15 Tips for Writing a Travel Diary
You don't have to be a good writer to keep a travel journal, but if kept properly, one can compile all of your experiences and memories in your own words to return to again and again once your travels are finished. Having kept a travel diary for over 3 months now, I have learned that there are some things you can do whilst writing one to make reading it back to yourself and others a more enjoyable experience. And believe me, it's better learnt upon beginning a diary as opposed to half way through.
My current diary is untidy, the information is useless and it's an unorganized mess. I wish I had taken my own advice before starting this journey. I would love to send my diaries home for my family to read about my adventure, but no doubt they wouldn't be able to understand the hurried scribbling and bad grammar, so (without trying to sound too much like a smarmy school teacher) here are some handy tips to help you keep track of your ventures in the best way possible.
1. Buy a ring binder
After being on enough buses, places and boats, bored out of my brains and trying to write in a diary that won't open enough and can't balance on my lap properly because of the glued binder it's safe to say this is a better option. You can easily flip it open, you've got a hard surface to lean on and you're not getting any strange looks from fellow travellers because you're trying to balance a book on your chest whilst trying to write in a contorted manner. But be warned, this may result in more writing!
2. Clip it
Whether you opt for the ring binder or not, buy a clip of some sort to nip the pages together and keep them open whilst you're trying to write. If I had a quid for the amount of times I have had to fashion a make shift clip or paper weight to stop pages blustering whilst I'm trying to write on a windy beach or park bench... well, let's just say this trip would have paid for itself.
3. Write in pencil
You may be catapulted back into memories of primary school, but childhood nostalgia is just one of the good reasons to opt for a pencil. You can erase any mistakes, they last longer, and this way the writing is kept all the same, as opposed to loads of different shades of various pens when one runs out, which let's face it, is diary writing blasphemy! Unless of course you want to buy 10 of the same pen before you leave, each to their own, although this will only add to your probably already full to bursting rucksack. If you're going to go down the pencil using road, a) very wise move my friend and b) don't forget to buy a sharpener!
4. It's the little details
When writing, try to jot down some things from the day that really stuck in your mind. Maybe something strange that might have happened, like a conversation with a stranger, a new culinary experience, or the way a place smelt, as opposed to simply where you went. This obscure occurence will trigger something in your sensory memory when re reading to help you remember the rest of that day easily.
5. Keep it concise
I've read diary entries 4 pages long, waffling incessantly about absolutely everything I'd done that day. We don't need to know that you had a shower and put your clothes on, unless something absolutely spectacular happened during this time. It is also advisable to use an online character counter. With this tool, it can help you count the characters you used in a text to help you keep it short and sweet.
6. Make time
It's very easy to forget to write in your diary one day. You tend to think, "oh, I'll do it tomorrow, I'll remember what's happened today." It's even easier to forget to write in your diary for 2 days, and then 3, until you've spiralled into complete lazy forgetfulness and you're sitting there baffled and trying to write what's happened in the last two weeks. I'm not saying be a recluse, lock yourself in your room and write every night, but whenever you've got a spare minute when you're not having the time of your life, whack the diary out and scribble some entries.
7. Pick things up
Postcards, business cards, receipts, free maps, these will not only be little bit of memorabilia if you're aiming for scrap book style, but will help you remember where you were on certain dates, which restaurants you went to as well as what you saw and did.
8. Take note
If you haven't got your diary on you all the time, take notes on your phone while in a cafe or during a walking tour, these little snippets of your day can be elaborated in your diary later.
9. Keep it neat
It's very easy to have terrible handwriting when you're travelling. Rickety buses, and rocking boats are not ideal, but try to keep it as neat as possible as it's much nicer to read back later, and buy a book with big line spacing if your handwriting is really terrible.
10. Give yourself space
After every entry, leave the rest of the page, or a full page next to it to add things you might have forgotten to include. This gets rid of scrawling notes in margins and leaves space for any clippings or even drawings if you're really bored and want to take your diary writing to the next level.
11. Think about it
Before you start your entry, don't jump straight in. Think for 5 minutes about the day, reflect on what happened, what you want to include and then begin. This will avoid too many 'oh I forgot to add...' and will keep the entry nice and ordered.
12. Use your words
Despite trying to keep it concise, when describing something, try not to opt for, "it looked nice." Why did it look nice? Try to get the creative juices and imagination flowing for the reader.
13. Not sure what to write?
Names of places and sites are most important, mainly because if someone asks where you went in a certain place, you can easily tell them. Names also usually trigger your memory of the day too.
14. A step further
If you want to be really organised you could use little sticky tabs to mark the place in the diary in which you visit a new place, and write on the tab where it is, that way instead of wasting time flicking through it all you can look at the top and find it easer.
15. And finally...
Writing the full date, with the day is obviously the way to start each entry, but the most important thing about writing in your travel diary, have fun doing it! If it starts to feel like a chore, keep going, you'll thank yourself when you're back home reading through all of your fantastic memories.
By Emily Rogers