Art of Travel Journalling - Creating Meaningful ExperiencesOct 21, 2021
1. Choose a Journal
My first travel journal was an ordinary Moleskine. While any blank book will do, I now consider what kinds of media I prefer to use. Because I often use colored pencils over a watercolor underpainting, I go for heavy-weight papers with a smooth surface like mixed media or hot-pressed watercolor paper. My favorite is Stillman & Bern’s Beta series.
2. Create Vivid Experiences
Tangible memories begin with vivid experiences. When I travel, I make an effort to immerse myself in my surroundings and engage all my senses. If I’m hiking in the desert, I inhale the spicy fragrance of sagebrush. When I’m near the ocean, I try to go tide pooling or walk barefoot on the beach. As an artist, I’m a very visual person so it’s easy for me to focus on what I’m seeing and pay less attention to sound. Wherever I am, I try to slow down and engage all my senses so I can be fully present for my environment.
I’m also constantly on the lookout for ephemera. All sorts of collage material have made their way into my travel journals, but I’m particularly fond of brochures, maps, and ticket stubs. I also keep an eye out for unusual imagery—graffiti, local art, or natural objects can all supply rich inspiration for expressing experiences later on.
3. Assemble Journal Spreads
Here are a few tips I find helpful to remember when I’m assembling spreads:
Use watercolor and hand-drawn frames to integrate imagery onto the page. The result looks more pulled together this way.
Mix up the kinds of collage materials you use. Museums and other attractions sometimes use badges and stickers to indicate that you’ve paid to see an exhibit—those can be creatively integrated into your journal with a little imagination (and some strong adhesive!).
Capture photos of unusual patterns or motifs you find. You can sketch from your photos to embellish your pages.
In this example, I documented a three-day road trip I took with my then 83-year-old mom. I added collage and sketches as we traveled. Linework integrated a found photo of Crater Lake on to the page. A chance meeting with artist Karen O’Brien introduced me to her fanciful work which I collaged onto the page and then added watercolor and curly brackets to embellish the image. The flower motif on the lower left was an architectural element on a building in Grants Pass, Oregon. I saw the quote from Johnny Depp in a store window and added it with my own funky hand-lettering and wonky frame. The redwood tree was sketched from life.
Even short day trips can acquire real meaning and significance when documented in my travel journal. The most important thing to remember is that your life’s journey is a story worth saving and savoring!