9 Tips for Those Who Struggle to Keep a Travel Journal

Your journal is a window through which you'll see your travels in the future.

Your journal is a window through which you’ll see your travels in the future.

I write about my travels all the time.

In my journal I cover the details – date, time, place, cost… In my blog I delve into my discoveries, feelings and learnings.

For those who don’t blog, a journal is the place to hold both kinds of memories. You’ll want the details of what you did and where but at the end of a trip, it’s also nice to have a journal rich with the meaning of your travels.

Here are 9 tips to help you write a journal that covers both.

This is a fun and inspired travel journal.

This is a fun and inspiring travel journal.

Tips for Writing a Travel Journal

  1. Blog or book? Blog or book is a matter of taste and whether you want to share your journal. If you travel with a laptop or tablet and keyboard like I do, a blog is possible and you can set one up a blog for free on TravelPod or WordPress.com (though the latter is a little more complex). If you choose an old-school journal, choose one that is sturday. It could be the classic Moleskine Notebook or one that is a little more fun such as I Was Here. I like a notebook and pen as the information will never be lost with a technology change and the journals look cool on your shelf.
  2. Document your itinerary. Rough out your itinerary in a few pages at the front of your journal. You can do this before you leave. Allow lots of space between points so you can keep track of how your itinerary changes as you travel.
  3. Every entry doesn’t have to be brilliant. But every day should have an entry. Writing every day, even small details, will help you maintain your momentum. Miss a few days and sometimes the practice of writing a journal can be lost for the entire trip so try to make a notation no matter how small.9 Tips for writing a travel journal
  4. Aim for brilliance once in a while. When you can take the time to sit down and think back over the day, think about the places you went, the people you met, the food you ate, the scents you took notice of, your activities and the things you learned. As you do take note of what makes you smile. If you want you can even itemize these under a heading: What Made Me Smile Today.
  5. Find your theme: Consider all the things that made you smile. Is there a theme? As a whole, what did the day mean to you? What did you learn? How did you change? What surprised you? State one of these in one sentence or a series of three short sentences. This is the beginning of a great journal entry.
  6. Expand on the theme. Once you’ve completed your short introduction, expand. Explain what you learned. Provide details of the history or technology or your own potential – whatever it is that you learned. Describe what you thought before and after, why you changed your thinking, how it felt when it happened, what it means to you.9 Tips on writing a travel journal
  7. Get down the details. When you’re home sharing your travel stories, or perhaps years later when someone asks you for a recommendation, you’ll want to remember some of the details of the day. Write them down in bullet points: where you stayed, the name of that great book shop, where you got that fantastic coffee, the restaurant you want to make sure no one goes to… capture the details that you think will be important but don’t labor over the mundane.
  8. Go multimedia. Don’t be afraid to sketch what you saw. Have glue with you so that you can add theater tickets, postcards or part of a brochure to make you pages interesting.
  9. End with gratitude. You spent the day exploring a place other than home. We understand the world by contrasting one thing to another. Compare what you saw to what you live and identify what you’re grateful for in everyday life.

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  • Jules B

    I’m leaving for France in a few days, my first international trip, and I bought my journal months ago but I didn’t know how to write. This helped so much!

  • B B Di Muzio

    I am ” practicing ” my journaling for my first trip overseas for 40 years. I realized I will probably get caught up with the day to day when I get there and will loose site of time for journaling. Don’t want to come home with an empty book. So now I journal a little for all my little trips and have discovered that writing down what made me smile, who I may have chatted with, adding a photo or two is rewarding here too. It does help me remember the name of the lady at “Heavenly Temptations in Boonton, N.J. or the name of the interesting guy at the used historical book store in Wells, Maine….etc.

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  • Yogasree Nagaraj

    Thanks for the tips I plan to write my adventurous 2 day trip with my friends

  • pagnapagna

    Thank you very much. I’ll take note of these… specially no.8 … the tickets… bus tickets and small things.

  • Judy

    I love the “what made me smile today” tip. I write a blog for my friends & family to keep up with what I’m up to. But secretly it’s actually for me – because I don’t have someone with me to talk about the day with. It also helps me to look back & remember the little things that may otherwise be forgotten, but make travel a richer experience. I’m actually in Tonga right now & expect to be able to recommend it as a great solo travel destination!

  • Unnita

    Planning a trip right now…Writing a travel journal for the first time…These tips and advice look super interesting…Thank you…!!!

  • Deborah Fortuna

    Thanks for the tips!! I plan to write mine in a notebook, as well as on my laptop. These posts from Solo Traveler have helped me gain momentum to pack my things for storage. Thank you Janice Waugh and all other posters

  • http://www.cloverdalereporter.com/lifestyles/256381621.html Ursula Maxwell-Lewis

    Excellent tips and reminders, Janice. Recently, I came across a bag of letters I had written to my mother during my travels many years ago. She had saved the lot! I was amazed at how much I had done, and how much I had forgotten. So much easier now with electronics, but also too easy to delete. Hard copy may still be best.

  • anne

    Brilliant tips , thank you . I start off with all good intentions, buy myself a new journal to do for my trips , . collect bits etc ,, but all goes to pot ,,

  • Trisha Miller

    Great advice! I was recently cleaning some things out of my closet and came across some older travel journals….it was a blast reading what I’d written on some of my favorite trips, reliving those terrific moments. I’ve often tried to keep a daily journal but it seems I’m only good at it when I’m traveling. C’est la vie!

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  • Yarra

    I use the ‘Gratitude’ app on my ipad, works offline and you can export and print if you wish. I bullet point the days highlights.

  • irene

    As a retired nature book writer/illustrator, my travel purpose is to sketch/journal the natural places I go, using a ballpoint to draw and write (then watercolor pencils to color) on the right-hand pages of my little sketchbook. After reading this entry, it occurred to me that I could also be journaling personal stuff on the left (backside) of the sketch pages. I’m headed for Brazil then Belize this Christmas and I’m really excited about my new journaling plan. Here are some of my travel sketch journals ~ http://www.natureworkspress.com/IrenesTravelJournals.html.

  • Corinne Vail

    This is a great post! Really good advice. Jim and I keep talking about the “itinerary” bit. We seem to have a problem remembering every town we’ve been to. It’s happened more than once that we don’t remember we’ve been there until we go back. I need to find a way that works for me to document some of the at the time seemingly insignificant details…Thanks for the ideas!

  • Stephanie

    I am an avid journeler- I keep a journal even when I’m not traveling- but I find that the journal entries I think about later and want to go back and find and reread are almost always ones I wrote while traveling! I recommend a pen and paper journal and a blog (or whatever version of a private journal and a public one works for you).

  • Rebecca Rosz

    This has been helpful in many ways – I am however still very much torn between an online blog or a written journal for my rather large backpacking trip around Asia due to different reasons.
    I love the idea that my family and friends can keep up to date with an online blog but I also love the personalization of a journal but this has its draw backs as to where to put the completed journals whilst backpacking and the need to buy new ones etc.
    Maybe I’m over thinking the whole thing…

  • Patricia Havis

    I have tried to keep and maintain a travel blog but I never seem to keep it up. There’s something about the feel of physically writing in a journal that I much prefer. (A computer just feels cold and unfriendly to me – of course I am on the computer all day long at work). Besides writing, I enjoy drawing and would like to start a travel art journal as well.

  • http://www.TheGapYearGuru.wordpress.com/ Jess (TheGapYearGuru)

    Thank you for this wonderful post! It has reminded me of why I love to travel and also why I love to write! :)

    I recently started an internship and I havnt been paying much attention to my writing. After reading this I think I will start writing on the train in the mornings and afternoon even though im not traveling :) I forgot how beneficial it is in my life xxxx

  • Jasmine

    Great tips! I’ve been keeping a journal for every trip for the last 13 years. Some of those older ones really make me laugh when I re-read them. May move onto blogging with my next big trip.