The Travel Journal

Travel journals are a great way to remember the details about your trip. To go to Madeline Island, I wanted to take something flexible so I could draw or paint in addition to writing. Because I was teaching, I knew there wouldn’t be a lot of time to create a journal. So I chose a Stonehenge 90-lb paper pad, wire bound. Easy to carry, because both covers are heavy chipboard.

The front cover was plain, so the tags from my suitcase and the name tag for the first evening’s welcome event made a good graphic design. The colorful spot indicates that my suitcase was searched, tested for explosives, and approved for travel.

Book1All my journals start the same way–the crossed arrows that indicate flexibility and love of change. In this case, it also showed the two destinations–Phoenix, where I live and Madeline Island, an incredible retreat location.


On the first spread, I always draw a map of the area I visited along with the sights that made the trip unique. In this case, I saw lots of corn fields, roads edged in cord grass, and a huge eagle sitting on a small tree, bending it over at the tip. The first night, I stayed on the mainland, and had a great coffee at the Black Cat coffee house in Ashland.


The way I decided to use the journal was to remember what we did in class each day. The first day we made Monsoon Papers, and we hung them on the clothes line to dry. It was a trip from the second floor studio, across the balcony and into the field. The weather was sunny and mild, and as long as we remembered the clothes pins, the trip was a plus for the view. There are two samples of Monsoon Papers, and of course, the clothespin.


One of the most amazing experiences was seeing the moon rise over Lake Superior. The lake and sky were shades of blue and the moon rose in a salmon slice of color, reflecting in the water. I had to remember it as we did tissue collage the next day.


On one day, we made mosaics from photographs. I used pieces of Monsoon Papers, some other paper pieces other people used, and the stamps that were used to ship the boxes back home.


There were other pages, including a map of the island and some other class projects, but these pages brought me back to that wonderful classroom overlooking the farm fields and the prairie.

A travel journal doesn’t have to be a detailed schedule or a report of each move. When I finished paging through the book, I was smiling and remembering a special week. For me, that’s what a travel journal should be!

–Quinn McDonald is packing for a different trips–in the next few weeks, she’ll be criss-crossing the U.S. to teach business writing courses.

4 thoughts on “The Travel Journal

  1. What a personal way to journal, capturing a trip through artwork alone. Not so much documentation of where you went, but a visual reference of what you did and how you felt, A reminder that you don’t need to write all the details, the memories will come back when you see the images. And while others may appreciate the artwork, I love that the memories can be yours alone. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Most of my journals are writing journals. Every now and then, I like to work through different parts of my brain. And you are perceptive, the memories are al there, just not in words.

  2. Your journal sounds like so much fun! It’s actually inspired me to do a journal of my daily life. From stopping for coffee, to heading into my favourite art supply shoppe and so on. I don’t get to travel due to mobility problems, but the journal could still document what I do manage to get done. Nothing exciting (here’s where I tell my Inner Critic to pound salt!), but it might lead me in different directions that I’d like to go. Whether it’s reading a book, looking at tarot cards or making postage stamp sized art, might as well give it a try! I have quite a number of journals in my stash, so I’m sure I’ll find one that is the perfect size for this project. Thank you for the idea, Quinn!

    • Journaling is always a good course of action. It records, marks, remembers, helps you plan. You can look back and find out how often you felt great, doubtful, fascinated. You might want to keep a Commonplace journal. I keep one of those, too, and it keeps track of events and things I learn. So dig in and love it!

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