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WITHOUT NOTES taken in the moment it can be hard to find the inspired words to describe your journey.

Notes jotted in the moment can be drawn upon later to revive a visceral sense of place. Your notes can remind you of emotional and circumstantial elements that were relevant to your overall experience. If taken well, they’ll be the bridge back to the moments you wish to capture in your writing.


Visual descriptors are good. But remember to take notes with all of your senses. What does the air smell like? What is that fainter smell carried on the wind? What does the scene sound like? When eating, how does it taste? What is the texture? Since good storytelling requires a balance of showing and telling, taking notes with your 5 senses will enrich your writing once you settle in from of your computer many weeks or months after the fact.

Any one of these senses can trigger a greater recollection when you finally sit down to write. Remembering the smell of potent, teeth-staining coffee can bring the whole sidewalk cafe scene rushing back.


Remembering how I felt, what frame of mind the circumstance put me it, is valuable information to have gathered when I sit down to write. Whether your travel experience brings elation, nostalgia, terror, or triumph, it is important to take notes in the moment to catch that emotional subtext. Those feelings can be the heart of your travel writing.


The name of your tour guide. The guesthouse you stumble into at 3am. The name of the street where you were pickpocketed. You don’t have to be writing a city guide to relish in the specifics of your travel experience. Taking notes on the little details gives depth and authenticity to your writing.


Photos, audio recordings, video…use whatever technology you have available to record your journey and supplement your note taking.

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Travel Writing Tips


About The Author


Joshywashington is a Travel Media Ninja from Seattle who enjoys writing, climbing trees and strong coffee.

  • Sophie

    Great tips. Thanks! I’ll especially remember the advice on recording emotions.

  • Nate

    Concise, simple and incredibly useful!

  • Seth M Baker

    Nice article.I don’t know what I would do without my travel notebook. Here’s a couple things I do that people might find useful.

    One, taking a moment to make a quick sketch helps me see more than I would if I just saw something and jotted a quick description down.

    Two, being specific about dates, places, and times makes it easier to match up entries with photographs.

  • Holgs

    I particularly like the last one – in my case photography…

  • JoAnna

    I pick up things that will help me remember stuff later ~ business cards, coasters, brochures, napkins, etc. I cut off those plastic bracelets that are snapped around my wrist for entrance into various events and keep those. I store all this stuff with my handwritten notes in my journal.

  • Abbie

    Great suggestions – I definitely need to start thinking like a writer instead of a tourist when I travel!

  • Nancy

    Great tips! It makes sense to take sensory notes when traveling since it’s smart to use the senses in travel writing. Thanks for the advice.

  • Trisha Miller

    Great article! I do the same thing that JoAnna does – I always carry a few extra (large) Ziploc baggies with me to hold all the things I pick up – business cards, menus, brochures. I get two copies of everything whenever possible – 1 on which I jot notes at the time (circling dishes I liked or disliked, etc), and the other I keep clean to photograph later to accompany a story….. And of course I never go anywhere without my little notebook & flip cam!


    Great tips on taking notes when we travel. Picking up local newspaper or some travel information can help you recall the places you visited. Keep ticket stubs, napkins, match books, brochures, post cards, business cards, flyers, and any other print material you collect as you travel. If you are attending a festival like the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival, pickup a catalog because it will list all of the events. It will help you to remember the performances.

    Make sure you get a business card from your travel guides or ask for their contact information. If you forget something, you could always ring him or her to “fill in” the blanks. Photos can help you recollect the way you felt when you came upon that tiny village and how the people embraced you as one of their own.

  • Don

    My parents and grandparents left behind notes taken while traveling. The only aspiring writer, I never take any. Whoops. But while theirs are matter of fact and uninteresting, my impressions never seemed to fit a written page. In the moment, I fool myself into relying on memory. Whoops again. Thank you for the tips. Freed of the structure of complete sentences, I’m sure I can try again, and successfully.

  • Johnny Vagabond

    Very helpful tips — short and to the point!

  • Unanchor

    Great post! I totally agree that recalling how you felt at a particular moment during your trip can help your memory flow…thanks for the post!

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