Nomad Life,  Travel Diary

How to Make a Travel Junk Journal

Keeping a journal is one of the best way to retain memories of a place and time in your life. A travel journal is even more special because it’s focused on a totally unique point in your life: your journey across the world!

A travel journal doesn’t have to be a big undertaking. Gluing some photos and writing a few sentences about what you did that day doesn’t take up too much time, and it’s so fun to look back and see what you were doing on your travels.

Even if you’re not a writer, you can still keep a travel journal. A travel “junk journal” is super easy to make, and you can incorporate different paper ephemera you pick up during your trip.

Here’s two of my travel junk journal pages, for example:

Example page of a travel junk journal with various ephemera like photos, tickets, and notes.
Another example page of a travel junk journal, featuring colorful stickers and handwritten notes.

This type of junk journal is called a “gluebook,” because you’re literally just gluing down bits into a notebook. If you add in paint, markers, or other non-paper elements, it becomes an “art journal.” Pretty cool, eh?

This post is for those who are interested in making travel junk journals. I’ll go over specifically what materials I use and what I recommend, and how to put together journal pages.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and buy something, I get a small percentage of that at no extra cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.

Travel Junk Journal Supplies

What notebook to use?

I recommend using something with a soft binding. Even though I adore Moleskine hardcover notebooks for note-taking and writing in general, they bulk up when used for junk journal style pages and become impossible to carry around. A soft binding gives you slightly more flexibility for that.

I also recommend a small-sized notebook with maybe 30 pages or less. Some people use one notebook per trip or city, which I think is a great idea.

Traveler’s Notebook brown leather cover on the left and a notebook insert on the right.
Traveler’s Notebook cover (left) with removable insert (right).

My favorites are the Midori Traveler’s Notebooks, because you can swap out the inserts when they get full and continue to use the cover. If you’re traveling for a long time, like I am, that means you only have to carry around the notebook you’re currently working on and can send the full one home. Less weight and less stuff to carry is always good!

🍡 Going to Japan? Wait to get your Traveler’s Notebook until you can visit one of the Factory stores! They make great souvenirs!

They have two sizes of notebooks: Regular and Passport. Regular size is great if you want to do a lot of writing as well as junk journaling. Passport size is perfect for making tiny travel gluebooks!

Field Notes has small notebooks in pocket-size as well, and the covers hold up to being carried around in a bag. You won’t have the reusable cover to stick them in, but they’re a good option if you just want something basic.

Gluesticks galore

Gluesticks over wet glue, always, except if you’re trying to glue down something unwieldy. Nearly any gluestick will do, but Elmer’s Wrinkle-Free glue is strong and doesn’t cost a lot.

Scissors or nah?

Some people just (carefully) rip images out and glue them down that way, and that works if you really want to limit how much you’re carrying around (or don’t want to chance your scissors being taken away by airport security). I like doing fussy cut though, so I buy a pair of scissors whenever I land somewhere and know I won’t be taking a plane for a while.

Small pair of MUJI scissors with a cover over the blades.
Recommended MUJI scissors

My favorite are these small MUJI scissors with a cover over the the blades. They’re sharp and small, so they’re great for travel!

Travel ephemera

My favorite part of junk journals and the most fun to collect! During your travels, save maps, pamphlets, tickets, flyers, stickers, whatever you find interesting and think would look good on a travel journal spread.

Some things I’ve collected and used in my own travel junk journals:

  • Soda bottle wrappers (especially ones with non-English text)
  • Business cards
  • Stickers from fruit and food packaging
  • Receipts, especially ones with handwriting
  • Brochures and pamphlets from tourist things I did
  • Train tickets
  • Cute stationery and stickers
  • Paper coasters (if they’re not too thick)
  • Tea tags and wrappers
  • Maps!
  • Eki stamps (I stamp them onto a separate piece of paper and then glue that in)
Travel junk journal page made with pamphlet clippings, receipts, maps, tickets, and other travel memorabilia.
Travel junk journal page made with pamphlet clippings, receipts, maps, tickets, etc.

I keep a folder in my suitcase where I stash my collection of ephemera until I use it in a journal. Keeps things from being bent while traveling around.

How to Make a Travel Junk Journal Page

Okay, time to get creating! There’s no wrong way to do this– except not starting at all, because that means no journal!

I like to do my pages in a couple different ways. The easiest is to group items by date. So I’ll make one page all about what I did on a specific day, and group items together that I gathered on that specific day.

Travel journal page dedicated to a visit to see "Phantom of the Opera" in Tokyo.
Travel journal page for when I saw Phantom of the Opera in Tokyo!

Another way is to do it by location. So if I spent a month in Tokyo, for instance, I’ll group everything I got in Tokyo and put it together without worrying to much about what happened when.

Or perhaps do it by color! Without even worrying about separating out country, date, or whatever! This is a super fun way to do it, and it’s so freeing to just match up ephemera by tones. Here’s an example of what I mean:

Blue-themed journal page with various blue-toned ephemera, including a Pocari Sweat drink label.
Blue-themed journal page
Orange-themed journal page with various orange-toned ephemera, including a Del Monte banana fruit label.
Orange-themed journal page

Let me know if you make your own travel junk journal! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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