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Does anyone still keep a written travel journal anymore?

I’m leaving Thursday for 2 1/2 weeks in Greece. Lots of the last minute things going on in my house as I haven’t been out of the country since November’19 and I’m a bit paranoid I’m forgetting something.
But one of the things I have ready is a travel journal. I was able to get one with a Greek flag motif on the cover. When I travel it’s the only time I journal but I find it a great way to keep track and love to read them when planning the next trip.
I’ve been reading the topic on blogging that is more a shared experience I guess. But does anyone do the pen to paper thing anymore in our digital age?

Posted by
6167 posts

Hi Lyndash, I have a good friend whose husband is a retired history teacher. They travel internationally several times a year, and he writes such interesting details in his handwritten bound journals, including some easy sketches! They let me borrow them for a week when we were first planning a trip to a location where he had journaled, and it was fascinating! I was amazed how much he wrote, ending each day by writing for an hour. I’m definitely not that disciplined on a trip but what a lovely keepsake!

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705 posts

I keep a journal while traveling and love to write in it while sitting in a cafe or a lovely park. I also bring a small glue stick which I use to attach a few mementos such as colorful museum receipts and hand written receipts from hotels/B&Bs. My journals have become some of my favorite souvenirs.

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203 posts

Oh I wish I had the tiniest bit of artistic ability and could do little sketches in the margins! Zero talent unfortunately, but I still find it fulfilling somehow to write during a meal or coffee break. I normally do solo travel so that’s part of it I’m sure. My husband is coming on this trip so it will be interesting to see what changes that will make.

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2495 posts

I take a small notebook, usually from a shop (coincidentally I bought 2 today at the Galleria Borghese!) on a previous journey, and it’s both my itinerary notebook and journal for the trip. If it’s a country with “different” currency, i.e. Hungary, I tape a small conversion chart from Coinmill inside the cover. First page has flight info, then a page per day of the trip with pertinent notes—reservations, things I want to fit in, etc. After that I just keep a running log of thoughts, what I did, bought, viewed, and ate. Sometimes amusing to read later, and really quite useful when I am returning to a place.

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295 posts

Yes, I kind of have to or I completely forget the names of restaurants (and what I ate where), shops, etc... I simply cannot force myself to tap these notes into my phone, but I don't mind penning them into a journal before bed.

I can remember all kinds of details if I write an outline. It looks like this and I often get a couple of days behind and have to reference my receipts or ask a fellow traveler, "What was the name of the place with the apricot pastry?"

April 4
Breakfast at Tazza D'oro (cappuccino and pistacchio cornetto)
Walked past the Coliseum and Forum on the way to Santo Stefano Rotondo
Baths of Caracalla (the mosaics!)
bus back to town
Snack at Pizza Florida (spinach stuffed)
Walk through Jewish Quarter
Guruwalk "Who killed Caravaggio?"
Photos on Isola Tiberina
(stop at hotel to pick up jacket and drop off odds and ends)
Shops along Via dei Coronari
Spritz and antipasti at I Pizzicaroli
Picked up Pasta Amatriciana to go at Pasta Imperiale
Walk to St. Peter's Basilica and back to hotel through Campo di Fiori then Piazza Navona while eating pasta from to-go box (so good!)

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4514 posts

Although I have started posting my journal online, it always starts off with a written journal. I began that back in the mid-1990's on my first trip to Europe and have kept it up with almost every trip.

This trip my daughter gave me a new journal (usually I buy one to bring with me) and it is on watercolor paper, so I plan to do some little sketches, too. I love going back and reviewing my journals. Now I admit that I look at the online ones first, but it's nice to know they are physical journals as well.

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2186 posts

I journal on my IPad. It is easier to read than my chicken scrawl and I can print it out and also create a trip report for the forum. I wish I could draw as that would be fun, too. But normally our travel days are so full that typing in my journal is the most I can do before I fall asleep.

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4308 posts

I have most of one shelf in a bookcase full of previous journals. And a brand new one that I bought in a little shop in Venice waiting to be used on our next trip. I really like that i can go back and find the name of a restaurant we really liked, or where we stopped at a particularly pretty little town. And I find it enjoyable to not only chronicle our travels, but to jot down my observations and feelings about what we've experienced that day. For me it's a relaxing way to unwind and relax during down time.

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930 posts

I used to keep a handwritten journal but for the past few years have done it electronically. Back at the hotel after dinner I use wifi and just send myself a daily email or two using voice dictation into the phone. A lot quicker for me than writing it down by hand, and more legible!

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422 posts

I’m heading to Italy in May with my students. As part of their coursework, they will keep a journal and bring it with them when we are out and about so they can write and sketch. I use the writing/sketching to help them focus on what we are seeing and it ends up being a nice keepsake for them. This has been my practice for nearly 20 years and students seem to enjoy it.

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203 posts

I find I can’t quite make the complete leap to e-screen. I do almost everything online these days but when I sit down to journal or compose a huge list when we are gearing up for one of our long camping trips I still feel like my brain works better when it’s pen and paper. Might be my age, 1950 model here 😉, or maybe I’ll get there eventually.
I also have learned the hard way that little portable lightweight 3x4” journals won’t hack it. I find it’s got to be bigger for my hand to have room. I used to buy nice leather ones but now opt for the less weight as possible.

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565 posts

I carry ones from Ricco Bello. Notebooks are 4.25 x 8.25 approximately. Since we travel for a few weeks at a time, I have 2-3 of them with me and keep a running loosely defined commentary in them; what we did, saw, restaurants, etc. I also use it to tally our spending for each day.

There is also a nice folder that they can be placed into that has a stretchy inside binder and also an outside stretch closure. I know I got mine from amazon, but I don’t see this size there now. Ricco

EDIT: Just looked at and looks like the product line may have changed. The notebooks are still available, but I’m not seeing the folder.

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797 posts

I have handwritten journals of my travels for the past 20 years. Time is now coming when health and wealth (or lack thereof) mean that I won't be doing any more overseas trips, but am now enjoying going back and rereading the journals. Sometimes have brought a notebook with me, more often than not its been a matter of remembering to get one when I arrive in my destination. So have notebooks from all over the world - a nice souvenir in itself!

Once I got my iPad I always traveled with that, but found the thoughts did not flow so easily as when I wrote up my journal every evening.

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68 posts

I have always kept a written journal for the "big" trips, but I am trying something different this year with voice dictation. Mardee on this forum suggested sending myself an email each day with the journal notes. I spent yesterday afternoon with my husband figuring out exactly how to do this (total newbie!!) and I think it will work really well.

I have a beautiful journal that I may transcribe this into once I return, just because I do like those handwritten notes. I re-read all my old journals from my very first trip in 1985 through to present and was shocked by how much detail I forgot. The last couple trips were wrangling three kids, so I was perennially behind, so I am hoping this voice dictation method will be the trick for keeping up without making me exhausted from the endeavor. We will see!

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6167 posts

A hint that may help others remember details. When I’m taking photos, I purposely take some photos I may delete, but they’re my markers to remember details. For instance, I take a photo of the sign at each train station - I move locations frequently. In a museum, I will take a photo of favorite items, plus an accompanying photo of the nameplate info. At restaurants, I will take a photo of the top of the menu or their sign, plus a photo of my meal (my husband likes to see what I am enjoying!). At excellent gelato shops, I take a photo of the gelato cup with their sign in the background. In Rome last year, I took a few photos of neighborhoods I walked through & also the name of the 2-seat bicycle carts my daughter & I rented in the Borghese Park.

The info from these “marker photos” is added as a comment in the iCloud photo.

Posted by
2324 posts

I start a journal, just using a small notebook. For the first three days I diligently write in it. After that I give up.
So what I started last year was to make a detailed itinerary, print it out and make notes on it. Plus I put most of that itinerary into my phone's calendar which helps during the trip and as a memory jog afterwards.
My only electronic is my phone -- low tech person. But this gives me enough to write a decent trip report in the month after I return home on my old desk top computer.
All that helps me sort through my phone and camera pictures to put them in a trip folder and caption them. If I think I will need something to jog my memory, especially art work, I take pictures of the museum placards or signs. On a Rick Steves tour, I take a picture of each day's itinerary which helps with both the trip report and picture captioning.

As for a scrap book, I still have everything sitting in a pile from my Italy trip in 2019. Someday when I'm old and feeble, I may put it together. I added a bit to the pile from last year's France trip.

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203 posts

I’m pretty faithful while I’m on the road, but if I end taking notes on something else and tell myself I’ll transcribe them into the journal, nope never happens. That’s why I carry it with me.
I have an extremely poor sense of direction, like non existent, so I do always have my phone for the map and camera. Finding my way back to hotels used to be a real issue. Thank goodness for the little blue dot that shows up even when you don’t have a cell service plan.
I also take pictures of food and many, many of works of art. Museums were always the reason for my travel up until now. Greece of course is a museum in itself but this will be my first mostly outdoor sort of travel experience.

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100 posts


For years, I've carried a 0.5mm ball-point pen and a small Moleskine notebook for its size and durability. I'm always jotting notes, especially during the planning stage and/or at the beginning of a long journey. Although I don't have the book with me while I'm out and about, the start and end of the day are quiet times when I can, respectively, plan and reflect upon the activities for the day. I also use the notebook to track what I'm spending on a daily basis while on travel; that written record has been handy weeks or months later that have helped unbury a memory. "Oh yeah, I was in the city's 20th district when I went to that Syrian snack-joint and got a Damascus-style shawarma."

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341 posts

My spouse keeps a hand-written journal for all trips we take, whether domestic or international. Often it's a bit annoying as he asks me to provide names of places we went during the day, etc. I've tried to train him to jot things down as they happen, and he's gotten a bit better about that. And I've done my best to be patient and provide him with the details of the day. On one trip, though, he was so OCD about details (writing as we walked, left on this street, right on that street, etc. as we walked through Barcelona) that I was ready to scream so we had a serious discussion before our next trip about how much detail is truly critical. That helped for a while. I do my best to factor in his writing time in the day, and we have used his notes (details!) to aid others in trip-planning. He dreams that one or more of our grandchildren will some day use a journal to follow his footsteps. I certainly support that!

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2036 posts

My spouse also kept a handwritten journal. It's interesting to see the handwriting deteriorate as the end of the day approaches and more wine has been consumed! (Really, he only wrote in it at the end of the day.) I loved being able to go back and read these later, so I continued the practice when he could no longer do it (Alzheimer's on our last trip or two together) and plan to continue. Not a lot of detail, just enough to jog the memory.

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616 posts

I’m happy to see that others are still writing in “journals.” I keep 3 separate journals.

We are campers, and I journal in a large notebook for each camping trip. I record the name of the campground, as well as the campsite…and since we do all our cooking outside, I record our meals, as well as our daily activities.

I also have “Travel Journals,” for short domestic trips we take, whether by car or airplane. I record multiple trips until the pages are filled. Then I purchase another journal.

For our international trips, which usually last a month, I use as separate book for each trip. Our son goes to “conferences,” where there are venders who are giving away free books. They are my favorite because they are very lightweight, have limited pages; often with a soft cover, and sometimes even a pen is attached to the book.
When we are on a trip, I buy a large sticker to hide the name of the company written on the cover. For example, on our trip last year, I bought a sticker of St. Peter’s since we climbed the dome.

As Sleight wrote above, I would never remember the daily details of each trip. I also like to include the daily miles walked as well as steps. And at the end of the trip, I like to include the breakdown of expenses.

Like Jean, I usually take some photos just to help me remember information, such as the name of a restaurant, or menu item I ordered, etc.

As an added bonus, keeping a journal has “proven me right,” on several occasions when my husband’s memory is faulty. I just look up the info in my journal…end of discussion.

Posted by
551 posts

A topic very close to my heart, as I've kept trip journals for decades. So what follows is lengthy.

Nowadays, Paperblanks is my brand, although in the past Moleskin plus actual school notebooks were employed. For a few years, I utilized an excellent type of blank sketchbook and wrote in them without any guidelines. Size requirements mean that the journal must be able to fit into the side sleeve of my ancient Domke camera bag.
My set-up is similar to Christa's in keeping page one as a Flight Info section. A detailed copy of our itinerary is always right next to that. Typically, I'll also include copious maps marking researched eateries, suggested walks, plus data regarding attractions (opening times, days of closing etc). We take language learning seriously and so those pages are also placed up front. Along the trip, I'll add pamphlets, business cards, stickers, better-quality local maps and more. Like Christine, gluesticks are a must to pack.

My journals are always 8 1/2 months 'pregnant' upon return, fit to burst and full of daily descriptions. In their second lives back home, they each become depository file containers for additional found items that might be related, National Geographic maps, latter-day articles and even printouts of especially excellent forum posts whose associated topic drew many useful responses.

I got into the habit back when I did a little semi-pro travel writing on the side, starting in the 80s. My very first journal was designed to assist me report on a Beatles Pilgrimage for a local Toronto newspaper. My daily observations informed my articles for many years afterwards. For a brief while, an effort was made to decorate the cover with an arty, glued-on collage. One of our first Mexico trips was the most effective of that kind of collage, with India as a close second. For a few years, I added sketches onto the blank covers. We've kept pretty pressed flowers inside the journal, recipes and even a lovely dead blonde moth!

For years, my wife and I overdid things during travel. She'd do painting and sketching, plus photos. I'd write, do photos plus keep a running audio collage. We brought a pro-grade taper to record a wide range of sounds: interviews, Mother Nature, wildlife, children playing, oddities, live music, foreign TVs, sports crowds and lots more. It got to be too much and we eventually stopped taping, the final one being '94 in the Luberon. That sound collection was eventually digitized and I'm currently 80% of the way through itemizing it all--currently listening to somewhere in a reggae nightclub deep in Pt. Antonio Jamaica mon.

As with CJean, we keep a chronological bookshelf full of the journals. Once I finish writing the second edition to my self-published musical memoirs, then we will finally commence on starting our long-planned coffee-table book Travel Memoir. We have a catchy title and about 195,377,284,760,482,529,9667 photos to go through before making the final selection.

Of course, those journals will be indispensable for that project.
My mother kept a travel journal composed entirely of her sketches--she was a professional artist. For decades, I encouraged her to approach publishers with her best stuff, but she never did.

I am done. endahksi

Posted by
8040 posts

Yes. Simple pleasure. I also take some scotch tape and in this journal I’ll tape business cards and a few receipts.

Posted by
414 posts

Yes, although I don't always do a great job of keeping up with writing each day. I start with a couple of pages for flight info and ground transportation. Then a page for each day, including accommodations on the first day in a new location. Sometimes I take time to write details about the day's highlights; other days I feel great if I glued in a ticket or receipt (I travel with a small glue stick).

Posted by
1943 posts

I blog, but also keep a written journal. Since I started doing the blog, the journals have become smaller, but I still like to write down thoughts and views on the day (some things I don't share on the blog - TMI for my friends and family). I like a small hard bound journal like this type, that holds up being tossed in my day bag.

Posted by
551 posts

Just remembered the following pair of stories.
In December '89, I was commissioned by a local newspaper to write a front-page story about the ongoing fall of the Berlin Wall. I spent a week in Berlin finishing up the story, then headed out to other parts of Germany for fun. A whole host of adventures and incidents occurred throughout. For instance at one train station cafe, the proprietor saw me writing in my Trip Journal and became convinced that I was a Lonely Planet writer. He wanted to comp my meal. I was amused and tried several times to politely explain that I did not in fact, work for them. He would not accept my clarification.
"Jah jah boolsheet man! You are Lonely Planet writer, I am the knowing of thees!"

Although the following has little to do with journals, it was another event that happened on that trip and ranks as an all-time strange-but-true story. The pinch marks are still there.

On New Years Day, I was lined up for lunch at one of the very few restaurants then open in East Berlin. I stood there yawning from lack of sleep (see 'wild Sylvestre party'), then suddenly noticed him and was filled with all the adrenaline in the universe. Also waiting in line directly in front of me was the German con man George Schade, who'd scammed my divorced mother Natalie for a great deal of money during their relationship back in Toronto a mere 9 months prior! Our family had been trying to forget about that sad episode.
George was there with his real wife who spoke no English and was baffled by what I did next.

After waiting 5 full minutes for my hands to stop shaking, I tapped him on the shoulder (imagine his surprise), turned on my abovementioned taper before jamming it into his hand, "George, you're going to leave a message for my mother now. I'm gonna go for a brief walk and return in a few minutes!"
He was shocked, but still managed, "Uh...jah Natalie. Here is George....uh I joos got out West Chermoon prison for tax nice to be see your son (here he erroneously called me by my brother's name) here in Chermony...umm...will call you soon" etc etc

Our mother just died and in cleaning out her home, we recently came across a number of photos that my unsuspecting mom had once taken of George. He had posed back then as a Berlin architect who was in the midst of a lawsuit. Due to that lawsuit involving a vengeful former business partner, 'all his credit cards were frozen.' After I loaned mom the tape recording of that chance encounter with George, I never saw it again.

What were the odds?

I am done. The end.

Posted by
203 posts

Wow! What interesting stories this question has spawned. Thanks to all that have chimed in. Nice to know pen to paper isn’t dead yet. I must say no one has ever thought I was a Lonely Planet writer while I journaled during dinner, mores the pity. You must have a certain raffish air, Greg.

Also the glue stick is a good idea that never occurred to me. I find 5x8 is about the smallest journal I carry and I also stick it in a ziplock bag with my pen because staying in my crossbody purse with whatever odds and ends I tote for the day it can get a little beat up.

Off to Greece 🇬🇷 on Thursday. I will remember this conversation the first time I’m scribbling away drinking a retsina spritzer.

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203 posts

We are spending 3 days in Athens before RS tour starts on the 8th. We had to cancel in the Covid year, then had knee surgery last spring and had to cancel again. So hoping 3rd time is a charm. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long while after reading so many positive reviews on this site.

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208 posts

Oh yes--I still journal on trips. Or rather it is a combination of note taking and journaling. I try to make a list of everything we do and where we eat each day, in addition to some brief writing. I need this info as far as recommendations for friends who may want to do the same trip, and for putting together the photo books that I make so I can get everything in the right chronological order.

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127 posts

I have kept a travel journal for where ever i travel. My mom always did one
on our family trips when I was a kid. I like going back over the journals after I get back. Keep on travelling.

Posted by
152 posts

Yes. I, too, keep a travel journal. My husband and I have gotten into the habit of reading the journal each anniversary of the trip and looking at photos while we read it. For example, last trip, pre-covid, we travelled May 22 to June 10. This year on May 22 we read about that day on our trip and looked at the photos. Then next evening, read the journal for May 23 etc. This is a way for me to keep enjoying the trip for many years. Reading that journal this year, I realized many more details that I plan to journal about on our upcoming trip (39 days!!!).

Posted by
9099 posts

I did, every trip, every year until 2021. Then i stopped for my 2022 trip. I just kept a list of what we did each day in my Notes on my iPhone. Will do that from now on. I hate writing, i never read old journals, and i hated wasting time writing in one each day. A list of what we did each day is all i need.

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203 posts

I still journal and reread them. I started the journal I bought for our Greece trip this past May but 5 days in my husband got Covid so home we came. I’ll pull it out when we try again next May when we go back with hopes for better luck in 2024.

Posted by
391 posts

I always take a journal with me, though the last few trips have gone into the same one. I also bring a glue stick and paste in things like ticket stubs, business cards from hotels and restaurants, and even a napkin from a gelato shop. I always seem to start strong the first half of the trip, and then my journaling peters out during the second half. I still have my journals from a few high school trips, and my favorite page is where I meticulously recorded every gelato flavor I tried (of which there were many). 😊

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552 posts

I use a small composition notebook, 4.5 x 3.2”. Easily carried.
I use it primarily for costs of everything on my trip. A cost journal. Going back to 2000.
I add a few notes in it also. What we had at the restaurant. Comments on the walking tour, etc.
Usually use 1-2 pages for each day. With these books I can tally up everything I have spent on my trip, door to door. Good for reference on last trips. And to pin down a memory of where we were on what day, what we did, what we ate. Average cost per person, with or without airfare is another stat I pull out of theses books.
So my journal is currency based for exactness. With notes enough to make it a bit more.

Posted by
208 posts

Good question! On foreign vacations, or even US trips, I don't actually keep a journal but rather notes of what we did each day (which makes it easier to do my photo book when I get home), where we stayed, and where we ate. Actual journal writing in a notebook I do for outdoor adventures--mostly backpacking trips. I take a small notebook with me on the trail and then after the trip I copy my entries over into a larger journal at home.

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1167 posts

Oh yes, still prefer a good scribble, with pen into notebook over keyboard pounding. They are all kept for future reference on our bookcase. Some, from long distance hikes I’ve worked up into self published books (well, pamphlets would be more accurate for a couple of them) so I can incorporate my photos with them, but the majority are just the stream of consciousness jottings from each day. No better way of capturing the moment and minutia that might escape the conversion from short term to long term memory!


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3089 posts

I have until my recent walk on the Camino in Spain. Although I don't feel I had the interest on this trip as it was busy, sociable, tiring, and my writing hand isn't as agreeable to writing as it used to be (LOL), I am sorry now as I can't distinguish the days too well in my head, and for some reason I didn't take photos of the places I stayed, which I am the most sorry about. I do enjoy going back and reading my journals because it reminds me of things I had forgotten. Next time...

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15 posts

I don't really keep a written travel journal, I usually do it on my phone. But some of my friends still keep the written ones and all of them say they prefer it and that it is easier for them that way. I have been thinking about switching to a written travel journal, because it just looks more professional I guess. I think I'll try it out and if I don't like it, I'll switch to doing it on my phone again.

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20 posts

I started keeping a trip journal over 20 years ago for trips over a week long. For the past few years I have packed a very light key board that I can bluetooth to my phone. My hand writing is poor so I type a rough journal entry each night into Google Docs. Once we get home I download to our home PC, proof the rough draft and add more details. After I am done I let my husband add to the journal. It is fun to go back and review the trip details. My career was in accounting so I also keep an accounting of the trip's expenses and have a spreadsheet that breaks the expenses down into broad categories - travel, food, entertainment, other. It is interesting to compare the trip costs in various countries (we travel independently except for a trip to Peru).

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90 posts

Absolutely! My first "post-kids" trip to Europe was a trip to London with my oldest daughter. For Mother's Day that year, she bought me a beautiful journal from Barnes & Noble, and l and I took it with me on that trip, and every trip after. Every evening, I wrote in that journal. In 2017, my husband and I took our first RS tour and learned about packing light, and I knew that journal would not fit in my luggage, so I bought a thin notebook for journaling each evening, then copied it over to the moleskin journal when I got home. As I recopied, I found that I was reliving all the happy memories from our trip, and I almost always thought of additional things I wanted to add. It's an enjoyable process. I recently filled that original journal, and another of my daughters gave me a new one that will hold memories of the next few years of travel!

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203 posts

Yes, the issue of beautiful journal vs journal that is lightweight enough to travel with you during the day or at least have it when you can write in it when you have your evening meal. I’ve gradually come to value lighter weight over looks being the more important factor. But I’ve found some nice journals on Amazon that are geared to the city or area you’re going to visit that are lightweight.