This post is a followup to last Thursday’s travel post. Here’s a link to last week’s article if you missed it.
Now that you have a blank book just waiting for your travels to make their way onto the pages, how do you begin?
The First Entry
My first entry, besides a title page, always includes an overview of my trip. Here are a few suggested questions to get you started.
What are you planning to do?
Where are you planning to go?
Who is going with you?
When are you traveling?
Why are you traveling to this destination, in particular?
Documenting the Journey
There are so many ways to organize your journal. I tend to write my journals in chronological order from the beginning of the day until the end, but there are many ways to capture the moments.
Who are the special people you have met along the way?
What were the highlights of each day?
Where did you eat?
I glue almost everything into my journals. I’ve learned lots of unique ways to fold things so they’ll fit and I can still open them up full size to the most important information.
- Menus from restaurants I’ve visited- Did you know there’s a BadAss Cafe in Dublin, Ireland? Many restaurants have paper menus they are willing to share, especially when you explain what you are doing. Sometimes I search for restaurants to visit based on their fantastic names.
- Visitor guides- Stop by the visitor information center. They have great summaries and photos of the places you’re probably planning to visit. I cut some guides apart and some I add to my journal in their full glory. It’s an added bonus that most of these guides are free.
- Post cards- If writing all the details is just too daunting, grab postcards from the different places you visit. It will spark your memory when you find time to write and adds amazing pictures as well.
- Travel agency mailings- When I arrange travel through an agency, they always mail me great information, including maps and other trip details. In they go. My journal and maybe a photo album are the only things that remain when I’m finished. I’ll never go back through other trip related documents once I’m back home, so I include the most important papers in my journal. I’ll see them there the next time I want to revisit my trip.
- Receipts and wrappers- I add in receipts and wrappers from things I’ve eaten. I am very careful about not including too much information on receipts. I don’t want my full credit card number available if my journal is stolen. Make sure you clean off food wrappers so that your journal pages don’t get sticky. I’ve made the mistake of adding the cover from a jelly container without fully cleaning it first. Did you know that grape jelly makes great glue?
- Other stuff- The sky’s the limit here. All of the “stuff” still tells the story of your travel. If it’s of interest to you, include it. This also helps fill the pages so you don’t have to write a book and miss the most fun parts of your trip.
Some of my favorite sections of my journals are views of my trip from other people’s perspectives.
- Fellow Travelers- Are your family members traveling with you? Ask them to add their thoughts at the end of each day. Even if it’s just a sentence, the kids will love going back to the journal to see what they wrote and you’ll eagerly wait for the journal to return to you so you can see their thoughts, too.
- People You Meet- There are drawings in my Africa journal from several of the guides including that of a kudu and a mopane worm. (I actually ate a mopane worm that was sautéed in garlic.) Numerous people have written in my journals including friendly flight attendants, waiters, pilots and guides. Just ask…many people will be honored to add their thoughts. I show them the journal first so they can see what I’m doing. I usually ask people that have touched me in some way. Were they welcoming and friendly when you sat down for a good meal after a busy day?
I have a couple key rules that I follow when I write my journals.
- Perfection is out- I misspell words. I cross things out. I draw right over my drawings if I made myself too thin or too fat. I glue stuff over things I’ve drawn or written that weren’t quite right. Part of the joy of my journey is not adding pressure to make my journal the most beautiful, perfectly organized book. I’ve written the same thing twice after forgetting I already captured the moment. Who cares? Sometimes I only have a few minutes of downtime to write a quick overview, so my handwriting isn’t the best it can be. A messy page more accurately reflects my journey. So get rid of the need to be perfect and you’ll have more fun.
- Journaling Isn’t the Most Important Part of the Trip- Don’t spend your whole trip journaling. Just like a photographer who only sees the journey through a camera lens, don’t focus all your time on your journal. Experience the magnificence of the scenery and the joy in spending time with special people.
- Write each day- If I don’t document each day, I tend to forget the fine details of special moments. Take the final pages in your journal to jot brief notes during the day so you don’t forget. I tend to write in the evening just before I go to bed or on airplanes. I carry my journal with me as I wander around, so I can sit at a sidewalk cafe and catch up after I’ve finished my meal. It’s fun to document what you observe.
- Don’t make yourself fill all the pages- All my journals have left over pages at the back with nothing on them. I fill as many pages as I need to document my journey.
Your journal is just that, your journal. It may be in a book or online. Make it your own, write your own rules and enjoy the journey.
If you have tips and tricks you use to document your travel, we’d love to hear them.