Why You Should Keep A Travel Diary
It’s time to put pen to paper – my mission is to convince you that keeping an adventure journal will change your life.
If the idea of writing a daily diary feels a little overwhelming, don’t panic. Travelling (and this goes for exploring the country you call home as well as further afield) is actually the perfect time to try penning a journal – you’re away from the pressures of work, a busy social life and a pinging phone, and you often have plenty of ‘dead’ times sat on buses and trains, or in campsites with no wifi signal to distract you, when you can give yourself the head space to open a notebook and reflect on the amazing places you’re exploring.
A journal is the perfect way to combat boredom on long journeys and to stop yourself from feeling like you have nothing to occupy you if you’re travelling alone, and I think writing is one of the most mindful, mentally beneficial things you can do whilst exploring. Your journal doesn’t have to be a good mood only zone, either. Exploring is amazing, but it can also be exhausting, intense and infuriating – spilling your feelings in your diary is a great way to find release at the end of a long day’s hike.
How to get started with an adventure journal
Ready to get started? Keeping a journal is also delightfully cheap – all you need are a diary, some pens and some glue or sticky tape. You could, of course, write your diary on your laptop, but I really love having a physical bound book in my hands, once full of clean blank pages and now stuffed with my spidery handwriting. I recommend buying a notebook you love to look at, too (I like Moleskine notebooks). Diaries are something to cherish – it’s going to be a safe space you can call your own.
Wondering how to get started? A shiny new journal can seem intimidating, but you might find that once you start it’s hard to stop documenting all the amazing things you experience on the road. If putting your emotions into words feels like a challenge, try using your senses – what can you see, smell, hear and touch in this new country? What weird and wonderful things are on sale in the markets? What bright clothes are locals wearing? What’s outside your train window? Write whilst everything is fresh, and don’t forget to date your entries. Remember, your journal doesn’t have to be perfect – your journal is for you, and grammar, spelling and handwriting can go to the wall.
Feel like waxing lyrical isn’t your thing? You can still be journal lover. Pack a lovely art book and you can create a totally word-free scrapbook full of maps, photographs, ticket stubs, doodles and sketches that describe your adventures. Travel scrapbooking is mindful, relaxing and seriously addictive. You can get as detailed and beautiful as you like – Google Bullet Journals for inspiring ideas for crafting a true work of art – or you can create a wild mismatch of glued-in finds that make you happy.
The biggest joy of travel and adventure journaling, of course, is looking back at what you wrote years later. Funny conversations, interesting little details – they’re quickly forgotten as you travel through life, but reading your dog-eared and travel-stained diary will transport you straight back to them. My friend Pete journals his travels and recently pulled out his diary from a trip to France years ago – we laughed until we cried at some of the things we’d said, totally forgotten except for within his diary’s pages. And my scrapbook from the year I spent living in Rome is no thing of beauty, but I love it – it’s stuffed to bursting with half-written thoughts, lists of delicious pasta dishes I’d tried, faded postcards, songs and quotes, shopping lists, sketches of Rome’s grandest ruins, even dried flowers. Reading some of it makes me proud, some I’d rather not remember (hello, embarrassing crushes – I literally wrote as much about boys as I did about Italy back then) but it’s all there, an honest, warts-and all time capsule straight back to my 21 year old self.
Buy a journal you love, and start seeing the world differently now and in years to come. As Oscar Wilde said, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”