I’m no travel journal expert, but I absolutely adore a good travel journey or a place to keep my memories. I’m a keepsake, memory hoarder and I’m not sorry. I still have many little memories from high school that I intend to scrapbook one day such as my list of demerits and detentions, notes from friends, movie tickets, and much more.
So I’m sure you can guess my travel adventures are even more extravagant when it comes to collecting memories. Although I keep a blog and take a lot of pictures, nothing beats a handwritten memory with tangible memories like tickets, receipts, postcards, printed pictures, and hand drawn maps.
As an athlete living overseas we see a lot when we travel for matches and I didn’t want to find myself 25 years down the road wishing I would have written down more memories and collected more things, so that’s why I do what I do and I believe a travel journal is the best way to do that. Not only is it easily transported from place to place, but it is a perfect decoration for a new home and a way for party guests to see how amazing you have lived.
I searched Pinterest.com for some awesome travel journal example picturess and they are to die for. Of course everyone isn’t as creative as myself, just kidding, but it is still easy to collect a train ticket it, add some glue, and slap it in a journal along with a little note. You don’t have to be fancy, you just have to do it.
And some less fancy and less colorful versions.
Some ideas and suggestions to put in your travel journal
Receipts in a different language and currency
Currency (yes, even coins)
Pictures of your apartment, gym, favorite place to eat
Letters from fans
Favorite candy/food wrappers
A mash of my favorite tips from travel blogs
Keep a daily list of the 5 best things that happen to you. This sounds like an easy task, but travelers too often dwell on the negative, like a gross bathroom, a taxi driver that ripped you off or getting lost on the subway. But if you know you have to make a list of “good” things that happen every day, your perception will start to shift and you’ll notice and appreciate the tiny bright spots, like the sweetest pineapple you ever tasted, the store clerk that forgave your incorrect change, or the man working the Internet café who gave you a discount because you’d been there three out of the last four days.
I do add little items from the trip – anything from stickers, postcards, loose change and even candy wrappers. I’m not really that much of a memorabilia hoarder by nature, but try to keep a thing or two and put it on my journal from time to time.
I often want to remember practical facts from everyday life, like the number of the bus or the cost of a ticket, or even the series of stops my train makes. Instead of writing about this in long-winded prose, I make a few dot points of the salient facts and leave it at that. It’s also not necessary to list the chronology of your day, including how you got from X to Y: if it’s not interesting, leave it out. It usually won’t be that important in the future that you took a bus from the museum to the art gallery and it took 37 minutes.
Do make the effort to spend your first few words identifying the when and where. I always include a heading with both the day and date, plus the town I’m staying in, and the place where I’m writing the entry – the name of the hotel, a train line or a bench in a park.
Keep it interesting for your eyes by adding in the occasional tidbit that’s not just words. This might be a quick sketch to explain the bizarre arrangement of furniture in your current hotel room, or pasting in the train ticket with your name printed in the Cyrillic alphabet.
Be creative about what the extra bits might be. When I traveled across Russia I bought the most delicious bag of wrapped candies in Irkutsk. I stuck one of these colorful candy wrappers into my journal and I can still taste them when I open to that page. At the same time, be selective about your extras, and don’t just stick in picture after picture from tourist brochures. Pick something meaningful.
Create an index. While this might sound like an incredibly anally retentive thing to do, it works. Every time I get a new notebook to use as a travel diary (always an exciting moment), I sit down with a pen and number every page in the bottom corner. When the journal is full, I take a half hour to write an index that lists the main destinations of my trip and which page I can find them on. Later, when you want to re-read your journal, it will most often be because you want to check on the name of a museum you visited, or to find out the name of that friend you made in Beijing. You’ll be grateful for your handy index then.
Start writing in your dedicated travel journal at least a couple weeks before you depart. Note your plans, your emotions, fears, expectations.
Once you reach your destination, make journaling part of your settling in activities. Take a shower, order a drink, and tell your journal all about the new surroundings.
When it’s almost time to go home, devote a special journaling session to listing highlights of your trip. Ask yourself questions as if you were being interviewed: What did you enjoy the most? What was beautiful, awesome, fun, strange? What was difficult or distasteful? How are you feeling emotionally, spiritually?
You spent the day exploring a place other than home. We understand the world by contrasting one thing to another. Compare what you saw to what you live and identify what you’re grateful for in everyday life.
Aim for brilliance once in a while. When you can take the time to sit down and think back over the day, think about the places you went, the people you met, the food you ate, the scents you took notice of, your activities and the things you learned. As you do take note of what makes you smile. If you want you can even itemize these under a heading: What Made Me Smile Today.
Every entry doesn’t have to be brilliant. But every day should have an entry. Writing every day, even small details, will help you maintain your momentum. Miss a few days and sometimes the practice of writing a journal can be lost for the entire trip so try to make a notation no matter how small.
Document your itinerary. Rough out your itinerary in a few pages at the front of your journal. You can do this before you leave. Allow lots of space between points so you can keep track of how your itinerary changes as you travel.
Get it down on paper while it’s fresh – it will be much more vivid. If there’s not enough time for a full description, jot down a few key words, which will jog your memory and fill in the gaps later.
It’s your journal so stick to what interests YOU. If you want to record distance in miles covered, units of wine drunk, funny road signs, tacky souvenirs, or cute cats then great – that’s your prerogative.
Enjoy yourself! Your travels and trips are fun – and your journal should be too! For you – the writer – and for those who will later read it.
Entries don’t have to be chronological Write whatever catches your imagination, whenever it occurs to you.
You don’t have to record everything What you leave out is as important as what you put in.
Avoid listing your activities/descriptions/surroundings ‘And then I did this… and then I did that’, it’s a captivating story not a repetitive list.
Illustrate it The act of drawing a building, termite mound or character will help etch them in your memory.
Scrap it! Stick in tickets, bottle labels, snippets from local newspapers, receipts etc –use the pocket in the back of the journal to hold them or stick them in next to the day they refer to – leaving you with a thick, full memory to look back on.
Ask yourself Who’s the diary for? Is it just for you to read – or to share with your friends? This could influence what you put in or leave out! It will also influence the tone and style in the way you write.
This is a cute journal found on Etsy.com
Travel Journal Etsy.com $8
You don’t have to buy some expensive journal, but something nice and durable is worth investing in. My favorite and my current journal is a Moleskin Notebook that can be found for $18.95 – I purchased large, soft cover with the blank pages for more freedom.
And if you’re feeling extra fancy and creative you can do something awesome like this to hang in your future home.
Or something more simple and hidden like this.
Whatever you decide to do, just do it and and keep up with it. You don’t have to do an entry every single day. Maybe once a month or whenever you go on a big travel trip with your team, and then just keep one for each new season and country you play in. I promise you won’t be sorry.