How to Keep an Epic Expedition Journal

Posted by: Katherine Boehrer on 4/27/16 9:15 AM

Journaling can be a great way to remember your trip into the wilderness and reflect after a long day outside. Not to mention that writing daily has numerous benefits that are great for any expedition, from improving your communication skills and emotional intelligence to helping you achieve your goals. But keeping a trip journal can be difficult!

Here are a few tips to keep you on track:

Dedicate yourself.

It can be hard to make time to keep a journal! Try to set aside time for yourself every day, or make plans with your group for a daily time to write and reflect.

Write a few prompts before your trip.

It can be hard to decide what to write about, so you may want to write some prompts for yourself before you head out. Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • Imagine how the place you are in may have been different for past explorers.
  • Tell the story of your day as if you were writing to a friend or family member.
  • Close your eyes for one minute, then try to guess which things made all of the sounds you heard.

Include drawings.

Nature Sketch Drawing by PBooty.

Multimedia is where it’s at! Plus, sitting down to draw, regardless of your skill level, can help you take time to enjoy your surroundings and appreciate the moment. Give it a shot!

Write creatively.

Instead of just writing down exactly what you did that day, where you went, who annoyed you, etc., try a more creative form of writing. This could include writing a poem, a list, or a short piece of fiction inspired by the day's events. Perhaps you met a few folks on the trail who could be characters in your next short story!

Writing in Alaska Photo by Tracy Baynes.

Be detailed.

You don’t want your journal to be full of the word “beautiful” for each new campsite—write down the colors you saw, the sounds you heard, and the aromas you smelled. Don’t forget to include your day's high points, low points, distances you traveled, elevations you reached, and the interesting people you met.

Keep track of things you want to remember.

Snail and Praying Mantis Photo by Ashraf.

Was your pizza recipe from last night spot on? Is there a piece of gear you want to make sure you pack next time? Make notes so you don’t forget what you learned as your expedition progresses.

Explore the world around you!

Use your journal to keep track of wildflowers you see, animals you encounter, or interesting natural history facts you learn.

Reflect on feedback or learning experiences.

A journal can be a great spot to take some time to learn from the day's events and to plan for the future.

Waterproof your journal.

Whitewater Rapid Photo by Brad Christensen.

Don’t let your hard work go to waste! Either buy a water resistant notebook (like this one from the NOLS Store) or store it in a ziplock bag.

When you’re done, you can share your stories with us! Submit your pieces to blog@nols.edu. If photos are more your thing, consider donating them or tagging us on Instagram @nolsedu.

Katherine is an Alaska Backpacking graduate and the NOLS Social Media Coordinator. When she’s offline she enjoys running, backpacking, hiking, and cooking.