Trying out the Traveler's Notebook

My precious notebook (right) for the last year has been battered, worn, and well-used. I figure I’ll try out the Traveler’s Notebook (left).

I love keeping a notebook with me. I started out using a portable notebook by carrying around the HipsterPDA.


It’s basically a small bundle of index cards held together by a binder clip. Simple, cheap, and refillable. I’d capture everything that comes to my attention on this faithful companion. I had an errands list, an office work list, and a house work list. Eventually I outgrew it and just bought a bunch of A5 notebooks to put it into my messenger bag. I always tried to make sure I was never without some sort of notebook to capture ideas or tasks throughout the day.

My friends wonder why I carry a notebook. It’s the perfect capture device. There are no batteries. As long as I have it with me, I can scribble down ideas and notes when it feels difficult to whip out my iPhone or iPad to capture something.

My handwriting is so awful, it makes my kindergarten teacher cringe. As long as I can decipher the words, I’m willing to live with chicken scratch writing. I’ve never kept my notebooks for archival purposes. I usually transfer my notebook notes back to the computer for record preservation. Then I just toss out the notebook after 3 months.

I thought I’d try using a Traveler’s Notebook after watching this video.

A Traveler’s Notebook is a simple leather cover with a leather band to keep it closed. The cover can hold multiple inserts such as a zipper pouch, an envelope slot, or a variety of notebooks. You can add or remove the various inserts by slipping them in or out of the leather bands that holds the notebook together.

I ventured to my local bookstore and found a Traveler’s notebook to try it out. The Traveler’s Notebook I purchased had three notebook inserts. A blank paper notebook, a notebook with lined pages, and a dot grid notebook. I’m not sure which one I’ll stick with but I am leaning towards the dot grid and the plain paper variations.

I’m looking forward to getting that worn leather look that shows it’s been well used and much loved. There are a variety of Traveler’s Notebooks available.

I’m in love with carrying this faithful companion. I might keep a notebook insert just for journals. There’s something magical about writing and scribbling that a digital app can’t capture. I’m thinking of maintaining one journal insert as notes to my kids. I can pass it on when they’re old enough to understand some of the wonderful thoughts I captured when they grew from a baby to an adult.

Here is one Traveler’s Notebook that I already ordered to replace the first sampler I bought at the local bookstore.'s+notebook

Here are some of the photos from that Amazon page that shows the flexibility of a Traveler’s Notebook. I used to carry beautiful bound notebooks but I’m liking the idea of having replaceable notebook inserts instead. Try one out and tell me how you feel about them.

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I used a MTN several years ago and really got into it. I am a “single book” person these days and sense that going back to it wouldn’t make sense, but that leathery feel is awesome. (I have the passport version, but think the standard would be better for me these days.)

I look forward to hearing how this works for you, @wilsonng!

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I just bought the notebook and I’m still trying to figure out how it works in my life.

My old notebook was a mess. I mixed my personal tasks, errands, and thoughts on to a page. I’m thinking of using each notebook insert for a different purpose.

The first notebook insert would have the 3 MITs (Most Important Tasks) from my task manager. It will probably also be my capture notebook for new ideas, thoughts, or new tasks that I want to transfer over to OmniFocus on my iPhone. There are times when it’s easier to whip out the notebook instead of the iPhone and capture the Drafts app. For example, I might get an idea in the middle of a movie event with my family. It’s a no-no to whip out the phone. The ushers might think I’m gonna start recording the screen. I’ll whip out the notebook and scribble large enough and hope I can decipher it. I also can’t take out my iPhone in the middle of the movie and try to whisper something into the Drafts app.

I’m still rethinking what the second notebook insert would be. Maybe I’ll do a Bullet Journal calendar or something. I’ll explore a little more later.

The third notebook will contain some simple photos that I glued on. I’m thinking of leaving a small journal for my kids. They’re growing so fast and I wanted a physical scrapbook that contained some of my thoughts as they grow older.

Kid doing her first cartwheel at gymnastics class. She was so proud of herself. She can do “Wonder Woman” stuff now.

Kid sparring with her partner in jujitsu. She’s gonna be capable of taking care of herself. I don’t have to worry about her as much as I used to.

Kid getting inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. Who knew I would be raising such a smarty pants? " :open_mouth:

I didn’t know there was a passport size. But, yeah, I think I need the standard size. I write big and I wrote sloppy. I need all the space I can get to decipher my chicken scratch writing.

If anyone has any ideas of what I can use my second notebook insert for, give a shout!


¿es la misma filosofia que el Bullet Journal? Me ha gustado mucho esa idea de cuaderno.

Yes, I think it is similar to the Bullet Journal philosophy. Build my own notebook to fit my needs.

I think I’ve changed it my setup a little bit.

My third notebook contains my 1-2 year goal with milestones of what I want to get done. I like having a physical place that I can refer to when I am lost or stuck. I can look at the goal notebook to guide me. I would like to maintain progress in my daily/weekly tasks by choosing tasks that will contribute to the goals in the first notebook. When I left my goals in a Microsoft Word document, it didn’t feel real. When it is in my notebook, it feels more concrete.

My second notebook is a place to capture any new tasks or ideas and I didn’t put it into my task manager. Sometimes it helps to scribble out ideas and try to connect the dots via mind map or outline. Then I cross it off when I finally put it in my digital task manager.

My first notebooks is now holding my MITs for the next few days. I grab a few tasks from OmniFocus and write it down into the first notebook. When I have a time block available, I’ll get to work on my MITs in this notebook.

I do like the idea of being able to replace a notebook when I finish while leaving the other notebooks still inside the binder. I hated the idea that I would waste a lot of pages in a hardbound notebook.

I’m still playing with this idea but I think this is what I have settled on for the moment. The experiment continues.

If you have a traveler’s notebook, how do you all separate or use your paper notebooks?

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When I used a Traveler’s Notebook as a primary notebook my setup was similar to what you are noting. I had a setup as follows:

  • Book 1: What I’m doing now - so MITs, key errands to run, etc. Worked a lot like a bullet journal
  • Boo2: Scratch - random notes, thinking on paper, doodling, etc.
  • Book 3: Vision & Commonplace - first page was the long term vision / plans and key quotes that resonated with those. 2nd page goals for the period (year, month, etc.), next couple of pages were systems, rules, key items to achieve the above. After that would key quotes or ideas that felt like they needed permanance - so not just an interesting quote that you came across, but one that would have meaning. I would also mark interesting milestones towards key goals and visions. Scraps and tickets from travel would end up here.

I generally started the day and ended the day looking at the first page of book 3.

Books 1 & 2 would change out regularly.

I often would use the notebook sideways (#dotgridforlife) to get a fuller page feel.

Patrick Ng’s pictures & writing about the Traveler’s Notebook was always so great -

Nothing productivity related feels cooler than walking into a cafe in a different city and pulling out a beat up traveler’s notebook. Nothing. The Indiana Jones of productivity.

Darn it, now I have to go dig my TN out. Sigh.


I am very minimalist with my MITs. I usually start the day recording them (in priority order) on 3" x 2.5" mini index cards. One card each day. Very portable: I can slip it in my wallet, or pocket, or notebook, or diary/agenda.

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