I’m an obsessive journaler and sketcher when I’m on the go. I collect every little thing for making collages – even cookie wrappers from foreign airlines. I also am hopelessly addicted to beautiful notebooks and travel journals. I probably have owned 300+ notebooks and sketchbooks in the 27 years I’ve been alive (I’ve maybe filled about 75% of them).
These are just the notebooks that are around my desk right now — not diving into my closet or my poor parents’ houses filled with the larger archives.
One tip before we dive in: look for an “acid-free” notebook. Many cheaper and recycled papers are full of acid that will decay over time, eating away at the ink and paper. It would be truly tragic if you spent so much time writing out your memories, only to have them fall apart after 5 years or so. Take it from me – I literally got yelled at in art school for using acidic paper sometimes in front of the whole class. Know your paper!
Here are some of my favorite journals for bringing on an adventure.
My preferred choice for sketching and doodling as well as writing. Sometimes you just need the whole page to collage or do a little drawing.
Field Notes Expedition 3 Pack (Field Notes)
Basically indestructible notebooks with bright orange visibility for when you are in a dark Mount Everest basecamp or whatever.
These bright orange notebooks are tested to withstand so much damage, from dumping them in vats of acid, throwing them in wind tunnels, settings them on fire, dousing them in water, and anything else you can think of. The whole idea is so delightfully excessive, like the Volvo of travel journals.
Moleskine Classic Notebook, Large, Plain, Hardcover (Moleskine)
I’ve spent way too much money on these over my life. The covers are awesome and last years and can take so much damage. I’ve spilled stuff on them, had pens explode in my bag with minimal damage, and abused the pages with watercolors, and they still stand strong.
I personally prefer blank notebooks, but sometimes you need lines to really get writing. Here are my favorite lined notebooks
Muji Notebook A5 6mm Rule 5 Color Binding Set (Muji)
Muji products are quintessentially Japanese minimalist office loveliness.
These notebooks come in a pack of 5 with different color bindings and lined white paper. You can even draw on the recycled board cover!
Paperblanks Nocturnelle Ultra Lined Journal (Paperblanks)
Paperblanks notebooks always look like fancy old spellbooks but really have the weight and texture of a light hardcover sketchbook. But they look so fancy compared to most travel journals, and often have gold foil detailing and awesome little clasps.
Guided notebooks are a genre I wasn’t aware of before writing this post, but I’ve always been attracted to. They have guidelines on what to write on each page, such as an inspiring quote, or a prompt at the top of the page. Some are lined, some are not, but most are very beautifully designed.
En Route (Chronicle Books)
I saw this journal in the SFO airport and I couldn’t resist getting it. The insides are filled with details and amazing illustrations of anything travel related, from different taxis around the world, street signs, teas and coffees, sauces and salsas, and loads of other cool and quirky drawings. I love this journal so much!
Bon Voyage Journal (Rifle Paper Co.)
I lust after anything from Rifle Paper Co. This journal has amazing illustrations in it (especially the cover) and lined pages with cute icons to help you think of what to write.
Scratch Travel Journal (ONEVER)
This journal comes with scratch-off map pages! Need I say more?
Ticket Stub Diary (Eric Epstein)
I obsessively save ticket stubs, playbills, and other little snippets. In this nifty diary, there are plastic sleeves towards the center of the spine for your tickets, and lines next to them for writing a little memory about them.
I always love to support artisans and artists, and there is something about a leather-bound book that feels like you are writing something really special.
Midori Traveler’s Notebook (Midori)
Midair makes a giant product line of travel journals – with customizable covers, refillable notes of all types (blank, lined, grid, diary), and even customizable rubber bands. They are pricey, but last a lifetime! Over time they become softer and get scratches, but if you are looking for a weathered leather notebook, this is one you have to check out.
ZLYC Vintage Refillable Handmade Leather Journal
This beautiful leather notebook set comes in several colors, and has a pouch in the back to hold small papers or credit cards. The leather has lovely stitching and the cover has beautiful burnishing.
I’m going to write a separate blog post soon for the best travel journal apps (another unfortunate obsession), so stay tuned. I will post the link here when I’m done.