A Kauai Travel Journal (& Journey)


I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but have been busy with a variety of other projects – many of them “on paper” things.  Journaling, photography, studying, sketching, painting, and even taking an online art class.   The fruits of my labor have just not made it into the blog … yet.  For today, I’ve decided to go back to a project that began in September – which I posted about, very briefly, in my vintage/modern travel journal post.  (If nothing else, if your weather is wintery-cold and snowy like our is at the moment, it’s nice to remember sun, warmth, and sandy beaches).


Inspired by a wonderful travel journal and scrapbook put together by Melissa at Bursts of Creativity, I loved the idea of using this format for a trip we took in October and November (2013) to the beautiful island of Kauai.  The book was not only unique in construction, but was portable, expandable, and able to accommodate a variety of elements that I was interested in incorporating – from journal entries to photos to sketches and the typical collection of paper “stuff” (tickets, menus, brochures, etc.) that one always collects while wandering about new places.  Attached to the rings are souvenir key fobs, a landmark medallion, and a little cloth bag filled with shells.   As you can see, I think I filled my poor little book to the point of being a bit over-stuffed – but I rather like it this way.

a couple of on-the-go watercolor sketches and some vintage book pages

a couple of on-the-go watercolor sketches and some vintage book pages

underwater photo and vintage maps

underwater photo and vintage maps, journaling on a tag insert

Kauai Coffee: my photo and a brochure from the plantation

Kauai Coffee: my photo and a brochure from the plantation

Before we left, I de-constructed a vintage book of Hawaiian stories that I had found on-the-cheap in a local antique mall.  I partially filled the book with pages to journal and record on – a collection of saved illustrations from the original book, watercolor papers, writing paper, a couple of envelopes,  as well as some vintage Hawaiian postcards and ephemera I had purchased through Melissa’s Etsy shop.  But I saved plenty of room to “page-in” the many things I would collect and create while on my trip (the photos, brochures, menus, stickers, postcards, other sketches, etc.).

another on-the-go quick watercolor

another on-the-go quick watercolor

travel map, stickers and some notes

travel map, stickers and some notes

another quick watercolor, along the beach

another quick watercolor, along the beach

I took along a pretty simple tool-kit:  pencil, a drawing pen, a small watercolor palette and waterbrush, 2 rolls of washi tape, a hole punch, a glue stick and a tape runner.  I also took along a small-format block of watercolor paper; I found it easier to sketch/paint on the block and insert the pages later.  While I didn’t have any of my photos printed during the trip, it was easy to print them at home and insert them throughout the journal accompanied by travel notes I had kept on blank pages.

vintage postcards - with some space for journaling on the back

vintage postcards – with some space for journaling on the back

photo spread inserted upon return, with margin notes made while traveling

photo spread inserted upon return, with margin notes made while traveling

another photo-spread with notes

another photo-spread with notes

inside back cover lined with page from original book

inside back cover lined with a Glossary page from the original book

I also mailed a couple of postcards to myself during the trip – which was a nice way to write about what I was doing at a particular moment, where I was, what I saw.  Back at home, these postmarked and dated postcards were hole-punched and inserted into my little book – kind of an un-journal journal entry.

I loved being able to create this book quickly and easily while we travelled, filling it to brim.  It allowed me to enjoy all of the experiences of our trip with a minimal amount of time spent creating the journal.  It’s a great and flexible format for a variety of media – photos to written work to sketches – and I didn’t have to deal with a huge pile of collected brochures, tickets and papers when I got home.  I love the mix of vintage and present day in my little book.  But most of all, every time I pull it off the shelf I remember where I was when I was putting each page together … the sun, the ocean, the flowers and the beautiful island of Kauai.


one of the most beautiful places in the world to reflect and record memories of travel … Kauai





diaries & connections to the past


I have been thinking a lot about diaries – especially the old, hand-written ones.  In our local news, there have been several recent articles about a Civil War diary that is being examined by local historians.  It chronicles the daily life and struggles of a young Union soldier as he passed through this area.  The story is fascinating, but for me it is even more remarkable to look at the images of those pages … his handwriting on the old paper, the scribbles in the margins, the entire personal image that is captured not only by his words transcribed, but by the physical pages themselves.

It made me contemplate my own journaling and diary-keeping.  The mark of my pen, the paper and the books I choose to write in, the ink, my penmanship.  While I know there are many distinct advantages to maintaining a digital record – and there are a variety of digital diary applications available (Day One being my favorite, and one that I sometimes use), not to mention blogging, etc. –  none of it compares to an individual’s handwriting on paper.  Call me sentimental, I guess.

Yes, the ink may fade, the paper may deteriorate, the diary itself may be destroyed or go missing; it is not a match for the “safety” of the digital record. But somehow it may be this fragility that makes it so very special.


Over the past year I have enjoyed reading the book “New York Diaries: 1609 to 2009” as compiled by Teresa Carpenter.  It is a fascinating read, day by day throughout the course of a calendar year, but not chronologically by year.  In other words, the entry or entries for September 23 may be from the year 1701 or 1992.   It gathers entries for each day, but jumps from era to era – which lends to an insightful contrast between times and cultural changes.

Yet as much as I enjoy reading the book, and think it is a most worthy endeavor to preserve those words in a format that can be universally shared, I can’t help but want to see the physical pages themselves.  The ink, the smudges, the penmanship, the notebooks themselves.


Which brings me to the diary of my great-grandmother.  She wrote in this small, partially-filled volume while making a trans-atlantic voyage from her new home in the U.S. to her birthplace and childhood home in Wales in the spring and summer of 1938.  It was an ocean voyage, and she was particularly interested in keeping notes about the meals on the ship, who they dined with, etc.  Her stay in Wales records the towns and places visited, the friends and family she stayed with, often trivial-seeming details which are so rich to me today.  I am also fascinated by the language and phrases she would use in her descriptions; slightly formal and very proper at times, informal at other times.

One of my sons has also read through many of the pages, looking on maps for the towns she mentioned.  Googling for images of chapels and places she visited.

But to see her handwriting and to be able to touch the pages she touched … it is a treasured connection that I get to make with her, a woman I never knew but wish I could have – my great-grandmother.  No digital or otherwise transcribed version could ever be the same to me.

And so I keep my own handwritten journals, diaries, notebooks … in hope that someday one of my own descendants will find the same fascination with touching the same pages I put my hand to.  To make the connection.