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The global sisterhood of the Travelling Diary

The global sisterhood of the Travelling Diary

BY Sydney Page

4th Jan 2024 Life

3 min read

Women are finding comfort and community in a shared diary, which has been written in and passed between strangers across the world since the pandemic
Kyra Peralte thought that keeping a diary during the pandemic might help her sort out her tangled feelings.
In April 2020, the mother of two children in Montclair, New Jersey, started writing candidly about the challenges of juggling work, marriage and motherhood during a global crisis.
Writing was cathartic, but Peralte, who was in her mid-40s, wanted to know how other women were doing.
So she made an unusual offer. She invited women from near and far to fill the remaining lined pages of her black-and-white marbled composition notebook with their own pandemic tales. She dubbed the project The Travelling Diary.
“I wanted an interaction that felt human,” Peralte says, “and it feels very human to read someone else’s writing.”

Chain mail

She found her first contributor during a Zoom conference for entrepreneurs. When Peralte mentioned the diary, a woman in North Carolina immediately responded, saying that she would like to write in it.
From there, Peralte posted an article about her idea on the website Medium in an effort to get more women involved. So many wanted to participate that Peralte created a website for people to add their names to the queue.
Each person gets to keep the diary for three days and fill as many pages as she wishes. Then she is responsible for mailing it to the next person, whose address Peralte provides.
"More than 2,000 wom­en from 30 countries have participated"
So far, more than 2,000 wom­en from 30 countries have participated.
Of course, not all those entries could fit in just one journal. More than 50 notebooks are currently in circulation, and about 20 completed ones are back in Peralte’s possession, including the original diary with her first entry, about navigating pandemic life and reconnecting with family.
“It was beautiful to have it again and to read it,” she says. “I carry these stories with me on a daily basis.”

The wisdom of strangers

Illustration of Traveling Diary reaching London
Each entrant fills the pages with her own handwriting—and sometimes her own artwork—narrating her experiences, recounting obstacles she faced, sharing lessons she learned.
Kirsty Nicol, who lives in London, heard about the Travelling Diary through a friend. She received the journal in March 2021.
“It came to me at a challenging time during lockdown,” she says. Reading the entries allowed her to escape, transporting her into the lives of others and finding bits of wisdom they left.
One such pearl came from a woman in Australia who had written: “Working with the setbacks. Not against them. Patience and gratitude. It’s a dance. Life is moving and we can stomp our feet in rejection, or we can gracefully embrace the mess, tidying as we go.”
"It felt like these were women that I had known even though I didn’t know them at all"
The diary arrived on the doorstep of Colleen Martin in Florham Park, New Jersey, in November 2020. Although she had signed up for the Travelling Diary months earlier, it arrived at the right moment. 
“I had just recently lost my brother. By the time I actually got the diary and wrote in it, it was much more of a thera­peutic relief,” she says, explaining that she wrote about her feelings of grief.
Adding to the diary, she says, helped her look for meaning and “the growth and development that occurs in terrible times.”
Dior Sarr received the diary at her home in Toronto just before the start of 2021. “I wrote about my ambitions, my goals and how I wanted to step into the new year,” she says.
It felt meaningful “to pass on something so personal. It felt like these were women that I had known even though I didn’t know them at all.” 
Illustration of Traveling Diary reaching Australia

From pen pals to friends

Sarr did get to meet some of the women whose stories she read, through a virtual get-together that Peralte organised.
“It has really evolved into a community,” Peralte says. She sends participants a weekly newsletter and often hosts Zoom events so the women can get to know one another more, share stories and connect more intimately.
Some of the women, she says, have even become close friends.
Nan Seymour, who is in her mid-50s, described meeting fellow Travelling Diary participants as a “miraculous” experience. Seymour, who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, received the diary in April 2021. “I felt like I was reading something sacred,” she says.
Seymour wrote about her adult daughter, who is transgender. “I wanted to represent that part of my life, and I thought it might benefit others,” she says.
"I felt like I was reading something sacred"
“We’re all drawn to this project from the same heart-based purpose. Once you come through this door, you’re meeting people whose values align.”
Like many of the women who wrote in her diary, Peralte feels a strong bond with the people who filled its pages, none of whom she would have otherwise known.
Her spontaneous idea, she says, has had a profound effect on her and, she hopes, the other women who have been part of it.
“The Travelling Diary,” she says, “is making sisters out of strangers.”
Illustrations by Shaw Nielsen
The Washington Post (Oct. 26, 2022), Copyright © 2022 by The Washington Post.
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