Whether they’re describing the herbal flavor of tea in the green English countryside or the sweet smell of flowers and fresh fruit from a market in Spain, travel journals are a way to document experiences throughout a trip. They act as a scrapbook of photos, drawings, and stories of past trips. Travel journals serve as a collection of vacations and adventures, as well as feelings and life lessons learned while exploring a new culture. If you are interested in starting a travel journal, here are four steps to get you started and prompts to keep you going.

Step 1: Plan your Journey
Before you leave, use your journal to plan your trip from start to finish. You start with anything from where you want to eat to different sights you plan on visiting. Where are you planning to go? How are you getting there? Map out your journey. What do you want to do once you get there? Use your journal to plot how to get from place to place. Are you taking public transportation? Are you biking?

Writing in a journal can act as a way to organize your thoughts and plan a trip. For avid travel writer Leyla Giray Alyanak, journaling helps her to remember the details of her trip by keeping everything in one place.
“The act of writing … is an act of organization,” Alyanak writes in her blog: Women on the Road. “You have to decide what to keep, what to omit, in which order to tell your story. You get to have all your reference materials in a single place.”

Step 2: Imagine your Trip

Picture your trip. What are you looking forward to? Have you always imagined traveling there? Is there anything you hope to happen during your journey? What are you looking forward to trying? Are there any foods you are excited about? Describe everything you hope to experience throughout the duration of your trip and the new places you want to see.

For Alyanak, journaling is the best way to communicate her thoughts and everything she’s feeling in a specific moment.

“To me there’s something magical about putting pen to paper,” Alyanak writes in her blog. “My thoughts and feelings flow better through my handwriting.”

Step 3: Write During the Day

Take notes and photos of everything you see throughout your day. What did you do? Describe the sights and sounds of each place and draw the architecture of the city you’re visiting. Sketch what inspires you. Did you see anything that you didn’t expect? Stop at a nearby cafe and sketch the scene.

According to travel writer and blogger Janice Waugh, when writing a travel journal, remembering your trip in detail is not as important as describing the trip as a whole.

“When you’re home sharing your travel stories, or perhaps years later when someone asks you for a recommendation, you’ll want to remember some of the details of the day,” Waugh writes in her blog: Solo Traveler. “Capture the details that you think will be important but don’t labor over the mundane.”

Step 4: Reflect

Write every day throughout your vacation and draw sketches of everything you experience and want to remember throughout your trip so you can always look back at what you gained from your new experiences. Is there anything you want to remember in the future when you look back on your trip? Finish writing when you return home and to reflect on your trip as a whole.

According Waugh, journals can be more than just a description of a trip; they can also bring new insights.

“For most, a journal is the place to hold both kinds of memories,” Waugh writes. “You’ll want the details of what you did and where but at the end of a trip, it’s also nice to have a journal rich with the meaning of your travels.”