(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)
The Traveler's Notebook (formerly known as Midori) is one of those notebooks almost all pen addicts have heard of at some point. Along with Field Notes and Filofax and Hobonichi, it is one of the most beloved notebooks for the handwriting set.
After I gave up on iPhone/iPad-based organizational systems (believe me, I tried them ALL), I decided that my ADD-addled mind needed something simpler. Several years ago, I bought a "fauxdori" from Etsy seller Zenok Leather and Traveler's inserts from JetPens.
But, last year I decided to go with the Hobonichi (see my review here). In a future post, I plan to compare and contrast the two notebooks. But for this review, I am going to focus on the Traveler's Notebook, regular size, in Camel.
The Traveler's Notebook Starter Set ($53.50) arrives in a cardboard envelope with an elastic around it. Inside, the notebook itself is enclosed in a muslin bag. There are instructions about caring for the leather and an extra elastic as well as a blank notebook.
The camel Traveler's Notebook cover is a single piece of leather with no stitching, no inner pockets, and no embellishment other than a stamp on the back cover.
It comes with one elastic, attached with a small round metal piece, to hold notebooks, a string bookmark, and one elastic cover closure.
That's it. The Traveler's Notebook itself is extremely simple.
Things get more complex, however, when you start looking at all the notebook variations and accessories.
The Traveler's Notebook Starter Kit comes with one unlined notebook. Obviously, most people will want more than one notebook. And there are plenty from which to choose:
- No. 001 Lined $5.50
- No. 002 Grid paper $5.50
- No. 003 Blank $5.50
- No. 005 Daily Planner Grid $7.25
- No. 012 Sketch Paper $7.25
- No. 013 Lightweight paper, blank $7.25 This paper is actually white Tomoe River Paper.
- No. 014 Kraft paper $7.25
- No. 017 Monthly Planner $11.00
- No. 018 Weekly Planner $13.00
- No. 019 Weekly Planner with Memo $13.00
If you plan to insert more than two notebooks in your Traveler's Notebook, I highly recommend you buy the set of extra Connecting Bands $5.50. There are ways to use the single elastic to insert at least three notebooks, but it's simpler to use extra bands.
I also recommend getting the Zipper Case $9.00. You can put this under all your notebooks, and it is really handy to have the zipper pocket to hold stickers, tickets, photos, and other flat items.
My Set Up
This is how I've got my Traveler's Notebook set up. Of course, I can rearrange it anytime, and that's one of the advantages of this system. Because each notebook is separate, you can rearrange the order any way you like, and you can add and remove notebooks as your needs change.
Daily Planner. This is a new addition to my old Traveler's Notebook line-up. Each page has a header that you can fill in (so you can start this calendar any time and skip days if you wish) and a grid format you can use however you please. Right now I put the hours of the day down the left side and fill in my schedule, but I may move to a Bullet Journal format at some point.
Weekly Planner with Memo. I actually used this planner the most in my original Traveler's line up. It works well as a daily planner because on one side are the days of the week with enough blank space to write important events. On the opposite side is a grid format where you can list your to dos. I will probably just use this planner and eliminate the Daily Planner, unless I discover I need the extra space in the Daily Planner.
Another thing I really like about the Weekly Planner is that the first four pages allow you to map out all the days in each month so that you get an overview of all the major upcoming events. I really like this because it gives me a bird's-eye view of the entire semester.
Monthly Planner. I usually only look at this calendar at the beginning of each month, so I can move important dates over to my weekly planner. But, it's a nice layout (blank, so you can start on any month you wish) and lots of room to write in events.
Lined Notebook. Last, I keep a lined notebook for any notes I need to keep with me.
Some people decorate their Traveler's Notebook pages with adorable drawings and stamps and washi tape and photographs. Here's what I think my pages should look like:
But here's the reality:
Sure, I wish I were more artistic and had the time to record each day creatively. But that's just not me. I'm a writer, not an artist. So, I record my thoughts, memories, and important events in my Seven Seas Journal without illustrations.
Honestly, there's not a right way to fill out your Traveler's Notebook despite the peer pressure you might feel if you follow artistic Traveler's Notebook users on Instagram. I do tend to decorate my monthly calendar more fully than my daily or weekly calendars, just because I have time at the beginning of each semester to do so.
But, my Traveler's Notebook is primarily my place to write down what I need to do each day to keep up with my schedule. If I add a special quote or a photo or nothing at all, that's okay.
One last thing: the paper. For the most part, the 80gsm paper is great for all kinds of pens, including fountain pens. Even with my wettest pens I didn't experience feathering or bleed through.
However, there's considerable show through, even with ball point pens.
This was especially true on the Monthly Calendar pages I decorated using Ink Joy gel pens. The show through was significant.
Oh, man, do I love accessorizing. In fact, I love that a lot more than organizing and making to do lists. There are all sorts of accessories made for the Traveler's Notebook: a pen holder $14.50, a kraft file folder $7.25, a card file set $7.25, and even a Midori Brass pen $27.00. These are just a few of the Traveler's-branded items you can add to your notebook. You can find many more accessories if you Google "Traveler's Notebook Accessories."
Many people like to add charms to the elastic closure and to the bookmark string to personalize their notebooks.
Stickers, stamps, clips, and washi tape are also items that many people use to decorate their notebooks.
You're not stuck with the Traveler's Notebook brand covers if you want something in different colors or with extras like pockets. I love my Zenok Leather cover from Etsy because it easily allows for four or more notebooks. And I just ordered a ChicSparrow version in blue (a review of that will be forthcoming).
Apps That Do What Paper Can't
Although I've moved my calendar, to-do list, and notes to a paper system, that does not mean I've abandoned all digital organizing. One thing a paper system can't do is ding you with reminders and repeated events. For that, I use an iPhone app called Due. This app is absolutely essential to my life, because it won't stop reminding me about things until I mark them done. I put repeated events in Due, such as when my credit card bill needs to be paid each month, when the dog needs his heart worm meds, when I'm supposed to pick up my daughter, etc. Due won't leave me alone until I get these things done–annoying, but effective!
I also use Fantastical (a calendar app that syncs across my Mac, iPhone, and iPad) for things like doctor's appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. I put these things in my paper calendar too, but it's nice to have repeated events on my iPhone and computer and pop-up reminders about upcoming events.
- The Traveler's Notebook is a terrific option for anyone who wants a paper-based organizational system (or a sketchbook, journal, commonplace book, etc.)
- I prefer the regular-sized notebook to the passport version, simply because, for my purposes, the larger format allows me to include more information and, frankly, it's easier to read.
- I especially like the freedom the Traveler's Notebook offers, in that you can rearrange and add and remove notebooks to suit your needs. This is an advantage over the Hobonichi Notebook which limits you to the layout chosen by the publishers.
- There are so many notebook and accessory options you are bound to find a set up that suits you perfectly.
- While the Traveler's Notebook leather cover is nice, it only comes in a few colors (camel, black, and brown). There was a limited edition blue, but I believe it is sold out. The cover has no stitching or pockets. If you prefer covers with more frills, numerous options are available.
- The paper in the notebooks is good but does exhibit show through.
- I wish the Traveler's Notebook came with more than one elastic to hold notebooks.
- The bookmark string is too thin to be very useful. It would be nice to have a more substantial bookmark with multiple ribbons or strings.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
Enjoy reading The Pen Addict? Then consider becoming a member to receive additional weekly content, giveaways, and discounts in The Pen Addict shop. Plus, you support me and the site directly, which I am very grateful for.
Membership starts at just $5/month, with a discounted annual option available. To find out more about membership click here and join us!