Ask Dave: Special Notebooks or Software for Travel Journaling?

By Dave Fox

“What type of writing gear do you recommend for speed journaling and post journaling? Are there any special notebooks or pens you would recommend? Do you ever type your speed journaling entries into a computer program such as MacJournal at the end of the day or every several days if time permits?”

— Johnny Isaak, Carson City, Nevada

Johnny Isaak lives in Carson City, Nevada... but he's eying retirement in Shanghai.

When it comes to raw travel journaling, I tend to be a minimalist. I do most of my journaling with a pencil and a cheap notebook. (I do go high-tech and use a mechanical pencil. Sharpeners are hard to find these days.) I do this for two reasons:

  • Writing by hand helps me resist the temptation of going back and editing when my goal is to spill as many details onto the page as quickly as possible.
  • I just like the tactile sensation of my pencil scritching across the paper. It feels different from typing, which is (obviously) what I later must do when writing for Globejotting or other publications.

Do I use journaling software to save my journals at the end of the day? I never have, though I know some people like to. The way I see it, time spent retyping my travel journals is time I could spend writing more new material.

I journal knowing some of the material I scribble will eventually get typed into stories I publish. If publishing isn’t your goal, there can still be value in typing your journals after you write them – with special journaling software or a basic word processing program. Doing so takes you through the process of rereading your entries and analyzing more deeply the thoughts you had when writing them. And… you can save those journal entries out in cyberspace so if an unfortunate event damages or destroys your original notebooks, you still have your words.

This brings me around to a point I’ve made before: I like journaling with cheap notebooks and mechanical pencils, and no, I don’t type my raw journal entries later to save them in digital form. But that’s what *I* do.  Is it the “right” way to journal? Not necessarily.

The right way to journal is whatever way works for you. Some people like fancy notebooks and expensive pens. Some people like computers. Experiment until you find what gets you writing and makes you happiest. What motivates you to write? What feels good? What travels well? Are there technologies that make journaling feel more fun, that ultimately nudge you to write more?

How do you like to journal? Are you an old-school scribbler? Do you have a favorite notebook or writing instrument? Are there technologies you like? I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts and experiences in the comment field below.

Johnny, thanks for your question! Everybody, if you have a question about writing, travel, or anything else, please drop me a line on the Ask Dave page and you might see the answer in a future column on this website.

Published on Friday, April 27, 2012

One Response to “Ask Dave: Special Notebooks or Software for Travel Journaling?”

  1. Mike McHugh
    May 16, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    If smartphones are your sort of thing, you could always use an app like Evernote or something similar for your jounalling. If you always have it with you, the it’s a convenient way to jot down notes for your journal wherever you are. With Evernote you can also snap pics and attach them to your entries.

    There are also apps like Drafon Dictation where you can talk into the phone and it translates it to text. Have’t tried this too much so I don’t know how good the text conversion is, but even if it’s got some mistakes you can edit it later.

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