A peek inside my essential travel notebook

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Not surprisingly, Bali was magical in so many different ways. From the views that were more than human eyes can take in, to the traditional healer who all but wiped out years of back pain, to the steady drip of raw and fresh food, we felt so appreciative for each beautiful moment. Many are captured on my Instagram.  Now, we’re focusing on how it all can add up to a better daily experience at home. On the last day it occurred to me that I had been carrying around something that you might be interested in. I still kept organized half a world away, and hope this helps you on your next trip!


The moment a client sent me home with her overflow of brand new Field Notes Memo Books a few months ago, I immediately knew how I would use one: as my Bali journal. For each of my previous Bali trips in the early 2000s, I carried with me a small notebook in which I captured a running tab of all expenses alongside various lists, maps, and notes. I repeated this on my trip in August with great success.  Note that I’m not a notebook-happy person. I use them sparingly, meaning, I don’t have dozens of barely-filled notebooks floating around. If I use one, it is with precise intention.  These travel notebooks don’t just serve the utility of budgeting and note taking, but prove to be lovely, compact keepsakes, helping me to remember highlights of each day. 

If you travel often, I hope you find some of these notebook uses helpful in consolidating all of your bits of information along the way. Read on for examples of why this mini travel notebook helped to keep my head clear each day.


Unless it was in my hands being written in, the notebook was in my backpack’s top pocket. It shared space only with my wallet, phone, and yoga class schedule. The same pen was always attached to my little notebook. Not once did I wonder where I had placed it. 


I LOVE my new Patagonia Black Hole backpack. Keeping faithful to the one-thing-in-one-thing-out rule, I donated my old North Face backpack that I’ve had since the late 1990s. It had already been to Bali three times. It was time to upgrade - and give another inanimate object an adventure of a lifetime.


As a voracious budgeter, I tracked every expense, no matter how small. The parenthesis mark what was charged to a debit card. All other expenses were cash. At the end of the day, I would take a minute to convert and add charges to see our totals for the day. This is something I did the first time I went to Bali when I was 20. Still, about once a year I pull out that notebook and take a vivid trip down memory lane. What seems minuscule and mundane in the moment - the cost of a coconut or meal on the street - sends memories rushing back years later!

Pictured here is also a list I started within the first few days of items I might want to return to purchase:


Nic and I had 3 nights alone at the tail end of the trip after my family left. One afternoon I walked around looking for just the right place to stay, taking notes along the way:


Though we arrived a few days after the 7.0 earthquake on neighboring island of Lombok, we felt a number of aftershocks. Of course I had to list those out as well:


In 2000 I was blessed with the experience of living with a Balinese family for 3 months and learning Indonesian. It’s incredible how the brain remembers words that haven’t been heard or uttered in over 16 years (my last trip was in 2002). Just like I did with my first Bali notebook, I used it as an ongoing dictionary of words both remembered and learned, starting on the back page working in. Most new words are scribbled since I learned them while chatting with our driver on a bumpy road. At night I would continue to look up words and write them here:


One or two small to do lists found their way in too. Also, a few times someone gave me their contact info, a list of places to visit, beautiful hotel recommendations, and more. I passed them my notebook for them to jot the note. Just like how I have only one spiral notebook for all scribbles, work and personal, I love knowing that if I captured it in Bali, it can only be in this one place. Especially while I’m traveling, I don’t want to accumulate notes on various scraps of paper.

I used exactly half of my notebook. I plan on Evernote-ing all pages, as it contains so many resources that I’d like to be able to access anytime, especially if trying to remember details to share with someone who will be traveling there.

How do you keep information straight when you travel? Do you have a particular way you capture details on long trips? Does this give you any ideas for how to better use some blank notebooks at home? Please share in the comments!

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.