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Explore, Capture, and Create: How to Document Your Travels

By Christine Herrin

I’m a graphic designer and hand-letterer who is passionate about paper, stories, and travel. With my latest project, the Everyday Explorers Travel Journal Kit, I hope to encourage you to combine all three to document your life in creative, meaningful ways. To get you started, I’ve even made a fun, downloadable mini-kit.

I fell in love with travel at 15 when I toured Beijing. My high-school history class had just talked about China’s great Forbidden City, and we had to learn a lot of details: the emperors who ruled, the contributions to Chinese history, and even the fact that many design details had to be in multiples of nine (nine dragons on the roof, nine seals on the door, etc.) I stood in front of the massive palace with my history notes, scribbling observations. I still remember the feeling of hearing a story, then seeing the actual, physical place where it all happened.

A few years later, I became a history major. (No surprise, right?) As I continued to travel, my history focus prompted me to seek out unusual details: Hmm, their subway stops have interesting names. What are they named after? Who are they named after? Why?

Then I became a designer, and my questions incorporated visual elements: Hmm, their subway stops are decorated so differently — what does it say about this part of the city? Why those colors? And what font is that?

My designer side loves observing ads plastered on walls. This wall in Paris, with its simple, graphic ads, gives me a feel for the local design flavor.

EXPLORE, CAPTURE, CREATE

Most of the time, I travel to create. A change of scenery is usually the quickest way to bring new ideas and perspectives into my work — and sometimes, being on a 14-hour flight without Internet is the only way I can get things done. My key to unlocking creativity while traveling is to truly explore: To note what jumps out to me because it’s different, and to open my eyes to the ordinary and see how it fits in its environment. 

Always check out bookstores and grocery stores. I spotted this shelf in Kyoto two years ago. It tells me how important paper and stationery is to Japanese culture — important enough to have magazines and books on the topic!

Then, I capture. I try to distill the most memorable details. In the past, I was an avid collector of physical artifacts — tickets, brochures, postcards — and I'd journal about funny situations, experiences, and the people I encountered along the way. Nowadays, it’s usually what I can capture on the go: iPhone snaps of places, the reluctant selfie of me smiling by a mural to prove I was there, a quick note of places to check out next time. However brief, the simple act of capturing keeps me on my toes as I explore.

I haven’t abandoned collecting physical artifacts — this is just half of the things collected from a 12-hour stopover in Seoul. The strip of instructions that came with my inflight meal is a favorite; what a great introduction to Korean culture!

I bring this all together as I create something to remember the trip by. If I had my way (and all the time in the world), each trip would have an elaborate scrapbook filled with every detail and story. Instead, it’s usually a page of mementos I collected, with the occasional scribble here and there. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the physical act of creating something makes the captured memory more real. 

A spread from a scrapbook of bits and pieces from a Tokyo trip a few years ago. I saved the little flyer given to me as I checked into my hostel with instructions on how to find my bunk in the shared dorm. Love looking back on these!

START DOCUMENTING!

I know I’m not the only one who struggles to find time to keep a record of their travels. A main focus of my Adobe Creative Residency has been to make it much easier (and fun!) for people to document stories. My solution is an all-in-one kit for exploring — a box for the things you’ve collected along the way, and prompts, journals, and postcards inside the box that are easy to fill out as you go through your days. The important thing is that you document in the moment. (You can read more about the process of producing the kit here and purchase one here.)

Left: The Everyday Explorers Travel Journal Kit. Right: A peek at what’s inside the kit — everything you need to get started on documenting your everyday adventures!

You don’t have to wait for the full kit — or a major vacation — to begin making memories. Download my free zine and fill it up with things you’ve noticed: people you meet, places you stop by, what you’re grateful for. Use it for a day around your own neighborhood. Then, when you’re on a trip this year, I challenge you to fill it up again — this time documenting your everyday in a foreign city. Share what you make by using the #myeverydayexplorers hashtag, and happy exploring!

Download the PDF and instructions on folding it into your own mini-zine.