50 things to write in your travel journal Journaling

50 journaling ideas for your travel journal

From time to time, i struggle with writing in my journal. A lot. When i don’t have ideas or inspiration, my text is at the worst a monotonic narration of the day with no vividness or feeling of any kind. A kind of text even i get bored of reading. I have a lot of pages and spreads i just skip when looking back at them. That’s why i have written down this list of 50 travel journaling ideas to write about – i like to pick one and write it down to add some interest and color into my journal. Check out also my list of 50 things to collect inside your travel journal!

Morning coffee and journaling in Kep, Cambodia

First of all: lists you can add into your journal

1. Packing list
2. Songs you listened to when traveled – going back to these after a while will bring back feelings and memories!
3. Books you read
4. Total kilometers or miles traveled. I did this once by tracking down my route in Google maps and counted all the kilometers together.
5. Travel methods you used. I listed up one day of intense traveling and it was quite interesting:

  • Boat from Gili Trawangan to Bali (that was stuck in Lombok for 5 hours because they ran out of fuel)
  • Shuttle bus to Seminyak
  • Walking around to get from restaurants to cafes to bars
  • Motorbike taxi to the airport
  • Confused walking around to get inside the airport because the motorbike couldn’t drive all the way in
  • A plane to Bangkok
  • A plane to Phuket
  • Taxi to a shopping mall (i wanted to buy a Zequenz notebook but everything was closed)
  • Another taxi to the bus terminal
  • Local bus through Khao Lak and Takua Pa to Khao Sok

and all that took me almost 30 hours – it was faster to travel all the way from Finland to Bali!

6. Animals you don’t see so often back home. I have listed cows and chickens – we rarely see them outside roaming around back home.
7. Favorite foods you ate
8. New words you learned
9. Useful phrases you used in a different language
10. Things you liked the most
11. Things you liked the least
12. Your go-to snacks while on the road – for example when traveling in Thailand i love to buy salted and boiled peanuts and oreos to snack on.
13. Things you actually needed and used – compare this to your packing list
14. Things you carry always with you. For me it’s my phone, a pen, something to write on, hand sanitiser and hand cream.
15. Odd or unfamiliar things you spot in a local grocery store
16. Cocktails you tried

A zequenz travel journal

Journaling ideas to write about

17. Describe in full detail the best meal you had today. The smell, the ingredients, spices, the texture.
18. Count the amount of beers, wine, cocktails etc – in liters.
19. Describe an interesting person you met or saw.
20. Tell about the landscape and surroundings. Is it flat or do you see mountains or hills? What are the locals farming? Do you see animals?
21. Describe a moment using all of your senses. What do you see where you are? What do you smell right at this second? What are the sounds like? How does your seat feel, are you comfortable? Do you feel the wind on your skin, are you hot and sticky or nice and cool?
22. Compare the prices of things at the place you are at to your hometown prices. How much more or less you have to pay for food in a restaurant or a grocery store? How about drinks, clothes, public transport and souvenirs?
23. What is the main religion and how can you see it in the culture and in the surroundings? Thailand example: you can see little spirit houses with offerings everywhere and monks are not an uncommon sight.

Journaling ideas: what is the main religion and how does it appear in the surroundings?
A Buddhist spirit house in Thailand

24. Observe and write about the surroundings while on the bus or train. A great way to spend the “empty” time of traveling from a place to place and to see and notice more.
25. Write a letter or postcard to your future self and send it home.
26. Do a morning page: the first thing after waking up, write a page without censoring or judging your thoughts, words or writing
27. What is the biggest challenge you faced?
28. What are the local (public) toilets like?
29. Describe the smells in your surroundings in detail – try to find out where each smell is coming from
30. How are the local people? Tell about their habits and how are their reactions towards you
31. Write about the best moment you had today, no matter how small.
32. Are you homesick? Why? What do you miss going home to?
33. Write about the local architecture
34. Track your money spending for one day. How much did you spend and on what?
35. Write down a message you sent to a friend or a family member
36. Go and sit down on the side of a busy street corner. Write about people passing by. What do you see a lot? What catches your attention?
37. Would you come back to this destination, why or why not?
38. What is the weather/climate like
39. Describe a strange local habit you see a lot. My example: we noticed in Cambodia that people don’t really bother on finding a toilet when they have to pee. On a three hour bus ride we saw almost 20 people doing their business on the side of the road!
40. What is the most impressive thing you saw or witnessed? I have been lately impressed by Cambodian people taking care of street dogs, seeing Bangkok from the 43rd floor and the Nyepi day in Bali.

My midori traveler's notebook
41. Local habits you would like to introduce to your own culture. I would love to bring back some of the easy going work culture – jobs get done but no need to stress about things that really don’t matter: if you got nothing to do just lay in a hammock instead of pretending to be super busy.
42. If there would be one thing you could change about the place you are visiting, what would it be and why?
43. Did this trip change you or your perspectives, and how?
44. Write about your expectations and compare them to reality.
45. Write down your daily routine while traveling and how are they different from your routines back home.
46. Learn how to cook your favorite meal and write down the recipe
47. What is the street food like?
48. What is the most common thing you see for sale when walking around? For example in Kampot, Cambodia we would see pepper for sale everywhere (apparently the world’s best black pepper comes from Kampot!)
49. Go to a local marketplace and write about the experience.
50. I found this in one book about mindfulness: Draw a circle and imagine you are in the middle of that circle. Listen to your surroundings and write down what you can hear from each compass point. I find this a great way to do a little meditation and to record a moment vividly through the senses.

Journaling ideas: a sound circle meditation

I would love to hear your own journaling ideas to add to my list!

Hammock time relaxing and doing nothing in Cambodia Life thoughts

There is beauty in doing nothing

When was the last time you did nothing, purposefully? I don’t mean waiting in lines or the doctor’s office, or being stuck in the traffic or standing in the bus station. But doing nothing without checking your phone, without waiting, without reading books or magazines – just nothing.

We are taught from a young age that doing nothing is bad. It’s lazy, it’s not beneficial, it’s something to be ashamed of. And it results in us as expectations for ourselves, as doing too much and not getting rest. It pressures us to do more, to get more results, to do and do and do our best all the time. Because doing nothing is bad, right?

Cats chilling and doing nothing in a spirit house, Thailand
I don’t know anyone who is better at doing nothing than cats.

But doing nothing results in doing more.

I got this thought first time about three years ago. I woke up and my first thought was “today I will get something done”. When I opened my eyes, I saw a white mosquito net, heard the distant waves caressing the beach and the morning crickets starting their concert slowly but steadily. I was on a remote island with no wifi, no electricity and almost literally nothing to do. I was shocked to see how much my carefully trained mind wanted to do something. To get something done. Something that will bring results. And I did not even know what it was – just something. Even on a remote island where I came to relax, I felt it was not okay to just be.

I spent there six weeks practicing on doing nothing. At first I was almost desperate. The hardest part was trying to convince myself that it’s ok to not do anything. I am the only one judging myself. I told myself over and over again: I am here to do nothing, I do not need to get anything done, I don’t even have anything to get done – I have nothing and I need to do nothing. My body was restless and I wanted to do beneficial things, something, something.. Just something.

Palm trees in Koh Tonsay Cambodia

And then it changed. My mind was suddenly bursting with ideas and creativity. I was writing from morning until the darkness fell. Went to bed at seven and woke up at five. Suddenly I felt like I have everything I need. I was freed of the haunting feeling of wanting to be important and successful and productive. The productivity appeared by itself and I started having a blissful feeling of joy in every single moment.

All this slowly disappeared when I left the island. Six months later I was in Bali and joined a restorative yoga class. I lifted my legs up on a bolster, closed my eyes and listened to the relaxing music and thought to myself: why do I need to take a yoga class like this to let myself be? Why do I need an excuse for doing nothing? Why do I need a permission for it?

A stunning sunset in Flores, Indonesia

The philosophy of doing nothing

Recently my boyfriend told me about a thing called wu wei. It is one of the most important concepts of Taoism. It is literally meaning non-action or non-doing – or the paradoxical action of doing nothing. I was instantly fascinated about this and remembered my time on the island. How doing nothing helped me to do so much. Never in my life I had had so much ideas, so many words pouring on to the paper. The result of doing nothing was one of the most creative times in my life so far.

And still, I fight with this. It is in our culture to be productive and get something done and work hard. You do nothing and instantly feel lazy. I have heard people judging someone who works in a grocery store for going to take a break so that the customers saw them going. I was forbidden to enjoy my lunch where customers could see me taking a break when I was working at Subway. We admire people who do many things at the same time and we praise people who work a lot without breaks and vacations. Ambition is the most important and respected trait we can have. We are allowed to rest without judgement only when we burn out – and even then, we feel the pressure to get back to work quickly instead of healing ourselves first.

Sitting by the river with bananas
One day when we were sitting by the river doing nothing, local kids joined us to do the nothing.

I have ambition. I have so much ambition to learn to let myself be. To let myself do nothing. Ambition to silence that “do something!” repeating in my head over and over again when I sit down to relax. I want to learn the mindset of the thai woman who was sleeping on her desk when we went to check in to our hostel. “Hahaha sorry I was relaxing”, she said. No worries, we answered – I respect this more than all of the bosses who breathe on their employees neck even when all the work is done.

Challenge yourself to do nothing today. See how long you can take before your mind starts telling you to make the bed, to do the dishes, to prepare food, to exercise, to study, to check e-mails, to work, to distract your nothing with something.

A thai buddhist prayer time

Stack of used travel journals Journaling

50 things to add in your travel journal

There is so much beauty in going back to pen and paper from the digital world. You will give a break to your sore eyes, you will get your creativity going and your soul will rest. You will have a thing to leave behind and to go back to, unlike with only using diary applications or writing your thoughts down on the computer. Filled notebooks, especially a travel journal, are satisfying to look at, they are a form of art. 

We were sitting inside a freezing minivan in Cambodia a while ago. Raindrops were pounding on the windows, making me feel like it was a cold, dark autumn night. I needed to forget the feeling of numbness in my freezing toes, so we wrote down 50 ideas of things to collect inside a travel journal. I’m sharing these 50 things with you here – check out also 50 things to write into your travel journal!

50 things to collect in your travel journal

1. Your boarding pass
2. Tags from your checked baggage

A flight tag from Labuan Bajo, Flores
My baggage tag from the flight to Labuan Bajo, Flores

3. Bus tickets
4. Train tickets
5. Boat tickets
6. Subway tickets
7. Entrance fee tickets to movies, museums and sightseeing

Entrance fee ticket for a waterfall
Entrance fee ticket for a waterfall in Bali

8. Disposable room keys or cabin keys
9. Parking tickets (the ones you get when you buy parking time, not the ones you get from the police for parking wrong – though i might include them also…)
10. Event flyers or brochures

Full moon party flyer
Yes. I went to a full moon party.

11. Business cards from people you meet, restaurants you eat at and hotels you stay at
12. Maps of the country or city you are in
13. Postcards from the place you are staying in
14. Labels from your bottles; beer, soda, wine etc

A label from southern thai speciality, lao khao.
A label from southern thai speciality, lao khao.

15. Coasters from pubs
16. Pressed plants and flowers
17. Coffee stains from your morning coffee

A pressed leaf and a coffee stain in my travel journal
18. Wine stains
19. Piece from a local newspaper
20. Any pieces of paper with local language – for example local lottery tickets

Boat tickets from Lombok Indonesia
Boat tickets from Lombok

21. Candy wrappers from candies you don’t have back home
22. Interesting papers found from the ground, like someones shopping list

Thailand bus tickets found from the street
These are bus tickets used in local buses in Thailand – i picked them up from bus stops where people abandon them after their ride.

23. Cool packaging from for example local coffee
24. Money (small bills from the local currency)
25. Used vintage stamps

I found these used Malaysian stamps from a small paper shop in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur
I found these used Malaysian stamps from a small paper shop in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur

26. Fresh, new local stamps
27. Tea wrappers
28. Tea stains
29. Small envelopes from local shops to use as a decoration or a little pocket

A little envelope from Kuala Lumpur Chinatown
A little envelope from a street stall i found from Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur

30. Piece of a cool poster from the street
31. Handwritten notes you find in your bag (or someone elses bag)
32. Shopping lists you made
33. Food wrappers (if you find them clean enough to put in)
34. The flag patches you sometimes see on a traveler’s backpack
35. A drawing or a sketch of anything you see or find interesting: animals, maps, scenery, buildings
36. Promotional stickers you might get from places

A sticker from freedive gili trawangan
If there is a sticker to take, i will take it.

37. Contact information from people you meet
38. Subway maps
39. Price tags
40. Small plastic pockets filled with sand from the beach
41. Small local jewellery – like a handmade bracelet
42. Information sheet from the medicine you have to buy or events you attend to

I got this information letter about the Balinese new year from the door of the house i was staying in.
I got this information letter about the Balinese new year from the door of the house i was staying in.

43. The papery seals from your liquor bottles
44. Feathers
45. A message in an unknown language from a friend or acquaintance
46. Splash of perfume you used while traveling
47. Tax stamp stickers from for example cigarette packages (these can be really pretty for decoration actually – pay attention the next time you see a cigarette package!)
48. Piece of local poetry
49. Lyrics from a local song
50. Receipts from shops, restaurants and cafes

My receipt for indonesian visa
My receipt for indonesian visa

I hope these will give some inspiration for your daily journal, travel journal, scrapbook, photo album or anything crafty you are on to. Stay tuned for 50 ideas to write in your travel journal in a few days!

50 things to add in a travel journal