It's that time again... when I make a new journal and assemble supplies so that I can document my next adventure while I'm on the road. This year I'm heading out on the trip of a lifetime (I feel like I've said that before... lol) as I start in China and follow along the Silk Road in the footsteps of Genghis Khan and Marco Polo. We'll be keeping mainly to the Northern trade route through Western China, starting in Xi'an and then traveling by private train through five of the seven "Stans."
Of course, I'm going to need to document this year's trip of a lifetime. I've been making travel journals for ten years now, starting with my first trip to China in 2008. A decade later and things are coming full circle as I head back to China for the third time, only this time with a much different approach to my journaling. Below you can see the progression as I've continually refined the format and style of my journals over the years.
I started with a simple book made from cardstock, office supplies, a few scrapbook embellishments, and ephemera picked up on the road. This book was done as a project / scrapbooking class during my trip to China (back then I was still doing a fair amount of scrapbooking, it was a scrapbooking focused trip - with Heidi Swapp, which was a lot of fun.)
Next I tried some small 3-ring binders for shorter family trips, then took the Scrapbooking on the Road online workshop with Ali Edwards before my Foreign Business Excursion that was a part of my MBA program back in 2011; I used that method to document that trip. I loved it - that book is still one of my favorites, but I've found that between the amount of writing I do, the volume of paper and ephemera I collect, and the length of my trips, that using those giant metal rings is not my favorite way to go. (Not to mention, carrying a hole punch with you will get you stopped at airport security every time. Guaranteed.) I nevertheless continued to use that method over the course of the next few trips (Peru and Southeast Asia are the other two you see above,) before I decided to try binding my own journal, which I did for Bali, China / Mongolia / Russia, and then India. I found that while I much preferred the format, having to pre-determine the number of pages was a huge challenge that I only got right on one out of three tries.
That brings me to this year's journal. I decided to try a different approach that would still allow me to finish with a case-bound book, but which would give me more flexibility along the way so I wouldn't end up with way too many or too few pages. I decided to create a Midori-esque journal and make my own case and inserts... Boho style, of course! When I get home, I'll take the completed inserts out of the cover and bind them into a hardcover book. Then I can reuse this cover.
I set it up so that there are only three inserts attached inside the book at any given time, but I made four more so that I can swap them out as I fill them and also keep the book from becoming too unwieldy as the trip progresses.
In the first photo above that shows the cover of the first insert, you can also see an envelope. Right now it has my itinerary and travel watercolor set inside (more on that below,) but it's also great if I get larger photos or postcards so I can put them safely inside and then bind or tip the envelope into the final book. Each insert has a sheet of scrapbook paper as the cover - the back of each sheet is white so I can add writing if desired. I keep the rest of the pages pretty plain - there are four sheets of drawing paper, a sheet of watercolor paper, and a sheet of cotton rag paper. The size of the insert is about 6" x 9", and with seven of them, I should have plenty of room to journal as I go. (I also like to get postcards and hotel stationary and tip them in as extra pages.)
Of course, that brings up the question that I get the most when it comes to creating a travel journal... what do I take with me? I used to take a lot - alphabet stamps, ink pads, letter stickers... all kinds of stuff. The problem ends up being the obvious one of space and weight in your luggage (and when you travel by airplane in China, your checked bag has to be under 44lbs and your carry-on should be under 11lbs, so that's not really feasible!) The other issue with hauling all that stuff is that your journaling just takes a lot more time and space to accomplish. So while the format of the book is still evolving, I think I've perfected the travel journal kit itself - at least for the way I like to journal.
Here's what I'm bringing with me:
Yup, that's it! Here are some closeups of what goes into the supply case so you get a better idea. This year I'm using a case that's meant to store and organize your electronics and cords, etc... but I pulled out the dividers in the bottom half and filled it with journaling supplies. The top section has adhesives, journaling and drawing pens, eraser, pencil sharpener (important to have one that contains the shavings,) a mini stapler, and travel scissors. This particular pair cuts really well, but has the added benefit of blunt tips. While it's okay to travel with scissors in your carry-on in the US as long as the blades are under 3" (or is it 4?) when you're abroad, they don't care how short the blades are if the tips are pointed, so these are perfect. Sometimes Security will make me pull them out and show that they're blunt, but I've never had them taken away! (Obviously... lol.)
The bottom section of the case holds my colored pencils, water pens for watercolor, and drawing pencils. The little pocket has a few embellishments - a few rubons and a popsicle stick (again - nothing sharp,) some little pockets and envelopes that I can add in to hold various ephemera, and then my pre-made labels. I started doing this quite a few years ago and it's really the main thing that lets me cut out so many supplies but still make the pages look a little more designed. When I get my itinerary, I go through and stamp labels for the countries, cities, and major landmarks or places of interest that we'll be visiting. Then I tuck in a few blank labels if anything gets added along the way.
For my travel watercolor set, I cut a regular manila file folder in half, then cut about an inch off of various sheets of Peerless watercolors (which are watercolors that are actually dried on paper instead of in a pan - ideal for travel!) and adhered them into the folder and labeled them. I keep a sheet of deli paper inside to keep them from touching each other when the folder is closed. The slick surface also works great as a palette when I'm using them. I just bring a few water pens with different sized brush tips, and I'm good to go!
The only other things I bring are a mini photo printer and film so I can print off highlight photos from each day (this year I switched from a Fuji Instax printer to a new Kodak printer that I like a lot better so far,) and a few rolls of washi tape to add in photos and ephemera. Here are a few of my journal spreads from my last two trips so you can get a sense of how it all comes together:
That's it for the pre-trip work... now that my journal and supplies are all put together and ready to go, I'm excited to get on that plane and let the adventure begin!