The popularity of travel journalling has peaked in recent years and understandably so, with exploring the globe becoming accessible to more and more people over time. A travel journal can be one of your most treasured keepsakes from a trip, with first-hand documentation of your encounters with different cultures, landscapes and people the world around. Like all types of journalling done purposefully, it wields the possibility of transporting us back in vivid detail 10, 20, even 30 years from now.
You can have journals dedicated to trips within a specific year, or even have a different journal for each major trip you make. While many do, I am not one of those who can journal on the go. I have tried, and failed, many a time to bring my journal (and the colossal amount of stationery I think I might need) along, only to have it sit in my luggage untouched throughout the entire holiday. I prefer, instead, to not stress about it while away, taking in all the sights, paying special attention to the little details I want to include in my journal and noting them down in my phone for future reference. Whether you choose to take your journal along with you for the ride, or leave the journalling for when you return, here are 5 simple tips for getting the most out of your travel journalling.
1) Document your preparation
Preparation is a vital step to any trip, and the moment you decide on your destination and have your tickets booked is the best time to start putting entries down. When doing research on your destination, treat your travel journal as you would a planner tasked to organize all the information and to-dos prior to you leaving. Wish-lists of people and places you want to visit, must-try foods and your flight and travel itineraries all help to transport the excitement you feel for the trip into the pages of your journal.
Other pertinent information such as the expected local weather, transportation plans, as well as clothing and vaccination requirements make reliving the experience over and over again as vivid as possible. Leave some space between points for changes in plans and extra notes you might want to add in as you become better informed closer to your departure date.
2) Get down the details
It’s not always easy to remember specific details of what happened throughout the day, but specific details are what make travel journals such a joy to look back on in the first place. Get them down in bullet points anywhere you can; in your phone, on loose notepaper, even receipts or napkins if you must, so that when you can finally sit back at the end of the day and reflect, you’ll have all your notes with you, ready to be expanded upon in your journal. I add anecdotes of conversations we’d had, comments on the food we’d tried, our experiences with the various transport systems and information on the places we visit.
Remember to also note down how you feel throughout the trip. It’s much nicer to have a journal rich with the meaning of your travels as you reflect on your experiences. Compare them to what you understood of the world before your trip and see if there are any lessons to be learned and appreciated.
3) The little things
One of my favorite things to do on a trip is to collect little bits of ephemera to add to my entries. I liken it to a little treasure hunt of unique items I wouldn’t normally come across in my day-to-day life. It’s also a great way to bond with the kids. They love to discover new bits and pieces we can keep and eventually stick in the travel journal. Boarding passes, ticket stubs, information leaflets, labels, menus and maps are some of the things we actively keep a look out for.
Once in a while, we chance upon limited edition candy wrappers or custom rubber stamps, postcards and stickers offered by local shops and establishments for travelers and tourists to keep as souvenirs, and these are all kept safely in a little plastic envelope, to pull out later and paste in our travel journal. They add character and authenticity, making it really fun to look back at whenever we are feeling nostalgic.
For the creatively inclined, travelling is a wonderful way to reignite inspiration. You can include mini inspiration boards or mood boards, little sketches or artworks of all the new things that inspired you. Whether it’s sketching the local landscape or the pretty desserts, you can flex your creative muscles without the pressure of having everything perfect and make truly meaningful artwork for yourself and your family.
4) Good friends, great adventures
As with any journey, the people you travel with can be more important than your destination. When writing in your journal, remember to make special mentions of the people you spent your time with, the activities you did together and how you felt during your time with them. While taking photos of your surroundings is a must, don’t forget to also snap lots of pictures and selfies to remind you of the wonderful company you were with.
Occasionally, you may come across fellow travelers or friendly locals that leave an impression on you. A funny conversation in a foreign land conducted completely in body language is surely worthy of a snippet in our journal.
5) Be thankful
Travelling allows us to grow mentally as we become exposed to new people, cultures and lifestyles. The more we travel, the more we realize the things we constantly take for granted. Upon returning from your trip, give yourself some time to compare what you experienced with how your daily life is, and identify the things you’re grateful for every day. This way, your journal will be bursting with meaningful memories, unique keepsakes and valuable lessons learnt along the way.