An edited repost from the archives.

​It’s summer and I’ve just completed almost eight weeks of travel for work, family, and vacation. I’ve traveled throughout Virginia and Paris, and in a few weeks I’m heading back to Charleston, SC and Chicago. It’s been fun and exhausting, but I’m so glad to be home for now. After I do the laundry, put away the suitcases, and take a nap, one of my favorite things to do is review my travel journal.

Whether or not I spend one night or ten nights in a place, I always record everything in my travel journal: names of hotels, restaurants, interesting sights, people I’ve talked to, random details and even doodles. While it can feel like work, when I get home I’m always so happy that I’ve kept a record of where I’ve been and how I felt and even what I ate.

Here are a few reasons why I love keeping a travel journal:

1. I take a ton of photos and store them on a Google drive when I get home to eventually share on Social Media (I never post while I’m traveling. I’m too paranoid). But when I get home, I print out my favorites and stick them into my journal. After each day, I always keep a few pages blank specifically for my photos. Sometimes I also add things like pressed flowers from a New Orleans courtyard, a napkin from an Irish tea shop, or a ticket to see the D-Day Memorial in Virginia. I even have a cocktail napkin from the highest bar in NYC!

2. I always record my day, including where I’ve stayed and eaten. I describe places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met. I try to include obscure details like strange smells and unusual foods—things I know I’ll forget once I’m home.

3. I love to sketch, even though I’m horrible at it, and it’s a fun way to keep my memories. Once I’m done with my doodles, I ask my kids to identify what I’ve drawn and write down in the journal what they think they see. They’re never right, but it’s always fun to be mocked by the young.

4. The other thing I love about having a journal is that I never mind eating alone. Once I’m served, I sit and observe and write the world around me.

5. Although I record my day, I also keep notes on the people I’ve met. Most people don’t carry business cards so I track names, numbers, and people with whom I’d like to stay in touch.

6. Keeping a journal gives me a complete, detailed itinerary of our trip I can share with others who are planning their own trip. I’ve also used my diaries when I’ve revisited cities years later to remind me of things I liked and didn’t like.

7. I always leave space for to-do lists for things I need to remember while I’m traveling such as buy day-of theater tickets or next-day museum tickets or make dinner reservations in the next city. It’s amazing what you can forget while traveling.

8. Since I’m always talking to people when I travel, I keep a separate section of the journal for must-dos. Things that aren’t on my itinerary or in my guide book that I learn about from others and decide to see. I even track things that will inspire me to take a future trip to a new place.

9. I write down all of my financial transactions. Although I keep my receipts, I still keep a running tab of every expense and ATM withdrawal, as well as the daily exchange rates. That way there are no surprises when I get home and open my credit card bill! I also keep track of things I buy that I may have to list for U.S. Customs (depending on the country I’m in).

10. Most important, don’t write in your journal as if others are going to read it. Be as irreverent, funny, whiny as you want. Years later, you will appreciate your own candor!

Tips for Travel Journals:

  • Keep it small, light-weight, and with a soft cover.
  • A journal with lined paper makes things easier.
  • Carry a few pens that write well. Add in a charcoal pencil for drawings.
  • Bring a glue stick to add in ticket stubs and random Polaroid photos.
  • Don’t worry about getting it wet or covered in sunscreen. The point is to record your real life—the things that really happened—not create some fake trip you think others will enjoy hearing about.
  • This journal is for you, your kids, and grandkids. It’s supposed to be messy, imperfect, and fun. It’s a record of where you went, the things you’ve seen, and the kind of life you’ve lived. It’s a record of who you were and how and why you became the person you were meant to be!

Wherever you go this summer, even if you stay home, I wish you a safe and happy time! Bon Voyage!

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