Ah travel journals. I never leave home without one.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.

These are the words of St Augustine, a Christian theologian who died in 430 AD.

And travel back then meant endless days under the beating sun or frozen sky on economy class donkeys, sustained by meagre portions of dried bread and warm wine.

And no entertainment.

As someone who loves travel, I find it hard to understand people who have no desire to travel and are happy within the confines of home and hearth.  

Writers especially enjoy travel, as it gets us out of our writing comfort zone (or reading comfort zone for that matter).

Being in a different environment with new things to see and do sharpens our senses, triggers our imagination and gets our creativity flowing.

Travel Journals

Which brings me to the subject of travel journals. 

I love them.

Moleskin, leather, girly pink, macho brown, covers adorned with a map of the world, cute cartoons or announcing ‘My Journey’,coyly intimating at inner journey revelations.  

I love the promise of crisp, new pages waiting for the first eager words of the excited traveller to tumble on to the page.

I see myself at the end of each day, sitting in my hotel room overlooking the glittering ocean or bustling city.

The mere act of opening my travel journal kick-starts my brain into literary mode.

Page after page flows with clever and thought-provoking reflections of the country I’m visiting. 

Evocative descriptions of the landscape and pertinent observations of the inhabitants, which can then be extrapolated to humanity as a whole.

Fantasy vs Reality

That’s my travel fantasy. 

Here’s my travel reality – I flop on to the bed, exhausted after having tramped what seemed the equivalent of a religious pilgrimage in one day.

I dig out my Spirax notebook with the plain cover that says ‘Notepad 8mmm Ruled 100 page’ and notice that my last entry was 3 days ago.  

Damn, now I have to do catch-up.

‘What was the name of that castle/mountain/lake we saw the day before yesterday?’ I ask my partner.

We both 'um' and 'ah' – our heads are so stuffed full of new experiences that our mind’s computer bank hasn’t had a chance to file them yet.

So I do the best I can, but by the time I get to today’s events, I’ve run out of sparkling metaphors and witty insights.

So it’s more like a schoolgirl diary entry: This morning we had breakfast. We visited some castles, came back, had a nap, went out for dinner.  

My Travel Journal Is A Disaster Area

The worst part is, when I’ve reading back over it later, my handwriting is so atrocious I can scarcely read it.

Consequently I now have a drawer full of Spirax notebooks filled with illegible scrawlings, their contents forever lost to posterity or the murky depths of my memory.

I’m about to leave for another holiday and I’m thinking this time I’ll keep an online journal. 

It doesn’t have the sensual, romantic appeal of a physical travel journal, but at least I’ll be able to read it.

Have you ever kept a travel journal?

Any tips you’d like to share?

Let me know in the comments below.

  • Like you, I always take something to write in while we travel, usually a spiral notebook, but once in a while something nicer. But it doesn’t make much difference what it looks like, the results are pretty much the same. We go somewhere every year for our anniversary, other than that just to visit the kids or family. We always drive, that’s part of the fun, and the first few pages are filled with everything we saw and did along the way, even what we ate for each meal…dorky huh? As the days go by the writing becomes less vivid and there are lots of unfigureoutable abbreviations. Guess we’re having too good of a time to spend any of it writing. I typically have pretty nice handwriting, but for some reason it seems to go on vacation with me and, like you, trying to read the journal later is close to impossible. The one thing I try to do, and maybe succeed about 1/3 of the time, is to create a book (lots of great online places to do this) for the vacation, using my journal to remember what the pictures are and names/places we visited. My husband is still asking me when I’m going to do one for our honeymoon in France, 13 years ago! Maybe some day…after all I want to do it right!

    • HI Kathleen

      Yes, those photo books that you can create online of your trip are great – I’ve been meaning to do one as well. No need to hurry with your honeymoon one – maybe you could do it for your 20th anniversary. 🙂

  • I love to write too but written travel journals don’t ever meet with my expectations or imaginings either. I do mind maps or pictograms in blank spiral bound books. Lots of little familiar symbols with snippets of information around them. For example a picture of a branded plane with dates, destinations and special mentions. Just one look at this type of information once I’ve finished my trip and settled back in at home and all the experiences come flooding back. THEN I can write creatively about the experience.
    I also have friends who write travel blogs too and this has become as much a part of their travel experience as visiting new and exciting places. I love their real time observations of their experiences.
    Have a great time!

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