Cultural Experience | Resources

Why You Should Keep a Travel Journal When You Study Abroad

Tips for documenting your travels abroad.

Most internet lists about traveling are along the lines of, “10 things you must do in [insert city here].” Those lists are helpful to anyone about to head out on a trip, but a “must-do” that is often left out is documenting your travels – with more than just posing for a few photo snaps along the way.

Memories fade. No matter how vivid last week’s day trip is in your mind right now, it will undoubtedly diminish in your head over time. You may remember the main points, but having a record of the details will bring you back. For example, maybe you visited a winery in Tuscany while you were abroad. The wine was good, and you remember the area being kind of pretty…?

Those types of vague memories are how I remember a lot of my study abroad experience years ago, with just photographs and a few minimal blog posts to transport me back in time. Because of this, I make sure to keep a travel journal nowadays.

Wouldn’t you rather be able to look back upon this time of your life with more substance?

What if you remembered your Tuscan winery visit like this? The endless beauty of the Italian countryside slowly passing you by through the train window, the funny thing that your friend said, the smell of the grass in the air as you stepped outside, feeling your calves tighten as you trudged up a hill, met with endless rolling hills in sight at the top which made it worth the climb. Then came the oak-y smell of the winery, the very serious tour guide, and finally the exquisite taste of Chianti  matched with complimentary toasted bread, cheese, and salami.

Perugia Italy Views of Hills

That is a memory that can unfold years down the road simply by looking up a few lines you had previously written down. Wouldn’t you rather remember all of that? The sights, the sounds, the scents? If you answered yes, then you should keep some type of travel journal!

There are many ways to document your travels abroad, some of which that use minimal time consumption. Here are five different ways to do so:

Start a Travel Blog

This can be diary-style for your eyes only or shared just with family and friends, or it can be a focused travel website that more or less gives advice to others. There are many free blogging platforms and resources to get a blog up and running – simply Google search “how to create a blog” and you’ll come up with thousands of articles. Or better yet, sign up for an author’s profile on College Tourist here and create a portfolio of your travel stories.

The fact that your “journal” is online means that you don’t have to worry about losing it or leaving it somewhere, like you would a traditional notebook. It also can be easily and instantly shared with anyone!

Traditional Journal

While a blog is nice, sometimes actual pen and paper are what the mind needs to unfurl thoughts after a long but exciting day of travel. A big plus about using a traditional journal is that you never have to worry about battery life or a WiFi connection. It can be relaxing to completely unplug and lose yourself in your writing without email and social media notifications interrupting your flow.


A quick list of the day’s or week’s highlights will keep your memories in check without taking up much time. You can do this with a traditional journal, blog, or simply write it on your phone.

A list of a typical week when I studied abroad in Florence, Italy would’ve looked like:

-Class all week, midterms were on Thursday

-Scored free biscotti during break from class!

-Went to Accademia to see Michaelangelo’s David on Tuesday

-Dinner at La Spada with Ashley, Aryn, Chris, Matt, and Haley on Wednesday

-Went to triangle bridge after dinner to drink wine and watch sunset

-Left way too early (5 am!) on Friday to catch train to Sorrento for the weekend

Photos with Captions

Taking pictures is sure to jog your memory years down the line. While a vast majority of our photos taken are digital, isn’t it nice to look through your grandparents’ old photo albums and read the one-sentence description on the back?

To provide better context to digital photos, after uploading them to the Cloud or your computer, change the title on your favorites from the typical “DSC_012.jpg” to something like, “Group dinner at La Spada after class and art tour.”


If you’re the crafty type who also saves ticket stubs, postcards, and other small trinkets, you can make a scrapbook after you return home or even update it while you’re there. It’ll be a way to look back on nostalgia after an incredible semester away – or even show your future kids years from now.

The best way to experience a country is to be in the present moment and not always hiding being a camera (or a notebook). However, a healthy balance between the two will allow you to document your travels in a way that can transport you back in time years down the road, something that your future self will be very thankful for.

For more inspiration, follow our DIY boards on The College Tourist Pinterest Page.

Ally Archer

Gonzaga University | 4 stories

Ally Archer is a major girly girl with a huge case of wanderlust. Ally has been to 15 countries in Europe and North America and plans to travel to many more in her lifetime. Her first experience overseas was studying abroad in Florence, Italy, where she briefly returned after graduating college to do marketing and tour guiding for a travel company. She believes that if you dream it, you can do it, and to live life with no regrets. You can find her at her travel blog,

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