top of page

The Art of the Travel Journal

I’m not one for keeping a journal in my daily life, but I make one for almost every trip I go on. What I do is pretty easy: I take an unlined notebook, colored pens, a highlighter, a selection of washi tape, watercolor postcards, and travel-size watercolors (if I’m feeling extra ambitious) to document my trip. A clear plastic envelope keeps everything together.)

Not all trips are created equal. I don’t keep a journal for a quick weekend away—to get a journal, a trip has to be at least a week long.

Lately I’ve been finding vintage maps online, printing them out, sometimes shrinking them down, and putting them on the cover of my journal. Sometimes I put a black-and-white copy of a map of where I’m going, highlight where we went, and put that in, too.

Once the trip starts, I keep boarding passes, business cards, postcards, café napkins—pretty much anything that's flat and has something to do with the location I’m in—and tape them down as I go. (Or on the plane ride home!)

I aim to document daily—sometimes it’s several days before I get to doing it, but I try to do it, even at breakfast, even just a couple of sentences while the memories are fresh in my brain.

I’ve been doing them so long now, for at least the last ten years, that I have a whole shelf of them. When a friend asks me what the name of that antique barn is, just outside of Stockholm, I just consult the travel journal, which has the business card taped inside.

Wine labels, menus—all are great fodder for a travel journal.

I've finally convinced my 11-year-old daughter to make travel journals, too. It’s this nice thing we get to do together, from collecting the business cards to drawing and writing our memories side by side.

Pressing flowers, grasses, or herbs into the journal is another thing we like to do...although it's best if you bring a small little flower press, do that separately, and then add the flowers in later.

We also bring along watercolors, and watercolor postcards. Painting directly into the notebook isn't a good idea because it gets too messy.

Rather than bringing home shells, we'll do watercolors of them and put them in the journal.

Yes, we try to write postcards when we are traveling, but often forget to buy stamps—so they become the perfect addition to our scrapbook.

In Antigua we gathered some fruit off the ground and drew still lifes of it with colored pencils. I don't know any other activity that slows you down as much as this.

When possible, I put the itemized bill in from restaurants, so I remember what we ate.

Business cards, coasters, menus, all goes in here.

My daughter's drawing of the dining room at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz.

by YOLANDA EDWARDS November 6, 2014

First reported at



58 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page