You just booked a trip, or maybe your bags are already packed, and there’s this pretty journal you’ve been wanting to fill from cover-to-cover. But how do you get from blank page nerves to busting the binding “thicc”? The Shop Abbey Sy Team knows exactly what that’s like and has whipped up a few suggestions from their own experience.
Her travel journaling style: the best of both worlds—travel illustration and collage.
I have two ways of filling up my journal; either I draw on the whole spread or I make a collage. While I’ve done a combination of the two in the past, I feel that having them separately preserves the two different aspects that I love about travel journaling: seeing things through my perspective and documenting my experiences based on what I saw.
I started travel illustrating around six years ago. It’s been a staple for me when I travel to places with beautiful architecture (I’m a huge fan of street signs, intricately designed buildings, and mundane little details).
My technique is simple: I allow adequate space for each part, and in a journal spread I fill up around 4-6 key highlights. These illustrations are loosely based on my photos and things that I see while traveling.
I started collage-style journaling when I first used the Traveler’s Factory journaling system, which was around three years ago. What I like about this technique is that basically anything goes—and your resourcefulness definitely goes a long way!
It’s also simple to set up: I usually do this after a trip so I can sit and arrange all the maps, tickets and ephemera I managed to collect. Once that’s settled, I choose a specific color scheme and start journaling.
Apart from colors, going chronological is also a great option—it becomes easier as well for you to keep track of your adventures this way.
You can see my completed travel journals from 2019 and 2018 below:
Her travel journaling style: scrapbook meets storybook.
When I was a kid, I would make scrapbooks of trips I’ve gone to and would write down observations during the trip on a little notebook I used to carry around. Little did I know that the habits of scrapbooking and writing would combine into the travel journaling hobby I now have as an adult!
I’ve started to properly document my travels digitally on my blog. After a couple of trips hoarding paper souvenirs and ephemera with nowhere to put them, I felt frustrated at the growing piles of flyers, business cards, maps, and photos. It was then I discovered travel journaling through Abbey (hi Abbey, haha!) and purchased my first Traveler’s Notebook. I’ve rediscovered the joy of retelling my journey and I always look forward to filling each page our and rereading my travel entries.
My travel journal is text-heavy because I write down the entire trip like a story. I also stick on lots of cutouts, food wrappers, business cards, and receipts to help give visuals to the text. My pages rely heavily on the paper trail that I’ve gathered during my trip. I use stickers, washi tape, and stamps to help fill the gaps or move from one idea to the other.
Her travel journaling style: paint it as you see it!
On a beach trip to Zambales with friends last year, I found a way to document on-the-go that works for me. Keep in mind that this may be better suited for a laid-back holiday with lots of down time. It helped me take in the lovely moments while allowing me to keep something that would outlast my tan. Here's what I did to fill up a small journal with on-the-spot paintings:
Prep your supplies ahead. I created a travel kit that would fit all I need in a handy pouch. This kit was built gradually, over time, by finding tools I genuinely enjoyed using. I didn’t buy everything all at once. If you are gathering supplies in one go, I highly recommend investing in tools that serve multiple functions. For example, some of these items I already owned for my home setup!
This woven pouch could hold my tiny sketchbook, watercolor palette, water brush, refill water bottle, tiny swatch cards, and paper towels. Just being a little extra, I also hand-stitched a watercolor sketchbook for the trip. (That’s a whole other story for another time!)
Considering these were all bought separately, it’s a miracle how perfectly it all fits together! Our World Traveler Pouch offers a lot more room for your travel and journaling essentials:
Make yourself comfortable everywhere. Because my supplies were so easy to use, I could paint standing up or seated without a table. I painted on the road, around the hostel, and at the beach. I chose the front seat of our van, so the entire drive from Metro Manila, I had the wonderful view along NLEX as inspiration and reference:
Don’t linger—on perfection, on one subject, on capturing every detail. The joy of painting on-the-go is that it’s spontaneous and impressionistic. You focus on only the most important parts and a “sense” of the subjects you’re trying to paint. This is why my journal was only 4” by 3” and 16 pages; I had to keep moving on. A healthy mindset will get you far into finishing your travel journal!
Share the experience. My friends saw me paint my way through my handbound sketchbook. When one of them asked about my water brush and how it worked, I offered her a page to experiment on!
Know when to stop documenting. There were moments I wanted to be fully present—and that’s fine, too. I used up the few blank pages left with a bulleted account of each day and its highlights. Remember: you can always finish things up at home!
Have you tried keeping a travel journal before? Are you just about to try it out? Let us know how it goes and share your experience with us on Instagram (@shopabbeysy)!