I make it a point to get a new journal before traveling anywhere, and the journal needs to have the right feel. It can’t weigh me down, and it can’t be so small that I can’t comfortably write in it. (I especially like when journals have a place for your pen.) I don’t usually get into the ones with long strings so you can close them up tight. Travel journaling, for me, means scribbling something down at a moment’s notice, not taking the time to wind and rewind. Details, details. But the right journal sets the tone for the trip.photo-2

My travel journals become treasure troves of information pieced together with history, conversations, travel tips, my crudely drawn maps and diagrams, and the general feeling that a place gives me. Today I discovered an entire page in my Jordan journal that I devoted to the ritual of Arabic Coffee: The extremely fine grind, fresh roasting, boiling, cardamom, strength, right-to-left presentation, and the sentimentality and bond of offering it “on the house.”

And then suddenly there’s this little gem: “Drink it presently. Don’t set it down. Setting it down is a sign to the host that you need something.”

And just like that, there’s life.

Right in the details.