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Do you return home with a phone full of photos after a hike, camp or paddle? The overused saying that a picture is worth a thousand words might be true, but it is still just a 2D reminder of a good day in nature.

Adventure journals go beyond a flat image, allowing you to record thoughts, feelings, sounds, smells, tastes and textures from the trail. You could also call it an outdoor or explore journal.

My husband and I started a joint adventure journal to document our wilderness honeymoon in Arizona. Over one year later, I still record our adventures in that book. I love flipping through the pages, reading about the time a bear woke us up, how the alpine smelled in the fall, the sound of the wind in the grasslands or when chicks scattered in all directions while a mama grouse clucked and scurried.

An adventure journal is simple to start, easy to keep up, and a valuable memoir of your outdoor adventures, big or small.

photoSylvia Dekker

How to Start

Your adventure journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy: just a plain blank notebook and a pen or a sketchbook and a pencil will do the trick. Dive right in: the only prerequisite to starting an outdoor journal is an adventure, such as a walk, camping trip or other foray into nature.

It can be intimidating to keep up a daily journal on a rigid schedule, but with an adventure journal, you can quickly jot down what you did or what happened to remember special events.

photoSylvia Dekker

What Should I Put in My Journal?

Write, draw and paste in mementos that will bring you back to the place and time of a great adventure. My adventure journal is part naturalist notebook and part travel journal, a combination of words and drawings. Sometimes I add a splash of watercolour to a sketch if I’m in the mood; sometimes we and our hound dog are stick figures. I tape in feathers that would otherwise clutter my desk. Deer hair, maps, diagrams and drawings of us trying to start a fire with a hand drill liven up the pages.

Each page of my journal is different. Sometimes I’m long-winded and descriptive; other times, all I have the time or inspiration for is a quick note about where we went and a few pieces of information from the trip. If I can’t draw something, I will tell future me to ‘check out pics’ so I can look at specific photos while reliving the experience through the words on the page.

photoSylvia Dekker

Why Should I Keep an Adventure Journal?

Having a tangible adventure memory bank is invaluable. It’s easy to forget the little moments of joy you experience in nature—the feelings and experiences you can't capture with your phone or camera. Reading through personal explorations is motivational and uplifting. In a few years, when you forget about watching an owl drift silently overhead, your adventure journal will be there to remind you of past escapes and offer vicarious adventure when you can’t get away.

It’s not hard to start, fill and enjoy an adventure journal for now and the future. Ours has a treasured place on my desk—always within reach—and is a constant inspiration for my life and work.

 

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