On a recent trip to Death Valley, I overheard a young girl, maybe 10 years old talking excitedly to her family. She said she couldn’t wait to write in her travel journal about her experience in Death Valley because if one day she wants to revisit this trip, she’ll be able to. Even if she never returns to Death Valley, she’ll have the memories of this trip saved in her journal.
All I could think was, this girl has it figured out and is going places – literally.
Travel journals are a way to travel to previous adventures if you cannot return to the destination. Even if you can, and do, return to the destination, you’ll likely experience it with fresh eyes.
For example, Ireland was my very first solo trip. After that trip, I backpacked for 10 months, at the end of which, I returned to Ireland. I was a completely different person on my return trip and experienced it with a fresh perspective. I now have travel journals that show the growth. It’s amazing to reflect on.
There is no right or wrong way to do a travel journal. I’ve seen travelers with really elaborate journals, creating a travel scrapbook that houses pictures, museum passes, train tickets, etc. I’ve also seen simple travel journals where someone may write their highlights of the day or go into detail.
I might journal about an entire day, one meal, or expressing gratitude. If I’m working on overcoming mindset blocks related to travel, I’ll journal about that. Occasionally, I’ll even use journal prompts.
I save the elaborate details and photos for blog posts, which is kind of like a journal at times.
Any method that works for you is the right way to journal about your experiences.
If you want to start a travel journal, but aren’t sure where to begin, let’s get into details about some of the journaling methods mentioned above. Then you can experiment to find the journaling style that resonates with you!
How to Get Started Keeping a Travel Journal
While I firmly believe that there is no right or wrong way to journal, I also believe that you don’t have to journal daily. However, I do recommend journaling daily when you’re first starting to create the habit. Even if you only write one sentence. Just get in the habit of bringing out your journal and writing something.
I know, I just said you don’t have to do it daily and then I said do it daily. Annoying right?
By journaling daily in the beginning you build up the habit of taking out your journal and writing. Even if you only write one sentence, it builds up that muscle and it doesn’t feel so awkward to write your thoughts and experiences down.
Once you’ve got that habit down, let go of the need to journal daily and pay attention to when you feel called to journal.
I’ve journaled off and on for the last 4 years. But when I first started I added it to my morning routine so that I could get used to the process. Now, I’ll go a couple of weeks without journaling, and then feel called to write for a few weeks and the cycle continues.
However, when I am traveling I do my best to write daily when the experiences are fresh in my mind. I like to find a cozy cafe or a pub where I can people watch, write, and enjoy a drink.
Here are a few ideas to start your own travel journal.
Travel Journal Ideas
Let it Free Flow
For me, there’s nothing like a fresh journal filled with blank pages just waiting for me to write my story. But if you’ve never journaled before, you may stare at those blank pages and think “what am I supposed to write about”. The answer: anything,
This is your journal, you can write about anything you want. The stinky guy on the bus next to you, the amazing sunrise you saw, or all of the details of your 3-day backpacking trip.
Just start writing. Once you start writing let it flow. It doesn’t need to make sense, be in the order of how things occurred, or even use complete sentences. Simply put your experiences onto paper and see what comes out. You may be surprised by what ends up on the pages.
I created a blank travel journal with a pretty cover that is available on Amazon if you’re ready for a fresh journal.
Use Journal Prompts
If you need a little bit more guidance with your journaling consider using prompts. A simple Google search will lead you to several articles with great journal prompts.
Write down your favorite questions on the first few pages of your journal. When you sit down to write, pick one of the questions that resonate with you at that moment, write it at the top of a new page, and respond to the prompt.
Here are a few of my favorite travel journal prompts to get you started:
- Describe your favorite sunrise/sunset
- What’s the best meal you’ve had this week?
- Describe the most recent act of kindness you witnessed
- What do you like about your current destination? What don’t you like?
- Describe your perfect day
I love the idea of creating a travel scrapbook. I’ve seen some beautiful ones that include drawings, photos, and notes. Even though it’s not my style, I think it’s an awesome way to look back on your adventures one day. You’ll have everything in one spot that you can flip through and reminisce.
If a travel scrapbook sounds like something you’d like to keep, check out Pinterest for ideas! But don’t get overwhelmed by them. Just start with adding a photo and a description of it or a museum pass with a description of your favorite painting. Let your travel scrapbook style develop organically from there.
Create a Recording
Not a writer? No problem. Record your memories and have them transcribed for you.
I started doing this recently, it’s especially handy on road trips, and love it!
I talk about what I’ve just done or seen into the voice recorder app on my phone. Then I upload it to a website (rev.com) within seconds it’s transcribed for me. I do have to do some editing, but it’s a great way to get your thoughts out if you don’t have a pen and paper handy, or just really aren’t into writing.
Make a Photo Album
Did you ever flip through your parents’ photo albums as a child? I used to love doing that.
I have photo albums that take me up to my Senior year of college when I got my first iPhone and stopped printing photos.
But a great way to capture your trip is through photos, especially if you prefer taking photos instead of writing. You can even create a photo book that allows you to type the caption or add funny stories from the trip throughout the book.
This book is printed and nicely bound for you and delivered to your door. I did this with my first solo trip to Ireland and love looking back on it. I keep telling myself that someday I’ll get around to making a few more from recent trips.
Check out Shutterfly for photo book options.
A while back, I saw an artist on Instagram who would draw the places they visited. I thought this was such a cool way to capture a memory.
If you have a talent for drawing or painting, this may be the type of “journaling” that works for you!
As you can see, there is no right or wrong way to journal. Whether you decide to follow prompts, draw your surroundings, or create a photo book, the biggest benefit of a travel journal is having your adventures recorded. Years down the line, you’ll be able to look back at these journals and reflect on the person you were and the person you’ve become, maybe as a result of the adventure.