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...

5 mins

1. 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?

2. Ask yourself... What do you want to include?

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

It'd be a good idea to include your itinerary; your route plotted on a map, plus a ‘cast list’ of people you meet en route (include brief descriptions or even photos to jog your memory). Keep the contact details of the people you would like to keep in touch with (and do keep in touch with them!). 

You could list the ‘top moments’ or ‘best bits’ from your trip – best sunset, view, meal, restaurant...

3. Avoid listing mundane activities

'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!

4. Remember entries don’t have to be chronological

Write whatever catches your imagination, whenever it occurs to you.

5. You don’t have to record everything!

What you leave out is as important as what you put in.

6. Use dialogue

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

7. Use ALL your senses

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

8. 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?

9. Use it as a scrapbook, too

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.

10. Give a day and date for each new memory...

Or else you’ll forget what happened when.

11. 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.

12. 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!

13. 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?

Further tips on travel writing:

5 biggest mistakes made by novice travel writers

How to become a travel writer

10 tips for writing inspiring travel articles

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