I think I’ve gotten lost in every new city I’ve visited. The second I stepped off the train… lost. I thought I was being pretty clever because I would write down directions from the train station to the hostel. But I only had written directions — “exit the train station and go right. Turn left at Nieduzvauke Street, walk for two blocks and take the second right at Bruksvientuiggle Road.” I quickly realized that streets are not labeled very well and European cities are much more confusing to navigate. Wandering the streets with a heavy backpack is not enjoyable. Written directions weren’t working so I then started trying to draw my own maps. That helped a little, but I still got lost plenty of times.
Three weeks of constantly getting lost taught me that I needed a map. So for my next trip I decided to make a detailed guide (complete with map) to help get me to my hostel. The guide created not only contained directions but it also contained places to visit, restaurants, important numbers, etc. This guide will give you some idea on how to make your own personal travel guide. And as a bonus, this serves as an amazing souvenir — I still like going back through my notebook to remind me of the things I did.
I chose a small Moleskine notebook because I am pretentious, and it makes me feel cool. But, I also like the size and the sturdy cover. The small size is nice because it is inconspicuous (it doesn’t scream “Hey, I am a tourist!”), and you can easily throw it in a small bag. I got my Moleskine notebook on Amazon as they always seem to have the best prices and selection.
Whenever I needed a map (e.g. from the train station to my hostel) I would use GoogleMaps. First, I would create a custom sized page in MS Word that was slightly smaller than a page in my notebook. I would copy the map and paste it into Word. I would also copy the text directions that the hostel supplied and past that into the Word doc. I would then print it.Update: The good people over at Moleskine have taken the hard work out of printing your own custom pages. They have page templates for all journal sizes available for a free download on their website. Check it out!
I used a glue-stick to glue the maps into the journal. Be careful because it is super easy to glue the pages together. Next time I am going to print onto sticker paper and just stick the pages into the journal.
On the opposite side of the page I would write all the important information about the hostel or desired location.
- Phone Number
- Reservation Number
- Total Cost of Reservation
- Any Other Helpful Information
Other Good Stuff To Put In Your Journal
Credit Card Company Phone Number: If your cards get stolen you’ll want your bank’s number so you can report the loss.
Embassy Phone Number: You’ll never know when you might need to call your embassy.
Airline Confirmation Numbers: RyanAir can sometimes be real sticklers about supplying a confirmation code at check-in.
Interesting Thing to See: Search guidebooks and online guides for things you really want to see. Write down the location/price/directions/other info. This will save you from the burden of having to lug around a bulky guidebook all day.
Expenses: Keep track of your expenses in your notebook. It is easy to lose track of how much you’re spending and writing it down helps you stay on budget.
Names & Numbers: This isn’t such a big deal anymore because almost everyone and their mom is on facebook, but it is a good idea to get your new friend’s name. Add them as friends once you’re back home.
Interesting Things You Learn Along The Way: You’re bound to hear of a cool pub or an interesting book from the people you’ll meet. A notebook is a perfect place to jot those things down.
Journal: Of course you can write about your travels. It is amazing how quickly you forget about all the things you did. Keep things like ticket stubs or menus to make things interesting.
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