Why you should write a travel journal when you travel


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I started writing a travel journal way before I started blogging, back in 2011 in Ghana. Even once I started Where Charlie Wanders, I carried on journaling for my bigger trips. I never go on an adventure without a notepad and a pen packed in my hand luggage. I am now on my 5th notebook and am not going to be stopping anytime soon. In a increasingly digital world, more and more online, here is why I still write a travel journal.

picture of travel journal from south east Asia

A travel journal preserves memories

I read back over my travel journals time and time again. One of my favourite games is to read them back a year, two years, three years on and play ‘on this day 3 years ago I was….’

No matter how good your memory is, little details are going to slip as time passes. Writing things down in the moment gives much more richness and depth to the memories.

Call me crazy but I truly believe reading things back in my own handwriting takes me right back to that moment. Even years down the line, I can picture the things I wrote about in such vivid detail.

‘Afterwards along more bumpy roads we played music. Driving full pelt across the Mongolian desert with the wind in my hair listening to the Foo Fighters – just perfect. I again wish I could adequately describe the experience. How unique it was and how happy it made me.’  Mongolia, August 2017.

image of collection of travel journal

A place to store the details

I wrote my blog posts about South East Asia a few years after I visited. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my journals.

I tend to stuff the pages with things I pick up along the way. Museum entry tickets, cards from hotels I stay in and restaurants I ate at for example. It’s a great way to keep track of where you visit. Even years after the event.

Often day trips involve a guide, who give you a great about of information about the place you are visiting. I vividly remember this to be true visiting Copan Ruinas in Honduras. Writing information down that evening, means I remember an awful lot more than if I waited a week to write a blog post. Particularly on a hectic trip, where you visit a lot of sites and destinations in a short space of time.

‘He told us the villagers fished, herring, mackerel and salmon in the summer and small fish in the winter. The men fished and their wives sold what they caught’  Ghana, January 2011.

It provides downtime

Often when travelling things get a little hectic moving from place to place. Being quite strict with myself by writing a travel journal every day gives me time to download and reflect on the day.

There is often a moment between the days activities and going out for dinner where I have a few moments to myself. Its so lovely to sit down and take the time to write down the details while they are still fresh. I find it provides more depth; writing each day while the memories are still fresh.

I find writing to be incredibly therapeutic and much more calming than I ever find typing on a laptop.

‘Now in my room again listening to a thunderstorm that makes yesterdays pale into comparison with the rain hammering on the roof’ Nicaragua, June 2016.

When there is no technology

This was particularly true for me in Mongolia. Having no signal or wifi for two weeks meant there was no way I could record anything digitally. We even lacked the power to charge anything in quite a few locations. Writing it down meant I had a copy of my memories then and there.

It was also true when in Africa, there was more connectivity but it was patchy at best! Not relying on technology to record my memories means I don’t miss any important moments.

‘First spotting a young gorilla in the trees, then a mum and a baby and a couple more. The silverback was in the tree. Utterly unbelievable. I can’t believe I was that close to them, and in their natural habitat.’  Uganda, April 2018.

The best souvenir 

I am not one for buying lots of souvenirs when I travel. If I do it tends to be something practical I can use, rather than sentimental,  despite being an incredibly sentimental person. But writing a travel journal provides me with the richest, most treasured of souvenirs to refer back to when I get home. Detailed and vivid access to the best memories of my life.

These journals are now some of the most precious possessions I own. I like to think years and years down the line, any children or grandchildren I have will sit down and read about my adventures. Understand a bit more about me and what travelling meant to me.

‘It was laid out on the floor on mats and you sat crossed legged. Had fried noodles with pork, rice, chicken and ginger and morning glory and pork and it was delicious. So nice to eat local Cambodian food and in such a lovely setting’ Cambodia, February 2014.

image of travel journal full of information

Do you write a travel journey when you go away? Would you start? 

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Nola Roberts July 31, 2018 - 4:52 pm

Oh My, I thought I was one of the small percentage that still had a Travel Journal. I love mine so much. Its a little haven I dive into when I feel the need to jump on a plane again, I prefer writing when I’m on Holiday. Escape the dreaded internet and social media for a while. This was an amazing read 🙂

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders July 31, 2018 - 10:47 pm

I think perhaps we are the small percentage, but I’m happy with that. I am definitely not going to be stopping anytime soon! You’re right – they provide the perfect escapism.

Im so pleased you enjoyed the post 😊

joanndastanton July 31, 2018 - 7:41 pm

I totally agree that keeping a travel journal is the best souvenir!!! I love reading back some of my old travel journals – so much detail that you would forget otherwise and definitely more enjoyable and personal than documenting everything on a computer. I’m a big fan of making it into a semi-scrap-book and putting in tickets and notes and other bits picked up along the way. And you’re absolutely right about it giving you an opportunity to download everything from your day. Loved the snippets from your journal too! Thanks for sharing.

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders July 31, 2018 - 10:48 pm

Thanks for reading! 😊
I find I write down little tiny moments that I wouldn’t necessarily remember otherwise. And it makes my time in a place so much more real. I love the idea of making it into a mini scrap book!

David July 31, 2018 - 7:54 pm

I’ve never put together a travel journal but I’ve read a lot about people doing it. Reading this has made me sort out a notebook for my next longer trip!

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders July 31, 2018 - 10:49 pm

I think even if you just bullet point some stuff a of a day you will appreciate it down the line. It’s amazing what I read back and think ‘oh wow I remember that’. I know I wouldn’t if I hadn’t journaled that day! Good luck!

jane Frith August 6, 2018 - 7:30 am

Wish I had done this over the years. Love looking back at photos; would be great to have the narrative to go with them.

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders August 6, 2018 - 1:09 pm

I just find I remember things so much more vividly! It’s never too late to start 😊

Katie-Beth August 16, 2018 - 12:33 am

I seriously cannot remember how I traveled before keeping a travel journal handy. They are so convenient and are great memory keepers.

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders August 17, 2018 - 3:57 pm

I know! I feel the same, I love reading them over and over

Hannah Brown // SPW August 24, 2018 - 8:30 pm

I write in my regular journal most of the time, and just take it with me whenever I travel. I think that if I take a big adventure though, I’ll probably get a specific journal for it! Do you have an “at home” journal and a travel journal, or do you not journal when at home, or do you put them all in the same notebook?

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders August 28, 2018 - 11:33 am

I just journal when I am away, I used to write at home as well but haven’t for many years. When I travelled around Asia for months I had one journal for that trip, but now I find I can’t fill an entire notebook in two weeks, so just carry it on to the next trip.

Hannah Brown // SPW August 28, 2018 - 7:24 pm

Thanks for replying, it’s given me something to think about 🙂 I currently have a regular journal that I am just carrying with me (I am away right now) but I might write up my days when I get home as I’m struggling to get hold of a small notebook here!

Solosoulblogger Anna September 1, 2018 - 4:21 am

I love journaling! And I add candy wraps, tickets, postcards, pics and texts from brochures etc…

Happy travels to you and happy to find your blog! Someone referred to your writing style on Twitter when I asked what they want when choosing a travel blog.

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders September 1, 2018 - 8:32 am

It’s such a good way to keep track of where you have been. They are now my most treasured souvenirs.

And thank you so much! I’m so happy you’ve enjoyed the blog!

Kacie December 10, 2018 - 5:33 pm

I absolutely have travel journals! My memory can be very spotty sometimes, and I use them, like you, to remember the little details. They are also handy if anyone in my social circle asks advice for their upcoming trip to the same destination, as I can recommend places to see or eat at. I will never not journal again!

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders December 10, 2018 - 5:35 pm

Such a good reason to keep them! I love referring back to them, and i find they help with blog posts. I also find it so therapeutic when I travel to jot down each day.

Sarah Jean January 7, 2019 - 12:51 am

I completely agree! I never go anywhere without my journal anymore. There is something so raw and real about just writing what you feel in the moment. Great post and I love the quotes from your personal travel journals!!

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders January 14, 2019 - 8:05 pm

I don’t either! Its so much more real, writing when you are away. thanks so much


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