Guest post: Creative Travel Journaling by Karen Robbins

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of journaling, is brought to you by multi-genre author Karen Robbins.

Creative Travel Journaling

Travel is a passion with me. Journaling helps me to remember where we’ve been and what we’ve seen. Here are some tips for journaling creatively.

The Tools. When a computer has a problem with memory, you can install another chip. Unfortunately that’s not the case with the human brain. Therefore do take some type of recording tool with you as you tour and explore.

For me, recording on the go requires pen, paper, and camera. I tote a small notebook in which to record interesting tidbits. Background stuff. Things to spark more thought later. I pick up free leaflets or brochures and jot notes on them as well.

My camera is used as much to record written information as to take pictures. I snap a picture of written descriptions on plaques, etc. I can enlarge it with my pictorial software or even on my camera by pushing the zoom button when it’s in view mode. (Digital cameras are a dream). I glean the information I want and delete it later. The advantage: I don’t have to read it all standing there instead of enjoying the views around me–especially in the hot sun or, perish the thought, the rain.

My husband owns an iPad but we rarely use it to take pictures or keep notes. It’s a bit cumbersome to tote along on a tour but if you don’t have a travel computer and want to use a computerized device to journal on, that could be the way to go.

Our iPhones work well when we don’t want to carry the big camera. If you are adept at typing on the touch screen, it’s also a good place to keep notes.

While on the go, you want tools that will help you later to fully record your travel adventure. As my husband always says, a job well done requires the right tool. But then he’s usually off to the hardware store.

The Five Senses. What do the five senses have to do with journaling? Actually a whole lot! A picture may be worth a thousand words but it only goes so far in recording your travel experience. It won’t show what you smelled, tasted, felt, or heard (unless it’s video with sound).

Too often we only use our eyes and forget the other senses. On our river cruise through France, we awoke to find ourselves docked by the little town of Ville des Andelys. The view resembled a Monet painting. Slightly foggy air muted greens, reds, and blues around us like an Impressionist’s painting. What I heard as we walked into town was the morning quiet broken by a single bird calling. What I felt was the fresh dew on my feet.

The memory that lingers though comes from a Y in the road where suddenly the smell of fresh bread surrounded me. The baker was already at work making her baguettes for the day. Nothing tastes better than a fresh baked baguette in the morning. Absolutely heavenly.

Using all your senses will add depth to your journaling. Some smells (dirty barn) and tastes (mate-tea of Argentina) are pungent, revolting, or unappealing but are still a part of your journey. Others like fresh bread, salty sea air, and the scent of pine (ah, Canada) are important elements to include in your journal entries. Soft-needled pine trees in Australia or the skin of a muddy catfish as it wiggles in your hand stimulate the imagination. The cry of a howler monkey in the jungle of Belize sounded like an amplifier gone wild but what an awesome sound. Touch, smell, hear, taste as well as see your world.

Descriptive Language. A picture is worth a thousand words but a few well-chosen words can paint the best pictures.

Sometimes I find it difficult to describe what I see because of the colors. One way to enhance your description is to think of colors in terms of food. It’s something everyone knows. A cherry red door. Ice blue water. Pink cotton candy sunset. Whipped cream clouds. Burnt toast bark.

Like and as are great ways to give reference for better description. The thunder came and went like a noisy car booming the bass from the radio. The catfish felt as slippery as a wet slicker coated in mud.

Use action verbs in your journaling. Avoid was, is and areThe wind howled is a stronger description than there was a strong wind. Mosquitoes feasted on my arms paints a better picture than there were a lot of mosquitoes. Remember my fresh-baked baguette? Fresh bread aroma floated around me, engulfing me in its enticement. Okay maybe a little over the top but a lot better than there was the smell of bread. Rub out adjectives and adverbs with a good action verb.

The Journal. Once you have collected your notes, your pictures, all the things you want to keep as memories you need–the journal!

If you only want a written version, use a nice journal with blank pages and a good pen. If you’d rather use a computer (I do, my handwriting is atrocious) create a file in your word processing program for your travel entries. Find some fancier online journals that allow you to create and write to an online site that can be public or private. Journaling software is available too.

Blog a journal! is free and easy to set up and use. Use privacy settings to make it public or private. My public blog evolved into a travel journal. . . well, one of my travel journals.

I love to make books. I write but I also dabble in photography. My favorite way to document our trips is in a photo book. The photo books are fun to assemble online and allow you to add text for that descriptive language.

And of course if you are a lover of scrapbooking, there is always that option.

Happy journaling!

That makes me want to travel more (except planes and I don’t get on… anyone got a flying carpet they could lend me?). Thank you, Karen! I also recommend WordPress but then I could be biased. 🙂

Known as the Wandering Writer, Karen Robbins and her husband of forty-four years have stepped foot on all seven continents and have almost circumnavigated the globe. The love of travel was realized fully after their five children were grown and out of the nest and having children of their own. Karen’s travel adventures enrich her writing and her characters often travel in her stories.

Most of her life, Karen has lived in Northeastern Ohio in the U.S. She graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in art education and taught school until her twins arrived. Along life’s path in addition to being a writer and speaker, Karen has been a florist, a candle sales representative, and a paralegal student as well as wife, mother and grandmother.

Karen’s writing career started out with adult take-home papers for Sunday school. In a short time she was writing a column for a local newspaper and eventually for regional magazines. With five other writing moms she met online, she coauthored two books, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts and A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts. The Chicken Soup For The Soul books have included several of her stories. Her first love though is writing fiction. She has written women’s fiction and cozy mysteries. Her most recent releases are Murder Among The Orchids and In A Pickle.


If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with non-fiction author and poet Estelle P Shrum – the five hundred and sixtieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

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13 thoughts on “Guest post: Creative Travel Journaling by Karen Robbins

  1. Cathy Messecar says:

    My friend Karen stays in tune with her surroundings and gave wonderful tips for successful journaling on trips, Her tips also work for any who wants to capture a moment to retell later. Mommy. Nurse. Veterinarian. Soldier. Secretary. Carpenter. Junior writer. Great tips, Karen. Thank you, Morgen.


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