If you’re looking for a creative yet useful way to document a great trip away, look no further than travel journaling. Combining elements of bullet journaling with the classic art of reflection, travel journaling is a fantastic way to capture your thoughts and feelings while you’re living in the moment.
Book lover, blogger and photographer Tamsien West from Babbling Books has been travel journaling for a while and shares with us how we can get started on our travel journals.
For those of us who aren’t familiar with it, what is travel journaling?
Travel journaling is, in essence, simply keeping a record of your travels in some kind of notebook. A travel journal can be written, painted, drawn, or my preferred style which is a combination of collage and written reflection. There isn’t really a right or wrong way to travel journal, it’s something so easily personalised to suit each trip and your own style of recording.
Many people attempt to collect things during their trip, like tickets, brochures and so on, combining them with photos when they get home to create a travel journal or scrapbook. While I think this can be a lovely memento of a trip, in my experience they are rarely completed, because life at home gets in the way. So when I talk about travel journaling I focus on the practice of creating a journal while you travel. It doesn’t have to be a daily, minute-by-minute record of events, unless that’s your style.
A travel journal can be themed, or general reflections grouped in a multitude of ways – by city, by type of experience (like a cruise or a tour), by week, there are infinite possibilities depending on what feels like a natural division of thoughts on your trip.
What attracted you to travel journaling?
The experience of travel is quite intense, a specific moment in time with a clear start and end, during which you see and experience many new things. When I travel I feel like I am more actively creating memories, I’m learning things about the world, the landscape, history, and even myself. All these factors make travel the perfect time to keep a journal.
Having a clear start and end of a trip gave me parameters, and having so many new experiences gave me a strong drive to want to pick up a pen and record them. Once I’d completed one journal it was so lovely to look back on that it has fuelled my desire to journal every time I travel.
How is travel journaling different to bullet journaling?
Bullet journaling at its core is very much about organisation, managing tasks, appointments and plans. Travel journaling is about recording a trip. So, you can definitely use elements of bullet journaling when creating a travel journal. I use monthly or weekly spreads to organise travel logistics, destinations and to-do list items like outstanding bookings I need to arrange.
I also create packing lists and other checklists in a bullet journal style to keep my trip organised. But the spontaneous, reflective nature of travel, and the unusual division of time means it rarely fits into any typical journaling system. No two days are the same, you might create pages and pages about one experience, and have nothing much to note about days spent in transit.
Travel experiences tend to sit outside a structure designed to keep you organised on a day-to-day basis. So you want to make sure you aren’t stifling your memories by adhering to a rigid structure – instead focus on giving yourself the space to record the most meaningful parts of your trip.
What supplies should beginners bring with them for travel journaling?
Keep it simple! Choose a really good quality notebook that is suited to both the length of your trip and your preferred style of journaling. I’ve written a blog post all about helping choose the right notebook for travel journaling.
In addition to your notebook, I suggest a pen you are comfortable writing with (for me, a basic black rollerball pen), a small pair of scissors, and some double-sided tape or a small glue stick (make sure they are acid free). If you are only taking hand luggage you’ll have to forego the scissors and perhaps take a small ruler that you can use to both draw lines and tear neat edges. If like me you’re a fan of washi tape, don’t take whole rolls with you. Wind a few lengths of tape onto a business card or other glossy card. This way your tape is much lighter and easier to store, and you can justify taking more designs.
What tips or advice do you have for people who want to give travel journaling a go?
Start working on your journal before you leave for your trip. Set up some pages with research notes on places you would like to visit, or key addresses of accommodation and other details. You could even create a page with addresses of friends or family you would like to send postcards to. It’s all about getting familiar and comfortable with your journal before the trip starts. It will feel far less intimidating to write down your thoughts, observations and memories in a notebook that already has a few pages created before you leave home.
Collect as many interesting paper things as you can on your daily travels, but consolidate and discard (recycle) as you go. Try not to collect mountains of paper and bring it all home without sorting out what is most important to you. I like to set aside some time every day, just 5 or 10 minutes, to cut out key things I want to stick into my journal and start creating page layouts.
Do you have a favourite travel journal spread you created you’d like to share?
My favourite journal page is one I created for part of my time in Iceland. It was such an amazing place to visit that seeing the spread brings back happy memories. I also really like the composition, it’s quite balanced and simple, and features on of the most creative headings I attempted.