Linda’s Story-Map Journal – Travel Journal Interviews

Do you love the idea of reminiscing with a travel journal but after missing a few days feel all is lost?

On a recent trip to Europe Linda tried a storyboard / story-map approach to her travel journaling.

This is one in a series of interviews with travellers who share with us their fun and varied journaling techniques


1. Why keep a travel journal?

My memory (sadly) is not infallible.
I therefore need a travel journal as a memory jogger. Flicking through travel related memorabilia re-ignites those fun holiday moments.
There would be many forgotten scenarios lost – never to be enjoyed again – without the help of my travel journals.

I spend hours drooling over where to go –

hours enjoying the moment –

journaling brings hours of travel memories back to life.

Image: Travel Journal storyboard

In the story-map above I got hopelessly lost driving from Wales to England.
Happily the passing countryside was beautiful and, I had a delicious picnic lunch on board plus, when I finally arrived at my destination, a beautiful dinner awaited me 😉

2. What do you include in your travel journal?

I’ve tried a few different types of travel journaling over the years –
When I first started travelling I merely wrote pages (and pages) of words as I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do in a travel journal.
I then incorporated doodley type sketches, which were far more effective for conveying a feeling of the moment than words alone –
It’s amazing how evocative a few scribbly lines can be.

Glass beer drawing

However, on my most recent trip to Europe, I evolved this a little bit further and tried the concept of keeping a story-map journal.
Using each page to illustrate a kind of mapped diagram of how the day evolved

Image: travel journal

In the story-map above we went to Interlaken, Switzerland and after a hot chocolate in an 18th floor cafe, with a stunning view of the mountain Jungfrau, we made two side trips –

One on a cogwheel train ride up to Schynige Platte where the vintage train wound its way up the mountain and into the clouds where by the time we reached the top it was raining with no view in sight!
And a vernacular ride up a virtually perpendicular track to Harder Kulm where there was a glass bottomed triangular lookout to the two lakes below.

3. How do you keep your journal?

I’m more of a visual person than auralMy eyes glaze over at the sight of pages and pages of words (with no pictures!).

I love keeping receipts, ticket stubs and things like paper place mats all in a separate zip-lock bag.
It’s like a lucky dip revisiting that. 😉

For my European Story-Map journal I used a page a day to map out the day’s events.

Image: Visual travel journal

I incorporate where and how we went, what we saw, what we ate (yum!), the weather, the landscape… all the usual things that go to make a great trip – but its encapsulated on a single sheet rather than pages of my poor prose.

Importantly, I don’t rely on my fair eye to create all the drawings – The mountains above appeared on a place mat I was given in a restaurant – Far easier to copy off someone else’s rendition than try and draw if fresh, or even trickier, from memory!

Note: Tourist brochures often offer diagrammatic plans and layouts of places that you can copy to get the ‘shape’ of where you’ve been! 


4. How often do you update your travel journal?

My European trip was full on, with every day fun packed to the max.
It was all record worthy – I didn’t want to ever forget any of it!
Some evenings I’d doodle-draw entries whilst chatting around the table recounting the day’s events – journaling can be quite a social activity! On other evenings, if we went out to eat, I’d spend half an hour at day’s end sketching in bed before lights out.

At the start of the trip, the daily activities took up every waking hour and I fell a bit behind – I wondered whether I’d ever be able to catch up.
But in the end it’s all down to how much you really want the outcome, and how much fun it is in the creating!
I doubt I’d have bothered to try and catch up if it were all writing, but hand me a bundle of coloured pencils and who can resist a scribble 😉

Image: visual travel journal

The story-map above shows our first day in Switzerland. It poured with rain, but undeterred we set out on an expedition to see Trümmelbach Falls that thunder down inside a mountain. We walked up the valley (past classic cows with huge Swiss bells around their necks) to a cable-car that took us up to Murren, another short train ride along the top of the plateau, followed by a connecting cable-car back down to Lauterbrunnen – We got soaked but the scenery was so uplifting the weather couldn’t strip the smiles off our faces 🙂

5. What is your favourite piece of travel journaling equipment?

Coloured pencils
I love a small selection of coloured pencils
Colours and tones will vary as to which part of the world I am in and will always be tonal rather than mere primary colours.
When in Great Britain I’ll have a heathery purple colour, an olivey green, a mustard yellow (for the gorse), a cornflower blue and a dark red.

Image: travel journal
Whereas in Australia I’ll have a silvery green (for the eucalypts), ultramarine blue, bright yellow, hibiscus red and a rusty brown.

Image: Travel Journal Australia

And I know I’m only supposed to have ‘a’ favourite – but I do also love my Faber Castell Pitt pens in dark sepia, which are waterproof and come in a few different thicknesses.

6. Why does this type of travel journaling work for you?

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.’ Pablo Picasso

Deciding to keep a ‘Storyboard/Story-Map’ journal on this trip gave me permission to doodle draw the day’s events.
Then, on our final morning in Venice, on the way to the railway station I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t stop, sit down and take the time to absorb what I was seeing as opposed to glancing as I dashed past to the next viewpoint –

Image: Visual travel journal

So, scooping up some canal water into a pot I sat on the edge of the waterway and sketched these ‘french’ windows that were over on the other side.
I penciled lightly the approximate shape first, blobbed in the areas of watercolour and then with my Faber Castell Pitt pen sketched in a little more detail over the top.

Its not frame worthy but that moment of breathing in Venice will be with me forever.

Note: Even on a hectic schedule stop and smell, in this case… the canal water! 


Linda Fairbairn


Linda Fairbairn started travelling the world at 18, when she left England for Scandinavia. The following year she island hopped through Indonesia to Australia, returning to Europe overland. She now lives in Australia… enjoying spontaneous sojourns around the world.




Do you keep a travel journal?
How do you do it?
Would you like to share your ways and means to help other like minded folk?

Leave a comment below to tell us how you keep your travel journal
Email me if you’d like to feature your journaling techniques here as part of this series 🙂

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20 thoughts on “Linda’s Story-Map Journal – Travel Journal Interviews

    • I had illusions I’d romantically sit and paint a lot more but the “so much to see” drug intoxicated me keeping me running to see fleetingly the next thing –
      Of course stopping and taking in that scene by the canal was by far the richest experience of my time in Venice 🙂

    • I’m a huge photographer too Andi!
      In fact I take way too many photographs and then fall foul of them sitting on my hard-drive 🙁
      Which reminds me… I must get a photo book happening 😉

    • What a great trip to do –
      You must get those blog posts turned into hard copies to give to the boys when they’re older!
      They’ll die when they read the ‘When kids whinge ‘ post LOL
      Did they get to use their travel journals?

  1. Just beautiful thoughts, pictures and words there Linda. I am a wordsmith, and cannot draw to save my life, but just have to write down what is happening, and then I can put the embellishments and humour in later on, sort of like painting a picture with my words.

    • You’re right, writing is an art –
      I’ve heard some people refer to their journal as a raw portal – a draft, from which they can elaborate later –
      Although embellishment can make it long winded –

      I love the quote by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) who wrote (in French – the English translation being approx:)
      “I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short.”

      And which Thoreau 200 years later paraphrased when he said:
      “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

      Either way it takes a lot of work to write something succinctly, which is why you may have noticed, I’ve relied on some else’s words to convey the point!

      To me the frustrating thing about re-reading a travel journal is that at best it can only be a first draft, which means in my case, it has a long way to go to make it a pleasurable experience! 🙂

  2. I absolutely adore this storyboard idea. If only I could draw…

    I do carry a cloth journal that can be easily rolled and shoved into any pocket and I try to write down the important bits of information that I know I’ll forget. Then I put it all together in the stories on my blog. Might have to start adding some little drawings here and there, and just not let anyone see them but myself! 🙂

    • All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.’ Pablo Picasso

      I think the tragedy is that we’re all just soooo self-critical!
      The naivest of doodles are endearing – no matter how old the person is who did them 😉

      I love it that you’re thinking of trying a few little scribbles here and there –
      Who knows, you may even surprise yourself 🙂

  3. These days you can use an application called Evernote found both on iPhone and Android mobile phones to keep your journals and take photos as attachments. This will certainly help you very much.

    Using this application or similar ones, you can always have your notes with you on your phone and take real shots in such short time and keep them in your memoir.

    Rahman Mehraby
    Destination Iran
    Rahman Mehraby recently posted..Include Tabriz Bazaar in Your Tours to IranMy Profile

    • There are some fantastic online systems available now for recording your travels virtually –
      But I do think a few tactile memories to take home do add to the memory experience 🙂

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  6. What a fabulous idea! I’ve never given a thought to sketching my travels, but after seeing these great drawings I will give it a try.
    Like Genevieve, I am a writer so do tend to dribble on a bit – love those quotes from Pascal and Thoreau – that’s me to a tee!
    Interestingly, I am doing a coach trip around Europe in 8 weeks, and going to those exact places in Switzerland that you sketched – so you have inspired me so much!
    I’m going to buy some pencils today and start practising – I love this concept 🙂

    • Super envious of your upcoming trip to Switzerland Judi!
      I expanded on the technique I used in this post: Why Write When You Can Have a Story-Map
      I’m planning on more posts like that –
      We use symbols to convey emotions on the keyboard :), and to obey road rules when driving – so why not too to express one’s self? 😉

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