Posted by: christinajclark | 30/07/2009

Travel Journaling – What’s Important?

By miscellaneaarts on flickr

By miscellaneaarts on flickr

While browsing the internet one day, I stumbled onto the journal page submissions featured on The Travelers Notebook. Immediately, I was jealous. In an ongoing effort to capture a place and share it, I take photos, I make notes, I put flags in guidebooks, highlight phrases in neon yellow but never, ever do I draw. My drawing is awful, 100 times worse than my handwriting. Childish, kindergarten level stuff.

I’ve made travel collages that weren’t too bad. My first was on a family trip to Washington, D.C. when I was 8. My Mom gave me “The Kids Guide to Washington, D.C.” which suggested saving ticket stubs, brochures and other travel ephemera and putting it together into a scrapbook. I wrote page after page of what we did and glued everything, including the airsick bag the Secret Service gave me at the White House, into the book. Every family trip thereafter, I was in charge of the scrapbook.

By bitsandbobbins on flickr

By bitsandbobbins on flickr

I have a journal from a trip I took to Michigan in 2002. It was my very first, on my own, grown-up vacation. I was camping, by myself in Northern Michigan and revisiting sites I had seen as a child. It somewhat captures the trip, but uses my Mom’s style of journaling – she’s an accountant – of recording prices, odometer readings and where I ate. There are a few glimpses of travel writing in amongst the prices though.

…The final stop of the day, after driving forever out to the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, was Leelanau State Park. It has primitive camping – no electric, no showers, and outhouses. I am camped right on the beach though, which makes it all worthwhile. For the first time on my lake vacation I can fall asleep to the sound of waves on the beach.”

My only excuse for the boring journal is that I was on vacation from my day job as a newspaper reporter, so perhaps I was not in the mood to write. I remember that trip vividly – the journal entries could’ve been so much more. A journal that we currently keep in the camper is extremely similar though. I record where we are, if it’s a good campground or bad, gas prices and things we visit and if we enjoy them or not. I’m kicking myself. Am I a writer or not?

I can certainly share with you the places we go, how much the campgrounds or hotels cost, if we liked the restaurant and the best things to do in a city. But so can many other people. It will be so much more if I give you the sense of the place – whether it is a campground, an historic site, or a restaurant and what it feels like to be there. Whatever your travel style, there is a good way to record what you do. A way that works for you. My combination that gets me to these blog posts involve pen and paper notes, a “Passport to Your National Parks” book and the “1,000 Places to See Before You Die in the USA and Canada.” I’ll explain how I use these tools but I encourage you to branch out. To just sit down and look at a place and write, type or photograph until you capture what that place makes you feel. That is the best way to preserve your travel memories.

By bookgrl on flickr

By bookgrl on flickr

*Click on any of the photos to go to the original flickr page for each one. All of my old journals are at my parents house and were unavailable for photographing.



  1. Thanks so much for featuring my journal pages here–and also for letting me know they were being used. It’s great to see things in another context and here about what other people look to gain from their journaling experience.

    Thanks again.

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