The ‘Less is More’ Way of Travel Journalling

“No sketches first, no studies, that’s long past:
I do what many dream of, all their lives…

Well, less is more… “

Robert Browning (1812–1889) from his poem (1855) ‘speaking’ as artist
Andrea del Sarto to his wife Lucrezia

Less is More

I needed to tidy my studio, but where to start?
Why does getting over that initial hurdle always feel so excruciating?

How hard can it be?
That wicked left language side of my brain was working it’s evil, blowing the whole job up into structured wordy thoughts of enormity to scare me off, when in reality we all know its a simple case of less is more – Move forward, pick up a piece of paper or a book, and the task will magically unfurl.

The mess of books and paraphernalia that needed a declutter

Where to start?

Putting my hand out I intuitively let it fall upon a black covered travel journal sitting near the top of the pile –
And who couldn’t resist a little peek and a quick flick through?!

What is a Travel Journal to You?

Journals (to me) are a personal thing –
They’re not as a rule for sharing –
They’re a means to privately record what has filled my days – So years later (or when I tidy my studio) I can go – Oh! I’d forgotten all about that –

I love the accessibility of journals – The immediacy of their story encased between thick black covers waiting to be rediscovered.

Drawing illustration highlights of my day

Stingrays along the waterline

Like this day when the stingrays were feeding along the water’s edge – And I noticed how the original 2 black swans feeding on the sea grass a few days previously, had now become 13! They’ve now all moved on to greener pastures (?!) but the fact we’d even had them in the Bay for a while was a wondrous thing to recall.

If you take a photo (‘a’ photo haha), I mean xxxx photos, to get any pleasure from them the onus is squarely on you to do something with them after you’ve pressed that shutter.
All the willy nilly carefree snapping while away, endeavouring to capture those elusive holiday moments creates a frighteningly large pile of numbers on your SD card, and/or your hard-drive that shows you absolutely nothing and tells you even less.
P1070059, P1070060, P1070061….
Until that is, you’ve spent hours at some point later down the track (if that ‘later’ ever comes) to pore over them and repeatedly click and delete the rubbish, then sort and cull, crop and enhance. rename and file, before they see the light of day when finally they’re uploaded and/or print/published.

Illustration of what I saw on my bike ride

The clarity of that day comes back to me in a flash with this little story-map

This is why I love story-mapping in my travel journals so much!

The ‘Less is More’ Way to Recording Your Travelling Tales

Story-Map travel journals are effortless to ‘read’ –
At a glance the narrative is laid out before you illustrating what you saw, how you did it, where you went, who you met…

And their creation by comparison to other methods of recording travel memories, is relatively effortless too!
When travelling I spend about 15 minutes each evening to ponder, reflect and re-live the events of the day (which in itself helps to commit the day’s experiences to my long term memory) while I do little doodle drawings to record what the day has held –

They’re not photographic, or life like renditions – They’re more like pictograms that represent and portray what I’m remembering in my mind’s eye – symbolically.

Pen and ink line drawing of a travel story map

Each night I ensure I’ve sketched out the highlights of the day – Here’s what I did on a Friday and Saturday when in Tasmania recently.

Their’s no pressure to create an artistic sketch –
Scribbly doodles are the go!

And because when I’m on the road I have the tendency to go into overdrive, to squash the max into each day (and each moment) the days can be long not allowing a lot of time for record keeping –
So it’s only the initial outline of the drawing that I ensure I get done and dusted before my head hits the pillow each night – Anything more is optional.

The pen and ink line drawing now coloured to revel the complete story map

The colouring happens later

The colouring can wait –

Its only the factual bits that I’m compelled to spend that 15 minutes committing to paper before the day is done because it’s surprising just what can fall between the cracks if I don’t do that before the clock strikes midnight.

The colouring part is a super relaxing pleasurable pastime and as it requires no thinking it can be slotted in anytime –
Whether you have a few moments to fill waiting for someone, or something to happen; or you’re having a drink in a cafe and/or socializing with friends – Colouring can be done while chatting – It does not require your full attention (unlike scrolling through posts on your phone 😉 )

‘Less is More’ in both Size & Shape

I’ve tried various configurations of travel journals for doodling my story maps – portrait, landscape, large and small, but I love the concertina or accordion journals that can fold out into a continuous sheet so the pages and the days are all connected –

Story Map drawing

Some days the events spill out over several pages…

It allows the ‘time’ to flow and not be confined to have to fit within the bounds of a single page.
I don’t know about you – But my days are rarely created equal – Some days are huge and need to spill out over three pages with the complexity of their events…

Other days are lazy, and will comfortably curl up in the corner of a page!

Cartoon drawing of what I did on Sunday

Lazy days don’t need so much space


Why ‘Less is More’ is so Effective

I wonder if you realize how much you unwittingly use pictograms in your every day life?

Signage to keep you safe on the roads, to direct you to public conveniences and warn you of dangers – particularly where they need to be comprehended across language barriers –

Minuscule cartoon-like pictograms can say so much.

Drawing showing what I did on a Saturday in pictograms

Encapsulating a Saturday

The way I see it is –

  • Rather than writing pages and pages of words to spell out a first draft describing the intricacies of what you did
  • Spend hours sketching in one spot attempting a life like rendition of a single moment
  • Or staring at a computer screen scrolling, culling and enhancing xxxx photos

As a first port of call for recording your travel memories consider taking a mere 15 minutes to turn your day’s experiences into pictograms and try story mapping your travels
Your story, there and then, has been recorded for posterity.
For the minimal amount of time and energy involved, the results are massive!

Travel journal extract

Extract from my story-map travel journal when in Canada

“No sketches first, no studies, that’s long past:
I do what many dream of, all their lives,
—Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do,
And fail in doing. I could count twenty such
On twice your fingers, and not leave this town,
Who strive—you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,—
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter)—so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.”

Robert Browning

As Robert Browning said - Less is More

What do you think?
Do you agree that less can be more when it comes to travel journalling?
Or is this poppycock?
Do share your views in the comments below and let the discussion begin 🙂

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6 thoughts on “The ‘Less is More’ Way of Travel Journalling

    • I love the idea of sketching too and when I do stop for long enough (and persuade my travelling companion to take the time out to stop too!) I’ve always been very happy – not so much with the ‘artistic’ result – but certainly with the memories that they evoke –
      But some trips are a bit speedier – and while I know (and appreciate) that taking the time to be truly in the moment is important – I really love that all the travelling tales (not the select one or two that are sketched) can be recorded so effectively and efficiently as story maps:)

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