Tips on Travel Journaling

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.

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(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

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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.

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(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).

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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).

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Snippets from my Southeast Asia travel journal

Watercolors

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.

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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.

IMG_0026Craft stash

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.

Art-Accordion

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Related post: The ABCs of Journaling Book Launch

Photos by Tippy Go & Christie Lim

12 Comments
  • Anne of "Anne's Scribbles and Doodles"
    Posted at 00:33h, 30 August Reply

    This is so inspirational Abbey! I’m not huge on travel journaling (yet) since I haven’t had the chance to really travel (again yet) but this post has motivated me to really go into it. On the occasional trips that I’ve had so far, I find myself filling up my planner with poems and little short stories inspired by the people and places I’ve been to with matching doodles on the margin. I think it’s time to invest in a journal this time. Yours scream #goals! Also, thanks for the tips regarding which supplies to bring. “The less, the easier to decide.” has to be my fave. I’ll try my best not to bring my whole art/craft stash with me. Hehe. 🙂

    PS: It’s almost Sept 10!

    • abbey
      Posted at 10:42h, 30 August Reply

      Hi Anne! Thanks for reading 🙂 Poems are great, too! I guess I just have to hone my writer self to get to that…for now, I just let most of my drawings do the explanation. Haha. Yes, materials are really hard to choose! It really varies per person *so* I hope you find the right set for you!

      PS: Yes! Hope you can come! I’m launching something new!

  • isabelita uy
    Posted at 00:45h, 30 August Reply

    Thanks for sharing, Abbey. your blog have answered some of my questions regarding what pens and materials to bring when travelling. Everyone is sharing what pens and what kind of watercolor but mentioning the type of notebooks for watercolor is always forgotten. Anyway, would love to have the opportunity to attend one of your classes in the near future… Keep it up!!!

    • abbey
      Posted at 10:38h, 30 August Reply

      Thank you! 🙂

  • Kym Liwanag
    Posted at 08:22h, 31 August Reply

    Thanks for shareing this ate Abbey! I’m especially inspired as I’m planning to do a trip to Switzerland soon which means train rides hihi. For paints I bought one of those Peerless watercolor travel palettes. Haven’t really gotten the chance to use them a lot, but I feel like it’s a good alternative to bringing actual paints.

    • abbey
      Posted at 14:27h, 01 September Reply

      Hi Kym! Switzerland, aaah! Enjoy 🙂 I bought Peerless also, they’re okay but not fit for my style – maybe it would suit yours. Enjoy your trip! Yes it’s a good alternative, it’s super handy and the colors are very pigmented and bright.

  • Zildjian Austin Beniten
    Posted at 23:26h, 02 September Reply

    Wow this is so amazing. It inspired me to create one when I finish my studies! HAHA. Because I don’t have my own money this time. But soon after I graduate and have a nice job I will start to travel the world also. So thankyou for inspiring teenagers like me. <3 🙂

    • abbey
      Posted at 20:41h, 03 September Reply

      Welcome! 🙂

  • leysette anthony cruz
    Posted at 21:42h, 03 September Reply

    BEST TIPS EVER. Thank you so much Ate Abbey. I LOVE YOUR WORKS SO MUCH. And your tips help a lot. I’ve been teasing always as a living doraemon because of my bag is always bulky and super big. Even my professor noticing me for bringing a lot of things. Well i can’t resist. I can’t choose what materials should i bring. But now, after i’ve your tips. It helps me a lot and learn from it. I LOVE YOU ATE ABBEY. INSPIRE US ALWAYS :* KEEP SAFE ALWAYS.

    • abbey
      Posted at 23:33h, 04 September Reply

      Thanks Leysette!

  • Myra Saligan
    Posted at 14:28h, 28 September Reply

    Hi Ms. Abbey,
    This is so amazing! I’m a fan of yours.
    Thank you for the tips. I really love to read your blog.
    Thank you for inspiring us.

    May God to continue to bless you!

    Love,
    Myra

    • abbey
      Posted at 14:11h, 29 September Reply

      Thanks, Myra! Hope the tips help 🙂

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