If you’ve been wondering how to start a travel journal, you’re in the right place! I love travel journals and am slowly working up to a solid collection of them from my various travels throughout my life. From wandering in Europe to roadtrips in the US, you can start a travel journal for almost any trip you take.
It’s a worthwhile thing to do, as the further you get away from a trip the more the memories fade. I love having my journals to go back to as it helps jog my memory on details I might have forgotten or how a place made me feel. Plus, I’m one of those people that loves travel photos – whether they’re my own or someone else’s. I like seeing far away places through the lens.
There are a variety of ways to get started travel journaling, and it might seem a little daunting at first but don’t let this scare you off! You just have to find the version of travel journaling that’s right for you. So here’s an outline of a couple different versions, but remember, as always, your journal is your own and the beauty of journaling is that it can be whatever you want it to be! I’m just here to help spark some ideas for you.
How to Start a Travel Journal: Kinds of Journaling
Just the Facts Travel Journaling
This is the easiest way to start a travel journal. It involves nothing but a notebook, a pen and jotting down the things you saw, foods you ate, and where you stayed. You can create a daily log that just highlights where you’ve been. You can use a separate notebook for this or you can incorporate it into another form of journaling or planning you do. A great way to do this is to incorporate it into your bullet journal!
Storytelling Travel Journaling
This is taking your just the facts to the next level. You can go beyond the facts to explore the sites, describe the smells and tastes of the food you had, the feel of the cobblestones under your feet, or maybe something less romantic – like how your flight had rough turbulence and then the airline lost your luggage and you had to improvise for two days until it finally arrived at your hotel (who hasn’t been there at some point, right?). This is where you take your facts and make them a little more vivid with your imagination.
Envelope Travel Journaling
This version of travel journaling uses some combination of one of the above along with saving lots of odds and ends that you collect on your trip. Your receipts, ticket stubs, post cards, the napkin from the cafe where you had your first real cappuccino in Italy, the brochure from the museum you visited, and so on. You’ll want to make sure the journal you have has lots of pockets and envelopes and other places to stuff those things so you can bring them back with you. They are a low-key way to illustrate your trip.
Scrapbook Style Travel Journaling
This version is the slightly more complicated version of the previous way of starting a travel journal. It involves taking some of those odds and ends, some photos that you’ve taken along the way (do you know they make awesome pocket sized printers these days?) and gluing them down in your journal with washi tape or some other kind of adhesive. You can get super creative with this, adding doodles and drawings and other elements to it or you can just keep it simple. Writing is up to you – but I highly recommend at least jotting down the places and times you were at when you collected things. Down the road these will be helpful reminders!
Sketchbook Travel Journaling
Do you love to sketch and doodle? Do you see a place and your fingers start itching for a pad of paper and a good pencil? Maybe you just find the idea of sitting in a plaza in Europe sketching the outline of a 15th century building inspiring. If so, this might be the right way to start a travel journal for you then. All you really need is a sketchbook and a pencil, but this is also a great way to incorporate details into any other form of travel journal you create. Even if you’ve never tried sketching before, you should give it a go. You might be surprised with what you come up with, and if nothing else it gives you the opportunity to find a nice cafe table or park bench to set up and people watch from!
Just remember, you should do the kind of travel journaling that appeals to you. Don’t compare yourself to other journalers out there and don’t think that because your travel journal isn’t perfect that it isn’t worth doing. Checking out other travel journals is an opportunity for you to have inspiration, not dictate how you have to do your own journal. Besides, it’s the imperfections that make your travel journal great!
Supplies to Start a Travel Journal
The kind of travel journaling that appeals to you above will help you start to decide what kind of supplies you might need. You may only want a notebook or a pen, or you may want to create a small pouch of things to take along with you. Just remember to keep your supplies as minimal as you can. You don’t want to have to carry around a bunch of extra things you might not even use. And while sketching in a plaza might seem romantic, it won’t if you have to bring an entire office worth’s of supplies along with you.
The things I’d highly recommend bringing with you are:
- A journal – whether you want to make your own journal or you want to just pick one up. You can go the simple route and just get a blank notebook or bullet journal, or you can find a version that has prompts ready to go for you.
- Pens or pencil – I like taking something erasable, so I’d recommend a mechanical pencil or an erasable pen. I love these frixion pens!
- Washi – Whether you want to decorate a page or just need a practical way to get your ticket stub to stay stuck to the page, washi can serve all these purposes. And the best part is that if you change your mind later, you can easily remove it and move things around.
Beyond those, it’s really up to you. What will make you feel motivated to journal?
How to Fit Travel Journaling Into Your Trip
You might be really excited about the idea of a travel journal, but there’s just one problem. You have big plans for you trip – whether its spending time relaxing on the beach or packing in as much sightseeing as Paris can offer. When the heck are you supposed to take time to travel journal?
There’s no right answer, but I do have a few suggestions.
Take your travel journal with you in your day bag or purse. You never know when you might have to wait in a long line, or you might have some extra time at a restaurant to jot down a few words. Or if you’re sketching, you never know when you might feel inspired. There have been numerous times I’ve ended up in a park or with time to spare while waiting for my food to come at a restaurant that I could have used to jot down a few words.
Journal at the end of the day. Whether it’s after you get back to your room at night or right before you go to sleep, there’s usually some extra time at the end of the day where you can squeeze in some travel journaling. And best of all, the memories are all fresh in your mind. This is my second favorite way to get some travel journaling in when I’m on the road.
After the Trip…What to Do With Your Travel Journal
I like to bring it home and add additional pages I might not have thought about while I was on the road. It’s also a great time to write a sort of “wrap up” entry, to summarize the trip. You can also sneak in some extra photos or finish any pages you didn’t get a chance to.
If you have a significant amount of leftover blank pages, you can reuse the journal over and over again on future trips until you fill it out. Or you can choose to just keep one journal per trip. It’s up to you.
After the trip find a place to store your travel journal so that you can preserve it (and find it when you’re ready to head out on your next adventure). You can keep it on a shelf or in a drawer, but to keep it safe long term it’s best to keep it somewhere where the temperature and humidity are moderated (aka not a basement or an attic).
What About Previous Trips?
Also, if you have a trip that you’ve already been on and wish you would have kept a travel journal – you can go back! I’ve started doing this myself with trips that I’ve taken and didn’t keep a journal on. I still have dozens (okay hundreds) of pictures that are just sitting on drive somewhere and lots of memories. When I have some free time and feel inspired, I go back and add to the journal. Better late than never, and the sooner you get those memories down the better.
Plus, getting those photos off a drive and into a place where I can page through them makes them so much more meaningful.
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