My best piece of travel gear seems to be one of the most simple. Yet, it is my bible on the road, going with me absolutely everywhere I go: my Travel Journal.
A travel journal can be so much more than a diary of the events of your travels. For me, it is a way of taking down quick notes, creating to-do lists, writing the contact information of old and new friends, and collecting research about future destinations in one place.
This article was originally written in 2009, and has since been updated for accuracy of content and links.
Once filled, my travel journals are a combination of pages with scribbles and crossed out lists, addresses of people back home as well as those I’ve met on the road, quick sketches or impressions of places that had an effect on me, and information gathered about each place I’ve visited. Going back through it is a unique way of reliving the time I used the journal, even if I didn’t do any actual journaling in it.
For me, there are no rules to using a travel journal. I simply record anything and everything that I may need to reference at a later time. It is my scheduler, and keeps me organized and on track. It is a catch-all for information I wouldn’t know where to store elsewhere.
Here is a perfect example of a useful item in my travel journal: Every time I booked a flight or rented a car abroad, I had to call my credit card company to find out what insurance coverage I automatically had. It was usually an afterthought, and an exercise in frustrating (and sometimes expensive) phone calls from sometimes remote places. And I never seemed to remember the details they gave me, so it became an exercise in repetition.
The last time I called for such information, I wrote it down on the front cover of my travel journal. Now I have easy access to the insurance company’s direct number and website, as well as the exact details of coverage I have.
I also record my flight and travel schedule in the front too. It is an easy reference while I’m out and about, and makes for a unique reminder of where I have traveled during the time that I owned the journal.
Here are a few more useful applications I’ve found for a travel journal:
**When I was on Canada AM, it became my resource for study notes before I went on-air.
**When I read an article about great questions to ask locals when you are traveling, I wrote them down, and occasionally referenced them so I could ask similar questions of my local hosts and friends.
**When I’m in a foreign language country, I write down various useful phrases that I learn phonetically from locals and reference them regularly until they’re committed to memory.
See also: How to Become Fluent in Another Language
**And when I met a fascinating woman on the subway in New York and struck up a conversation with her, it was an easy way to take down her information so we could keep in touch (as can happen so often on the road).
In this age of technology, some would argue that a smartphone can do the same job as a travel notebook. Yes, this is true, and I do store information and take notes with my smartphone. But to me, there is something inherently more enjoyable about using a travel journal:
- It isn’t a target for theft. In fact, it is worthless to just about everybody but me.
- It doesn’t have to be charged. I already have lots of electronics and chargers and associated accessories; I’m not particularly interested in more.
- It has an organic and tactile appeal. Since I have an invisible umbilical cord connecting me to my laptop given my location independent career, it is refreshing to make and reference notes easily and on paper.
Am I the only one? Do any other travelers use a travel journal, and if so – what do you use it for?
Smartphone Warriors: Check out this list of Best Travel Apps!