Writing a solid cover letter is an important part of the job application process. If you took some time off work to travel and have a gap in your employment history, you may be concerned about how that will appear to potential employers. However, a cover letter can serve the purpose of explaining your travels in a way that shows your credibility and experience.
A cover letter written with the intent of explaining extended travel serves to fill the recipient in on the details of your travels that are not fully explained in your resume. Travels should be explained in a positive light, with a focus on how the experience affected you. For example, do not say you traveled to escape from a divorce or being fired, but rather to explore and fulfill an inner need to meet people and experience other cultures.
Like any cover letter, this letter must have a header with contact information, an introductory paragraph explaining who you are and why you are writing, a few paragraphs explaining your journey and how it ties in with your search for a job and a closing paragraph thanking the recipient for his time. Always address the recipient by name rather than writing a generic cover letter.
Study the description of the job for which you are applying and seek out any aspects that might relate to your travels. Make these connections in your cover letter. One example might be any foreign languages you picked up on your travels, which could be useful if the company has international partners. If you did any volunteer work or freelance work during your travels, be sure to mention that as well. Even if you were not paid, acts such as blogging, if done in a professional manner, can serve the purpose of showing that your travels were more than a vacation, but something that made you a stronger person and better worker.
Depending on the length of time you traveled, it may be tempting to create a functional resume rather than a chronological one to mask the amount of time you've been out of work for travel. However, that resume format is typically a warning to employers that you are hiding something. Be open and honest with your resume, and use your cover letter to explain your travels in a positive way.
Avoid going into too much detail about the aspects of your travels that do not pertain to the job. MSN Careers states that you should not "go on ad nauseam about your trials and tribulations. For example, if you vacated a position to tend to personal matters, consider offering a brief sentence or two in your cover letter explaining the circumstances." Provide enough information so that the employer understands you have nothing to hide.