Why I Started a Travel Journal

journal writing
Courtesy of Walt Stoneburner

I’ve been meaning to respond to a BootsnAll article from November about why it’s still important to keep a handwritten travel journal. There were many points Jakob Barry brought up that I agree with completely and the post meant a lot to me because without my own handwritten travel journals, my love for travel would not have sustained and this digital journal you see here would not even be in existence.

I remember the day I bought my first journal. I was shopping with a friend on Union St. in San Francisco’s Marina District and we just happened to stop into a clothing/stationery store and on my way out the door I saw a rack of journals, small journals with brightly colored prints and I grabbed one for myself. I didn’t want a plain notebook from a drugstore that you can buy for a $1 but wanted one with some character and this creamy-greenish-pink-bamboo-lookin’ thing was small enough to carry in a backpack but big enough to be filled with stories I couldn’t wait to experience.

My Memory’s Not so Hot

I wanted to keep a journal for my upcoming travels simply so I could remember everything that happened. I was moving to London with two friends for six months to work and then was planning a two month trip around Europe after that and knew that it would be a whirlwind. I had taken so many trips in the past where I came back and couldn’t remember the important details that pictures could not suffice. I didn’t want to forget exactly what I did everyday in London and how I felt because I could sense before I even flew across the pond that the next year was going to be significant and to let it flash through my mind without even registering seemed like a waste to me. I knew that years later, I could always come back to my journals and be filled with some optimism and perspective when the normal routine of work and other generalities would inevitably weigh me down.

Something for the Kiddies to Read

No one besides myself has read my journals and I intend to keep it that way until I have kids. Sure, stories from my journal have manifested in some form here on my blog but I still find the detailed accounts in my journal deeply personal and something I want to keep for myself. However, when I bought my first journal I had the thought in my mind that I want my kids to be able to read these journals when they are older to show them what an amazing thing their mother did and what she learned. Hopefully, it will inspire them to travel themselves and realize that the world they live in is much bigger than they perceive.

There is a Post-Journal Life

My last journal was written in a London hotel room waiting for my flight back to California and I was sad because I thought, “This is my last entry and the end of the most wonderful period of my life,” but it wasn’t the end actually. Not until I had been home for a year and revisited the ruled pages a few times did I realize that I could continue writing and more importantly, continue traveling.

So I did my homework. I bought a big notebook this time, the ones from the drugstore, and started fleshing out my stories from my journal with more vivid descriptions, all the while reliving the moments in my head. I attended the Book Passage Travel Writer’s and Photographer’s Conference to learn the craft of travel writing, I started this blog to inspire others to travel, I consumed vast amounts of travel literature, and while I haven’t crossed the pond in three years since that last journey I have been exploring destinations within the U.S. and in my own backyard of beautiful San Francisco. There is no doubt I have become a better writer since that first entry at the International departures lounge at SFO and I am looking forward to writing more in this space but more importantly on paper and in some new place that adds value to the words on my precious pages.

Why do you keep a travel journal?

8 thoughts on “Why I Started a Travel Journal”

  1. I started a travel journal for 2 reasons: I love to write, and memory. We think we’re going to remember all the little details of that magical trip, but give it a few years, and you’ll forget more and more without the journal there to remind you.

    1. You are so right Gray. My journals are a big help to me when writing this blog but are also a personal memento.

  2. Really glad you liked the article, Joya. I linked to your post from the comments of our article so folks can come read this afterwards as well.

  3. I keep a travel journal so I can remember what I ate, what I smelled, and what I saw. Oh, and it helps me blog afterwards 🙂

    1. Hi Minh, my journal definitely helps me to remember all of those things but I actually didn’t think to write a blog until a year after my trip but once I did I’m so glad I had my journals!

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