In an age when much of human communication takes place in 140 characters or less, somehow the travel journal still persists. There are many wonderful reasons to catalogue a trip, from recording facts to sharing the experience with others, chronicling advice or travel tips from locals, quashing boredom in the airport or during solo meals, processing the wide array of emotions that can crop up during travel, and feeling a little less alone.
Ultimately, the best reason for keeping a journal lies with the traveler who writes it. Just keep these few tips in mind and you’ll have a travel treasure for years to come.
Consider the audience
Will other people read the journal, or is it for your eyes only? If the journal will be shared, will it be read by close friends and family or on a public blog? The answers may influence the style, tone, and content you choose to adopt. If the journal will be public, readers may be less interested to know what time you brushed your teeth each night. If it’s private, consider the details you’ll most want to remember when revisiting the journal decades from now.
Choose a medium
There is no wrong or right way to record a journey. Pick the medium that works best for you, whether that’s a pen and some notebook paper, a fancy leather-bound or homemade journal, or the “notes” feature on a smartphone. What matters is that you’re excited to write things down.
Include the basics
So much happens during vacation that it can be tough to know what or how much to include. A good place to start is recording the trip itinerary and/or plotting the route on a map tucked into the journal. Also chronicle names and descriptions of people you encounter along the way (be sure to jot down their contact info if you want to stay in touch!).
Personal observations and tips also make great fodder for journals. If you develop a knack for traveling with pets or camping in bad weather, record those lessons so you can share them with fellow travelers. Then focus on highlighting your favorite parts of the trip, whether that’s sunrise in London or perusing art in Athens. And always remember to date each entry.
Make it come alive
A journal doesn’t have to consist of a step-by-step, chronological recap of each day’s events. The pressure to record everything can get overwhelming (and boring) real fast. Instead, create a vivid diary of experiences by highlighting exceptional moments (say, standing in the center of the world or surfing in La Jolla), writing down funny dialogue, describing the experience from the perspective of all the senses (tastes, sounds, smells, textures), journaling about your emotions during the trip, and incorporating multimedia like drawings, receipts, theater or train tickets, postcards, brochures, interesting leaves, or the business cards of new acquaintances. These mementos will help bring memories alive when you revisit the journal down the road.
Try to write things down on the day that they happen (or the next day at the very latest). Otherwise, it’s easy to forget things as you’re inundated with new experiences. Even if it’s not possible to write out a narrative entry every day, consider jotting down a few notes each night in order to keep track of events.
Tag team it
Invite travel companions to take turns keeping the journal and recording their own thoughts, reflections, and mementos. This can both infuse the journal with fresh perspectives and take some pressure off if it’s feeling daunting to write every day.
Look for themes
Near the end of a trip, consider pouring back through the journal and noting any themes that arose. Did you learn a big lesson or change in some way? Did the trip meet or defy your expectations? These reflections can spark concluding entries as well as personal insights.
Above all, remember to keep it low pressure. The fastest way to kill journaling motivation is treating it like homework. Instead, write when you want to, write however much (or little) you want, and don’t worry about spelling, grammar, and the like. Do it your way, and it’ll be much easier (and more fun) to chronicle your adventures.