People often believe that only artists keep a journal while traveling. You’ve seen Danny Gregory’s beautiful watercolor sketches of Rome and immediately know that you’re never going to do that.You may never produce a stunning journal, but that’s not the point of keeping an illustrated record of your travels. Far from being a contest in how well you draw or paint, a travel journal can be a private practice that yields great benefits.
I’ve been illustrating my travels in words and images since 2005. This process allows me to feel and see more deeply. I enjoy a more dynamic engagement with the world that goes beyond the ordinary ‘been there, done that’. Mind you, I flunked high school art. Sketching, doodling and painting for me are not places where I need to be good or prove that I can draw. Instead, I use a handful of creative tools that help me be more playful and attentive while traveling.
Here’s what keeping a journal on the road does for me:
My journal provides a place to integrate the many new impressions I’m taking in.
I’m a sensitive person, and I love exploring the world. But sometimes the urban landscapes that I love can be over-stimulating.
Making sketches or lists in my journal is almost better and more convenient than a nap.When I pause with a coffee or tea and spend time in my journal, I am soon calmed and rested and ready for more.
Journaling gives me a way to organize and remember my experiences.
On a trip, we’re taking in so many more new impressions than an average afternoon back home. Journeling helps me replace overwhelm with calm and the simple pleasure of my own doodling.
Recording the important bits in my journal helps me to frame and understand my experience in the moment.
I then have a way to recall these special moments any time I want after the trip.
This provides me with a unique way to share with friends back home.
We’re used to seeing photo slide shows of our friends’ travels. An illustrated travel journal is a way to share a colorful, tactile and highly personal record with your loved ones.
It strengthens my creative confidence.
I learn over and over to record things without judgment. This serves me as a writer and an artist – I don’t have time to let my critic dictate my experience. The journal serves as a playground for experimentation. I’m encouraged to try new things, make new connections, and enjoy my own creative process.
It helps me slow down.
Travel allows us to step out of our routines and toss the clock aside. When I make time to jot in my journal, I am much more aware of time, and this slows me down.
I use the Moleskine Japanese album, which is about the size of my hand and has 62 pages that unfold accordion style. It fits in my bag and is easy to whip out anywhere. As my trip progresses, so the story of it unfolds. I’m able to hold it open and see the arc of my journey.
I love to travel, and I do it a lot for both business and pleasure. Since I’ve started keeping an illustrated journal while traveling, I feel more alive and engaged both on the road and at home.