Art Journaling for the Creative Traveler

Susan Richards

Summer is all about vacations and travel, according to more than 200 million Americans who take at least one getaway this time of year. If you count yourself among them, whether hitting the road for adventure or jetting somewhere exotic and foreign, make sure to leave some space in your luggage for creativity.

In fact, you may find that your desire to make art will stow away regardless of your packing skills.

According to a 2021 study exploring the relationship between vacation and creativity, researchers found that unstructured personal time helped relieve employees’ sense of urgency and ultimately stimulated their ability to nurture new ideas.

While we can appreciate the sense of renewal at work after a vacation, artists may view travel as a vital tool for unlocking creativity. Our sense of wonder can grow stagnant without a change of scenery, making it easy to find ourselves blocked when stuck in the same studio, home, or neighborhood.

Preparing for a Trip to “Creativeland”

Fortunately, unearthing those artistic urges doesn’t require a transatlantic flight (although my passport is always ready), and it doesn’t even mean leaving the state. Instead, it’s about enjoying different views and using a new perspective to process those vistas.

One way to prepare for a trip designed to expand your creative goals is through a travel journal. This tool can be actual or aspirational. For example, set up a journal with pre-designated goals for an upcoming trip. Or, if you’re like me, use journaling to plan and visualize future trips on my bucket list; then, the pages are ready to be filled when the tickets have been booked.

Find a journal that works best for you, depending on your favorite method of making art and memories. Do you like lined pages so you can add notes? Blank only for drawing and scrapbooking? Pocket-sized or sturdy A5 notebook? Thick pages for watercolors or collage? There are even cool journals like The Adventure Book that provide the foundation, so you don’t have to think about it.

Materials and Memories

Let’s assume you’re going to “make it your own,” as they say on singing competition shows, because you know best how art translates your experiences.

A sample of travel journal pages from a recent Art Verve collage class.

Once you’ve chosen a journal (or made one from scratch if that’s in your skillset), decide how you envision your dream trip or commemorate your travels. Here are several approaches to consider:

Words Only. Record your trip in writing and add the photos or artwork later.

Urban Sketching. Using pencils, pens, or portable paints, recreate the scenery and sights along the way. Make note of the place, date, and anything memorable.

Mixed Media and Collage. Use travel magazine photos for inspiration on potential destinations or landmarks. Afterward, leave room for your own photos or art.

Travel Treasures. Assemble your journal with souvenirs like ticket stubs, receipts, and small ephemera you collect on your journey. Gluing an envelope between the pages allows you to tuck things away safely.

Capturing Images. Of course, we can take a million photos with our phones now, but don’t let them linger. Delete bad shots as you go to avoid being overwhelmed later. Consider an affordable, pocket-sized photo printer that can produce instant pics to stick on the page.

Need Prompts? If you like structure in your journaling, create prompts and goals for documenting each day of the trip with words or art. These could include:

  • People you meet
  • Observations on the culture
  • Amazing architecture
  • Most memorable moment
  • Unexpected challenges
  • Document each of your senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, sound
  • Funniest experience
  • Personal growth
  • Gratitude moments>

You can find even more prompts and inspiration here in the Day One journal app. Then check out this truly creative way one artist documented his Big Sur trip.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

There are many benefits to taking your creativity on the road with you and countless ways art can enrich your travel experience. By keeping a travel journal, you will hone your observational skills and look at the unfamiliar world around you with more intention.

The act of drawing, painting, writing, or photographing your adventures will connect you to that moment in time and push you to be more present, which will be evident upon reflection after the trip. It will also spark curiosity in others, leading to unexpected connections and the possibility of making new friends.

Explore more travel journal ideas like @abbeysy on Instagram.

Be sure to protect your memories by saving photos to the cloud and putting your journal in a waterproof bag if the weather is unpredictable. It’s also a good idea to put your name and contact info inside in case it gets misplaced.

Art Verve Academy regularly offers art journaling courses that include collage or urban sketching, so keep your eyes open for opportunities to enhance your travel memories.

And wherever you go, have an amazing time!

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