Discovering the Charm of Physical Travel Journals

In an age dominated by digital technology, there's a unique charm and profound satisfaction in reading a “real book” (and not something on my Kindle); writing my daily notes for work and my blog in a spiral notebook, and jotting down my travel experiences in a physical travel journal.

For those of you who also cherish the tactile sensation of pen on paper, a travel journal isn’t just a booklet—it’s a treasure chest that captures the essence of our journeys in the most personal way.

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woman writing in notebook in cold weather

The Timeless Appeal of Pen and Paper

Sure digital platforms offer convenience, but for me, they cannot replicate the sensory experience of writing in a physical journal. The rustle of pages turning, the scent of paper, and the flow of ink are all part of my deeply personal journal experience.

Each journal becomes a unique artifact, a piece of history that holds not just my thoughts and observations but also tickets, dried flowers, and scribbles that tell stories beyond words.

I often use these notebooks to write the very articles I publish on Misadventures with Andi.

old journal with red coffee cup in background

Crafting Your Travel Story

Travel journals are more than just diaries; they are canvases for our memories. Whether I am [trying] to sketch the sunset over the Seine or jotting down a recipe from a quaint bistro in Montmartre, the journal collects experiences that digital devices cannot capture. The act of writing by hand encourages reflection and mindfulness, making each trip more meaningful.

Choosing the Right Journal

As a curator of bespoke travel journals (oh, I have SO many!), I understand the importance of finding the perfect companion for your adventures. I always consider the cover, type of binding, paper quality, and size that best suits my travel style or needs of a particular trip. A well-chosen journal should be durable, easy to carry, and a delight to write in.

I have a collection in Le Shop that offers a variety of journals that meet these criteria.

woman writing in notebook in coffee shop

Integrating Journals into Your Travels

To make the most of your travel journal, start by setting aside a few minutes daily to write. It doesn’t have to be a meticulous account; even a few bullet points about the day’s highlights or a memorable meal can enrich your recollection.

Stickers, stamps, and doodles add color and personality to your entries, turning your journal into a vibrant scrapbook of your travels.

woman writing in notebook

How to Use Travel Journals: Tips to Get Started

Embarking on a new adventure with a travel journal in hand is exciting, but knowing where to start can sometimes feel daunting. Here are some tips to help you begin your journey of documenting your travels effectively:

1. Find the Perfect Travel Journal

Your journal should be a personal reflection of your travel style. Consider what type of traveler you are: Do you need a sturdy, weather-resistant cover for adventurous outings, or would a beautifully bound, elegant journal better suit city breaks?

The paper quality should withstand the pens or pencils you prefer (or your tendency to spill coffee…), and the size should be convenient for travel without sacrificing writing space.

Also, I buy journals while on the trip. Paris has so many beautiful paper shops. I browse, buy, and pick them up along the way. If you do this, skill Step #2 and head straight to number #3.

woman writing in notebook

2. Write About Your Expectations of This Vacation

Before your trip even begins, take a moment to write about your expectations. What are you most excited to see or do? Are there specific experiences you hope to have?

Writing down your expectations not only sets the tone for your adventure but also serves as an opportunity for reflecting when you revisit your entries after the trip. It’s interesting to see how your initial thoughts compare to the actual experiences.

3. Document the Journey as You Go

While on your trip, try to write regularly. Capture little moments and big highlights: the taste of a local dish, the feel of the sun on your skin, or the laughter shared with a new friend.

Don’t stress about writing full, polished sentences—quick notes and bullet points are just as valuable. Remember, this is your personal storybook, not a travel guide for others.

woman writing in notebook with souvenirs

4. Include Ephemera

Adding items like ticket stubs, postcards, and brochures can transform your journal into a 3D scrapbook. These items help bring your written memories to life and make the journal even more personal and colorful.

I even tape in my photos from my Foto Automat adventures in Paris and I have been known to add metro tickets too!

[Ephemera: paper items that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles]

5. Write a Reflection After Your Trip

Once your trip is over, write a reflective entry about your overall experiences. Compare these with your initial expectations. What surprised you? What delighted you? What would you do differently next time?

This exercise not only provides closure to your journey but also valuable insights for your future travels.

woman writing in notebook in coffee shop

6. Share and Preserve Your Journey

Consider sharing your travel journal with friends and family. This can be a wonderful way to relive the adventure and inspire others.

This is how Misadventures with Andi became a blog! I was journaling my adventures and sending emails about them to my friends and family when I first moved to France and Switzerland. People enjoyed them so much, it turned into THIS blog!

Finally, store your journal in a safe place where you can easily revisit it, reminding yourself of the incredible experiences and the growth you achieved through your travels.

woman taking notes in Paris

Travel Journal Ideas to Inspire You

Starting your new travel journal can sometimes be the hardest step. Whether you're preparing for your trip or reflecting after an unforgettable trip, these prompts are designed to help you capture the essence of your experiences.

Pre-Departure Ideas

Before you set off, take a moment to ponder and document your anticipation and preparation:

  • Why are you going? Explore your motivations for choosing this particular destination.
  • What are the places that you are most excited to visit? Make a list of specific sites, cities, or landscapes that sparked your interest.
  • What are your expectations for the trip? Consider what you hope to gain from this experience, whether it’s relaxation, adventure, or cultural insights.
woman journaling while camping

Post-Holiday Ideas

After you return, use these prompts to reflect on and process your experiences:

  • Write about the people that you have interacted with. Describe memorable interactions and how they affected your perception of the destination.
  • Write about the food. Document the new flavors and dishes you tried, what you enjoyed, and what was surprising.
  • What did you like/dislike most about the trip, and why? Analyze the highs and lows, providing specific reasons for your feelings.
  • Reflect and write on your experience of the day. Pick a day from your trip that was particularly significant and delve into the details.
  • What is something that you wish to do the next time you visit again? Think about the experiences you missed and would like to try in the future.
  • How would you recommend the trip to your friends and family? Write a travel guide based on your experiences to assist others in planning a similar journey.
  • Where’s your next stop that you would like to travel to? Dream about and plan your next adventure, considering what has inspired you this time around.

Using these prompts, your travel journal will quickly become a vibrant narrative full of personal insights and unique stories, capturing the full spectrum of your travel experiences.

woman writing in notebook

Whether you're a seasoned traveler or a novice explorer, these prompts will help you create a deeply personal and meaningful record of your journeys.

Connecting Through Stories

Each filled journal becomes part of a larger narrative—a testament to the journeys undertaken and the memories made. Sharing these stories with friends and family or even your future self can be a joyous occasion, a way to relive the adventure from the comfort of your home. I often flip through my travel journals, and they inspire me to write more stories and buy more journals!

woman writing in notebook on the beach

A Journey Worth Savoring

In a world rushing towards digitization, taking the time to write about your travels in a physical journal can be a revolutionary act. It’s a way to slow down, to absorb the beauty around you, and to reflect on the experiences that shape you.

So, the next time you pack your bags, slip a travel journal into your suitcase. It might just be the most valuable item you carry—not for its cost, but for the memories it will hold.

I've got a few in LeShop that you can check out, and some of my other favorites:

How about you? Do you journal about your travels? Digital or hard copy? Do share!

Don't forget to pin this for later!

travel journal with photos

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  1. tara pittman says:

    What a great way to make memories. I am going to buy a journal.

  2. I love journals. I’ve always loved writing things down. I’m always going to love to write.

  3. It has been a long time since I’ve done anything with pen and paper. I either take photos or use digital notes. It’s just easier to keep up with.

  4. I miss the days of writing on paper. This is such a lovely idea for preserving travel memories.

  5. Journaling is very therapeutic. I don’t travel enough for a travel journal, but I really should get back into doing some daily journaling

  6. Melanie E says:

    A travel journal can be a great idea for those that get to travel often, It’s a lovely way to record memories of your travels.

  7. Melissa Cushing says:

    This is such a great idea and although I am not traveling the globe…. I love a good road trip and will start journaling about that as I loev this idea! I love using my gratitude bunder too…. it is therapeutic for sure!

  8. As a fellow lover of pen and paper, your insights really resonated with me. There’s something special about the tactile experience of journaling, and your tips for integrating it into our travels are spot on. Can’t wait to pick up a new journal for my next adventure!

  9. This is a wonderful way to create your know story well you travel. thanks for sharing.

  10. I didn’t get a journal but got a planner instead to jot down notes from our trip to my home country last year. It’s a great way to remember the tiniest details.