Photo by Kira auf der Heide / Unsplash

July is one of the busiest times of the year for travel, whether you’re heading towards an international destination or opting to stay local. From tropical destinations to sprawling cities, there are endless sights to satisfy your travel bug. 

New adventures call for a well of inspiration, and traveling exposes you to how other cultures practice art traditions in different parts of the world. Keeping a travel journal is a simple yet effective way to record your experience while feeding your creativity. Like bullet journals, travel journals can be however you make them: they can be structured in any way and can be filled with notes, drawings, photographs, and other media. 

No matter what type of journey you’re embarking on, use these fun prompts to expand your cultural capital, widen your perspective, and inspire your artistry at every leg of your itinerary.

1. Find eye-catching signs and posters

Keep your eyes on the road to catch unique signs. Photo by Jaxon Lott / Unsplash

Walking on the streets of a city or town, chances are you’ll pass a number of unique street names, road signs, and posters. If you’re traveling abroad, you might see subtle distinctions across signs from different countries, and it can be fun to look at how signs inform visual language.

The variation in symbols and typography reveal small, yet significant insights about how cultural communications and how people literally navigate their environment. Try to come up with your artistic interpretation inspired by signs you encounter.

2. Create Skyline Art

The Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, London Eye — these are all iconic structures that pierce the skyline of major cities. Capture the distinct skyline of the place you’re visiting as a drawing or watercolor painting. Drawing the contours of the area in your own style makes for a much more memorable souvenir than getting the usual postcard.

3. Look around for patterns and architecture

Some shapes and patterns are synonymous with certain places, from Art Deco in New York and France to geometric shapes that dominate Middle Eastern art.

As you’re exploring a new area, see which style is prominent; are there any forms or patterns that seem to show up frequently? Is it full of angles or curves? Modern or traditional? Places are often shaped and defined by signature architectural design elements, some referring to cultures that date back to centuries.

There’s plenty of artistic value in the interesting shapes and patterns found in architecture. Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

4. Sketch the activity in a public square

People watching is a fun and relaxing pastime no matter where you are. Go to a public square or park and sketch the myriad of activities and passersby around you: excitable wild-eyed tourists, sculptures and landmarks, locals conversing at a cafe. There’s always something to take note from places vibrant with energy, and chances are there’s a memorable encounter waiting to happen.

5. IIlustrate your own custom map

Want a way to remember your itinerary? Create a custom, hand-drawn map that highlights your favorite places from your trip, such as drawings of landmarks or scenes that call back to the best experiences. Let loose with your visual arts skills and chart a map that reflects your personal style and memories from your journey.

Experiment with typography and graphic design elements to make your map stand out. “Great Little Place Illustrated Maps” by Dani Loureiro / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

6. Take photos of the “everyday” 

You might be drawn to picturesque and idyllic landscapes, but don’t forget to capture the typical or the seemingly mundane. It’s worth capturing subjects or settings that don’t stand out and inhabit the background.

Get a feel for how residents live by stopping by commonplace areas such as markets or grocery stores, simple side-streets, or neighborhood parks. You might even find local artists you can chat with. Keep and open mind and you might be surprised at what you find.

7. Look for pops of color

A world of color exists in every location. While you’re out and about, try to find color palettes that catch your eye. Whether they’re bold saturated shades or made up of dusty pastels. If you’re taking photos, try to stay true to the qualities of the image: turn up the blues of the ocean, capture the soft lighting and gradience of a landscape. Check out these tips for boosting the color quality of your photos.

Use filters, toy with the white balance, and saturation settings for maximum effect. Photo by Abigail Lynn / Unsplash

8. Make a collage out of tickets

Wondering what to do with boarding passes, transit stickers, or attraction tickets that you’ve accumulated? Turn your pile of tickets into a more meaningful keepsake by making it into pages of collage art. The mix of type and images create visual interest, and the collage is a great way to catalog your various destinations.

Have you entered our Summer of Learning Contest? You could be the next winner to receive FREE prizes! To enter, see details here.

If you want to refresh your art skills before you depart, get inspired to practice creative play with these suggested courses, then take a look at the following courses:

Pen and Ink Illustration

Pen and Ink Illustration

Kadenze Academy


Introduction to Graphic Illustration

Introduction to Graphic Illustration

Cornish College of the Arts