Contrary to what most people think, travel journaling was an accidental hobby I discovered. It was during a cold morning in France three years ago—while lining up for the Louvre museum, that I decided to flip open a notebook and start drawing. Years later, I went backpacking around Southeast Asia and managed to chronicle 30 days’ worth of adventures inside a journal, one of which has been my all-time favourite adventures to date.
Ever since those encounters, I’ve never traveled without at least a little notebook to record my activities while in transit. And it’s always been the most precious keepsake I can hold on to from my adventures away from home.
(my first ever travel journal from a few years back)
Today, I’ll be sharing some tips on travel journaling based on my own experiences from documenting in transit. Whether you’re just about to start, have been doing it regularly, or want to know more about it—read on, and I hope these tips help!
Tools To Bring
Every time I travel, my number one concern is always which set of tools to bring. But over time, I’ve learned to sort out which ones I really need and will use.
Faber-Castell Pens & Pencils
I have a set of 60 Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens at home, but I find that bringing around 8-10 colors really help filter out my color choices (the less, the easier to decide, in my opinion). I usually get a gray, 2 shades of brown, indian red, pine green, yellow, and navy as I like to sketch a lot of sceneries & nature elements that require these basic colors.
(coloring in a page from Googly Gooeys’ coloring book)
Apart from Faber-Castell’s Pitt Artist Pens, I’ve been keen on using my Albrecht Dürer watercolor pencils, which are highly pigmented and are great for traveling (especially if you’re one who’s iffy about packing paint).
I also use fineliner pens (round tip) on a regular basis as it’s easy to achieve a sketchy effect with just one pen (I used only one pen illustrating the pages at the photo below).
Snippets from my Southeast Asia travel journal
I always bring just one tiny tin can of watercolors, which I did myself. I used an old candy tin, filled it up with empty pans, and squeezed out watercolor tubes with my color choices (again, mostly dull and desaturated). It’s a no-frills way of taking your paint along without having to bring the whole set.
My habit when it comes to travel journaling involves me really drawing whenever and wherever I am. One time, I got lost while commuting in Tokyo, so I spent the 2-hr subway ride painting. No tables, just my hands. So as much as possible, I try to be flexible with the materials I bring.
People assume I carry all my washi tapes when I travel…no. Definitely not, lol. I bring around 2-3 little rolls and then tape some on tags / plastic covers so I can reuse them. I like having wooden clips on hand for 1) painting and 2) props. Then I also have a few ~ephemera~ and a little case where I store them (just in case I get more tickets / keepsakes as I travel).
Travel Journaling Style
Over the years, I’ve kept numerous photo-filled books, journals, envelopes of keepsakes, and so much more. They have never been consistent, and I guess that’s what I like most about this activity—the more variety, the better. One day I could be drawing non-stop; and the other, I could be writing endless paragraphs of what I’ve seen and what I’ve done or have printed out hundreds of photos for a scrapbookish journal page.
One thing I’ve kept consistent though is my work would always have a mix of drawing and writing. They almost never separate (except on very rare occasions).
Lately, though, I’ve been finding myself writing more. I like articulating my thoughts by observing what I see. It’s pretty ironic considering I haven’t really honed my writing skills to its maximum (yet) but…it’ll get there. Hehe.
Capturing a Moment
The best part of getting to document memories from travels & adventures is being able to immortalize where you were at a specific point and place in time. For me, there’s a unique takeaway from illustrating or writing about your travels rather than just taking photos, or breezing through your trip.
After all, the main goal of travel journaling is for you to remember your travel experience in the way you want it. Capturing a moment can be as simple as observing your surroundings, the food you’ve consumed, and the sights you’ve seen. Interpret them in any way that speaks to you the most.
Making Time to Document
While it’s okay to chronicle everything when you get back from your trip, making time to document in transit helps preserve the moment more while it’s happening.
Most of the time I like to draw while in transit (literally), especially during long bus or train rides. I also like to stay at cafes or use idle time at the airport to draw or sketch. It keeps my hands busy, and at the same time, gives me motivation to narrate my experiences and take it all in.
Speaking of, sharing with you a video diary of how I document my travels using Faber-Castell Pitt Pens, my go-to materials for journaling.
Getting to combine your love for art and travel and keeping them in a tangible notebook makes it a memorable personal keepsake that you can always look back on. Here’s hoping you can create your own on your future travels!
You can purchase Faber-Castell products at National Book Store branches nationwide, as well as Scribe & Craft Carrot. Check out their online shop at http://www.manilaatelier.com/.
[EDITED: November 2016]
By the way, have you gotten a copy of my new book The ABCs of Journaling?
Inside the book I share tips on documenting your own life creatively, and gathering inspiration from different types of people on how to journal. There’s also a sticker sheet included 🙂 Copies are available at bookstores nationwide in the Philippines, as well as online on Shop Abbey Sy. Limited stocks are available for pre-order (internationally) at Rainbowholic Shop.
Related post: The ABCs of Journaling Book Launch
Photos by Tippy Go & Christie Lim