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The Top Five Travel Notebooks

August 3, 2010 at 11:41 AM | by | ()

A state fair-edition Field Notes at left, a regular Field Notes at right

As irreparably attached to digital accessories like smartphones, e-readers and laptops as we are, there is still something to be said for setting pen or pencil to actual paper. In our laptop sleeve pocket, we've always got a notebook of some sorts, just poised to record odd thoughts and inspiration from our trips, thoughts that just don't seem as magical when entered into a Word or Notepad file. All praise be to the almighty travel notebook.

Here are our Top 5 Picks for the Best Travel Notebooks:

· Field Notes:
These are our recent obsession, but boy are they ever good and a joy to write in. Field Notes are made in the USA and they hearken back to the time of memo books and Farmer's Almanacs. The basic pocket-size, 48-page books come in packs of three and retail for $9.95, available lined, unlined or gridded. But it's in their special editions that they really shine. Each season, Field Notes creates a limited design, changing their covers and ink colors to break up the monotony of the classic brown covers. See a gorgeous pic of their colors here. They offer annual subscriptions to always surprise you with fresh notebooks in your mailbox, or you can find them at specialty stores and online. We love them because, if you keep them with you, they quickly soften and adopt a nice worn-in look and feel and lend themselves easily to quick bursts of inspiration.

A Moleskine City Guide notebook

· Moleskine City Guides:
Although these retail for $16.95- $19.95, these little black books enjoy the heft and durability of regular black Moleskine notebooks, but include map pages, guidebook-formatted pages, thumb indexes and blank pages, all given over to specific cities. They even have clear pages that stick to the maps, so that you can record your walking routes or mark favorite spots without writing over the details of actual map page. The City Guides series only debuted a few years ago, but they've already expanded beyond the European capitals to include US cities and many in Asia. Look for them anywhere that sells regular Moleskine, in the travel sections of bookstores, and online.

· A notebook you make yourself:
During one trip to Seoul, South Korea, we hopped into many of the irresistible stationery stores and returned with a carry-on full of cutesy markers and packs of "make-you-own journals." They turned out to be some of the coolest little craft projects and ever cooler actual journals. We had made them! That trumped anything we could buy at a Barnes & Noble as it came with built-in meaning for us. You can make your own with simple items from your local craft store. Here's a perfect, free guide.

MUJI notebooks

· Anything from MUJI:
If you're traveling to Asia or New York City soon, you really shouldn't miss stopping by a store from this Japanese chain that specializes in products without branding. Clean and plain and well-made, that's the mantra of MUJI. As a result, their stores boast an impressive selection of notebooks and writing instruments, all very cheap. We stocked up on plain brown A6-size notebooks for $1 each, but you can find everything from spiral-bound to sewn bindings, unlined or lined or gridded or circular organizational, and with a good choice of papers. They even make a notebook set up with squares instead of lines, for sketching or attempting your own manga drawings.

· Dusty notebooks from antique shops:
Noticed we haven't named any leather notebooks yet? Well, that's because many travel-appropriate leather notebooks can be found at regular chain bookstores, and often they are faux-distressed or embossed with an old worldy map. We say go for the real thing. Stop by an antique shop while on a road trip and dig into the piles of old leather ledger books and such for a rare unused leather-bound notebook, or a cool art nouveau-printed one where maybe only a few pages are used. You can get these for mere pennies and spend idle times on international flights wondering what kind of life that notebook has already seen.

[Photos: Jaunted, Jaunted, Tania Ho }

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