required
Filed under: Blogging

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: New York City

5 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • Caitlin July 6, 2009, 12:45 am

    This is exactly what I've been thinking about recently – my writing does improve dramatically if it's done some time after the fact. I think that the amount of buffer time that you have in your blog is about right – soon enough that it SEEMS "in the moment" but long enough after that you ditch what is less important.

    I think that my blog is going to develop the following pattern: part will be travelogue-ish, but a larger part will be things that I have learned or stories that I have found interesting during my travels, though not necessarily written in precise order.

    by the way, I think something might be awry with your site's comment function. I know I put in a few a while back that never showed up. Anyways – are you still up for the 2nd and 4th thursday of each month being travel writing (for pay) day??? We can email each other for motivation or something.

    Hope everything is well with you!

    Link Reply
  • DivaD July 6, 2009, 3:13 am

    Hmm. What about a couple of canvasses? A quick, not so carefully written, impromptu canvas of notes vs. the story canvas? That way you can give your readers frequent updates, with a interresting story now and then that could be purchased for 10cents?

    Link Reply
  • CT_Bob July 6, 2009, 1:06 pm

    How about this: For these events that are time sensitive, make a short comment with the actual date on top, and just a short note of what happened etc. Then, later, put in the real story.

    I like the bit about waiting to publish, but knowing where you are and what you are doing as it happens is nice too.

    Bob L

    Link Reply
  • Wade Vagabond Journey.com July 6, 2009, 11:37 pm

    I like the sounds of your strategy, Caitlin. It is my impression that anecdotal entries are perfectly designed for the blogging format.

    David, that is an excellent idea, but I feel a little funny charging money to read this ramble. Though I do need to start making a little more money some way.



    Link Reply
  • Wade Vagabond Journey.com July 7, 2009, 4:00 pm


    Link Reply