As I ready myself for my first flight out of the country in four years, it’s a relief to turn to notebooks and find them quietly ready to save my sanity. Here’s how I write my way to a plan for trips, in roughly three steps:
1. Preparing to Prepare
“Make a list” is usually what comes to mind first when facing a complex task. I love lists. I love the soothing orderliness of breaking a larger task into smaller, actionable ones and carrying them out. And of course, when written out by hand, there’s the satisfaction of crossing out what no longer needs to be in my brain, letting the check mark triumphantly zoom off the paper entirely for really big accomplishments. But if I’m overwhelmed, I don’t start with a list.
First, I free-write in my MD Codex. Here, I’ll list every task, worry and question that comes to mind without stopping, without giving any thought towards organizing, solving or making a plan. It’s the writing equivalent of screaming into your pillow, a place to let planning and feelings about planning get tangled and crumpled together without needing to make it tidy or sensible.
Once I’ve gotten all that out of my system, of course, it’s time to make it tidy and sensible.
This is the part where I deal with itinerary: copying ticket information, departure and arrival times for transport, scheduled events, addresses, and hours of operation. This info gets copied down into either my TN or a separate notebook where all work-related notes live. I reserve a 2-page spread for each trip, marked with a heading and date—I leave myself lots of space because it naturally gets messy as more info comes in and times move around. Once I have the “where” and “when” of the trip as close to finalized as possible, I’ll re-copy the most current and relevant info onto a clean paper in chronological order.
One technique Emil tried out for a recent trip to San Francisco was arranging our final schedule on a BK Dashboard. It’s only one piece of paper, lightweight enough to keep on the outside of our TNs for quick reference, but easily holds the info needed for one week of travel. The Dashboard also has the JIYU-like quality of not being intimidating. While it does have enough landmarks in its dotted grid to easily divide it up into a weekly layout (with some extra space), it’s very light and customizable—so if you need to cross things out, move blocks of text around or quickly scribble down new information, you can do that without feeling constrained. Emil’s itinerary came out so convenient, clean and smart that I ended up copying his paper.
3. Taking Inventory and Packing
Now for the lists! Based on the number of days/nights traveling and what activities are planned, I’ll make packing lists across 1-2 pages of whatever I’m using as a “workbook” at the time: TN inserts, A5 Perpanep, sketchbooks, etc. I don’t usually put them in the notebook I’m taking with me on the trip—I won’t need to see it once I’m packed. At the same time, I like keeping these lists somewhere not entirely disposable. If I go on a similar type or length of trip in the future, it could be handy to have a pre-made list as a baseline. While making this, I’ll refer to any other writing related to the trip I may have already done (Step 1 and 2), to make sure I haven’t missed any easy-to-forget items or ideas.
Once the barebones number of clothes needed is determined, I’ll “try on” some outfits near the list. These are scribbly doodles drawn from memory, just detailed enough so I can visualize the pieces and see a bunch of options at once. I’ll often find out I don’t need as many of certain items (for me, usually accessories and jackets) as estimated, since one or two ends up working across multiple outfits and activities.
And of course, I make sure to outfit my TN, too, so it’s ready to hold my wallet, paperwork, notes, and whatever memories I collect along the way.
Typically, by the end of all that writing, I’m as ready to go as I’ll ever be. Much is said (by me) about the memory-keeping aspect of journals, but the practical aspects of analog systems are just as much a part of our emotional attachment to them, aren’t they? It’s like having a friend walk with you through a problem: “Thank goodness you’re here. I have so much to do right now…” and later, with any luck, “I feel a lot better now. Thanks for listening.”
See you next flight!
Text and photos by: A.C. Esguerra
Where to find A.C. : instagram @blueludebar
Read other stories by A.C. : Here
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Your lil outfit doodles are so cute! I always bring my packing list with me… I’ve left small things behind in hotels one too many times, so now I force myself to check off that I’ve packed everything for the trip home 🤣