Write Your Way Around the World With These Travel Journal Ideas
How and Why You Should Keep a Travel Journal
More than merely a pleasant pastime or an idle preoccupation, travel journals hold an elevated place in literary history. Herodotus’ “Histories” may very well qualify as qualify as the first travel journal and other noteworthy examples that rose to literary fame include efforts from Marco Polo (“Book of the Marvels of the World”), Mark Twain (“The Innocents Abroad”), William H.H. Murray (“Camp Life in the Adirondacks”) and Rebecca West (“Black Lamb and Grey Falcon”). Even travel journals without greater artistic aspirations have ended up making a big impact. When Tony and Maureen Wheeler turned their journals into 1973’s self-published “Across Asia on the Cheap”, little did they know that it would eventually become the BBC-helmed Lonely Planet franchise.
Like the Wheelers, you probably do not plan for your travel journal to grant you a place in the literary pantheon or earn big bucks. However, a travel journal in any form (and we will get to what those forms can be in just a moment!) is a wonderful way to enrich and preserve any travel experience. Read to learn more about what travel journals are, various travel journal ideas and how you can make your own.
What Is a Travel Journal?
At its most basic, a travel journal is not particularly different from a regular journal. Merriam-Webster describes a journal as, “a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use.” In other words, it is essentially a diary. But in the case of travel journals, they can easily become more expansive.
How? A travel journal can touch upon every aspect of your trip, even times leading up to its beginning or continuing after its conclusion. For instance, are you in the early stages of trip, simply spit-balling potential destinations and dreaming? Jot it down in your travel journal. Have you made some reservations and need to record confirmation numbers or times and dates? Scribble them in your travel journal. Is your trip over and done, but you still find yourself mulling over aspects of it? Hey, that journal is still lying around, you know. Get it all down on paper.
Writing something day after day may seem a bit daunting if you are not used to it. (Sometimes it is still daunting for those of us who do it for a living.) However, the most important part of the actual process is not particularly difficult; you just write. A travel journal does not necessarily need to have a grand theme, although we discuss some organizational possibilities down below. The most important things are all in the definition. A travel journal is your own regular recording of what you think and feel about where you are going.
Travel Journal Ideas
In 1978, Peter Matthiessen published “The Snow Leopard”, a journal chronicling his travels through the Himalayas that also touched on zoology, death, grief and spirituality. Sounds challenging, doesn’t it? Well, such a thematically far-flung approach is exactly what you should not be attempting. If inspiration falls on you like a bolt out of the proverbial blue, then by all means turn your journal into an amazing creation. But before trying that, attempt one of these overarching travel journal ideas to help organize your efforts.
Keep Track of Memories
Fill your travel journal with vivid remembrances. When you look back on your favorite trips, do you ever find yourself dismayed to discover that your best memories have lost all their sharp edges and gone blurry with age? Jot down your favorite experiences in as much detail as quickly as you can to keep them fresh.
Sort Your Experiences in Chronological Order
Chronicle the facts and figures you have discovered. The details can make a story and help you recall some of the best parts of your travels. For instance, Tōno is one of Japan’s most historically prolific brewers of doburoku, a more-than-millennia-old alcoholic beverage that was outlawed for taxation reasons during the 19 century. The Tower of London has seen just more than 400 people executed since the first imprisonment. And over 60 million have visited Yellowstone National Park since 1872, one of whom may have been you.
Jot Down Your Thoughts and Feelings During the Trip
Your external experiences and the ephemera that you have cataloged are only part of what make a trip special. Thoughts and feelings about what has happened are an integral part of your travels and writing them down is much more akin to a traditional diary, something which most of us are familiar with.
One of the great things about travel journaling is that you can come at it in any way that you would like. In fact, you do not even have to use words. Sketch the view from where you sit on Boulevard Haussmann. Tear the label off of your bottle of Carib Lager and slip it between the pages. Save your ticket stubs and metro tickets and napkins from that adorable little bistro. Treat your journal like a scrapbook and watch the possibilities multiply.
Putting It Into Practice: How To Make Your Own Travel Journal
Making your own travel journal starts with selecting a volume in which to write. Posh and practical options abound, including …
- Smythson Travels and Experiences Panama Notebook (expensive, but beautiful journal with gilt pages)
- Moleskine Classic Notebook (a tried-and-true selection that will not break the bank)
- Field Notes Cherry Graph Memo Books (little 48-page, pocket-sized notebooks with graph paper and wood covers)
- Travel Listography (a bestselling travel journal filled with helpful prompts)
- Wacom Bamboo Folio Smartpad Digital Notebook (high-tech option that syncs what you write with the cloud)
The next (and most important) step? Well, as mentioned above, you will have to “just write” it. Scratch out a little something each day while you are on your trip. If you are particularly excited about getting away, broaden that habitual writing to the time prior to your trip. In fact, why not start now?
In “M Is For Magic”, Neil Gaiman wrote, “The hardest thing to do as a [beginning] writer is to finish something.” I’m not sure that is always true, though. For many us, simply starting is difficult because we find ourselves burdened by the weight of our own expectations.
If you find yourself struggling to start your travel journal, look at our travel journal ideas or try implementing Anne Lamott’s advice. In her book “Bird By Bird”, Lamott discusses why she keeps a 1 inch picture frame on her desk.
“It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame,” she explains. “This is all I have to bite off for the time being.”
Consistent, small efforts eventually add up to something big and they help make your travels truly your own.