When I was planning my backpacking trip to Peru and Bolivia and then my 31X31 trip I planned to leave my lovely Macbook Pro behind (because I might kill someone if they dumped coffee on it in the airport [this happened in October 2013 to my old Dell and I was still shaking with rage because of all my files and pictures that were lost]) and just keep my journal in a traditional notebook.
The thing is…while I love to type my journals, I hate to physically WRITE anything…ever (being a third-grade teacher and having students write for me is AWESOME). So while I loved the idea of using a cheap notebook, I know from experience that I wouldn’t use it. I have even tried a fancy leather bound one when I was in Italy.
I realized that my travel journal needs to be small enough that I can always throw it in my purse, fancy enough that I will want to be seen with it, and have enough prompts and/or useful information to make me actually use the thing. I am thinking about this pretty leather bound one and adding my own travel journal twist to it.
I thought about getting this one from Amazon (affiliate link) because it seems clever and ticks all of my requirements, but like I tell my students, you work harder if you have a personal investment in it. So this summer I made my own!!
I actually made two (one for my December trip to Bolivia and Peru, and the other for my trip to Colombia). I will make a third one closer to June for my European Adventure. I hope I will have a lot to see and reflect on! I organized them both in the same way:
My contact information
The contact info of my closest relatives in case it gets lost or they are lucky enough to get a post card from me!
Embassy contacts for each city you plan on visiting
City Specific Information:
Map from the airport/train/bus station to my hostel printed and glued in from GoogleMaps
Information about the hostel: Name of hostel, Address, Dates Reserved, Phone Number, Reservation Number, Total Cost of Reservation, Any Other Helpful Information (like a free shuttle?!)
Interesting places to see
Restaurants I want to visit
How to say: hello, goodbye, please, thank you, bathroom, and water in the local language (you can cheat by cutting this page out of a second hand paper travel guide)
Airline Confirmation Code
Cost of taxi (if arriving at night) or public transportation from airport to hostel
Journal Section: Include at least one response to one of the questions listed at the back of the journal. If I feel like writing more, then I will do so!
Pictures/postcards- of course!
To help fight against writer’s block I included a list of writing prompts at the back of the journal that I can flip to for easy reference.
- What are the top 5 things you hope to accomplish with this trip?
- What made you choose to visit the cities that you will be visiting?
- People journal: Write each day about someone you met that day. Describe everything about them: How they looked, how they talked, their mannerisms, how they made you feel. How did they make you feel? Did you learn anything from them? Have they changed you in a profound way?
- Money journal: Daily expenditures (all those accounting courses coming out!) and any money saved.
- What is the most valuable item you packed on this trip?
- What is one item you packed that you should have left behind?
- What do you miss most about home?
- Do the locals know that you are a traveler? What makes you stick out?
- What do you wish you knew more about your destination? History, culture, etc…
- What has been the most difficult part about this vacation?
- What do you wish you knew before you came? What advice would you give a friend who was going to travel to this destination?
- What sounds to you hear when you wake up in the middle of the night? During the day?
- What were your reasons for taking this trip?
- What stereotypes did you have about your destination before you arrived and how are they different from what you discovered when you arrived?
- Did you experience culture shock at any point during your trip? What event triggered it? How did you react?
- What souvenirs did you buy? What prompted you to buy them?
- Write down quotes from locals, tour guides, and traveling partners that you found interesting.
- Draw a picture of something you see. This will make you really observe the details.
- Do you prefer spending your travel time alone or in a group? Why?
- Have someone you meet leave a message or sketch.
- Take an audio or video clip of the moment and note that you did so in your journal and later record details when you review the clip at home.
- Make an acrostic verse about wherever you happen to be at the moment.
- Buy a postcard and mail it to yourself. On the back, describe one thing in your immediate view for each city you visit. Then you get home and put it into your travel journal.
- Try to draw a map of a neighborhood you have explored with your favorite café/restaurant/gelato place.
- Write down your daily travel routine.
- List 5 good things that have happened to you that day/week/month.
- What has made you laugh lately?
- Write a letter to your future self about what you absolutely cannot forget about this trip.
- Now that you are actually IN Europe/Boliva/Peru, is there anything you want to add to your bucket list or add to your next grand backpacking trip?
- What was the best thing about the entire trip?
I’m super excited to use them! I’ve made scrapbooks in the past, but I feel like these travel journals will be taking it up a notch!
For you teachers out there: I think it would be a great idea to share your travel journals (as long as they are age-appropriate!) with your students. My students love to learn anything about me, and by sharing my journals I think I could inspire them to make one of their own!
Please comment below! Have you ever made your own travel journals? Can you think of another great travel journal prompt to add to my list? What do you do with your journals after your trip?
Fantastic idea and excellent prompts! I had to look up “acrostic verse!” For over 20 years we have received an “acrostic verse” Christmas card and I never knew there was a term for that! Thanks!!!!! Also, I keep every receipt, map, schedule, advertisement etc from my vacation. I take the plastic sheets for business cards, the one that is a little larger and and a plain plastic sheet and put all my collected stuff in them for each city. When I get home I know exactly where I ate, played, shopped, toured and what transportation I took. Then I have everything so I know what I did on vacation and after my posts I put the plastic sheets plus journal entries in giant 3 ring binders that I keep. I have a travel closet!!!!!! But I am organized! I have every vacation and trip from the past 20 years!
That’s horrible about what happened to your Dell. I never take my Macbook on trips because I’m afraid of this happening. You certainly found a classy, “vintage” alternative.
Yes, I was kinda devastated because I didn’t back up a lot of my china pictures (other than facebook). Technology can be replaced, but lesson plans and pictures are a lot harder to replace. Sometimes paper notebooks (augmented by this awesome blog!) can make a great alternative!
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Terrific prompts!!! Here’s a couple more:
What are you most worried about for this trip?
Describe the most “exotic” food you tried (something out of your comfort zone)
At end of trip: what surprised you the most about yourself during this trip?
Thanks! I like these prompts, I will have to use them on my next big solo trip to Cuba in December!
Such a good idea these travel journals! Never thought of them actually, but would be nice to have more memories than pictures and videos 🙂
Thanks! I really love my journals. So far I have four or five of them. I’m currently working on one for Cuba. They are so great when a friend asks for recommendations or my thoughts on a place and I am able to look back for specifics.
Your prompts are great! Thank you for sharing!