I have been keeping a journal since my elementary days (remember old diaries and writing about your crush?) But I have to admit that I am not a consistent person. I have tons of journals halfway (or even way way less) filled that are now stacked in bookshelves. Despite so, I continue to keep on journaling. It always feels surreal to flip through old notebooks and read what has been going through my mind then. Some make me cringe and make me question my ma-drama self, lol, but most of time, it just feels so good to have something to look back to.
Keeping a journal can be very tedious. It requires effort and time. There are periods when I’m on a roll and do it daily, sometimes weekly, or others just on special days and events. My favorite though is during travels. I’ll be sharing a few tips on how you can start your own travel journal, but first, here’s what’s inside my latest one during my trip last month to Taiwan.
WHAT DO YOU NEED
A travel journal is like the ultimate memorabilia of your trip. Plus, it’s short term so you don’t have to pressure yourself into maintenance and the like. In starting your own journal, first you would need a plain notebook, a pencil/eraser, and some pens/markers. In here I use an A6 Monologue Sketchbook. It has watercolor paper as its sheets, but a plain notebook would do. (It could be blank, or dotted, or even lined. I like mine blank because I find that most fit for my sketches) Best to keep the notebook small (A6 or A5) so it’s easy to carry around wherever you go.
I find mechanical pencils better for travel because you won’t have to bother sharpening it. And as for pens, I usually just bring permanent liners in black, and one brush pen. You can also opt to use colorful pens/pencils.
THE FIRST SPREAD
As with every note/sketchbook I’ve owned, writing on the first spread is always the hardest part. There’s always the pressure of wanting the opening page to be perfect. But darling, nothing will ever be. If you find it hard to ~destroy~ the first page, a tip would be to write down a pre-trip entry. I like to start while waiting in the airport or even on air. Answer questions like “How do you feel right now?” or “Where are you going and what are you expecting?” You could also start your journal with your travel plans and itinerary, draw a map even. Or just write down whatever and let things go on from there.
Related post: Taiwan Travel Guide & 5-Day Itinerary
PACK WASHI TAPES AND STICKERS
Part of my packing list are little cut-outs, stickers, and tapes I could use for my journaling. You don’t have to bring a lot. I usually keep with me a wallet sized ziplock or small envelope and place them there. For washi tapes, I don’t like bringing rolls because they’re bulky. Get samples and roll small lengths of them on a piece of cardboard (or even better, acetate paper).
SKETCH ON SITE
If you fancy drawing, you can sketch on site. I bring with me a small watercolor set and a water brush to color my sketches. You can also doodle your breakfast, or the man sitting across you in a cafe (remember not to be creepy and stare, lol). If you find that tedious and think it would take up time from your schedule, then you can just draw once you get back to your hotel using photos you took earlier that day as reference.
EPHEMERA: KEEP TICKETS, TRAVEL GUIDES, POSTCARDS
Collect trash! Half-joke. I like to collect travel ephemera such as boarding passes, tickets, and anything flat I can get from my trip — even tissues in restaurants if they have fancy designs. And coffee cup holders! You can later select some to tape or glue in your journal. You can even press flowers in between pages.
Hotels and information centers give away travel guides for free so don’t forget to get some of those too! (It doesn’t even matter if it’s in another language, some you can just cut out pictures and cute illustrations from)
Another thing you could find in tourist information centers are travel stamps. There’s a variety of them and you can use them for free. Some craft stores and cafes also have stamping stations. Don’t be afraid to ask if they have one.
When I get home, I print photos on sticker paper. You could make collages first or you could just drag those photos in a Microsoft Word document, resize, and print them from there. Don’t let your photos die in your hard drive.
WRITE WHEN YOU GET BACK HOME
How was your trip? Just like how you started, end it with a spread on how you’re feeling. Places, you’ll easily remember through your photos; but thoughts and feelings must be written down to be preserved. Write down what you’ve learned, realizations, or a letter to yourself. And ask, where do you want to go next? 😉
It’s best to journal while you’re travelling because it’s when you can write things as they are. Memories are fresh and emotions, raw. It doesn’t have to be detailed or long. Write down what excites you and what you think is something you need to remember. When stuck, just ask who, what, where, when, and why questions. Or recall what you’ve done that day and start from there. Write during lag times: like on the train, during breakfast, or before you go to bed. But it’s also okay to just write post-trip.
As for style, sometimes, I just write on one side and stick all photos and ephemera on the other. Other times, I do it like a scrapbook and keep sticking stuff and then start writing on free spaces like the one above. I also like to mix in my sketches in between. There are also spreads wherein I do prompts: like draw what’s in my bag, a food trip spread, a color-coordinated one, hand-letter a quote. The possibilities are endless!
There really is no fixed guide to journaling. It’s different every time and that’s the fun of it! Get inspirations from others, experiment and see what works for you. You’d have more fun if you let go of the notion that there are rules to journaling. Try not to overthink. What I love most in travelling and learning about new places, is learning more about yourself in the process. A journal is a keeper of your memories, so do it the way you’d want to.
It’s always good to write down about where you are. And when you look back at it, what’s even better is seeing how far you’ve come. Have you ever tried keeping a journal? 💖