Travellers on why they love their travel journals

For years, I kind of assumed that I was unusual for keeping a travel diary. Whether or not my fellow travellers kept a journal was something that just never came up for discussion, and since I had long wanted to be a writer and that was one of the reasons I kept a travel journal, I just thought that other people didn’t.

Turns out that I was wrong. (Oh, and I was wrong about so many other things too, just by the by!)

Why travellers love their travel journals

When I started teaching my face-to-face travel writing class here in Perth, and especially when I launched Travel Journal School online, I realised that a massive number of travellers keep a travel diary of some kind. In fact, most of them keep one very similar to mine! I asked around for a few samples from fellow travel bloggers as well, and thought you might be interested in seeing the results. If you’re a travel journal writer: you are very, very far from being alone!

A travel diary with some extra squiggles

My lovely friend Linda of Journey Jottings was kind enough to share her thoughts on travel journalling – if you check out her site you’ll see that she has evolved this over the years to create the coolest story maps and I’ve even tried these out myself. Linda says:

I kept my first journal when travelling overland from Oz to Europe decades ago, and love how little snippets of recorded detail can spark off way bigger memories.

I’m never impressed with my first drafts of writing (which is what raw journals are) so rather than elaborate with more adverbs and adjectives I prefer to add squiggly doodles to fill in the details – These cartoon type renditions never fail to bring back the moment of how I felt and what I experienced.

Travel Journal from Linda of Journey Jottings

Excerpt from Linda’s travel journals, complete with squiggly doodles!

I think Linda makes a good point about journals being first drafts. Whether you’re planning to publish something or just writing down your experiences for you and your family to look at, it’s pretty hard to write something really brilliant while you’re out there travelling. You’re very likely tired, you don’t have much time to get a really good perspective on your experiences, and (if you’re like me) you’re so damn afraid of leaving out something important that you cram in all the details even if it gets boring!

Travel journals for family memories

I have to say that the next I was wrong about was assuming that only women kept travel diaries. I guess that the idea of keeping a personal diary is something more females than males do, but over the years of teaching my courses I have certainly had plenty of men who have kept regular journals when they travel. Including this one – Mark of Wyld Family Travel shared his thoughts:

I love my travel journal. To me they are a part of my experience of traveling. I often read over the old ones and memories jump off the page and play out in my mind. It’s hard to remember everything you do, where you have been what you have eaten; a journal keeps all this information alive for you. It will also provide some history for my kids in the future of their adventures of traveling with their father when they were young. There is something poetic, maybe even historic, about recording our thoughts in a journal.

Travel Journal by Mark of Wyld Family Travel

Mark’s travel journal

I’m starting to feel a survey coming on … I want to know what proportion of travellers keep diaries, and how the gender difference comes up! One day …

The travel journal of everything – even multiple authors

I thought I had lots of different ideas for journalling and in the past I’ve discussed family journal writing with my classes, but Tami of Postcards & Passports has an idea that makes it simpler and easier and quite honestly, really cool (and is something I’m going to try next trip – and wish I’d tried on my recent Tasmania trip when my mother was along for the ride as well!). Tami says:

I use a travel journal for every trip. I prefer to get something small and easy to lay open, so I can write on a subway, train, bus, etc if necessary. And boy! do I write – what I spend, phone numbers, tips I learn, reviews of the hotels we stay at – to thoughts about places we’ve visited, inspiration I’ve gleaned, or funny quotes from my family. Sometimes, I pass the journal around to other family members and have them take a turn writing about a place. It’s really nice at the end of a trip to look back on it from the eyes of all who were there. I use my travel journal to help me plan other trips, share information with others, write my blog posts, and create published books on Blurb. You think you will remember your amazing trips, but it doesn’t take long to forget the details. Don’t travel without a travel journal!

Travel Journal from Tami of Postcards and Passports

Tami’s journal, including snippets from other family members. Genius!

Tami’s so right about how easy it is to forget “unforgettable” experiences – many times I’ve been a little surprised to read about an experience I wrote about in my very own travel journal, and realised I may never have remembered I’d done it without having that written record. But my epiphany from Tami’s journal is how easy it would be to get family members or other people you’re travelling with (or even semi-strangers in a hostel!) just to write a line or two of their thoughts too. What a great idea!

A precious box of travel journals

I met Gaia of How to travel light, a travel blog in Portuguese, online, and I just love her dedication to travel journalling. What I love most is that she has this big wooden box of them and what a treasure trove of experience that box is holding! Gaia says:

I’ve been keeping journals since I was a pre-teen. I always use ruled notebooks, but other than that they can be cheap or expensive, I don’t mind. I have a big wooden box where I keep them all, and I tend to mix a lot of stuff, like to do lists and drafts for articles, personal thoughts and travel itineraries. There’s only one rule: I buy a new notebook for each trip. This helps me organize and locate some specific piece or information when I need to.

Travel journal in Portuguese from Gaia Passarelli

A travel journal for my Portuguese readers …

These days I also start a new journal for each trip, or occasionally put a couple of short trips into one journal; back when I lived abroad for years I just had journal after journal continuously, always buying a new one from the place I lived in, which was half of the fun. Mine don’t have to be expensive, either, but they have to be somehow beautiful, or cute, or funny.

Do you keep a travel journal?

So help me start my data collection … do you keep a travel diary? (And are you male or female?!) I’d love to know what makes you pull out the pen and paper (or keyboard) when you’re on a trip. Let me know in the comments below!

 

Interested in Travel Journal School?

In case you’re curious about Travel Journal School, there are plenty of ways to get more information – the best one is to sign up for the Travel Journal School email list so you’ll know when a new course is starting. They run online for 6 weeks and include videos, tutorials, homework exercises and a private Facebook group. You can also sign up here to get a free bonus module so you can test out what Travel Journal School is really like.

Comments

  1. The underlying consensus seems to be the joy and fun of being reminded of travelling tales which would otherwise be left unvisited in the recesses of our minds if not offered some form of memory jogger!

    I too have asked others to either contribute to a journal, or more often write in the name of a foreign place that I’m struggling to spell! And the lovely thing about that is the variety of handwriting styles that are out there that come from different parts of the world 🙂

    • I think I’ve always been too shy about my journals to put them in the hands of other people (not that they would be able to read my messy handwriting usually!) but I love the idea – and especially yours of getting people from other places to add something too! Will definitely be trying this out next time. I wish I’d done it on our trip to Tassie – a bit of input from my 5-year-old plus three women aged 74 to 80 would have been fascinating!

  2. I TRY to keep a journal and have so many (most of them) of half or 3/4 of my trip and then they are abandoned. I was on a six month trip last year and my journalling was pathetic. – the worst ever… I blame having a blog as well although don’t know what my excuse was for all the other trips way back when. There are just details of your trip and feelings that you don’t want to share in a blog. I received a beautiful new journal from friends earlier this week. I hope to have the best journal ever for my upcoming two month trip in March as I’m taking your class. So excited!

    • Oh yes, abandoning the journal – been there and done that many, many times! (Some recently too!). I’m sure that Travel Journal School will help you out though, welcome on board!!

  3. It is always nice reading and remembering about your travel journeys and adventures.

  4. Hi. Just found your blog and podcast through the Slow Your Home podcast. Looking forward to reading and listening. I only started keeping a travel journal (or any journal) about four years ago. Although I now journal daily, I unfortunately missed recording a Paris trip. I’ve since added journals for London, Ireland, Scotland, Morocco, San Francisco, and New Orleans (where we go every year). In November, I’ll have one for Egypt! I used to use composition books, but now I enjoy taking my leather Traveler’s Notebook because it’s compact and I can keep documents all together. I want to try having some Egyptians write in my Egypt book. Wouldn’t that be cool? I also like to keep a bit of money from the country in my journal, too. I’d love to be a sketcher, but I’m usually too pooped, and I’m rubbish, anyway. LOL. BTW, I’m a 62 yo female in the US.

    • Welcome Odette, lovely to have you hear and isn’t Slow Your Home (and Brooke) fabulous?
      I absolutely love the idea of getting locals to write in your journal in Egypt, that would be fabulous. Hope you enjoy my blog and podcast – and lovely to “meet” you!

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