Whether you’re taking an epic, month-long trek across Europe, or simply taking a short drive to a nearby resort town for the long weekend, travel journaling can be a meaningful way to record observations and document amazing moments to remember for years to come. If you want to keep a travel journal for your next trip, you’ll want to follow our advice below to ensure you are following best practices and choosing tools to help you achieve your memory-making goals.
1. Start with the right notebook. It may not seem that important, but choosing the right notebook is a first important step in making sure you’re able to write at least daily, and from anywhere you go. Don’t be tempted to try to keep a digital diary. Depending on where you’re traveling to, you may not want to, or be safely able to, carry a laptop or tablet with you while sightseeing. An appropriately-sized, lightweight notebook is the best choice for allowing you to write notes and scribble thoughts whether you’re at the top of a mountain, sitting on a sailboat, or drinking a latte at a wi-fi-less café. We recommend a notebook size A6 (3 ½ x 5 ½). It’s small enough to fit in a bag, backpack, or even the inside pocket of a jacket, but large enough to give you room to write. Consider Clairefontaine Basic Notebooks.
2. Write at least once per day. For some, this may be where the real challenge comes in: finding the time to write when you’re constantly moving from one event or excursion to another. Don’t put pressure on yourself to write something lengthy or epic every day. Even if you just write a few observations or describe your feelings when standing in front of the Trevin Fountain, or when you’ve finally arrived at the base camp for Mount Everest, you’ll be glad later when you reflect back on your trip and see the notes you recorded.
3. Consider your audience. If you plan to share your travel journal with friends or family, or transcribe your notes into a blog when you get back home, you may focus your writing differently than if your notebook is solely for yourself and your own memories. Consider who your ultimate audience is when taking notes. If you’re writing for an audience, consider including historical information, be sure to set the scene, and give them some situational background insight. If you’re only writing for yourself, let your emotions be your guide.
4. Bring your journal with you everywhere. You may think that after a day of sightseeing the ancient runes of Machu Picchu, during which you took pages of notes, that there couldn’t possibly be anything left to record for the day, and that you don’t need to bring your notebook with you to the outdoor café where you’re having dinner later that night. You may regret that decision when you pass by an artist performing solo guitar in a square and find yourself wishing you could record what you’re seeing and hearing. When you travel, you never know when or where you’ll see something inspiring, so be prepared at all times.
5. Add some illustrations. Even if you don’t consider yourself a visual artist, don’t be too shy to take some sketches in your travel journal. Whether you are sketching a route or map, or an interesting artifact or plant you observed on a tour, that sketch may be just as meaningful to you years from now as any written description you could create of the same memory.
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember about travel journaling, is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. As long as you have the necessary supplies, and the conviction to document your travels, you’ll end up with a memory book you can read years later with satisfaction.