9 Reasons Why You’ll Love Keeping a Travel Journal

People who know me in real life know when I write a post on Hippie in Heels about Europe it was years ago that I went. Because of that I try not to write about things that could change, and I kept it mostly to favorite beaches/what to do in a city.

Thankfully, I’m all caught up (give or take a few posts), and now I write about places I’ve been in India in the last year or what I’m doing right now like my trip to Singapore.

When writing about the past, it wouldn’t have been possible without my journal. I love that it sparks so many memories. I don’t keep a “diary” when I’m staying put- only while I’m on a backpacking trip. It’s more of a scrapbook than a journal.

If you are type A like me you’ll probably like this post. If you smash everything into a bag when you travel and don’t consider yourself an organized person… you will probably think I’m mental or OCD by the time you finish this post. Maybe I am.

For those of you who are not type A, I’m putting in clips from my own journals. Maybe that’ll keep your attention ;)

9 Reasons Why You’ll Love Keeping a Travel Journal

1. Photo memories. I (used to) pick up a post card everywhere I go and stick in on a page in the journal. It’s a great 25 cent souvenir and a fun addition to my journal! Don’t limit it to just photographs; I’ve even added dried flowers. Now that I’ve been staying put in India, I sort of gave that up. 

travel journal tips

2. Doodles. I love adding in a little drawing of something I loved in that place whether it be a mountain range or a little beach. These aren’t works of art, but instead it’s a fun time-killer on trains.

travel journal tipsI never said my sketches were good. I kept record of my new sim card, the dorm I stayed at, a new friend info, & the news of the new president!

3. Personal Records. You’re not writing a book here. The grammar doesn’t have to be brilliant and you can spell anything wrong you want. These are your own personal thoughts. You actually learn quite a lot while you travel, not just about yourself, but also about the world. Having a record of your travels is going to come in handy when you’re senile and your grandkids want to know about your life or when you quit your job and start a travel blog…

4. Networking. At first I kept business cards a notes from fellow travellers just to add to the “scrapbook” look of my journal. I would keep the names so I could later add them on Facebook or e-mail them. Now, I don’t have a journal because I’m not traveling but when I do go away I keep business cards of hotels I stay at and restaurants or designers I like because I have a horrible memory. I plan on featured a number of Goa’s designers on my website- the business cards are stacking up. I also keep some train/bus ticket stubs, especially in India as it helps me write this blog!

travel journal tipsMark left a note with my hotel front desk while we were out in Mykonos 

5. Defeat Boredom and Eating Alone. If you’ve run out of books to read or have a 17 hour train ride (like mine around India) it’s a great time to fiddle with your journal. You don’t even have to write real sentences. You can make lists of what your thinking or act like you’re 8 again and write all your best friends’ names.

travel journal tipsLeft: Indian Chai recipe from Elise and a list of Vipassana meditation classes. Right: my to do list: palm reading, massage, art class, lunch with beth, henna, yoga, dinner with Irish girl

6. Inspiration. I always hear new songs and quotes while I travel. Maybe a traveler tells you about a documentary that changed their life. I write it down in my journal so it’s all in one place. When I get done with my trip and am adding new facebook friends to share photos with, I can download a movie too!

7. See New Places Not on Your Guidebook. So many times travelers I meet tell me about a place they’ve just come from and a great hotel they stayed at or unbeatable curry they ate (okay, that hardly ever happened), but I jot that down in the back of my journal and would actually take their advice!

8. Ranting. Journals are a GREAT place to rant. Better there than in your new travel buddy’s ear. When I write down my problems it helps me distress. I like to keep lists for things I need to do in my journal like “buy bus ticket to Manali”. Things that seem very “duh” are easily forget while traveling.

travel journal tipsMy first MD appt. for dengue fever, a list of hotel choices, and the poor choice I actually made: Devi Niwas

9. Helping others. Your journal serves as a detailed itinerary, so when your friend you haven’t talked to in five years e-mails asking for advice on a place she knows you went, you can pull out your journal and actually help instead of saying, “it was sooo long ago, I don’t remember!”

travel journal tips

Travel journal tips, even though no way is wrong

  • Take a cute journal, not just some left over spiral notebook from school. You’re going to look at it every day and maybe even years later! Pick one that gets you excited.  Etsy.com has cute handmade ones, Moleskin, or even Target has a nice selection.
  • Don’t get one that’s too big! You can always buy another travel journal while you’re on the road. They get heavy. I try to pack very minimal, but a journal will almost always make the cut. Recently when traveling in Thailand I didn’t take one because I really didn’t think I’d have much to say- I was going to be spending a month on the beach!
  • Buy a journal that has a cover, but a floppy cover. Also get one that is lined. It’s not as fun to draw on, but unlined gets annoying!
  • If you want to keep business cards like me I take a little glue stick and slap in notes and numbers I get along the way.

travel journal tipsa painted elephant glued in and my second (of four) MD appt. for dengue- this time to be treated with tylenol…

  • Take a pen that writes smoothly. I hate crappy pens. This 2 dollars at Wall-mart will make a huge difference in whether you want to write or not.
  • Keep paperwork that you think might not be important. It could be funny later. I have love notes sprayed with cologne, copies of a police statement in Barcelona, and a poem someone wrote to me. 

travel journal tipsmy information to find my lost luggage

  • Don’t write your journal as if someone is going to read it and decide if you’re gaining enough from your trip. If you want to write that you’re homesick or you hate the country you’re in… do it. If you want to say that you just learned something that probably every 6 year old on the planet already knew- admit it! It makes for a good read later.

travel journal tips

  • My first two travel journals were more about boys than travels… which is why I went on a boy-strike in India (which consequently ended up with me getting an accidental boyfriend), but if your travels are about boys, don’t feel bad writing about it. You don’t have to write about the “life-changing sunsets” or history lesson you got if you don’t feel like it.

The journal is for YOU!

 

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43 Comments
  1. 9 months ago
    stef

    I absolutely love that post and agree with everything you say. I am somehow exasperated with myself that I haven’t done that my whole life and just started with my first longer experience abroad.

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      It’s never too late to start (like signing up for frequent flier miles 4 years after traveling haha) I’m glad you’re keeping one now. You’ll love looking back at it!

      Reply
  2. 9 months ago
    Lisa - Wee Wanders

    I love your journal Rachel :)

    I have always kept a small journal with me to scribble nonsense and ramblings and find I’d be lost without it when travelling (I have the worst memory).

    It provides all the useful benefits that you list above and also provides a creative outlet when things seem mundane or when I am bored. I also just really enjoy the practice of writing. As mush as I love my tech, nothing beats some old-school pen to paper writing.
    Lisa – Wee Wanders recently posted…Hungry Wanders: Jimena de la Frontera, Luis and his Mama

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      nonsense and ramblings are the best part! I also have a really bad memory, I love looking back at old journals. Big thanks for the comment! ;)

      Reply
  3. 9 months ago
    Empty Rucksack

    indian trains are the best inspiration to keep a travel journal. First the journeys r so long and then they get delayed. 

    We sort of moved from a journal to scribbles on the phone n laptop. It was easier to copy those ovrr while writing blog posts. 

    But your journal look much nicer, gettin one as soon as we r out of this yoga course.

    Btw we experimented with maintaining day to day expenses in our journal and it was boring at start but a lot of fun later, where in india ru at the moment?

    -Vikram
    Empty Rucksack recently posted…5 things you must do in Bruges

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Thank you for the (re) comment Vikram! I also keep little notes in my phone as I go. Now that I’m living in India I don’t keep a journal unless I’m on the road and it’s becoming more and more of a scrapbook. I can’t wait to read about your yoga course! I am in Goa and have been about 1.5 years now. I love it!

      Reply
  4. 9 months ago
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown

    Awesome post!! I always keep a journal when I travel (not now that I’m an expat though…I guess that’s what my blog is for!) and your tips are spot-on!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted…Roatan Month 19 Roundup

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I don’t really keep one as an expat either, because I feel more at home here! But maybe I should start one again.

      Reply
  5. 9 months ago
    Rachel

    LOVE THIS! I start my backpacking adventure this sunday! I have a beautiful travel diary waiting for me to write in. I have been saving it for months until the day I actually leave. These are suchuseful tips! I never thought of drawing little pictures and sticking things in, to make it more of a scrapbook/memory book. I am sure it will become full of tales..both of travel but of course..boys! x

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      hahah of course stories about boys must be included! You should consider writing your hopes and goals in your journal before you leave. It’s fun to look back on and compare if what happened is what you thought would.

      Reply
  6. 9 months ago
    Rashaad

    As much travelling as I’ve done, I’ve very rarely kept a journal. Unfortunately, one journal I kept during a trip (three weeks of backpacking in Thailand)…. well, I ended up losing it at O’Hare Airport. But I might keep a journal more often from now on as I have a blog. Actually, I usually use the pictures I take during my travels as sort of a diary.
    Rashaad recently posted…ハーフ the fun

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      That is such a shame :( I would hate to lose mine! That’d be worse than my whole backpack being stolen I think. Hopefully your photos and all were okay.

      Reply
      • 9 months ago
        Rashaad

        The weird thing was – during that same trip – I fell in a puddle in Ko Samet, pretty much destroying my camera (my last ever non-digital camera) and causing me to lose a bunch of pictures. Not wanting to spend the rest of the roughly two weeks remaining without a camera, I bought a bunch of disposable cameras the rest of the trip.
        Rashaad recently posted…ハーフ the fun

        Reply
  7. 9 months ago
    Kelsey

    Loved this post and definitely needed the inspiration. Lately i’ve been thinking about posts I would like to write about previous travels, but I don’t have as much info or personal memories as I’d like. I MUST start journaling again!

    p.s. I especially like the photo of Madrid post cards!
    Kelsey recently posted…Madrid’s Little Secrets: El Capricho Extremeño

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Exactly… I knew I wanted to write about past travels b/c I did a lot before starting the blog. I think you should write about them- even without a journal you can at least do photo galleries with a few memories once a week or something. or a “looking back” series. It’s a good idea to start journaling now tho, or at least keeping biz cards!

      Reply
  8. 9 months ago
    J in Beijing

    Love this Rachel! I kept a journal for most of my life (nearly..), starting age 9! I like to say I did my first piece of travel writing when I was 9 years old, because getting my first journal coincided with going on a trip to Tunisia with my family. I recorded absolutely everything about that trip in that journal. I still love to read my travel journals back now. They are such a good record of every single trip I ever went on and all my adult travels and jobs abroad. I have a box full at my parents’ home. I actually have not been that great at keeping one since I came to China (not sure why) so you’ve reminded me I must keep it up or I’ll regret it.
    J in Beijing recently posted…Finding Great Korean Food in Beijing

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      That’s so cool that you got to travel from a young age AND that you documented it! You remind me of Alex in Wanderland- she planned a trip when she was like 9! Now that I’m an expat I’m terrible at it, probably the same for you in China. But at least keeping biz cards and ticket stubs etc. Usually I write down prices of important things because then I can share more detail on the blog!

      Reply
  9. 9 months ago
    Jo

    Such a good post Rachel. I wish i had the discipline to keep a travel journal but I am just super slack haha. :)
    Jo recently posted…Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp: Part 1

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      haha well at least you have a blog which is basically a journal!

      Reply
  10. 9 months ago
    Arianwen

    I love this! I consider my blog my travel journal, although I do have a little book with me too, so I can write down handy tips from fellow travellers.
    Arianwen recently posted…SUPBall: the Sexiest Sport Known to Man

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I think that’s a great idea for bloggers. We all stop writing journals because of our blogs but then we’re forgetting useful info people tell us along the way! Having a book for tips is a must!

      Reply
  11. 9 months ago
    Michelle

    I LOVE keeping a journal so I totally understand you! When I backpacked Australia I kept one and actually wrote in it every day…and still read it from time to time…so many funny stories and good memories kept in it!
    Michelle recently posted…Where will I be in 2015?

    Reply
  12. 9 months ago
    Kadri

    Great post! I love writing in my journal beside the blog. In there I can write down all my top secrets and thoughts what I want to share only myself. :)
    Kadri recently posted…When is the Perfect Time to Travel the World?

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      exactly :) the secrets are the best part. Someone would really make an awesome blog is they told ALL the secrets too but no way I could do that! Gotta keep some part of me to myself.

      Reply
  13. 9 months ago
    Erika

    I absolutely love journaling! I tend to actually type my thoughts, but when I travel, I am all about handwriting in a destination. Journals are great “friends” to take along for the adventure and as you put it, they never tire of anything you want to talk about — rants and boys alike. Oh man, journals are a great place to talk about that kind of stuff over and over again, haha! :)
    Erika recently posted…St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago: The Green River

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      haha yes I had a whole FOUR pages where I wrote “this is going to be a crazy rant” after I got scammed in India. Only my journal could’ve taken that beating lol

      Reply
  14. 9 months ago
    Brittany

    I will be going on my first solo trip in April and I have my journal all set. Great idea about taking it with you when you are out eating.

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I love having it when I travel solo, I even keep track of my expenses and such because when you’re alone you don’t have someone to tell you “dude you really shouldn’t buy that”, or someone to see how much they spend to kind of balance yourself out.

      Reply
  15. 9 months ago
    Charlie

    Great tips! I’ve never been very successful with my travel journals in the past and I think it was because I was trying to document every tiny detail, which got to be way too difficult and time consuming so I’d just abandon the whole thing! I’m leaving for my next trip in 3 weeks and I think I’ll have another attempt at writing a journal but not take it so seriously this time!
    Charlie recently posted…How the heck do you…turn a cool idea into a business?

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I hope you have a great trip and have fun with your doodling :)

      Reply
  16. 9 months ago
    Emily

    I like the tip on taking a gluestick (we had an incredibly tough time finding double-sided tape in Mexico!) . I love looking back through my old journals…your memory will glaze over some little things which are fun to recall later on!
    Emily recently posted…Dune Buggying, Sandboarding and Being Stuck in Huacachina

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Yeah in India I could get new glue sticks for 5 rupees!

      Reply
  17. 9 months ago
    Megan Swanick

    I keep a travel journal too, it’s everything from what I did that day to quotes to pics to business cards to the letter a taxi driver in Myanmar wrote me telling me all the reasons he’d be a good taxi driver, including his university creds and a joke!! Best way to remember travels :)
    Megan Swanick recently posted…Ten Buddha Quotes to Help Find Your Zen

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      haha I love that story about the driver! Very cute.

      Reply
  18. 9 months ago
    Glamourous Traveller

    I agree! but I bring a full on diary/ journal rather than a travel specific one. I write down all my thoughts, feelings, etc. though since I tend to have the most time to write when I’m on a trip, its inadvertently become a travel journal as well! Must learn to be better about it like you though. Sometimes I re-read it and realize I had a great time, but didn’t actually describe what I was having a great time doing and how much it costs and which company did I use -_-”
    Glamourous Traveller recently posted…Worried about being touched? Some different massages from around the world

    Reply
    • 9 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      It’s nice to have a balance in your journal. makes it more fun to read later!

      Reply
  19. 8 months ago
    Linehoejbjerg

    My journal was the Best thing during my 3,5 months in asia ! I love to spend time drawing and writing these little things Down that isnt the Big tourist attraktion but just something Wierd that happend on the street! I Worked with kids so i have Maybe 100 drawings in mine! When you see so Many New things you dont have time to Think about it before you Are home.

    Reply
    • 8 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      I’m glad you love a journal too! Drawings are such a fun way to pass the time and are cool to look back on.

      Reply
  20. 7 months ago
    Carina

    Haha, the part about ranting is so true… sometimes that’s just so helpful when you’re traveling on your own! Also, without my notebooks I would mostly just forget so many details :)
    Came back to your blog post today because I got a turquoise soft cover moleskine journal for my birthday just today. Already love it!

    Reply
    • 7 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Ahhh lovely, I don’t have a moleskin but since I’m home in the states a week longer, maybe I should pick one up before I head back to India- just so I can rant a little in it upon arrival!

      Reply
  21. 5 months ago
    Anna

    I love the tip ‘Don’t write your journal as if someone is going to read it’ – that is so true, when you look back you want to remember the real experience, not have it hampered by what you think people would want you to say! Excellent advice, thank you!
    Anna recently posted…Eating Bucket List

    Reply
    • 5 months ago
      Rachel Jones

      Thanks Anna, I made that mistake my firt time abroad and realy regretted it. The silly things we do at 19 years old!

      Reply

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