(Sarah Read is an author, editor, yarn artist, and pen/paper/ink addict. You can find more about her at her website and on Twitter. And check out her first novel, The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, now available where books are sold!)
I've been on the road a lot lately, and in the sky, on the water, and even on the train tracks. And that means, so have my pens and papers. Where I go, they go, and I've been on the move! It's taught me a lot about how I, personally, travel with stationery, so I've decided to share my top ten pen travel takeaways. YMMV, of course, in both the literal and metaphorical sense.
1: My magic number of pens is seven. Three fountain pens, a rollerball, a ballpoint, a pocket pen, and a multi-gel pen. This meets every need I might have for a solid week. Now I just need to remember this and stop overpacking my pens.
2: On airplanes, it occurred to me that those fountain pens I had carefully filled and stored upright were now sideways as I slid my backpack under the seat in front of mine. There was no avoiding it. But I did not have even a tiny leak on any of the eight flights I've recently taken. However, one pen friend I spoke with on my travels DID have a small inksplosion in her bag. I asked her if her pen was completely full or only half full, and she said it was half full. So perhaps therein lies a clue. Or possibly I just got lucky.
3: Holy cats, I do not need that much paper. I fill paper quickly, but wow. I brought too much every time. I really don't need more than 150 pages, even for a trip devoted to writing. Someone please remind me of this before my next trip. Paper is heavy.
4: A small bag is better. I know. I love big bags! They hold the most books! But that's the problem. Big bags are heavy and too easy to overstuff. They can become a burden when you're running around. I downsized to a smaller backpack for my most recent trip and it was such a relief.
5: On that note, it's okay to check a bag on a plane. I bet most of you already knew that, but it was news to me. I hate checking bags (to be fair, I do have the lost bag curse), so I have always made do with strategic carry-on packing. But on one of my trips this month, I had no choice but to check a bag (yes, one of the reasons was BOOKS), and... it was so freeing. I felt so light. It was so nice to not carry stuff! I'll be checking a bag again on my next flight.
6: I guess I'll bring some tech sometimes, too. I don't usually travel with any tech other than my ancient phone, but I did bring both my laptop and kindle on one of my trips and I guess it wasn't the worst. Maybe I'll do it again.
7: Ink choice is more important than pen choice. Pretty much all of my travels had a business element to them, so it was important that not all of my inks were shimmery or neon green. Just some of them. I made sure I brought a big pen loaded with plain old blue, too.
8: Nib variety is important, though. I brought a fine, medium, and broad. Fine for notetaking. Medium for writing/drafting, broad for signing books. It was a great setup! And since I had the rollerball, ballpoint, and gel pens also handy, they could tackle any weird paper situations.
9: Have that practical selection of pens in a good case, with a workhorse pen or two in a more accessible spot. I had a Schon Designs pocket pen as my handiest pen, usually in a pocket, or in the outer pocket of my bag when my outfit was pocketless (why there are even pocketless outfits is beyond me). The result of which is that I used that pen 90% of the time, because it was easy. But when I sat down and spread out my kit to work, I'd dig into my pen case and pull out the whole family. The case kept them safe when I wasn't using them, but they were there when I needed them.
10: Bring tools you're excited to use. Practicality is best when traveling, but we love our stationery because it's FUN. Be sure to bring some vacation pens even if it's a work trip. You never know when you might have a moment to jot a poem in some sparkle ink.
My travels aren't over. Next up is a family trip which will involve me flying alone with my kids and will require the utmost in minimalist packing. Then after that is a road trip to a week-long work seminar, which means I can bring all the pens and paper. Or I could follow my own advice. We'll see.