Journals are loyal to time. Their pages are capsules that absorb memories, thoughts that would otherwise float away with the next stop on your itinerary. Journals have a reputation for sucking up time, too, but the hours spent building them up, taping them up, scribbling in out-of-context quotes give back. They become objects that transport you back to a moment you jotted down. It’s about finding a process that works for you.
That’s cool, but where do I start?
Those crisp, empty pages in a new journal can be daunting. After years of keeping journals, I still catch myself skipping the first few pages because starting where the book wants to open intimidates me. It’s fine — my process and I are pals.
One way I approach any page is by asking myself: what is the purpose? I write in my journal to not only remember my travels but also to enhance the experience. I write to process colors, smells, characters, emotions that I’d otherwise breeze over, not wholly see. I write to capture impressions, tiny moments. Good news, in a travel journal’s case, “I’m not sure what I’m looking for” is a perfectly acceptable answer. They all are. Discovery is a vital part of recording, whether it’s in the moment or looking through it years from now.
Your journal is for YOU
You’re the first (and possibly the only) person to experience your journal entries — make it fun for yourself. This shouldn’t be a high-pressured thing. You don’t have to compare yours to the ones on Pinterest. There’s not a “right way” to journal. Make observations, events that interest you. This means you might set your pen down when your friend picks up theirs.
Sharing what you’ve written, drawn, photographed, or found can be rewarding. Who knows, maybe your journal pages are destined for blogs and Pinterest after all, or perhaps it will age and show you how life has changed since that trip so long ago.
Selecting a journal
There’s a lot of journal options out there, and there’s more to it than the cover’s color. Knowing what materials you like using will help narrow down which paper weight is best for you. For example, 60 LB paper is on the lighter side and works fine for doodles and written notes. If you prefer wet media like watercolor, consider one with thicker pages (80 LB and up).
Hardcover or softcover? Grid paper or blank? That’s also up to you. I go back and forth, but the through-lines in my decisions are an elastic band closure and a pocket on the inside of the back cover for collecting treasures. Moleskine, LEUCHTTRURM 1917, and Pentalic are dependable choices for my needs, perhaps yours too.
One-word entries are valid
Sometimes it’s about catching the moment, and I’m always surprised how one word written near the moment jogs my memory, calling back senses I’d forgotten. You may choose to elaborate on the note, or not; either way, it’s there.
Process is fluid
Journal keeping of any kind evolves with your interests, experiences. Traveling bombards us with “the new,” even if it’s only new to us. Taking those couple seconds or hours to debrief all you’re experiencing will help it all sink in and get closer to your travels.