A travel journal may be the best souvenir you bring home. Long after the t-shirt has faded and the mug has migrated to the back of the cabinet, a sit-down with your journal brings back images and memories.
Keeping a travel journal doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, trying to record everything can soon become a burden. The exact opposite of what you want. Slogging through every minute of the day is boring. Sure, that will help you remember, but why not add a little zing to your writing?
Start with the journal
Treat yourself to a good-quality travel journal. Not too big or heavy. I happen to favor Moleskine, but a quick search on Amazon gives lots of options, including some that organize ticket stubs. Your travel journal should be sturdy, with pages that won’t fall out or yellow with time. Hard or soft cover? Lined or blank pages? Entirely up to you.
As they say: Just do it. In years to come, your travel journal becomes more precious.
Next: Use a writing prompt
So there you are…sitting in a cafe, espresso or wine nearby. Pen poised. It’s been a glorious day. But you’re stuck, unsure how to describe your discoveries. Words like “beautiful” and “breathtaking” aren’t sufficient. You need more. Your travel journal deserves more.
Enter the prompt. An age-old method that writers rely on when they can’t think of how to start or they need a fresh idea. A writing prompt is simply a word, a phrase, a question–or maybe an image–that gets those creative juices stirring.
On the last few pages of your travel journal, make a list of writing prompts to use during your journey. When you’re looking for a new approach–or just want to mix things up–refer to the list. Pick one and you’ll have a focus for your entry.
Ready, Set, Write!
I like to start with a short list of the highlights of the day, including the weather. Often I include prices of food or tickets. Nothing fancy or involved. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t. Trust me. After that, anything goes. Even if you think you can’t draw, try it. Stick people are terrific! When you look back, your sketches may become your favorite entries.
Here are 25 ideas to include in your travel journal. These will get you started:
- What was your first impression of your destination?
- Did you forget to pack anything? What did you do?
- Describe your hotel lobby/room or Airbnb residence.
- What delighted you today?
- Write a conversation that you overheard.
- Describe an everyday activity you observed: Kids going to school, traffic, etc.
- What has been a total surprise?
- Draw a local landmark or scene.
- Have you tried the local brew or wine or cocktail?
- Did anything make you smile or laugh today?
- What are the teenagers like?
- How are the vendors at the market?
- Close your eyes and describe the smells and sounds.
- Describe how people dress for work…and play.
- What one amazing thing did you learn today?
- How do couples–courting or married–act?
- What do the men do during the day?
- What emotions have you felt during this trip?
- Sketch a moment you want to remember.
- Food: What was good, what was not, what will you make at home?
- Describe the scene around you right now.
- Where do people go in the evening?
- Tell what children do, with and without their parents.
- Have any of your perceptions or opinions changed?
- What will you miss when you return home?
Why your travel journal matters
It’s easy to get caught up or overwhelmed at a destination. And with built-in cameras on our smartphones, we often try to capture every sight…without giving ourselves the chance to reflect on what we’ve experienced. When we pause to hand-write events and emotions, we’re forced to think. We choose words carefully. We process information. And our travels become more meaningful and memorable.
More ways to get the most out of your travel investment: