Author: Jakob Barry

10 Reasons Handwritten Travel Diaries are Still Important

For several millennia hand written accounts of people’s experiences were more than just words. Writing style, drawings, and blood sweat and tears left on paper gave detailed insights into a particular persona. With email, blogging, and social networking having taken over the world of communication and the hand written diary collecting dust on the shelf, there’s no better time to reconnect to the original art of journaling than while itinerant.

True, when traveling, especially on long voyages in far off places, contacting the outside world, documenting experiences, and carrying away memories through a single electronic device is appealing. However, there are instances where the simplicity of pen and paper give the moment a whole new meaning:

1.    It’s personal

I can say for myself that over the years writing in my own travelogue has been invaluable, even as a companion to my laptop. Perusing thoughts down the line it’s evident in the print where I was hurrying, fell a sleep with the ink in hand, or ran off the page excited over every detail.

2.    More than words

There’s nothing like a good digital camera to capture hundreds, maybe thousands of photos on a trip. However, as an artist with particular attention to detail there are some elements even film won’t capture. My travel diary wasn’t just a scripted collage of words but also served as a hub for sketching and superimposing textures from rocks and even bark. Photographs provide a visual guide, so to speak, of objects in places visited but superimposing is like grafting the real thing. When transferred to art or home décor the design retains an uncanny sense of the original, a quality that makes it particularly unique.

3.    Sharing

While traveling some people you cross paths with are worth parting with ASAP yet in the presence of others it feels like you could spend the rest of your life with them. In the latter case the travelogue symbolizes an intimate space for sharing, as having special new friends write in your personal space is a great bonding experience. You can also imprint or trace a temporary traveling companion’s hand as a lasting impression of your time with them. Imagine a book full of hand tracings of all the people you came across on the journey.

4.    Appreciation

You meet a person and you just love each other’s company or you’ve sought out and met one of your greatest influences. Giving them a hand written note, a poem, or even a log entry from your away from home personal space is an acknowledgment of your appreciation. In these situations an email after the fact just doesn’t compare and you may never have the opportunity again to show your gratitude face-to-face.

5.    “Micro-hoarding”…let me explain

Traveling on trails, in the mountains, or through a striking ravine? At some point the desire to ‘bring it all home’ arises but in reality you must settle for a few souvenirs. Just remember, mementos don’t have to be store bought. As long as permitted, the travel journal is the perfect place to do what I call “micro-hoarding.” It can be leaves, flowers, specs of multihued sand or soil, or colorful smears from a tribesman’s henna. It all fits in your travel journal cause its small.

6.    Smell

Remember scratch and sniff stickers? One thing a piece of paper captures and retains that no digital device can is scent. Whether a flower, perfume, or some other substance, the only way to truly describe it to someone back home is ‘record’ it in your book with a blotch or a smudge so friends and family can smell for themselves.

7.    Children’s book

There comes a certain point in a child’s life when wanting to know so much about their parents means displaying personal records. A travel diary is an amazing exhibit of your journey. The investment you made writing goes hand in hand with pictures and other memorabilia. Flipping though its pages it also teaches your children about how to make their own when the time comes.

8.    Personal Growth

Everyone’s parents saved something from their children’s early years. Whether a finger painting, a good test score or a self made birthday card, there are countless attics across the country where at least one box of such items rests.  Over time our adult fascination with the past will sneak up on us and like those old school papers a travelogue is a perfect place to look back, be mesmerized with where we were and how far we have come.

9.    Lifespan

Unlike many digital devices that become obsolete after a number of years, your hand written journal will never become outdated and you won’t have to transfer any files to new media. Also, on a long trek through India, Africa, or South America your digital devices will at some point run out of juice and need recharging. Your diary will always keep going.

10.     Giving it away

What? Didn’t I just give nine reasons why it’s so important to keep? Yes, but sometimes the ultimate sacrifice of a good piece of art is letting it go. This may sound crazy but imagine writing down all your experiences and leaving it in a particular place for others to read. Blogs and email are accessible to the world but many travel spots don’t have internet access and other travelers could benefit from your story. Besides, you’d probably never intentionally leave one of your electronic devices in the middle of nowhere so at least consider the diary!

Finally, by far the best part of keeping your travelogue is displaying it at home where it’s easily accessible (that is if you don’t give it away!). A testament to the explorer in you, the book itself doesn’t have to cost a lot, be made of interesting material, or have hundreds of pages. It just needs to be an inviting healthy companion to all the other important gadgets in your possession on the road. Bottom line: it’s a real do-it-yourself project; give it attention and reap the benefits for years to come.

Jakob Barry is a writer for, where you can find a general contractor for all types of home projects.