Creating a travel journal has long been a source of great pleasure to me. There’s the immediate gratification of punctuating your trip by collecting your memories. Then there’s the crisp and crystal clear recall that a well-tended journal provides. When life throws you lemons, sit down, pick up a journal and read about that first citron presse you had on the beach at Le Grau du Roi.
Travel Journal Rules
There are none, of course. That’s what makes travel journaling so much fun. You can dedicate a whole journal to a big trip, starting with the first tentative idea, and finishing when you return home bleary eyed and weary. You can set up a journal for a favourite destination. Here you’ll note the changes over the many years it and you have romanced each other.
Your Style Will Change
Looking back to my earlier travel jounals, they are way more colourful and extrovert than is the case now. At the time I used more stickers. My pages were full of loud statements showing my excitement at the trip being planned.
Here you can see me eBaying away to make money for a cruise. I’d converted the mileage the trip covered into funds needed, with a target of £44 in August to cover 419 miles. Seems like a bargain!
And here’s a page dealing with the ports themselves, laid out in a Moleskine soft cover diary. There aren’t a lot of memories documented there though.
I think I learned from those journals that they didn’t capture enough of the flavour of the day for me. When I think back on those journeys, I have snapshots of recall. But I don’t have the clear sense of time and place that I get from my more detailed journals. I remember plenty about Bilbao from another trip, but not this one.
It’s not always Pretty
I do try. Before we went to Scandinavia, I tried really hard to set up a beautiful journal with carefully chosen retro images. It was then abused by scruffy biro, written perched on my knee while on buses, hydrofoils and river boats. If you check out my post Neva Again, you’ll understand why it can be a bit of a mess. But it’s my mess, and I still love it.
Here I’m talking about being besieged by cheeky birds at a cafe in Gibraltar. I got chatting to a lady who had lived on the Rock all her life, and she gave me a far better understanding of the place than I could ever have achieved on a tour.
I was amused at the indignation of some of the people who had been to see the Apes on the Rock. Cheeky beasts were asleep, and clearly not delivering on their entertainment contract.
It’s sometimes Funny
When we went to Scandinavia, the recurring theme was set early on the first day, when my husband realised that he had left home without his boxies. After that, we spent time in Blankenberg, Rostock and finally Tallin trying to restock his supplies at less than designer prices.
He spotted the problem somewhere off the coast of Blankenberg. Here we’re in Rostock, where he managed to find a solution at less than 18 Euros a pair.
Things that matter to travellers: cheap boxer shorts (brilliantly branded as Smog), and how many different fish you can consume in a fortnight. And to the people of Rostock who wondered why I was full of hysterical laughter in the sculpture garden, the sight of the “Smog” waistband is what set me off.
In fact the boxers serve as a good measure of the places we visited. In Blankenberg, they were expensive and designer and not bought. Rostock’s offerings made us laugh. And in Tallin, we found a shop geared up for stag parties, where the boxers were cheap, but not exactly the sort of thing you’d flaunt.
It can Hold anything you want
Looking through the Scandinavia journal again today, I see that I have a collection of receipts stuffed into the back pocket. It reminds me that I bought beautiful and stylish linen dresses in Stockholm and Copenhagen that I’m still wearing. That journal’s also full of maps; I seem to have a bit of a thing for maps.
Map of Tallin centre. I remember cobbled streets, a cavern like bar, and a beautiful deli, with a shocking jar of bear pate alongside some delicious rhubarb crisps
It can be tiny
We needed to pack light for our US trip last autumn, so my travel journal was a small Travellers Notebook from Tiger. It proved surprisingly capacious, although I couldn’t manage to stuff very much ephemera into its two pockets. The TN came with two books; I planned the trip in the first, and created the journal in the second.
This journal proved really portable. I stuffed it in my pocket many times, and found myself writing in it at strange moments: sitting outside the Ryman, on the Island Queen, and at the outlet mall in Nashville.
Here I’m full of delight at having found the Delta Heritage Centre in Brownsville. This is a small town deep in Tennessee, where I was surprised to find a blues shack and Tina Turner’s elementary school just across from our motel. The Heritage Centre was decked out beautifully for autumn with pumpkins outside.
It can Be a Snapshot
I’m currently using a Moleskine Travel Notebook from the Passions series to document trips. It has sections for your wish list, planning, weekends, short trips and long trips. I love the way it encourages you to think about what it describes as memorable moments. Here are my snapshot memories from a mini cruise to Amsterdam and Antwerp just before Christmas.
A short trip to Amsterdam and Antwerp before Christmas 2016
There’s a trip planned for July. I’m on the verge of picking out my journal, as I think this trip will need a full notebook. Can’t wait to get going!