How to avoid consumption. Case study: the leather travel journal.

The primary thing that is on my mind is products. Travel and travel gear are fun, but they are again a poor imitation of what you want. By buying the cool, you are engaging with the the desire, but not taking action to make it a reality. Products short circuit achieving the real thing. Instead of embarking into enchanted forests of adventure, we spend time comparing types of boot leather and precise axe lengths.

But we are confusing. There is a romance to products. Do you remember the touch of a leather journal cover? Of functional, do anything, hiking to restaurant leather boots? Perhaps in old countries, we saw city dwellers, rulers even, imbued with furs of animals they did not hunt, and steel they did not forge because they were totems and testaments to self. Things afford the ability to build an image of self, but they do not necessarily produce the self. How many knife owners have never gutted an animal, or shot a gun? Or used a dive watch? Or gone backpacking, but own the best gear?

I wanted to kill consumerism, but that is not the answer. The energy behind the consumerism is still there. Advertising and stores implicitly message that to fulfill wanderlust, you should buy a product. Instead of climbing a hill, get the boots to climb a hill. Consumption is easier, definitely, but it doesn’t do the same thing.

That said, I’m planning a trip to Spain and here is a list of things I want:

  • to eat
  • to drink
  • to be merry
  • a leather carryall or a leather catchall for putting on the bedside table of the lovely hacienda or the cut rate airbnb where we will stay.
  • a leather wallet that can fit euro bills which allows me to leave the money clip at home and taking money out, haggling, and paying, a safer, more discreet interaction.
    item of choice: bellroy note
  • a phone charger one of those power bricks that i could stash in a pocket.
    item of choice: anker powerbrick
  • a day bag that folds down to nothing and isn’t a cinch bag. Cinch bags seem cheap, if I am being totally honest. However, why do I want a goruck gr0 (~$300), when I have never had a problem carrying things in a cinch bag (~$0 plus dignity)? I don’t carry bricks around on vacation, or ever. I have a perfectly acceptable, ugly bag.
    Item of choice: goruck gr0 or chrome delta
  • a leather travel notebook – I like having an easily accessible record of trips.

What has worked in the past?

Digital documents have been the easiest to recall. When I go back and look for packlists, for instance, I easily type a few words to find the ones on my phone. I have a few travel habits about how I title packlists to include duration, special events, temperature, and destination. On the plane ride back, I write a review of the items, one by one, and if i used the item or not. I complete this closing out ritual on my cell phone, and it is wonderful record for subsequent trips.

What is missing?

Something that seems incomplete is an audit and record for the day to day activities. Similar to the packlist, before the trip, I have a google doc that roughly sketches out key events, times, locations, places to eat, sites to see, or activities. Do I go back and review this document? No. I’d like to have a record of whether the lunch place was too far, or we found a cool art exhibit on the way and were derailed. Or a few notes on the person we met there.

What’s the hangup? Have you tried daily journaling? What about journaling at the end of a trip?

Daily journaling on vacation doesn’t fit for me. At the end of the day, it may be 3am and I’m exhausted, and not ready to reflect. At the end of the trip, I can’t often remember the details of each specific day. I’ll talk through with someone and eventually get some of it.

What about recording on your phone, during the day?

The ideal then would be some record in real time. Typing on the phone, I’ve tried, and it’s tedious and draining to be in the company of someone constantly chronicling on the phone. It does come off as rude. “Wait everyone, before you eat, let me take a picture, take a few minutes to type up a comment, take care of a few things online, then I’ll rejoin the conversation.” A potential solution, then, is the leather travel notebook.

What are some advantages of the travel notebook?

  • Less rude.
  • It keeps you from engaging with your phone, which is a device meant to distract.
  • In certain occasions, it is acceptable to pull out a journal, but not a phone.
  • Having someone write their email address or directions is easier than doing in on a phone. LinkedIn or email have their place, but writing is good for certain occasions.
  • Can store things like tickets and not wear down your phone battery.

Do you have a specific notebook picked out?

I’ve used them in the Philippines and they are the only surviving document of my trips there. I want one trip per notebook. I don’t want a half-filled notebook that continues one trip then the other. I want something easy to replace. I want something that can work as a low-key scrapbook with ticket stubs and cut outs. If I wanted to go even cheaper than the notebook, I could use the sheets of paper that I use. Two long cuts, and two staples, or a binder clip. that’s a notebook as well.
item of choice: midori travel notebook or midori passport notebook or a leather cover for moleskine cahier or field notes

So where does that leave me?

It looks like the thing I am most interested in right now is a leather travel notebook like the midori travel notebook or passport. The trick with the passport is that it takes refills that may be more difficult to get. moleskine wins on distribution and finding a leather cover that is sized for the midori could be the ticket.

In an effort to reduce the amount of purchasing that I do, I have a few options.

  • First, I could buy just the notebooks (like the moleskine cahier) that would allow me to try out the size, carrying a notebook, and writing in a notebook, before making the purchase.
  • Second, I could make my own notebooks and that would use even fewer resources. However, there is something I like about an actual notebook. A little more robust, a little easier to use.
  • Third, and what I will likely do, dig around in the house and find a notebook that I already have that is about the right size. I know I have some that are half-filled or little steno style pads. I will use that on a trip and see how I like it. I could even use that on a weekend as a example of a trip.Buying things is fun. It provides a little shot of goodness, but can easily eat into the budget for having real adventures. So instead of the chase and hunt for a new notebook, save that money for the future.