Recently, M and I went on a short trip to Seattle, and, as we’ve done on previous trips, we brought a Field Notes memo book to use as our travel journal. It’s become a tradition for us to keep a shared diary during our trips, and I think the journal “kit” we took to Seattle worked well for us. So in this post, I’ll share the contents of the kit, and how we used these tools for travel journaling.
We like to keep a travel journal simply because it helps us remember what we did during the trip. There are digital tools for that, but we are fans of analog tools in general, and minimizing our time in front of screens is what we strive for while vacationing anyway. At the end of the trip, we end up with a nice, tangible reminder of our time together that we can look back on.
Over the years we’ve filled up several Field Notes as travel journals, and each time our set-up has been slightly different. I think this trip was the first time I prepared ahead of time and put together all the tools in one place for journaling, which really helped. Here’s what I packed in our kit:
- Field Notes Brand Cherry Graph
- Pilot Juice 0.38mm in Coffee Brown
- Decorative washi masking tapes, in sheets
- Pentel EnerGel Euro Needle 0.35mm in Black, Pilot Hi-Tec-C Maica 0.4 mm in kurikawa brown, Uni Style Fit Multi-Pen, and Midori Brass Pencil (hidden)
- Midori To Do List
- Mini pair of scissors
- Muji oil-based marker with dual tips
- Roll of plain washi tape
1. Field Notes Cherry Graph
The star of our kit! Out of all the Field Notes at my disposal, I chose this one for its wooden finish and the graph grid. It’s basic but still special enough. I like to title the cover at the end of the trip, and I learned that rubber stamping on the wood cover yields a nice, warm, weathered look. I might keep using Cherry Graph for future trips.
Since this was a relatively short trip (4 days), we didn’t do any special preparation on the Field Notes, like pre-dating the pages, or dividing the pages into different sections, as we’ve done for much longer trips in the past. We just kept in mind that we had about 12 pages per day (standard Field Notes have 48 pages total), and that turned out to be just right. We both like to write on only one side of each spread, but we have very small handwriting. The left side, we save for scrapbooking travel memorabilia, like ticket stubs, restaurant business cards, etc. I brought mt washi tapes to do just that, which I’ll discuss below in the post. Here are some of the things we write in the journal itself:
- Date, day of the week, and weather/temperature next to them. This is the extent of our formatting the journal entry for each day. Keeping it simple!
- What we did each day, in chronological order as best we can remember, with special attention to what we ate/drank and what public transportation routes we took. Also various impressions of people and places on our walks.
- Goals of our trip, preferably in a list format on page 1. Goals like “relax, eat good food, buy stationery,” etc. This helps us review our trip when we return. We forgot to do that in the beginning this time, so we stuck a sticky note (see #5 below) to the journal.
- Notes for next time/what we learned, in a list format, on any blank pages left at the end. If no space left, we add a sticky note on the back inside cover. Again, that’s what we did for this Seattle trip because we used up all the pages. These notes will help us prepare for any future trips to the same place.
2. Pilot Juice 0.38mm in Coffee Brown
A notebook is nothing without a writing instrument! I like retractable pens on the go. No caps to lose! But really, I chose this pen for its brown ink because it goes well with Cherry Graph. Like I mentioned, our handwritings are pretty small, so the 0.38mm tip filled on every line of graph grid worked out well for us.
3. Sheets of washi tapes
I like to scrap memorabilia in our travel journals, and washi tapes are an easy and decorative way to do that. I didn’t want to bring more than I needed, so I pre-cut some tapes and stuck them on a few glossy sheets to add to our kit. For versatility, I tried to keep them in a limited color palette, of black, white and gold. In previous trips, I rarely had the time to get crafty and taped things after the trip, but this time, I was more prepared and managed to do it during the trip. M was more than happy to delegate that task to me, by the way. :)
4. Extra Pens (and a pencil)
Pentel EnerGel Euro Needle 0.35mm in black:
This is my favorite gel pen in black, so it goes with me everywhere.
Pilot Hi-Tec-C Maica 0.4 mm with kurikawa brown refill from a regular Hi-Tec-C:
This was to test the Hi-Tec-C on a trip, and I really like the kurikawa brown color. But halfway through the trip, we both agreed that the skipping tendency of the Hi-Tec-C ink/tip was annoying, and we switched to the Pilot Juice (see #2 above).
Uni Style Fit Multi-Pen with 4 x 0.38mm gel color refills and one ballpoint refill:
‘Cause you never know when you’ll need to mark things with color. This multi-pen has come in very handy on our Tokyo trips, when we actually carried printed maps and were revising our itineraries on the go. During this recent trip, we saw no need for it but I plan on taking the same multi-pen on future trips.
Midori Brass Pencil:
Gotta take at least one pencil! This is a stylish and convenient choice, plus it has a generous eraser. We actually used this for playing crossword puzzles, which we got into doing recently.
5. Midori To Do List (sticky notes)
As mentioned above, we used sticky notes for adding extra notes to the journal, and this Midori pad has been a fun choice with its airplane theme. We also used it to outline each day's itinerary and for small to-dos, e.g. reservations to make, what to buy at a nearby drugstore, etc. On our last day, we used one to remind ourselves to take the chocolate truffles we’d purchased out of the refrigerator, before we checked out of our hotel room.
6. A mini pair of scissors
This was in the kit mostly for the washi tapes but I’ve used it in the past for unplanned situations, e.g. cutting tags off clothes I bought on the trip that I wanted to wear right away. Very useful to have around, just in case.
7. Muji oil-based marker with double tips
8. Mini roll of washi tape
This set, in a clear, resealable bag, is something I carry in my purse, traveling or not. It’s somewhat journal-related and proven to be handy, just like the mini scissors, so I consider it part of the kit. The oil-based marker (like Sharpies) is good for writing on unexpected surfaces, like various forms and luggage tags, and for writing on washi tapes. A roll of plain washi tape is good for anything that needs quick fixing or securing (and scrapbooking). On this trip, we bought a couple ceramic bowls, and while the store bagged them with some bubble wrap for us, they weren’t secured properly, so I used this roll of tape for extra reinforcement.
All the tools (except the clear pouch with the marker and the mini tape roll) were housed in a black zipper pouch that opens up like a wallet with several pockets and slots sized for business cards and credit cards. The inner pockets happen to be big enough for Field Notes and postcards; one of them is even zippered, so that’s where I kept the extra pens/pencil. I didn’t buy this pouch specifically for traveling, so it’s a happy accident that it became useful to us over the years. It came as a free gift with a Japanese fashion magazine years ago.
We have a lot of fun with travel journaling, that it becomes something to look forward to in addition to the vacation itself. I’m happy how this set of tools worked out for our latest trip. We kept it simple, but brought enough goodies like washi tapes to keep things interesting.
Do you journal while on vacation? How does it affect your memory of the trip? And what tools do you take with you?
As for me and M, we tend to visit same cities several times, so journaling helps us remember what we liked about each city, and what we should or shouldn’t do the next time go there again. Writing also helps us record moments that can’t necessarily be captured with cameras: how we felt, what we thought about the city, etc. It gives us reasons to slow down, by taking breaks at cafés to review and write our journal. That isn’t possible on every day of the trip but that’s the general idea, and it helps that it’s a joint project. M can pick up where I left off, and I can always add my two cents later where I need to, and vice versa. It’s also fun to read what each other wrote; sometimes his impressions can be quite different than mine!
Now if I can figure out the best way to organize travel photos and incorporate them into these journals... ;)