A travel journal is by far my favorite souvenir to bring back from a trip. Handwritten memories of the places I have seen, been, and experienced make it an irreplaceable item. I filled up my first travel journal at the end of Europe Backpacking Trip #1 in 2016. I felt so accomplished. I religiously documented each day on the trip and managed to keep track of all the sights, restaurants, and things we saw along the way.
Whether you’re a casual traveler or a die-hard adventure-seeker, journaling your experiences allows you to go back and relive those exciting times again and again. These are the five ways to create your own epic travel journal.
1. FIND THE PERFECT JOURNAL
This is unique to each person, but I will start by telling you about my perfect journal. A solid black medium Moleskin journal with lined pages. The size is perfect. It contains just enough pages for most trips, and has a handy pocket in the back for ticket stubs, photos, and other small clippings I want to save. The journal is easy to transport given its small size, and holds up well in all weather conditions. My most recent journal has endured subzero temperatures in Iceland and record-breaking heat in Italy, and looks as good as new. Some things to consider when choosing your perfect journal: size, cover material, color, ruled vs blank pages, pockets, price, and how many pages. I have purchased some of my journals from home before a trip, but others I have bought during the trip. These are usually authentic leather journals I find in cool little boutiques, and they carry even more meaning because of the memory of finding them.
2. START THE TRIP PLANNING PROCESS
I recommend purchasing a travel journal as soon as you have decided you are taking a trip. If you’ve purchased one from a previous trip, use that one to plan your next trip. The travel journal is a great tool to use during the planning process. I use the first few pages of the travel journal to jot down notes about cities, sights, and restaurants I would like to try. Pinterest is a great site to start browsing things to do, places to eat, etc. All my ideas and notes are on a few pages and then I sort through them as I plan the trip in more detail.
I love organizing things, and my travel journals are no exception. The organization of the travel journal will take a little trial and error for most people to see what works best for them. For me, I enjoy dedicating one to two pages per city I will be visiting on any given trip. On these pages I will list the city, how I plan on traveling to and from this city (including all confirmation and flight numbers), where I will be staying (address, phone number, and directions), things I would like to do in the city (historical sights, museums, concerts, etc.) and most importantly, the places I would like to eat (name of restaurants, address/neighborhood, type of food, and business hours). This provides me with all the information I need. Writing down confirmation numbers and directions is particularly helpful when cellular service or data isn't available (aka most of Iceland).
4. DOCUMENT THE TRIP
The travel journal is prepped and now it's bon voyage! Use the prepared city pages to guide you as you travel from place to place. Jot down notes at the sights and restaurants you visit (did you like it? would you go back?). This will be so helpful if you return to a destination or are asked for recommendations in the future. Hint: This is where I pull most of my city recommendations from!
At the end of each day, I always try to write several pages about the day including the highlights, my thoughts and feeling about the day's activities, what surprised me about a destination, and small moments that made me particularly happy. This is what makes my travel journals so special to me. A quick disclaimer: I love journaling-- reflecting on the day and what I accomplished is therapeutic and gratifying. I realize journaling isn't as fun for some people, therefore my recommendation is write as much or as little as you would like. It is your travel journal after all.
5. ADD PHOTOS AND OTHER MEMORABILIA FROM THE TRIP
Polaroid pictures, ticket stubs, dried flowers, etc. make great additions to your travel journal. Leaving some space between writings will allow you to paste these items in the journal when you return. You can also do this as you go if you have the necessary materials. Washi tape usually does the trick and is super easy to transport. The memorabilia adds so much to the journal when you go back and read through it. It sparks memories and feelings you had when you were at the destination!
Above all else, create the souvenir you’ll want to keep forever. Remember, this is about what works for you. Write as much or as little as you want, but definitely write something; your future-self thanks you!