How To Make A Travel Journal You’ll Keep Up With

someone writing in a travel journal

Hello again! I don’t know about you guys, but the circumstances of the world right now (a certain virus which shall not be named…) have got me reminiscing on the freedom of past travels. That’s why I am so glad to have all of my travel journals to keep me company, to remind myself of sunnier days in places like New Orleans or Maui last year!

Journaling has been a pastime of mine for years, since, like travel itself, it lets me take a close look at my life and how I’m treating it. This becomes all the more useful when you’re about to take a trip, and you want to both make sure you’re appreciating the moment and will be able to hang on to all the little details once it’s over.

So if you’re looking for some travel journal inspiration, I’ve got some great tips for you. Whether you’re an image-driven scrapbooker, an eclectic writer, or just somebody who likes to live in the moment, I’ve got some pointers for making your own travel journal one you actually want to keep up with!

To write or not to write?

Good news everyone: there’s no one way to journal! You can customize the experience to your habits.

Not much of a writer? Well, don’t feel like you have to have a perfectly curated bullet journal just because it’s what you’ve seen all over Pinterest.

You can find a fun way to document your trip as voice memos, verbally processing the day and what it brought. You could also document the trip in photos, with your phone, camera, or disposable point-and-shoot, which you put together in a collage or scrapbook later. By the way, I also have some pointers on taking aesthetic photos!

There’s no point forcing yourself into a habit you hate! If you do, you may just get bored of it and abandon that Moleskine halfway through the trip, leaving you with blank pages and guilt. Look at what you’re already able to keep up with some regularity in your day-to-day life, and incorporate that into your journaling. You’ll have a better time!

Physical or digital?

Now, if you do choose to document your trip in writing, take a minute to decide if you want to carry around travelers’ notebooks, or if you’d rather type it up in a word document.

My first couple times traveling, I bought special, hard-backed journals and kept up with writing a page a day for each journal entry. There are aspects to this practice that I liked: the physical scritch-scratch of the pencil or pen, the ability to quickly jot anything down throughout the day, the feeling of flipping the real journal pages, and that great old-book smell.

However, I quickly realized that, with limited space in my bags, I didn’t want to have to keep accumulating journals. Plus, I was constantly afraid of losing them! 

So now, I’ve resorted to keeping up a daily journal on a Google document, which I can access from anywhere with an internet connection. It’s less glamorous, for sure, and doesn’t lend itself to calligraphy or doodles, but if I’m being honest, my handwriting was never very pretty anyway!

The same consideration applies to audio or visual journalers: do you want to print out physical photos or make a digital pinboard? Are voice memos on your cell phone ok, or do you want to get a full-on voice recorder with a nice microphone? Do you want a diy art journal and watercolors, or a digital painting software? It’s all up to you and your priorities!

Stock up on supplies

Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to journal, you need to make sure you have everything you need to keep it up! If you went for the traditional notebook, get more pencils, pens, and/or colored pencils than you need. They don’t take up much space, and they’re easy to lose!
If you’re going to print physical photos and do some scrapbooking, grab extra glue sticks, washi tape, stickers, markers, or anything else you tend to use. There’s plenty on Amazon, or better yet, hit up small stationery stores near you! Bring a bit more than you think you need–again, they don’t take up much space and be sure to keep it all organized in its own, separate bag. Heaven forbid your markers burst and stain your clothes!

Start before your trip

Your first journal entry shouldn’t be the day you arrive at the destination! Take a bit of time before you go to reflect on what you’re currently feeling and what you expect to happen.

If you’re a nervous traveler, this is a good time to express that fear and be honest with yourself, so that when it’s all said and done, you can come back and remind yourself that there was never anything to be afraid of! You can also make packing lists (I’ve got a great one for road trips!), and write about your preconceived notions about the place you’ll be visiting or the people you’ll meet. 

Similarly, you can revisit this at the end of your trip and evaluate what held true, and what was unfounded. It’s a great way to remind ourselves that assumptions and opinions aren’t always reality, and the world is more complex than we think!

Treat it like an architect

When I say to be “like an architect,” what I mean is to leave yourself little artifacts and details that you can unearth and be delighted by in the future. Find a creative way to treat all those keepsakes you’ll bring home like important architectural discoveries: use masking tape or a small sharpie to label them with the date and, if there’s room, the location you got it.

With those first physical journals I used to use, my favorites were the kind with a pocket in the back, where I could stuff ticket stubs, boarding passes, business cards, and all kinds of other ephemera from the trip. I labeled all the little mementos with the date, which meant that I could flip through the pages and find the date I used it, along with the description of everything I did that day. 

When you label your keepsakes and pair them with your chosen method of journaling, you get this wonderful sense of nostalgia holding the item in your hand as you read, hear, or look at your own account of what happened when you used it for the first time.
I hope this gave you some new ideas and perspectives on making and keeping up with your travel journals, current, and future! We’re making memories here, so we never let the joy and wonder of traveling fade!

If you need ideas of where to go on your next trip, check out my travel archives for extra inspiration!

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