Journaling While Traveling

It’s not a travel journal–that’s a journal for a vacation or a special trip. I journal while I travel. In an ariplane, at a restaurant, in my hotel room–a few notes, observations, capturing characters or scenes. More than that feels like work.

Because I travel only with carry-on luggage (one suitcase, one backpack), my journaling has to be limited to a small space and a few implements. Here’s how I manage it:

Travel1A practical carrying case for pens and brushes. Two zippers make it easy for me to peel back the cover and the stiff bottom means it stand upright. Writing implements, top to bottom: A white Sakura gel pen, a Pitt pen (Fine) permanent, a Yasutomo Koi pen (watercolor, for shading), Niji waterbrush, bookkeeper pencil (writes like a lead pencil, but when wet, it writes in bright turquoise and becomes permanent), and a lead holder with a lead for writing and shading.

Travel journal © Quinn McDonald 2013.

Travel journal © Quinn McDonald 2013.

It’s all I need for basic sketching and writing. What do I write on? No room in the backpack for a big journal, so I use shipping tags that I paint before I leave. I attach them through the existing hold with a photo-album screw post. The post allows the tags room to swing, so I don’t have to take them apart and can write on them. Not a lot, but enough to help me remember that great restaurant, that interesting woman sitting next to me on the flight from Houston to Dallas.

Tiny journal © Quinn McDonald

Tiny journal © Quinn McDonald

While I travel, I use bricollage–a French word for collaging with whatever is at hand. These bright colorful lines are the pieces between the stamps.


Best of all, the journal packs comfortably into the pencil case. Everything in one spot.

Tiny Journal 2© Quinn McDonald

Tiny Journal 2© Quinn McDonald

When I have filled up the pieces I carry with me, I separate them by date and put them together with a screwpost and wing nut. It’s a great way to collect memories and it doesn’t take a lot of space in the creation or in storage!

-Quinn McDonald gets more done when it doesn’t require a lot of extra materials. She may be a minimalist.

21 thoughts on “Journaling While Traveling

  1. This is such a great idea. I can see me doing this often. I have to figure out a carrier then I can grab it for using while waiting and so on. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Whether somebody blogs about art, journaling, photography, writing, computing, reporting…it’s not unusual to see this topic come up. How to do what you do at home, but while you travel, and how to pack for it.

    Two interesting things about this: how ubiquitous travel has become, and how so many activities are so tightly entwined (in many cases) with using particular tools.

    I don’t travel much at the moment but at different times (in different jobs) I’ve traveled a great deal. It is very pleasant to keep familiar tools close at hand in an unfamiliar environment. For a couple of months, one time, I tried reversing the process by figuring out the least I could travel with while doing what I needed to do, and using only those tools (in fact there was only one; a smartphone) at home. It really didn’t work very well.

    There’s a very complex system at work here; your tools, your environment, the constraints of travel, the subtle and not-so-subtle morphology of the mundane.

    • This is a topic that fascinates me. Travel is exhausting for all the usual reasons–shifting schedules, difficulty in finding decent meals at the right time, new people, airport rules (different in every airport), you know them all. I figured out early on that taking along an activity I enjoy is soothing. So I rarely work on stressful project on planes, I work on easy or familiar work, and I always bring some work I love and the tools to begin it right. (So I don’t have to do it over). I find that travel is a LOT less stressful if I know that I can journal, write, or read in the hotel.

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.