Selecting Your Travel Journal – everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask…
After you’ve taken a Journal with you on a few trips, you’ll find that you begin to develop your own preferences. You’ll find that you have a certain the size of journal and page-count that you like. You’ll find there is a particular weight of paper that works for you, and so much more.
Over the years of teaching others how to keep a Travel Journal, and after years of keeping them myself, it strikes me that there are a few things you want to keep in mind when it comes to the Journal itself. So, consider the ‘Travel Journal Tips’ here as a way to help you get started with less stress.
When you travel these days, you probably want to keep things small and light weight. A Journal on the smaller side is certainly going to fit that need.
To start, you’ll often find that big Journals can feel clumsy and awkward as you jostle inside transit or negotiate busy sidewalks etc. There may be a bit of a trade off with having big blank pages to support your creativity. That said, when it comes to packing your bags, I think you’ll probably see that those bigger Journals work against you in most settings.
A smaller Journal, on the other hand, can be tucked conveniently inside a small shoulder bag and taken out easily when needed. And when you have that smaller Journal with you, you’ll probably be inclined to use it more often to make those written entries and little sketches.
These are a kind of standard for me when I travel, and they measure about 7”x11” and have 14 pages of watercolour paper. Check you local Art Supply Shop and I’m sure you’ll find a Journal that fits your needs. (Always buy local if you can). :-)
Again, the notion of ‘small’ is at play here, because a coil-bound Journal can fold back on itself and take up less space when you’re using it. In addition, having a hard front and/or back cover will make your working surface so much more stable when you’re writing or sketching.
I have travelled with Journals that aren’t coil-bound, but these are ‘saddle stitched’ and can fairly easily fold back on themselves. In fact, there is one of those Journals shown in the first photo here.
EXTRA TIP: With coil-bound Journals, take along a rubber band or a bulldog clip to hold the pages in place while you’re writing or sketching.
I find that I have a tendency to ‘doodle’ in my Travel Journal too. Little sketches mostly.
3. Limit the Journal’s page-count to about 30 - 40 pages maximum
Larger journals can take up lots of space and weight and, generally, when you’re travelling you want to limit both. Additionally, I think there is something more important to keep in mind when you pick a small page-count Journal — and I think it has to do with psychology.
Think of it this way - how much more satisfied are you going to be when you get home and find you’ve filled your 30-page Travel Journal with so many wonderful memories and sketches etc. It’s like a complete ‘book’ and you are the author. Now, how exciting is that!
Alternately, imagine getting home and seeing that you have only 20 pages of your 100-page Journal filled – my guess is that you’ll feel a bit of disappointment in yourself for not having written more or done more sketches. The simple solution is - just don’t go there. Take a smaller page-count Journal - it will help you build your confidence and strengthen your sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Another handy thing about the more durable watercolour paper is that you glue things in (like a scrapbook) to get a bit of a different feel to your Journal.
The handy thing about a watercolour Journal is that, overall, its paper is more durable and more versatile. For the most part, watercolour paper is about 140lb (300gms).
The heavier weight/thicker paper can take a bit more of a beating - and that can be an important factor if you’re travelling to more out-of-the-way places. When I was travelling through the Canadian Arctic or paddling down the Yellowstone River and camping every night, I was thankful to have the more durable Journal.
These are the title pages I made up for a couple of Travel Journals. Having the durability of watercolour paper to work with made it easier to work with and less worry.
Additionally, in terms of durability, watercolour paper is acid-free. This means it will be around 100 years from now when your Great Grandchildren read about all your epic travel adventures and come to realize what keen observational skills you had and what thoughtful insights you wrote about.
In terms of sheer versatility, watercolour paper is by far the best choice. You can write in the Journal. You can sketch in it. And you can certainly paint in it. What’s more, you can glue things in it like a scrapbook and so much more. For those of you who like the tactile side of life, there is also something wonderfully appealing to the senses about the texture of watercolour paper. Finally, I think the weight and texture of watercolour paper seems to elevate the value of whatever you put in the Journal.
This small 5”x7” watercolour book is a great choice for pretty much anything out-of-doors. Handy size - smaller page-count - watercolour paper - cost effective.
There are lots more Travel Journal Hacks that I will be writing about to help you get started. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think about these ‘Hacks’ and whether they help you out. Please don’t hesitate to DM me if you have questions.
There are also lots more Tips and Tricks in the Facebook Group - Travel Journal 101. Please join in and have a great time on your next travel adventure.
I’ve also added lots of short tutorial sketching videos to YouTube at: Travel Journal 101.