Keeping an interest log, and what I’ve learnt about myself from travelling

Have you ever sat down and thought about all the different things you’re really, truly interested in? I’m guessing you’re interested in some (or many) aspects of travel, for example, or you probably wouldn’t be reading my blog. But what are the unique combination of interests that make you who you are?

Keeping an interest log, inspired by Gretchen Rubin

I’m a huge fan of New York-based writer Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project among other fabulous works (her new book Better than Before is my current read, in fact). Recently I re-read The Happiness Project (one of the very few books I re-read regularly) and this time I was struck by her example of keeping an “interest log”.

Keeping an interest log

This came about when Gretchen Rubin realised she couldn’t be interested in everything. She would “like” to be interested, for example, in the political situation in the Middle East, but would much rather be reading something about children’s literature. I’ve noticed this about myself; I’d “like” to be interested in all world history and current events, but the fact is that I’m particularly and keenly interested in certain seemingly random aspects but not all. (This seems to bemuse my husband, who can’t understand why I’ll be glued to one documentary but not the next.)

I decided to try Gretchen Rubin’s exercise of keeping an interest log, which involved paying particular attention to the topics I especially wanted to read about, watch something about, listen to or talk about. I kept a running list in a note on my phone for a month and the result has been really interesting.

My personal interest log, with a travel and culture slant

Since travel is a topic I’m supremely interested in, I wasn’t too surprised that quite a few topics related to travel and culture featured on my interest list. But put them all together and my interests do seem kind of random:

  • Japan (everything about it!)
  • productivity and to do lists
  • “Shark Tank” and “Undercover Boss” (two of the very few TV shows I ever watch!)
  • autism
  • vegetarianism and whole foods
  • South and North Korea
  • gay rights and gay marriage
  • the Trans-Siberian Railway
  • wombats
  • teaching adults
  • karaoke
  • Iceland
  • green tea and fruit tea
  • equality, racism, human rights
  • “Border Security” and other similar TV shows
  • Berlin Wall
  • literary fiction written by women

Some of these interests will come and go, I think, but many of them – especially the travel and culture related ones – have already been around for a long time. Back in high school, when I studied Theatre Arts, I wrote and performed a one-act play about the Berlin Wall; I’ve been obsessed with the Trans-Siberian Railway since I read Paul Theroux’s Riding the Iron Rooster in my early twenties.

Interest logs and your travels

What I’ve learnt about myself from these travelling interests

I have to say it was really very refreshing to admit to myself that there are some things I’m just not that interested in (which relieved the pressure of pretending to be interested!) and others that I’m passionately interested in.

It also made me think about what goes through my head when I’m planning a trip. There are certain places that I visit because I feel that I want to be interested, even though I’m not exactly that keen, and then others that I just feel passionate about, often without an especially good reason.

These feelings can change over time, of course – when I was younger, I really didn’t understand the compulsion people had to visit art galleries, but over time (and with some help) I learnt to love them. Others just get stronger and stronger. It was a long-held goal of mine to cross Russia on the Trans-Siberian and now that I’ve done it once, I dream of doing it again, just differently (my big fantasy is to take it non-stop, spending a whole week on the train, rather than stopping off frequently – I can’t even explain why I want to, I just do!).

And I’ve learnt that although I obviously need to take into account the personal interests of those I’m travelling with as well, I could use my interest log to narrow down future destinations. I sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed to think about all the places in the world I want to visit and how I’ll ever fit it all in, but I think I can reframe that now to think more about the places (and activities) I’m most interested in, and plan trips more based on that. And allow myself to see that it’s perfectly okay to have my own unique set of interests to pursue when I travel.

How to keep your own interest log

I thought that some of my readers might be interested in doing the same thing, so I’ve put together a printout to help you create your own interest log. You can download the Not A Ballerina – Interest Log PDF, print it out and keep an interest log by writing down which topics are really grabbing your attention – when you find yourself reading something online, listening to something intently on the radio or a podcast, watching something on YouTube or TV, tearing out something from a magazine – whatever the topic is, add it to your interest log and see where it leads you.

Not A Ballerina personal interest log

If your list teaches you something interesting about yourself – especially your travelling self! – then let me know. I hope you find it as interesting as I did (oh yes … poor pun intended!).


  1. I love that book too, I always get something new from it every time I read it. This is a great way to narrow down the huge list of places I’d love to still travel to.

  2. I’m so going to do this – thanks for the suggestion and for the inspiration!

  3. What an awesome idea Amanda – thank you for sharing it hun xx

  4. This is such a good idea – I’m definitely going to jot down my interests – love a good list! Thanks for the book recommendations, too!


  1. […] travel experiences. Author Amanda writes thoughtfully about topics like reverse culture shock and keeping an interest log, but one of the best resources the blog has to offer engaged travelers is its Thoughtful Travel […]

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