Writing in a diary (Shutterstock: see credit below)

How to write the perfect travel journal

Want to record the thrills and spills of your adventures? Here's how to write an evocative and captivating travel diary

Lyn Hughes

Ask yourself...
Who is the diary for? Is it just for you to read – or to share with your friends? This could influence what you put in or leave out! It will also influence the tone and style of the way you write. If you're keen to write for a wider audience, how about creating a travel blog?

A journal is a wonderful memoir
When writing your notes, think about what you’ll want to remember from the trip in ten, 20, or even 30 years.

What do you want to include?
Your itinerary; your route plotted on a map; a ‘cast list’ of people you meet en route (include brief descriptions or even photos to jog your memory); contact details of the people you would like to keep in touch with (and do keep in touch with them!); lists of ‘top moments’ or ‘best bits’ from your trip – best sunset, view, meal, restaurant...

Bring your journal to life

Avoid listing your activities/descriptions/surroundings
'And then I did this... and then I did that’... It can become tedious! You want to create a captivating story, not a repetitive list. Indeed, this is one of the big no-nos of travel writing!

Entries don’t have to be chronological
Write whatever catches your imagination, whenever it occurs to you.

You don’t have to record everything!
What you leave out is as important as what you put in.

Use dialogue...
Funny things you’ve overheard, or a conversation with a camel driver, for example.

Use ALL your senses
Write about the sounds, smells, tastes and even textures of your trip.

Illustrate it
The act of drawing a building, termite mound or person will help to etch them in your memory. If you're not artistic, how about learning how to get the best results from your camera or how to take great iphone photos instead?

Scrap it!
Stick in tickets, bottle labels, snippets from local newspapers, receipts, etc – use the pocket in the back of the journal to hold them, or stick them in next to the day they refer to. You'll have a thick, full memory book to look back through.

A spectacular setting for diary writing (Shutterstock)
A spectacular setting for diary writing (Shutterstock)

The practicalities

Give a day and date for each new memory...
Or else you’ll forget what happened when.

Get it down on paper while it’s fresh – it will be much more vivid. If there’s not enough time for a full description, jot down a few key words, which will jog your memory and fill in the gaps later.

It’s your journal, so stick to what interests YOU
If you want to record distance in miles covered, units of wine drunk, funny road signs, tacky souvenirs, or even cute cats, then great – that’s up to you!

Enjoy yourself!
Your travels and trips are fun – and your journal should be too! If it's becoming a chore, think how you can change it to make writing more enjoyable... How about summarising each day with one sentence, a best of/worst of list, or replacing words with pictures or photos?

Writing in a diary (Shutterstock)

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 Your Comments (12)

  • 12th April by HighRoadToTibet

    Yet again, great advice on travel writing. I often read through one of my many travel journals and have a good laugh at the things I recorded and didn't record. I'm really glad I took the time and effort to record my experiences. I can't wait to show it to my daughter when she's old enough.

    I would suggest buying a good soft-bound journal for your journey. My first one was leather-bound and it's one of my most treasured possessions. Some great memories in there.

    Happy writing!


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  • 13th April by EHalford

    I might print this out and glue it to the inside of my next travel journal. I've just looked at a couple of my journals and they just randomly end mid-sentence. "The King appointed" is now a mystery to me!

    On the other hand I had completely forgotten some of the wildlife I'd seen in Nepal so I manage to get some useful details in sometimes!

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  • 28th November by updownkaka

    yes good article

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  • 30th January by SallyEsmé

    Our 'holidays' (usually with Explore!) are so full of experiences, I just have to keep a journal.  I write on one side only, tearing the pages out to paste in the back of the hard copy photo album. The tickets etc can be scanned in on each corresponding page, and if given a shadow effect look great. Can't resist looking at each album yet again on a dark winter's day.


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