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How to Keep a Travel Journal

How to Keep a Travel Journal - Tips for Writing on the Road

by Pam Bauer

Looking for fresh travel journal writing ideas? Read on for tips to get you started and ideas for creating a journal you will cherish.

Choosing a Travel Journal

Choose a journal. There are many journals available, from inexpensive spiral notepads to elegant hand-bound volumes. Make sure the journal that you choose is one that you like. This may not seem important – you may think that any journal will do. But travel, along with being exhilarating and fun, can also be intense and demanding, so you want a journal that pleases you, that you want to write in, that invites you to put pen to paper. And since you will carry your journal for the length of your trip, be sure the size is right for you. If you’re packing light and moving frequently, a small, lightweight journal is best. Similarly, if you write prolifically, be sure your journal has enough pages to last until the trip’s end.

Just do it. This may seem obvious, but it needs to be said: write in your journal. Sometimes a traveler with the best of intentions can get stuck at the start. All of those blank pages in a beautiful new journal may seem intimidating, or you think your handwriting is too messy, or your words aren’t good enough. Nonsense! A travel journal is not a scholarly work. It is a record of your experiences – written by you, for you. There are no rules, and no one is grading what you write. The best way to get going is to, well, get going. Dive in, start writing and you’ll find these barriers will disappear.

Pay attention. Your journal doesn’t have to only be about where you go each day. Stop for a moment, look around and ask yourself some questions. What’s happening right here, right now? What are the details of daily life going on around you? Does it look similar to or different from life at home? What are people talking about, reading, watching? Did you taste, smell, or touch something you’ve never eaten, breathed, or felt before? Did you meet someone new? Where, when? What did you talk about? Recording observations and anecdotes will add variety and depth to your travel journal.

Here or there. If you wait for ideal conditions of time and place before you start to write, the writing will most likely not follow. When you travel you don’t always know where you’re going to stop, so take advantage of opportune moments along the way – while taking a break on a hike, standing in a long line, sitting at a café, riding a train, waiting for a museum to open, in the backseat of a taxi during a traffic jam. You’ll discover many occasions to write and often find new inspiration in these situations.

What a difference a day makes. With a busy itinerary, it can be a challenge for your journal entries to keep pace with your travels. Try to write something every day, or at least every other day, so you can capture your thoughts while they’re fresh. If you let more time pass, it can be difficult to remember what you were doing three or four days ago, especially the fleeting impressions of those experiences. Your journal will be richer if you keep up with it.

Collect mementos. Save the small mementos you pick up along the way. These souvenirs – boarding passes, ticket stubs, receipts, business cards, labels, stamps, wrappers, foreign currency – will enhance your written memories by providing a tangible connection back to your travels. A journal that includes pockets makes it easy to save mementos along the way, eliminat-ing the need for tape of glue to secure these items.

More than words can say. If writing paragraphs doesn’t suit either you or your trip, try something else. Instead, make lists, such as your favorite restaurants for dinner, the best spots to watch the sunset or descriptions of the photos you’ve taken. Wear a pedometer and record how many miles you walk each day. Try sketching too and don’t be discouraged if you are not confident as an artist. Sometimes sketching is really the best way to translate an experience that would be lost when described with text. As the saying goes, a picture is worth one thousand words.

Take the bad along with the good. For all the great travel experiences we enjoy, there are days when things go wrong. Write about these experiences too, for they’re just as memorable (if not more!) While obviously not the highlight of a trip, they are part of your unique travel story and often are as much fun to reminisce about as the ones that go as planned.

The more the merrier. You don’t have to be the only one who writes in your journal. Ask your travel companions to contribute their thoughts on a new particular event or destination. Have you met new people? Made new friends? Invite them to sign your journal, offer tips and suggestions, or add a friendly note.

You won’t regret keeping a travel journal on your next trip. Regardless of how much or little you jot down, you’ll be grateful that you took the time to write about your journeys. When you return home, your journal will become a treasured souvenir, vividly bringing back precious memories every time you open it.

For journaling solutions, check your local bookstore or an online specialty store like Destination: Unknown, a brand of homemade, travel-sized journals that feature clever touches like clear pockets for tickets and momentos and elastic straps to keep things tidy. We like this one, dubbed "roadtrip" in its pocket-size: 3 5/8" x 5 1/8". ($20)

Source: Destination: Unknown