Using a Traveler’s Notebook as a Bullet Journal (and more) – first impressions

Collage Traveler's Notebook closed and open

The new Traveler’s Notebook in black – already customized 🙂

As I stated in my last post regarding my February update, I bought a Traveler’s Notebook to use as my new main Bullet Journal and Notebook system. There are two main reasons for doing so.

For one, it’s a question of size and format. While I absolutely love my Dingbats Bullet Journal in regards to paper quality, design, and handling I find the width of 16 cm a bit too much – though this is a standard format for notebooks and suits most users just fine. I like notebooks that are a bit smaller, but since the Dingbats checked all my other boxes, I didn’t bother any further – until I found the Traveler’s Notebook on Instagram.
The other reason I wanted to switch notebook systems has to do with how I use my bullet journal. I will go into detail further below. 

After fuzzing about it for several days and discussing the issue with Wonderguy, I gave in. Because of my low buy challenge, I didn’t want to act like spending 65 € on a notebook and inserts is fine, but in the end I decided it’s worth it, which I explain in my last post (LINK). In the end, I purchased a regular sized Traveler’s Notebook in black as well as three additional inserts.

A new way to bullet journal

I use three notebook inserts in my TN as well as the zipper pocket für everyday stuff like post-its, rubber bands, and other things I might find useful. Of those three notebooks, I use one as a bullet journal, one for everything related to Ph.D. and academic issues and one for anything blogging and (creative) writing and reading. This separation of noteworthy fields will make it easier to keep an overview of the different parts of my life I need to focus on. Furthermore, if I fill up one of my notebook inserts quickly, I will only have to replace this single part of my planner and not the notebook as a whole. The other notebooks can stay where they are until I use those up as well.

collage 3 notebook covers

My three notebook inserts and my favorite pen, a Kaweco Classic Sport.

By thematically sorting my inserts, it will be easier to navigate through my notes once the books are full and filed. Additionally, it will also make my life easier because I don’t need to transcribe countless list and collections from one notebook to the other since I use my bullet journal insert mainly as a planner and for short-time lists, but still have my Dingbats notebook for curated collections like my reading list, book shopping list, diary writing and the like. I don’t have to care anymore to not waste pages or space in my bujo because otherwise, I have to do a lot of transcribing with all my list and collections. I can use my bujo insert anyway I want and if I have to replace it in a few weeks no harm done, I just start a new notebook. My longtime lists and collections are not affected by how fast I fill my bujo insert and how often I switch notebooks.

Back to the roots …?

When I started bullet journaling one of my main incentives was to bring everything together in one notebook. Monthly, weekly and daily planner, notebook, diary – all in my bullet journal. Mostly, this worked best for me. But because using my bujo as a diary too, my notebooks filled up faster than I expected and this affected how I kept lists and collections. More often then not I was too lazy to transcribe whole lists to new journals, so I just kept them in my old notebooks. As you may remember, when it comes to my ADHD riddled brain, out of sight is out of mind. So most of the lists in my old journals are simply forgotten.

Another issue Wonderguy frequently mentioned is the fact that my bujo is also my diary, which means that I should definitely NOT forget it anywhere lest I want strangers (or worse: friends or colleagues) to read about my innermost thoughts and struggles. While working at home this was no concern of mine, but once I started working at an office 5 days a week I realized what Wonderguy meant. While it might not be a good feeling knowing someone else could possibly go through your bullet journal because you forgot it somewhere, the feeling gets significantly worse when your bujo is also your diary. Having everything in one book has advantages, but there are also some downsides. And right now I’m about to find out which mix is perfect for me.

Regarding my diary and handling my lists, the split is working well. Knowing that I won’t have to transcribe my lists any time soon I work on them with more enthusiasm. When journaling I also have a better feeling knowing that this notebook won’t leave my home and there’s no need to stress about forgetting it somewhere anymore. And because it’s still in some way my bujo and not ‘just’ my diary, writing about my day doesn’t feel too much ‘dear diary’ like. So, for now, I’m fine with using separate notebooks for separate matters.

The planner setup

By splitting my bullet journaling habits up again it’s back to square one in some instances. In regards to the layout of my monthly, weekly and daily spreads I’m back to figuring out what works best for me. Right now I’m with a layout I’ve used before, but I’m not sure if I like it in this smaller setting. I might switch back to the style Ryder Carroll recommends and uses. On the other hand, I need a weekly layout to note appointments and dates, which is the reason I started mainly working with weekly spreads.

TN Bujo weekly spread

My weekly spread for March. There’s room for improvement …

Again, YouTube came to my rescue. Watching videos by Cissy’s Art Cafe and Sarica Studio, I found some inspiration on how to make my new notebook system work best for me. I will try this out in April. Maybe I just need to minimize the weekend segment of my weekly spread. I don’t use my planner on the weekends apart from jotting something down for the upcoming week, so I don’t really need “Sat/Sun” in my weekly spread. On the other hand, sitting down every weekend and doing a weekly spread like the creators in their videos do/suggest will give me a chance to get a better overview of the week ahead. I will see what works better for me.

Overall, I like the look, feel, and handling of my Traveler’s Notebook. I really like it. I even started a bit of scrapbooking and being more creative in my spreads. After all, I can use a different design and layout in my next notebook insert – which will probably come rather sooner than later, especially compared to my other bullet journals. But that’s one reason I chose to use a TN, isn’t it?


P. S.: It took me more than a week to write this post because I’ve been sick (not Covid-19, just a regular cold). I did my best, but if I sound incoherent or slightly off at times – I’m sorry!

Low Buy Year 2020 – my February update

Midori Traveler's notebook unboxed

Spoiler Alert: I did buy something new this month …

Another month has passed and I’m still going strong, most of the time. I have to admit that it’s not that easy all the time. Not because I feel dread and despair because I’m not allowed to shop. Rather, I have to become more aware of what I’m buying or not. Some purchases are obviously necessary – groceries, replacements, medication, gifts. And then there is the twilight zone – washi tape of a certain design and make that I don’t already own? Scrapbooking supplies that may be similar to what I already own but not the same? A new essential oil even though I own several others?

Most of the time I decide on a case-to-case basis, trying my best to stick to my intentions and don’t make myself feel like a cheater. But when I saw an absolute ‘want want want’ pair of sneakers – a style and model I don’t already own – the struggle got real, at least for a moment. It usually starts with me imagining wearing them, how they would look, which outfits I would create, all that. I guess a lot of you know exactly what I mean. And woah, my imagination went wild – I could practically see myself wearing ONLY this special pair of sneakers until the end of (my) time. Like it always is when you reallyREALLY want something. Still, I didn’t do it. I did not buy those magical new sneakers that would bring eternal happiness into my life. Instead, I put them on my “Buy in 2021” list – my first item so far.

But I bought something else. Which is still within certain rules but borders on a huge twilight zone.

Journaling and me

As I’ve written in my post about the bullet journal, journaling and writing things down is extremely important for me. Thanks to my ADHD (as far as I know – maybe I’m just an asshole) I usually forget a lot of stuff people tell me, so I have to write it down. I forget a lot of stuff in general and have a hard time staying on top of things, so having someplace to note my thoughts, ideas, to-dos, and general information is essential to function in this life. Some friends and colleagues actually think I’m very well organized. They have no idea I’m in a constant struggle with my fuzzy brain because they only see the results. And thanks to the Bullet Journal Method, the results are often really good. Thus, I’m always open to new ideas on how to improve my journaling game. And there seems to be an abundance of new ideas out there.

In my post regarding the rules of this Low Buy year, I stated that I only will buy replacements when it comes to stationery items. Well …

Wonderguy bought a Traveler’s Journal a few months ago and while I liked the idea of having different notebooks for different needs, I didn’t like the format. His is a normal A5 size from Paper Republic (the Grand Voyager XL), which I find too big. Granted, my Dingbats bullet journal is A5 too – yes, too large – but it’s my favorite notebook regarding paper quality and overall design. As for the size or format, my perfect notebook would be a classic Moleskine, but the ghosting in Moleskine notebooks is just too much. Therefore, I decided to use Dingbats notebooks which come with the perfect paper and they also care about the environment. Until I found the Midori Traveler’s Notebook.

Unlike Wonderguy’s Grand Voyager, the Midori Traveler’s Notebook (now produced/sold by Traveler’s Company Japan) has the perfect format and size for me. I’ve loved the idea, and now I found a notebook as well. So I started pondering. Would it be cheating if I decided to switch from my Dingbats Bullet Journal to a Traveler’s Notebook? Would it be worth it? Was I ready to wait nearly a year until I could try it out? I took my time and waited for several days. During this time I discussed the issue with Wonderguy, I read blogs and watched videos about the notebook, and did some research on its components and what I would buy IF I bought one. After finding a little shop in town that sold the Traveler’s Notebook and its various inserts, I finally gave in. Convincing myself that I didn’t have to order anything online but could support a small shop with my purchase, I went there and got myself a brand-new Traveler’s Notebook.
And I’m really happy.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel a bit like a cheater and intend to make very good use of it. I will write about the Notebook in a separate post, so I won’t go into detail on how I use it just yet, but I’m absolutely delighted with the format and the feel of it. The system of inserting separate notebooks for different topics allows me to bring all my notes together which makes it easier for me. At the same time, I didn’t ditch my Dingbats Bullet Journal completely. Apart from ongoing collections and lists, one important part of my bujo is my diary which I will keep in my Dingbats. But more about that in a different post.

What else?

I didn’t indulge in my book budget for the obvious reason of already buying a pricey new notebook system. It’s not that I want to justify this purchase by treating it as a ‘book’ and hey, everything’s fine. It’s rather that I want to acknowledge the fact that things are special this year on the shopping front. So to keep it down I decided to read what I have instead of treating myself with new books. I’ve been sick this month and went through four books in five days which felt great (apart from being sick, of course). I absolutely love discovering my shelves, even when realizing that I don’t love everything I own.

Inspired by some YouTube videos I delved into scrapbooking to give my journaling new impulses. Since I don’t always feel inspired to draw or doodle but still love some color and design, scrapbooking seems like a good idea to design my spreads and pages. Doing so adds some life to my notebook and helps me stay focused. I am a visual learner, meaning that color coding, images, and designs stimulate my perception and help me filtering information. Integrating this in my daily journaling and jotting important things down helps my fuzzy brain keeping a better overview. So while I bought some scrapbooking papers and stickers, I didn’t invest a lot of time and money into it since I won’t need that much. Furthermore, I can simply print pictures I find on Pinterest and use those, so that’s that.

I haven’t done my budget yet but I assume I’ll meet my saving goal (or at least almost), adding some more money to my savings account. However, I have to get better in keeping track of my day to day expenses. I know there are a lot of apps for doing exactly that and I already tried some of them. It’s just that I’m not much of an app user. I work better with pen and paper, and forgetting to jot down an expense happens regularly, no matter if digital or analog. So I will try to improve this.

What’s up … March?

March should be a quiet month. There’s no huge bill to pay apart from my usual fixed expenses and we are not expecting any visitors or otherwise big events apart from our anniversary. It will be a quiet month (hopefully) and if all goes well I might be able to save a bit more money. We’ll see …

If you are on your own low or no buy journey, I wish you all the best for the upcoming month – you can do it! We can do it! Let’s share ideas, inspiration, issues, and perspectives – everyone’s on a different path, and it’s always interesting to hear/read other’s stories 🙂