Travel journal confession: I totally resented my trip diary and never finished it!

(Edit: My online course Travel Journal School is opening again soon for enrolments – you might like it!)

Oh, irony of ironies. Some of you may know I have run a travel writing for fun course here in Perth for the last few years. I talk a lot about the best ways to write your travel journal so that you both enjoy it at the time and want to re-read it in the future, and my biggest piece of advice is DON’T JUST WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. This is a good tip, right? My travel journal confession

My travel journal confession, post-Iceland

Well, well, well, Amanda, you have most definitely failed to practice what you preach of late. I hit Europe in June this year with a lovely brand new journal to write in. (Actually it had New York City on the cover, but that’s another part of the world I love, and they didn’t make Iceland covers at the shop I was at …). I started out beautifully, writing in it happily each day, picking out the best parts of the day and making dot points about other things I wanted to remember. And then I hit Iceland. Beautiful, unique, unexpected Iceland. I didn’t want to ever forget a single detail of Iceland, so I hit my journal hard each night, writing every weird place name and every experience out in long form so that I could hold onto it forever. I’m sure part of this was that fear of forgetting, but added to it (well, my excuse anyway!) was the feeling that it was harder to find this information again than if I was, say, recalling a museum in Berlin.

My travel journal and paraphernalia from Iceland and Germany

My travel journal, complete with paraphernalia from Iceland and Germany

From Iceland, we went on to Germany and Switzerland, which were both a combination of some “real” travelling and exploring, and some spending time with the in-laws. I found myself catching up by writing two or three days’ worth of entries on long train journeys and finally, when I got home to Perth, I realised that the final week of my trip was entirely unrecorded. Big travel journal fail!

What I will do with my travel journal next time

I’ve never been quite this bad with a travel journal. I know I have a tendency to want to write down every detail and in the past it has come out on the boring side, but I’d got better. Not this time, though. I need to follow some of my own tips. So, I faithfully promise on my next trip (which fortunately is just five days in Bangkok so it’s short enough that I should be able to come through on this – right?) to do the following:

  • Stop being afraid of forgetting stuff about my trip by not writing it down.
  • Choose the most interesting parts of my experience to write about.
  • Not feel obligated to write in the same style throughout the journal. It doesn’t have to all be long and detailed. There can be dot points, sketches, glued-in paraphernalia, it doesn’t matter, it’s just for me!
  • Stick to my system of always recording the location, accommodation and date, but don’t get obsessed about other details.

Are you a good travel journal writer or are you more like me?

I’ve confessed, now it’s your turn: do you usually keep a travel journal on your travels? I asked on the Facebook page recently and it turned out that the problem of not keeping a journal for my whole trip was not something unique to me – phew! (You can click through to the post to read everyone’s comments – some people gave some extra tips to help me out next time!)

So I was tidying my desk today and found the travel journal I took to Europe. I opened it and was reminded that I failed… Posted by Not A Ballerina: A Traveller and a Thinker on Thursday, September 3, 2015

So what about you? Do you write in your travel journal like a madman or madwoman, making sure you capture every last detail of your day? Do you find you can’t bear to read the tedium of it afterwards? Or have you developed a better system? Please tell me in the comments! PS: Travel Journal School – my new online course to help you make your travel journals and other memories really sing – is starting in October. If you want to know more about it, sign up here:


  1. One’s travel journal intentions can so easily get thrown off course –
    Set the bar too high and it can become either a slog or impractical to maintain –

    I went to the NT a couple of years ago with a journal in which I planned to create a pictogram story-map on each page for each day – But it turned out, each page was just that little bit bigger than my previous journal (which was pleasurably manageable!) and that extra size took just that little bit longer to fill, so the days inevitably started to slide and like you I ended up having to piece together the final week after I got home, which I wasn’t very happy about –

    However, on my recent trip to Canada, I used a concertina paged journal, which was fantastic. As the pages pull out like a diorama I only had to fill as much of the spread as the activities of the day demanded – Not all travelling days are created equal so why should their page allocation be?! 🙂

    • Oh Linda I’m so glad to hear that even you fail sometimes!! And yes – having a set amount of space per day is (in retrospect) clearly asking for trouble – every day is different. The concertina paged journal sounds ideal!

  2. Hi Amanda,
    yes this rings so true and I was just thinking about my own inability today as I tried to recall some of the weekend trips I took here in the Maldives, but everything fades so fast…

    So I like your tips of making sure I always record the essential info, and then just write away without being worried about style because a journal should really is just for us to remember the journey and to use when preparing to blog about it. The few times I have done just that, it has made a huge difference later, and sometimes capturing your thoughts on the go without worrying about style make for the greatest descriptions because they capture the feeling of ‘travel haste’ wanting to live and experience at the same time as recording it.

    Look forward to reading about your Bangkok trip, loved your Iceland blogs and it’s now on the top of bucket list destinations (especially those Airbnbs you stayed in) 🙂

    • Thanks Kerstin (and yes I highly recommend our Iceland Airbnbs, so gorgeous!) – and yes, getting the essentials down before the memories start to fade is way better than throwing your hands in the air and doing nothing (my approach at times!). Sometimes I think I’ll just be able to look back on photos to fill in the blanks but that is often pretty ineffective …

  3. I’m a bit hit and miss. I like your suggestion to only write about the most interesting bits. More details about the best bits would be better than a sprinkling of boring stuff about everything.

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