Friday, June 29, 2012

Keeping a Travel Journal

Almost every time I've been overseas I've ended up keeping a travel journal of some description. Although when I use the word journal it makes me think of a word heavy "so we got up and went and had a cup of tea and a bun and walked around looking at all the roses" and this isn't what I'm really talking about. It is more a documentation of a trip using drawings, words and scraps of paper (my sister, after I pulled the newest one out last weekend looked at it and said that is a scrapbook).

I don't usually put photos in, but the last one from the UK trip has spots where I meant to put them in but never printed them off. Although I take loads of photos, I know I'll never print them out and I've never been one for photo albums either, so it is nice to still have a memento of a trip that you can refer back to that is very visual.

Because most of them have involved Scotland it was nice to look over old journals when Gareth's parents were out and remember places we ate, who ate what how much it cost. I can instantly remember things much better after reading them so it really does serve a purpose when you want to remember a trip.

I want to quickly mention The Journey is the Destination by Dan Eldon, a book I got back in 1997 when I was in Year 12. This is the travel journal to end all travel journals. The fact that he died, was good looking and an amazing artist definitely left an impression on me as a 17 year old and I kept a similar one during my exchange to Belgium the following year.

Here are my tips on what to do although please feel free to pick and choose what you want. Each time I do something different but still try to keep the whole thing consistent, so ended up trying to remember every subway journey we took, complete with maps for this trip.


The Paper. Get a decent journal. I think hardcover works best as it gives you something to work on if you don't have a flat surface. Plus it is nice to have something sturdy that will last and look good on a book shelf.

Colours. Pencils, textas or watercolour paints, whatever tickles your fancy. I like to buy my supplies when I get to the destination as it gives you a chance to check out an art supply store and maybe find things you don't normally work with.

Sticky stuff. You need some decent tape. In the past I used normal cello tape but this doesn't last (for years) or glue (but you can stick things in a flap revealing the other side). This time I got some white washi tape from Japan. Although I'm not sure how long it will last it was good because you could see through it, remove it easily if you stuck something in the wrong spot, tear it off easily and write over it. All big ticks, so let's hope it lasts.

These are the supplies I got for the trip just gone. The sketchbook was the perfect size (around A5) for my handbag and I had a little pencil case for my pens and tape.

This is from our 2010/2011 trip to the UK. I ended up buying some lovely watercolours although they were not always convenient to use. But a long afternoon in a pub was a perfect time to crack them open and draw some beer.

What to include

When I first started keeping a journal it was all about what we ate out. Now I include everything we ate along with little maps, paper goods collected at different places, people we met and places we went. I also use it as a sketchbook when I visited museums so it kind of covers all bases.

Little snippets of things from restaurants are great to stick in, but sometimes can take up loads of space. Work out how many pages you have for each day to spread everything out.

On the left are some drawings from the Museum of Natural History, on the right is our lunch at an odd bar/burger place. Sometimes documenting stuff can be tiring, especially if you want to enjoy the moment. If this is the case I'll just try to remember things and do it later on.

This is from my 2003 journal and was very messy and had few drawings. It has some errors (it should read we CAN see Ireland through the haze) but I love the fact that I included a pint tally and the songs that played in the pub in Port Patrick. Although it is visually not that great it is still lots of fun to read over.