Six Months with a Traveler’s Notebook

After spending ten years longing for a Traveler’s Notebook, I finally bought one to use as a travel journal. I’ve now had my TN for more than six months, and I love it so much you’ll have to forgive me as I gush all about it right here.

Ten years is a long time to resist a notebook’s siren song, but remember that back in the bad ol’ days before everyone decided analogue was cool, Traveler’s Notebooks were hard to find and expensive to import. At the time, I couldn’t justify spending so much on something I wasn’t even sure I would like. But things are different today: Traveler’s Notebooks are damn near everywhere, including Amazon, where they’re finally available at a reasonable price. An entire cottage industry of knock-off (aka fauxdori) notebooks has sprung into existence, and companies are churning out refills and accessories by the dozens.

But why buy a Traveler’s Notebook now, especially when I already have a Hobonichi Techo that I also love? Well, I had trips coming up, I wanted to start keeping a dedicated travel journal, and after trying to use my Hobonichi for that purpose I found that its page-a-day format was too small for the journaling I had in mind.

So far, I’ve carried my TN with me on several weekend motorcycle trips and a three-week trip to Europe. It’s certainly not the pristine brown it was on the day it arrived.

Motorcycle travel is hard on your belongings. Staying clean and dry is tricky enough, even in decent weather, but it’s the constant vibration that’s the real troublemaker. On my first trip with my TN, I threw it into one of the aluminum panniers on my touring bike before I left, and by the time I reached camp, spots of silvery aluminum had rubbed into the leather from the side of the pannier.

The silver spots have faded with time, but they remind me of that ride whenever I see them.

Right after my new TN arrived, I modified it to move the knot for the elastic closure from the middle of the back cover to the spine. This makes the notebook smoother to write on since there’s no longer a bumpy knot underneath the paper.

I also added a second elastic strap in the spine so I could carry an additional insert and a pair of kraft folders that I bought on AliExpress.com.

The first kraft folder has a pocket with a string-and-button closure. I use it to keep stamps, ticket stubs, receipts, and other ephemera that I want to save during my journeys.

Next is a regular Traveler’s Company insert where I do my travel journaling. I’m not a huge fan of blank paper but I’m using this insert since it came with the notebook. Once it’s full, I plan to switch to a grid insert.

Here are a few pages from some of my travels this summer.

When I went to Europe this summer, I used my TN to hold my boarding passes, itinerary, and some sightseeing guides I put together before I left. Now I understand why the regular notebook is sized the way it is — boarding passes fit perfectly, you can fold US letter (8.5″ x 11″) sheets in thirds and they’ll fit nicely, and the notebook fits on those teeny-tiny airplane tables.

In addition to my travels, I also take my TN with me when I go to pen gatherings. I use it to record the various pens and inks I’ve gotten to try. I’m pleased to report that the paper in the regular Traveler’s Company insert is very good. It’s fountain pen friendly, and it also works well with gel and rollerball pens. It’s not Tomoe River paper, but it’s perfect for travel journaling, which requires a sturdier paper for pasting in photos and other items while withstanding the rigors of the road and the occasional gas station ballpoint.

The back flap of the kraft folder has a simple pocket where I keep business cards and other random papers.

Now we’ve reached the middle of the notebook.

The back half of the notebook is much like the first, with another kraft folder sandwiching a second Traveler’s Company insert. But this time, the insert is the lightweight version instead of the regular.

The lightweight Traveler’s Company insert has twice the pages of the regular. The paper is similar to Tomoe River paper, but not the same. Using a fountain pen doesn’t result in the same amazing sheen effects. It’s still nice paper to write on, and I use this insert to draft longer pieces of writing. I’d love it if Traveler’s Company made a ruled version of this insert. When this one runs out, I’ll probably replace it with a ruled Tomoe River insert from Goulet Pens.

And that’s the beauty of the Traveler’s Notebook — you can put yours together however you want. I’ve seen slim TNs with only one insert and TNs stuffed to overflowing. If you can think of a paper and ruling combination, someone’s probably making an insert with it, and if not, it’s not horribly difficult to make an insert yourself. The original Traveler’s Company notebooks only come in the regular (110mm x 210mm) and passport (89mm x 122mm) sizes in a limited number of colors, but there are plenty of fauxdoris out there sized anywhere from A7 to A4, in all colors of the rainbow.

Why didn’t I buy a fauxdori myself, as a budget-conscious stationery nerd? To be honest, I didn’t want to take a chance on iffy quality leather. I was able to hold a friend’s Traveler’s Company notebook in my hands before I bought one, so I knew exactly what I’d be getting. I ended up paying $32 for mine on Amazon, which is not much more than a fauxdori would cost. As with all purchases, your personal budgetary comfort will vary.

This notebook is one of those rare stationery purchases where I’m truly thrilled by how it turned out. I now feel weird when I don’t have my TN with me when I’m out and about, like I’m missing something important. I’m so looking forward to having this notebook with me for many years to come.

This Traveler’s Company Traveler’s Notebook was paid for with my own funds. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.

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3 thoughts on “Six Months with a Traveler’s Notebook

  1. Julie Paradise October 25, 2017 / 1:09 pm

    Thank you for this really enthusiastic (re-?)review and showing the setup of your MTN.

    It might seem hard to explain why this little leather thingy is so great, but I also enjoy using mine every single day. I am a bit ashamed to admit I have quite a little family here, 2 original MTNs, 1 in Passport size and 2 DIY-doris I made out of the X17 Mindpaper leather folders (A8, A7 and A5) to hold DIN-sized papers with the original Repair Kit elastic bands. These have also great leather.

    What I love so much about these is that while the leather cover stays the same and ages beautifully the inserts are customizable and change according to my needs. Lovelovelove it! I did not resist as long as you did, my first standard MTN was bought in 2007 and it still is the one I reach for many times a day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. independentclause October 25, 2017 / 3:09 pm

    I finally broke and got a fauxdori, at approximately A5. My love affair has been much shorter than yours, but it is my security blanket (we are downright codependent). Right now I have a planner and two notebooks. It used to be that I needed a notebook for teaching and one for writing, but now I just need one. Then I have a card slot/zipper pocket one for various and sundries. And lord do I have various and sundries.

    There is a tiny bit of dog drool on mine. Little Man fell asleep on it when both were in bed and I find it pretty cute, even though my spouse teases me. Whatever. He carefully carried the ashes of Kitty in an earthenware jar to our new home, so he’s just a big a sucker as me.

    And I think the aluminum marks are awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. monica whaley November 25, 2017 / 4:12 pm

    I resisted the MTN rabbit hole for a few years; I knew is be obsessed. I want wrong! I absolutely LOVE these. Such a simple idea, but people are so creative, the possibilities are endless. I only use the one I made at the moment, but I plan to add more. I cannot say enough about these. Welcome to the torture. Lol.

    Like

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