How to Write a Travel Journal Like a Pro

You'll Never Forget Your Dream Trip With These Handy Hints

Writing in Diary at the Grand Canyon
Keiji Iwai/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

One of the best ways to immortalize your trip of a lifetime is through a travel journal. Sure, photos and videos are great for capturing special moments, but they won't be able to tell you the name of the cafe you visited or what the name of that cool Swedish girl you met in a hostel was. Photos won't tell you how you felt in that moment -- what the air smelt like, what emotions you were feeling, the sounds that surrounded you, or what was on your mind. Enter: your travel journal. 

Why Should You Keep a Travel Journal?

Those reasons mentioned above are why you should keep a travel journal. More than photos, words on paper will help you remember those small details that'll one day fade from memory, they'll capture the smells and sounds, and they'll encourage you to dig deep about where you are in that moment. They're not the only reasons, though: 

To show your relatives: How cool will it be in 50 years' time to sit down with your grandchildren and show them a record of when you traveled around the world? What about your parents when you return? Or your friends? If you're keeping your journal for yourself and sharing private memories, think how amazing it'll be to look back on them in a decade or so have all of your travel memories come flooding back to you. 

To have a detailed record of your trip: Your email confirmations and photos only tell so much of the story. If you have a travel journal detailing every place you visited, how you got there, when you were there, you'll have a detailed itinerary to look back on later. If a friend asks for travel advice, you'll be able to immediately share what a place was like with them. If you're desperately trying to remember the name of a cute cafe you went to, or the cute backpacker you met, it'll all be written down in your journal. 

Fewer distractions: When you're writing down your thoughts with a pen and paper rather than typing on a laptop, I find that you're more in the moment. Writing takes longer, so it gives you the opportunity to really think about what you have to say and how you feel in that moment. There are no notifications to take you away from your journal like there are when you're writing online. For me, it leads to a far clearer record of what my trip was like. 

To give you something to do: Travel sounds like it'll be one non-stop adventure, but the truth is, there are often moments of pure boredom. Like when you haven't connected with anyone in the hostel and sit down in a busy restaurant to eat dinner on your own. Or when you enter your fifteenth hour on a train journey across Europe, have run out of battery on all of your devices, and have nothing to do. Keeping a travel journal is perfect for those moments when you're feeling bored and don't have anything to keep yourself entertained. 

For inspiration: When you travel, you meet so many people who tell amazing stories about the places they've traveled through. A travel journal is the perfect way to keep track of all of those places you've now been convinced to visit in the future. Maybe you're heading to a new city and someone gave you a recommendation on where to eat, or you've always wanted to go to India and someone tells you their favorite city and where to stay while you're there. Jot down all of those places as future inspiration, so you'll never forget about them and can one day even make it there yourself! 

What Should You Journal About? 

Your journal is, of course, your journal, so what you write about is totally up to you! If you're anything like me, though, you're always looking for inspiration on what to include in yours. After all, you'll only be taking this trip once, so you'll want to make sure you keep a record of it in the best way possible. Here are some of my favorite things to include in my bag:

The planning stages: Your trip doesn't start when you arrive at the airport; it actually begins as soon as you decide to take it! I always love to document the planning stages of my trip: how I feel in the lead-up to the big departure date, the travel gear I've been buying for the trip, the vaccinations I've had, the goodbyes I've shared. I also love sharing my hopes, dreams, and goals for my adventure -- what I hope to gain from the trip and the experiences I'd love to have. 

Weekly round-ups: A fun way to record some of the small details of your trip is through writing weekly round-ups. Mine include the places I've visited, the most interesting person I met, the best hostel I stayed at, the best meal I ate, the most unexpected thing I did, and the unluckiest thing to happen to me. 

The people you meet: One thing I didn't realize before I traveled was how much I would forget about the amazing people I met on the road. Names quickly fade, as do faces and nationalities, and then several years later, I'll suddenly remember an inspirational conversation I had in a hostel with someone, but can barely remember anything about them. Now, I make sure to include details about every person I meet while traveling. I jot down their name, what they look like, and a few things we spoke about, so that I can look back on it and remember all the awesome people I met while traveling. 

Addresses: On travel days, I always make sure to write down the address of the hostel I'm staying at in case I need to show it to a taxi driver, or to someone I'm asking directions from. At the back of my journal, I write down the date, the name of the hostel, and the address. At first, I wasn't really part of my journaling, but I now find that looking back at the list of where I stayed brings back fun memories. It reminds me of the time I got lost in Shanghai and the time a local in Marrakech walked me to the front door of my hostel. 

Business cards and tickets: I always carry a small stick of glue with me, so that I can pick up small souvenirs to stick in my travel journal. Some of my favourite things to keep are business cards from restaurants (writing a sentence about what I ate there when I attach it to a page), bus and train tickets (along with a note about what the journey was like), maps I picked up from tourism offices, or tickets to attractions I visited. It all helps paint a clearer picture of my experiences on the road. 

What Gear Do You Need for Travel Journaling? 

Your travel journal: Of course you'll need to buy a travel journal! There are hundreds of options for travel journals around, so you shouldn't have any problems with finding the perfect one for you. 

If you want a high-quality, robust, plain-looking (so it draws less attention!) journal, go for a Moleskine. They're one of the best journals around, and are hard to destroy. If, like me, you're a map geek, there are plenty of options for journals with maps printed on the cover. I especially like the old school style maps! Otherwise, browse Amazon for "travel diary" or "travel journal" and choose the one that best fits your personality.  

Pens and/or pencils: Standard pens and pencils will do just fine for your journaling, you don't need to buy anything special. If you're a creative person and can see yourself sketching small scenes in your journal and keeping things colourful, take a look at a pencil organizer for your trip, as it will help you keep all of your pencils clean and organized. 

A glue stick: I highly recommend traveling with a small glue stick so that you can pick up small momentos and attach them to the pages or your journal. I use these extra-strength glue sticks from Elmer's to ensure everything stays in its place. If you don't want to travel with a glue stick, then just pick up a dozen paper clips to keep everything in place until you get home. 

Travel stickers: This is definitely not a journaling essential, but it makes for a fun addition to your diary if you can justify taking them with you. There are dozens of options for travel-themed stickers on Amazon, ranging from passport-style stamps, travel quotes, maps, and more! They're definitely worth a look for jazzing up your journal and giving it a little more personality! 

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