Incorporate some of these tips into your next travel diary and you’ll create lasting memories of your trips for years to come. I’m always on the search for creative travel journal ideas and inspiration and these are some of my current favourites.
You can always journal when you return home but writing regularly and while in the environment provides inspiration that will help you move beyond how ‘great’ and ‘beautiful’ a place was and capture what it was that stirred your emotions and lock in those moments that made it truly special. I like to take a few minutes in a cafe, over a drink or unwinding back at our accommodation to jot things down. I also often opt for a reporters notebook that fits in my pocket or purse to scribble down my thoughts and use them to create pages in my journal later.
I like my travel journals to be colourful, creative and fun to flip through. Recording my memories is key but I don’t want to spend half my time while I’m travelling writing down facts and figures. When I open it months or years later I want to remember how a place or experience made me feel and not to have it read like Wikipedia.
Finding the balance between creative journaling and not carrying an excess of pens and materials is possible especially with a few innovative ideas and using the tools and decorative materials you naturally come across each day.
To help illustrate some of the ideas and different styles I’ve included images below not only from my own journals but links to travel journal pages on Instagram from others in the community. These links are added with their knowledge and permission so feel free to click through, see more of their great travel journal creations and follow any of them who inspire your own creativity.
Ideas to include in your travel bullet journal
1. Incorporate tickets, brochures and maps
When I’m travelling I seem to end each day with a treasure trove of ephemera in my day bag. Whether that’s ticket stubs, brochures or paper maps they all add both character and information to your journaling.
I sort through it before we move on to our next stop and don’t carry everything I collect back home with me but I do always keep a couple of plastic envelopes in my suitcase specifically for items that might be added to the journal later.
2. Collect stickers and washi tape as you travel
Something I’ve noticed on recent trips, especially travelling in Asia, is that many tourist attractions, souvenir shops and small local shops sell unique stickers, washi tape and sticky notes showing the destination or something related to the destination.
At Fushimi Inari, a shrine in Kyoto famous for its thousands of orange tori gates the washi tape featured those shrine gates and inari zushi, a popular snack served in the area. In Nara where deer wander wild in the park and throughout the temple grounds there were stickers showing deer amongst the cherry blossom trees.
3. Include food memories
The strongest memories are those that are triggered by the senses. Taste and smell are some of the strongest so don’t forget to record those great meals, the sights, sounds and smells of the markets. Note down a recipe, sketch an unusual ingredient or dish that keeps cropping up or describe a new food you try from the perspective of each of your senses.
I also collect related items, a wrapper from a sweet I really enjoyed, a cute cardboard coaster from a winebar or the paper chopsticks cover showing the logo and name of a restaurant we would want to go back to one day.
4. Use journaling prompts
Whether it’s a list of prompts you’ve compiled yourself in advance, something you come up with based on the inspiration of the day or if you borrow from a published list it can help you get the creative flow started.
Some travel journal prompts to try
- The things I am most looking forward to about …
- A dish I tried for the first time today
- An interaction I had with a local
- A new phrase I learned today
- Something that surprised me
- The highlight of today
- The most useful item I packed
- The weather today
- A local custom I’ve noticed
- The 5 things I liked most about …
- How much I spent today and on what
- The funniest thing that happened was
- My first impressions
- What people were wearing
5. Include foreign words and phrases
I’ve mentioned it as a journal prompt but there are many ways to include foreign words and phrases in your journal. Even in a country where you can easily get by in your native language, it adds to the experience and generally is appreciated by the locals if you try to use a few words of the local language. Even just being about to say hello, please, thank you and express your appreciation of something you saw or experienced it’s going to enrich your experience.
Other times you will notice a word being used alot or some one might teach you a new word that you could use as a heading, decorate on the page or write the story about. You might also want to include a page of useful phrases in your journal when you are preparing for your trip.
6. Use feathers, leaves and flowers with care
Pressed flowers, a dropped feather or colourful autumn leaves make an interesting tactile embellishment. I know I was would have loved to include maple and ginkgo leaves during the autumn in Tokyo but if you plan to carry those items or your complete journal across international borders you need to be aware of biosecurity restrictions. In Australia and New Zealand, that’s a NO!
7. Record your memories, write your stories
My travel journal is a creative outlet just for me, I get pleasure from both creating it and having it to remember our trips and special days. It’s writing just for me not for an audience so I feel I can be completely true to my experience, raw and I can write as little or much as I feel like.
While I like it to be pretty and a home for photos and other mementos I pick up along the way what matter most to me is capturing the memories and experiences in my words. Sometimes it’s an extended stream of consciousness, other times it’s just a caption but capturing the stories as they happen or through my personal filter of life is part of the process.
8. Include your own art
You don’t need to be a great artist to make a travel journal. As I mentioned above in point 7, capturing the stories in my own words is essential but the colour, design, mementos, pictures and sketches that I add are also part of that story. They make the journal visually appealing and draw me back to flip through them again and again.
I’m no artist but I love the creative process and as my journal is principally for me it doesn’t matter if it looks like a child drew in my diary. Sometimes even the simplest doodles can be powerful memory triggers. We have seen these orange tori gates from Hokkaido to Kyushu but even without the words on this page the simple image makes me think of Miyajima and smile.
Holly over at Following Foxes has some great inspiration on her instagram account not only for travel journalling but bullet journal layouts too.
9. Create a messages page
If you are travelling with a group of people, staying in share accommodation or meeting a lot of people in the course of your trip, consider creating a messages page similar to what you would have in a high school yearbook for people to leave a note you can look back on. They might leave a message reminding you of where you met, record their social media handles or add a simple sketch to remember your time together.
If you are travelling with a group or family you could create a page around a particular place or event, including images or mementos from the day and have everyone add a sentence or two about something that was particularly memorable for them.
10. Include a few photographs
I don’t use my journal as a photo album, I keep most of my photos digitally and occasionally I’ll produce a photobook but sometimes a picture really can convey 1000 words and in that case, I’ll print and include it.
There are a few ways to do this. Polaroid cameras have made a bit of a comeback but I had one the first time around and while the new versions are pretty cute I find them too bulky to carry when I already have my phone and my main camera with me most of the time. There is a whole range of tiny portable printers that are ideal for journaling or you can go into many stores around the world and get photo prints done while you wait, it generally quite inexpensive. You could also leave adding the images until you get home if you have a printer there.
If you will be adding the photos later I suggest having a standard size you use. A 2-inch by 3-inch rectangle is common for the mini printers and fits with all sizes of journals. You can also create collages of photos and print them on standard 4″ x 6″ or 6″ x 8″ photo paper at home or in-store then trim them to size. I keep a cardboard template in the back pocket of my journal that I trace around to mark out the spot where the photo will be added when I have it ready and then write a reminder of what photo I intend to include there. The note will be hidden by the photo later.
11. Look out for tourist stamps as you go
Some tourist attractions have unique stamps that you can stamp onto scrap paper or into your notebook as you go. I’ve seen them for a variety of places including the National Parks in the USA and in Japan, many train stations or tourist attractions have a stamp that is representative of the local area. You’ll find them near the main info desk at the train stations or near ticket offices at attractions.
Just a note that in Japan these are different to the pilgrimage stamps or GoShuin that are available at many temples and shrines. Those include a stamp and calligraphy that is generally prepared by a monk at the temple. They are only added to a dedicated concertina style book and you should not write in or decorate that book.
Some temples do have normal stamps that can be used too, I know Hongan-ji in Tokyo near the Tsukiji market had these and Todai-ji in Nara has both options.
Stamp it into your book or onto the paper stock provided and build your journal page around it later. This one was at the Ropeway station on Miyajima Island, Hiroshima. It shows the famous tori gate, the maple leaves the area is known for, a costume from a performance at the shrine that we watched and the ropeway car.
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