Travel Journal Guilt . . .

durangotraveljournalJust the other day, I was talking to a dear friend (Hi, Ann!) about the fact that she has boxes of “stuff” from our last couple of journaling adventures and she feels frustrated that she hasn’t gotten those books all done.

I bet you know that feeling.

I sure do.

At our Santa Fe Retreats, we have an abundance of studio time and students do get lots of pages “all done”, but there is always more input of visual treasure than there is time – especially around here.

The truth is that I only know about three people who go off on an adventure and come home with a finished travel journal. These are either people who choose just a few subjects and sketch and paint on site, or people who stay up until midnight in their hotel rooms to finish each day’s pages.

I faced up to the fact a long time ago that I am neither of these.

I have this thing abut being comfortable when making art. Baking sun, wind blowing my hair in my eyes, passers-by interrupting with questions and comments, carrying a camp stool or sitting on a rock, rain, cold – ALL of these do not make me comfortable.

So I have long depended on my camera for back-up – to take scenes back home with me, but there was the hassle of editing photos and printing them, in order to work from them.

The iPad came along and changed all that with its great camera and BIG viewing screen. I don’t have to edit or print unless I want to put an actual photo or a Sheer Heaven transfer in my book.

I can work from my reference photos right on my iPad, and even zoom in to see every tiny detail.

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know that I have come up with many “best” journaling kits for travel – always looking for the next improvement.

But no matter how good those kits get, I have finally understood a basic truth about myself.

I love making art at home. Even my travel journal art.

I enjoy reliving the adventures this way so much more than rushing on site or in a motel room that I am only in for a night (my travel style for road trips.)

I have ALL my supplies around at home – no matter what new expressive idea I might want to explore. I have EVERY color of ALL my media.

Working this way allows my actual travel time to be full of experiencing the place – rather than shutting myself up indoors – a prisoner of my pages.

I still sketch on site and in coffee shops and restaurants – but the point is, I can do that in a relaxed manner because I don’t have to FINISH anything.

santarosaamarillotraveljournalAnd I can use artistic license to condense the parts of an experience into a single whole that says it all.

Although I took photos from the car along the route shown above (the VERY boring Texas Panhandle on I-40), and even pulled over for quick & dirty reminder sketches along the roadside, the actual spread was done after I got home – where I could print out a map, sketch ALL the roadside architecture in one place, and figure out a cool way to indicate the constant wind.

My travel journals now have three parts, and each part is big fun.

Anticipation is always the best part of any trip, so the planning is great.

The actual trip is also great because I can take it all in and don’t have to pass up a bunch of adventures so I can complete a painting of one.

And then, the replay - after I get home, I have the adventure all over again as I interpret it in my visual journal.

scottsdaletraveljournalWhen I wrote my Travel Journal Workshop a couple years ago. I had all this in it.

But, for some reason, I kept trying to change my habits so I could be one of those urban sketcher types.

I even recently organized a group to meet for journaling at a local bakery. I didn’t finish any pages while at the bakery and found myself taking lots more time back at home to “over[produce” my sketches – as I am prone to do.

And that’s when the truth finally hit home. It’s ok to “travel” at home.

michiganeurekatraveljournalI am still working on this trip- a road trip to and from Michigan in 2008. Each leg of the journey has its own volume, and I love revisiting all the memories.

SO, if you are frustrated by all the unfinished books around you, don’t be.

I am not the “Queen” of any of this or anything, but I give you permission to let all that go.

See those unfinished books as a luscious, creative, playground that can keep you “traveling” for a long time after you return home.


This is the season for travel, and so it is a good time for me to offer a SALE on this wonderful workshop, which is a complete guide to journaling this way. I have taken $15 off the regular price, making it only $50 for the rest of the month of July.

Use It to plan a trip, take a trip, and take the trip again when you get back – it is chock full of great tips to triple your fun!



5 thoughts on “Travel Journal Guilt . . .

  1. Ann Cumbie

    You accomplished one thing. . .guilt reduction and a desire to revisit my boxes of “stuff”. LOL And another thing. . . I must try again to enjoy a road trip. I know that is how you travel and you seem to enjoy it so much. Even though I cannot (or at least think, I can’t) drive to New Mexico, I could make a short trip in Tennessee. . . maybe the Smokey Mountains. Considering the amount of “stuff” I took to AZ on a plane, imagine what I can pack into my vehicle. LOL

  2. Diana in Texas

    Thanks for sharing Jessica. If it’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 6 years or so from you is that “everyone is different.” We accomplish our art in our very own special way. Thanks for the awakening. At first it was hard to not feel quilty when I could not accomplish a task the same way another did. Bummer. No strokes there. Now I just appreciate the journey, “whenever, wherever and however it takes me.” Love your travel journals. They’re inspiring.

  3. CC

    Jessica, this is great! I’ve been thinking the same thing. Since becoming ill, I haven’t been able to travel. But I have a goal of getting well someday & going back to Italy! I’ve decided to start a journal of inspiration to help me with my intention! Things from my last trip, things I want to see again, people to meet up with, etc. Then, when I get well & can go, I’ll have all the pertinent info I need! Whoot! Great post! ♥

  4. GillM

    Words of wisdom as always Jessica. I always spend time finishing my travel journals when I get home – it prolongs the joy of the trip.
    Sometimes, especially when a trip is short, there is just not the time to capture everything.

    I would love to be able to feature this article on the Travel and Art website (obviously with a link back to the offer) – would you be happy for me to do so?

  5. Christine Newman Aumiller

    Thanks so much for the permission to forgive ourselves. We need daily reminders that we are never really ‘finished.’

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