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5 Reasons to Keep a Travel Diary and Tips on How to Start

I am a very strong advocate of keeping a travel diary (journal) – sure they are a great way of remembering trips but they can become so much more than this! After all, my scribbled diary entries were what prompted me to start this blog, so I suppose I have a lot to thank them for.

It’s all well and good thinking that you may want to keep a travel diary for your next holiday, but how do you start? Never fear! In this blog I’m going to explain the 5 reasons why you should keep a travel diary and how to start.

5 Reasons to Keep a Travel Diary

1. Reflection

Keeping a travel diary is absolutely the best way to reflect on your trip. It ensures that you set time aside to really think about the places you have been and the people you have met.

Your travel diary gives you the opportunity to explore what you enjoyed (and didn’t enjoy), how your trip made you feel and what, if any, lessons you learned whilst there.

As cliche as this may seem to many people, travel does have a long lasting impact on you, it’s a large reason why so many people love to travel, according the Anthony Bourdain:

Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life and travel leaves marks on you.

Taking the time to reflect in a travel diary is the perfect way to understand how you are changing through your life and through your travels.

2. Companionship

Your travel diary becomes a companion of sorts, particularly on longer trips where you are frequently encountering new places, people and experiences – It can become a reassuring constant when things are always changing. For me personally, my diary became a familiar friend that I could reach for and retreat into whenever I needed.

It’s important to remember that whilst travel is adventurous and exiting, there is a lot of ‘down time’ for example, travelling between destinations, overnight buses, quiet days to save on budget etc. These parts of travel can get a little boring and sometimes lonely, not just for solo travellers, Shaun and I have had many journeys where we were unable to sit together. It’s during these times where it is great to have a travel diary to keep you occupied and help pass the time.

3. Memories

Okay, I get it – this one is pretty obvious and probably goes without saying, but keeping a travel diary is an amazing way to remember your trip.

Yes, taking pictures is great but there is SO MUCH a picture cannot say – your travel diary captures all of the smaller details of your travels and becomes a capsule of your trip which you can look back on and relive over and over again. There is something about reading your own words describing how you felt at a particular moment in time which evokes memories in a way that nothing else can.

Every year or so I take out my diaries and pick some random pages to read and it’s one of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon.

4. You will forget!

Even those of us with the best of memories will forget details from our trips, at the time you will think this is an impossibility – but trust me you will forget the smaller nuances of those moments and this is what makes for really meaningful memories.

Additionally, there is nothing more annoying than wracking your brains for the name of something which seems to have slipped your mind. Undoubtedly, when you return from a trip, family and friends will ask you for recommendations, never again will you talk at length about that amazing meal you ate but shrug your shoulders when asked for the name of the restaurant which you have awkwardly forgotten.

Matador Network refer to a travel journal as ‘personal travel insurance’ “protecting our memories from strolling off unchaperoned, vanishing without a goodbye or backwards glance” and I think that’s a pretty great way of describing it.

5. You can make it entirely your own

In my opinion travel diaries are extremely personal, it’s the home to some of your most treasured memories and personal thoughts – so it only makes sense for it to be tailored to reflect you and your interests.

With this in mind, you can really make your travel diary your own! This starts with selecting your diary, you can go for an old school paperback journal but there are online versions too if you prefer a more technical approach

You can really get creative with your travel diary – In my personal experience, I have always stuck with a traditional written diary format because I take my dairy away with me and this is very low maintenance. However, if you have an artistic flare you can create a bullet journal which incorporates souvenirs and doodles from your travels and allows you to get crafty.

Tip: I would take a written diary away with you, so you can write daily whilst the memories are fresh and use this to help you create a bullet journal once you return.

Finally, you can write about what interests you! You don’t need to document every minute detail of the trip “7.10am – Woke up, 7:30am – Ate Breakast”, but write about whats important to you!

  • Are you a big foodie? then write in detail about the great meals you had, the ingredients, the flavours.
  • More of a nature lover? Great, keep a record of the amazing plants and wildlife you came across.
  • Not much of a writer? you can even include doodles in your daily entries.

The reality is, you are writing the diary for yourself, so write about things you’re going to enjoy reading about in years to come!

Selecting Your Travel Diary

Before you start writing you obviously need to choose your travel diary, there are more options for your travel diary (journal) than you may think, so here are a few:

Paper/ Hardback Diary

My personal preference is a physical diary, it’s quite satisfying to carry around an old tattered note book and have a tangible record of your travels.

There are hundreds of different styles and designs at varying price points, so you can find one that suits you.

Digital Travel Diary

So this is a newer approach to journaling, and one i’m not sure I will be adopting any time soon. However, writing in a book is not for everyone and almost everyone will carry a digital device with them when travelling so it does make it easy to use this to journal.

There are a lot of travel apps to choose from, each offering something slightly different. However, in essence the apps allow you to write and add photos to your diary each day, they can also provide some additional information, such as the weather on the day of your entry, maps etc. Many apps will also allow you to share your diary with family and friends and also provide an option to print your diary at the end of your trip.

Creative Bullet Journal

A Travel Diary doesn’t just simply need to be a written account of your travels – as I mentioned earlier you can get much more creative by turning your diary into a bullet journal by collecting souvenirs and purchasing craft items to create a more aesthetically pleasing end product. However, this is most likely something you will want to do after your trip, so as not to carry around all of your craft items with you.

A great approach would be to keep a simple written diary whilst travelling and using this as the skeleton for your bullet journal. Here you can find a list of the craft supplies you may need.

Photo from Kellyro77
2
Photo from whimsical paraphernalia

How to Write a Travel Diary

Writing a travel diary can seem a bit daunting so here are some easy pointers to get you started:

1. Write about things that interest you

I covered this earlier in the post, but it’s important that your diary is capturing things that are important to you, so before your trip think about the things you really want to remember.

2. Write daily

This may be difficult to do everyday, by try your best to write frequently, you will do your best writing when your your memories are fresh and vivid.

3. Remember the 5 senses

When accounting our memories we can have a tendency to simply write about what we see or do (e.g. I did x and saw y, then we went and did x and y).

This can become quite tiresome so don’t forget about the other senses – what did you see, hear, smell, taste and what touched you (I have loosely reinterpreted the final sense for the purposes of writing a diary in order to cover the emotional element of travel).

This will elevate your writing and provide you with the detail to transport you back to these places.

I hope this is helpful for anyone wanting to start a travel diary – happy writing!

Carly x

31 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Keep a Travel Diary and Tips on How to Start”

  1. Excellent tips. Travel diary is the best way to create long lasting memories not just from your travels, but also your mental state, development and emotions of your age. Travel diary becomes a great read decades later, possibly a heirloom for future generations or a novel inspiration. Beautiful paper book is the best. Somehow, digital diary lacks the tactile sensation, the smell of the paper and is limited in many ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I love writing in the blog and it has definitely become a record of my memories, but there are some memories which probably aren’t noteworthy for the blog but are special to me personally which I keep in a diary.

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    1. Thank you! It’s so true it’s only when I starting blogging that I realised how many small details I forget.

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  2. I used to travel with a diary many years ago and then I stopped. I was then using notes on my phone to remember the names of places or other important stuff. I think that in my next travel I will try one of those digital diaries – it requires an effort, but it’s really fun to look at it later and enjoy the memories!

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    1. I bet they are so fun to read back! I think whatever format works for you to preserve your memories is great, whether that’s notes or one of the diary apps.
      I would say from my research the diary apps do look pretty cool, I would love to hear how you get on with it if you do try it.

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  3. Such a great post! I need to get back into doing this. I used to do it as q child and the memories are the best to look back on for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, the “you will forget” headline is totally true. That’s why I typically take tons of photos and I write down things on my cell phone so that I don’t forget. For me, the electronic notebook is better than any piece of paper.
    One thing I have learned though, after accidentally taking my cell phone for a swim: Write it in you email program and then email those things to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I was so surprised by how much I forget and how quickly!

      I think it’s just about finding what’s right for you, I enjoyed the paper diary as it’s very low maintenance, didn’t require charging etc, but when so much of what we already do is digital it does help to have everything online.

      Eeek! You’ll never make that mistake again.

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  5. oohh I love this idea Carly! It does sound amazing to go back to your wonderful memories years later. Awesome idea about involving the 5 senses while journaling.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love your post! I always carry around a small notebook with me, but I don’t always use it! As you mention above, now that I have started blogging I wish I had more of my memories written down. There are a few salient moments I will never forget, but there are other details that have just escaped. And, I find that those details actually sometime contain the best nuggets of advice you can share with other travelers. Also, one of my favorite travel souvenirs is letting myself buy a cute notebook. (Although, I went a little overboard in South Korea, and now I have enough notebooks and journals to write down everyone’s travel memories through 2025! 🤣 )

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  7. I love the idea of a travel diary. It can be traveller’s biggest companion. I like the traditional hardcover diary and I usually carry one with me. But in reality, I found it quite hard to note things after a day’s trip on a regular basis. Nevertheless, it is a treasure for days like these when travel becomes a farfetched idea.

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    1. Ah yes! This is so true and whilst I aim to write in the diary everyday, the truth is this isn’t always possible and sometime you just want to get to your accommodation and sleep which has meant I have had to backlog a few days.

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  8. I’ve been a travel diary carrier all my life, so can totally relate to your post. I’ve considered attempting bullet journaling but haven’t had the time to deep dive into it. Love how comprehensively you’ve put all aspects in this post together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!

      Ah yes, bullet journaling isn’t something I’ve ventured into personally yet, but I do love the thought of creating one – as you say it’s just setting aside the time to do it

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  9. Great post! I have always meant to start a travel diary, but have yet to do it. I always think that I will remember the small details from the trip, but never seem to! I have attempted to start a bullet journal before, but never carried it through. Maybe I will have to do that before my next trip while I have some extra time.

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    1. Yes! I cannot recommend it enough, even if you just start with a short written diary, this is much less of a commitment than a bullet journal so easier to follow through with. You can always convert it into a bullet journal at a later date 🙂

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  10. I always write a travel diary during longer trip. It’s not always in the traditional sense as I do not write long passages every day. Instead I write down notes, passages about especially cool experiences, notes for blog posts, drawings and a weekly top activity list. So I can only agree with point 5! It is all about making it your own

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that! I think that’s the key to keeping a diary is to just make sure it suits you! You can’t go far wrong if you stick to that.

      At the beginning of keeping my diary I didn’t have the blog, but since having the blog I do also note down important ideas or notes for posts.

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  11. Great tips! I used to keep a travel diary when I was younger…these days I guess I use my blog to help me cherish my memories…but you are right, sometimes it is good to write these things down just for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Josy! Yes there are some little tidbits which are quite sentimental to me but not important to share in the blog, so it’s nice to have a home for them!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Great read. I always talk about the importance of travel journalling and how it helps travel bloggers, especially. I keep a digital copy where I jot down my thoughts in Evernote, while on the road. Helps me reconstruct specific details that add to the final story I build.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Yes since I’ve started the blog I always try to keep in mind what I want to write about when writing my diary entries

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