Travel Journal prompts

Write every day. If something happens that you want to write about, write about it; if not, use the prompts below to get you started and then just go where your imagination takes you. Do pay attention to details as you move through your day though. Those details make the difference!

TRAVEL JOURNAL #1: Going to Cuba! The process of preparing to travel.  How do you feel? Excited? Worried? Start with that feeling and then expand it to talk about the upcoming trip: you might start with your expectations, your feelings about travel in general, and about this trip; you might include what you already know about Miami/Cuba, what you think you know, what you hope to learn.
TRAVEL JOURNAL #2: “Arrival in Cuba.” Focus on your first impressions. Take ONE MOMENT and write as much as you can about it.  This c​an be something you saw, something you did, something you heard​, smelled, tasted, etc.

* Your goal is to give people who are not with us the most intense, sensory experience possible, one that allows them to feel as if they are standing right next to you. Again, no BS, just honest “in-the-moment” writing.​

TRAVEL JOURNAL #3: “Preserving History.”  Think about architecture and what it means to restore the past rather than moving forward and building new buildings; why does the past matter? Why does it mater in Cuba?

You might begin this entry by thinking about your own relationship to old buildings and historic landmarks and then expanding your thoughts to what you see and hear in Cuba. OR, you might focus on one or two buildings and describe them in detail, then talk about them in the context of what you learned.

Include specific information from the  guidebook to provide context where relevant.

TRAVEL JOURNAL #4: “Telling History.” Yesterday’s journal focused on buildings; today’s focus is national memory. How does a nation tell its own history?  How does it change over time? For this entry you could describe and think about a few images/captions from the museum, OR compare what you expected with what you saw in the museum, heard in the lecture, read in our guidebook).

You might begin by thinking about how the US tells the history of its revolution. How is that similar to Cuba’s? Does it help you understand what you saw or does it feel totally different?

TRAVEL JOURNAL #5: “Cuba.” That’s a huge topic so think small, but representative. Try focusing on a few moments or observations from today or from previous days. Cars, restaurants, people on the Malecón perhaps.

Feel free to write more on history if you like. What did we learn today—and how did it differ from your expectations? What surprised you? What confused you? Did anything make you angry? What do you want to know more about?

You could also focus on the senses. What did you smell today? What did you hear? How did things taste?  Include enough detail to make people think they were here with us!

TRAVEL JOURNAL #6:Finding my way around.” What did you do today? What did you see? Focus on a moment, or a person (remember the people watching exercise). Try to really zoom in on an experience, observation, or thought process from today. Lunch maybe, or the hotel, or drinking thick hot chocolate at the museum of chocolate and watching others do the same. Or perhaps you want to focus on the cars, or baseball, or that kid you saw playing .
TRAVEL JOURNAL #7:US-Cuba Relations.” Think about the way we tell stories and represent history (pick up on your thoughts from Entry #4 if you like). What did you expect the visit to the embassy would be like? Was it?  What surprised you? What do you make of the graffiti outside? And the flag poles? And the location come to that. How did the lecture connect with what you have read in the guidebook and/or the US media? In other words, what story is being told here? How does it connect, intersect, or challenge other stories/narratives?  Include relevant information from lectures and guidebooks to provide context.
TRAVEL JOURNAL #8:Cuban Art.” Yesterday we saw the Muraleando community art project, today we have a lecture on art and a visit to the Film Foundation and the Museum of Fine Arts. So what do you make of the state of art in Cuba today? Are you surprised? Pleased? Troubled? Who is the audience? How do you know? What role does art play? Based on your brief exposure, how does the attitude about art compare with the attitude you have observed in the US?

You can focus on one of the art experiences we have had, or even one work of art (or mural or film), but if you do, in addition to focusing on how it moves you, describe the work and think about it in the broader context of Cuba.

TRAVEL JOURNAL #9:To tourist or not to tourist?” Are you a tourist? How did it feel to do so many touristy things today (and other days?) Are you embracing your inner tourist or trying to be a traveler (someone who tries to understand the culture rather than collecting experiences & selfies)?

This entry can be light hearted, cynical, hilarious, or serious as you wish. Just be interesting!

Alternative: Open topic. Write about a moment, a person, an experience, something you ate or drank, or work on making the strange familiar.

TRAVEL JOURNAL #10: “Food!” Practice food writing. You might talk about what we have been eating by focusing on taste, presentation, or ingredients or you can think about the food in terms of what you expected and what you have received. Try to make us hungry as we read!

Alternative: Open topic. Write about technology and the lack thereof. Think about how creative Cubans are as they make the most of limited internet access, or think about how you are reacting to limited connectivity!

TRAVEL JOURNAL #11:Celebrating  Hemingway.” What do you make of the Cuban love-affair with Hemingway? Why did it persist throughout the revolutionary years? Why does it persist now? Think about how Hemingway is presented today and all of the Hemingway souvenirs available for tourists. Why?

Alternative: Open topic. Write about a moment, a person, an experience, something you ate or drank, or work on making the strange familiar.

TRAVEL JOURNAL #12:Back in the USA!” We’re back. But are we the same as when we left? What has changed? What do you notice that you didn’t notice before? How does being in Cuba make you see things a little differently now you are back in the US? Think about human interactions, facilities, technology, whatever strikes you!
TRAVEL JOURNAL #13: “Little Havana!” Compare this to the Cuban Havana. Some say this one is more Cuban than Cuba; others that it is stuck in the 1950s. What is your impression? Comparison can include specific things (food, people, ways of interacting) or a general sense of the ways that Little Havana does or doesn’t invoke Cuban Havana.

You might look back to entry #3 and think about “Preserving History” in the diaspora. What does it mean that Little Miami preserves a version of Cuba that no longer exists? How does this compare with the preservation work in Cuba?

TRAVEL JOURNAL #14:Art in two places.” Compare your experience of art in Cuba and in Miami. How do these two cultures relate to art? How do they display it? Think carefully about the two experiences and trace similarities / about the museums, the public art, the ways people talk about art, or the art itself.

Alternative topics: [1] Compare the beaches in Cuba and Miami. Think about beach culture, who is at the beach and how they interact with the ocean and the beach itself. Who is in the sun and who is in the shade? What do people eat? Why do they seem to be at the beach?
Or [2] compare shopping malls in the US and Cuba. Focus specifically on the Mall in Havana and the one by our hotel in Miami. What kinds of stores are there? Who is shopping? What are they buying? What was the most striking difference? What does your experience seem to reveal about the larger culture?

TRAVEL JOURNAL #15:  “Traveling in Groups” – it is said that a certain point a group of travelers takes on a single identity. They go through phases (phase 1 is excitement; Phase 2 is frustration, when everyone in the group is annoying; Phase 3 is bonding, when the group starts taking pictures together).  How did this group work? Did it follow this pattern? Did you connect more in Cuba than in Miami? What role does technology play in this?

Alternative: Open topic. Write about Miami or the two Havanas or travel or anything that you have been thinking about in relation to this trip.

TRAVEL JOURNAL #16: “Telling History #2” In Cuba (journal entry $5) you thought about national memory and how a nation tells its own history (and whether it changes over time). For this entry you could describe and think about the Cuba you observed and heard described by speakers, and the ways it has been described in Miami. How do you make sense of the contradictions and complexities of history and migration? What can we learn from this?
TRAVEL JOURNAL #17: “Final reflection” Before you get home and start telling everyone about the trip, write one last reflection. What have you learned? What surprised you? What advice would you give to someone who wants to go to Cuba? How will you help them understand it? How might people in the US better understand Cuban-American relations?

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