Our Favorite Tips for Keeping a Travel Journal

Travel journals are a fun and creative way to remember your most meaningful travels. While I record my favorite tips, tricks, and locations here at A Friend Afar, I knew I wanted to start a handwritten journal to record how these destinations make me feel. Starting a travel journal was something I thought about for a long time before I started writing because I was worried that I would start one and then quickly give it up or forget to write in it. I did a lot of searching through Pinterest for inspiration, and I was honest with myself about what would work for me and what would not work. Below are my favorite tips for starting a travel journal and keeping up with it as you seek out more adventures.

Our Favorite Tips for Keeping a Travel Journal - www.AFriendAfar.com

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Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.

Our Top Posts of 2015

Since the end of year is quickly approaching, we thought it would be fun to do a roundup of some of our most popular blog posts since launching A Friend Afar earlier this year! They include content from some of our big trips abroad to Cuba, Greece & France as well as a day trip closer to home. It also includes packing tips, bag reviews, planning tips, and a guest post about family travel! Check out our top posts of 2015 below.

Top Posts of 2015- www.afriendafar.com #afriendafar #yearinreview

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Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

Travel Gift Guide: Travel Coffee Table Books

We couldn’t resist one more round up of our favorite gifts! This time we’ve pulled together our favorite travel coffee table books, and we’ve included a fun variety of art, photographs, and home decor that reflect some of our favorite travel experiences.

Travel Coffee Table Books - www.AFriendAfar.com

Our Favorite Travel Coffee Table Books

Great Journeys – Travel the World’s Most Spectacular Routes by Lonely Planet
This gorgeous travel coffee table book will have you yearning for a few months off of work so that you can embark on an epic trip. It covers routes from the original Tour de France to Marco Polo’s exploration route. Get ready to add a few new trips to your bucket list!

National Geographic – The Covers by National Geographic
It’s no secret that we’re in love with National Geographic magazines around here. This collection of covers spanning the magazine’s 125 years inspires us to learn more about the places we travel to and the people we meet.

Nomad by Sibella Court
Sibella is our style icon, and we love how Nomad inspires us to bring our travels back home with us. Isn’t it wonderful how decorating your home with souvenirs big and small can take you back to your travels?

Jutaku: Japanese Houses by Naomi Pollock
Japan was one of our first loves, and we’re fascinated by how modern and traditional architecture manage to blend seamlessly. This gorgeous travel coffee table book showcases 400 homes that epitomize modern Japan.

59 Illustrated National Parks by Joel Anderson & Nathan Anderson
We just fell in love with The Anderson Design based out of Nashville, TN. Meagan even bought a print of all of the National Parks for Stephanie for Christmas. You know how Stephanie loves her parks! Anderson Design Group creates some amazing vintage-inspired travel posters – I’m sure they’ll have your favorite spot – and this book contains all of the national parks posters as well as fun facts and a history for each park.

Graphique de la Rue by Louise Fili
Our new found love of France (yeah, we’re a little behind – it’s because we were focused on Asia or Africa) cannot be underestimated. This gorgeous book captures one of the many things that make strolling the streets of Paris so special – the art of Paris’s signs. It’s perfect for your friends that are Francophiles, graphic designers, or just art lovers.

Maps by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinska
As cartography enthusiasts, we can’t get through a gift guide around here without including a map or a globe, and this travel coffee table book is an incredibly fun find. The gorgeous illustrations detail the history and cultures of countries and regions. It’s perfect for travelers of all ages!

Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky
Just as Great Journeys has us daydreaming about extreme voyages, this book has us adding new locations to our bucket list solely for the sake of “do you know anyone who has been there?!? Neither do I!” Visiting exciting and remote places that none of your friends have heard of will make you quite the explorer. Just adding them to your bucket list will make you feel like one.

You can see our other favorite travel gifts here, here, and here! And don’t forget to give a little back while doing all of your holiday shopping. We rounded up some of our favorite international charities to give you some ideas.

Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.

Gift Guide for Travelers

Here it is, friends! We are so excited to bring you our holiday gift guide for travelers! Last week we shared our favorite travel-themed home decor gifts, but this gift guide includes our favorite goodies that make travel easier as well as those that let us display our wanderlust loud and proud!

Gift Guide for Travelers: Women who Travel

Gift Guide for Travelers:  Women who Travel - www.AFriendAfar.com

  1. Luggage Tag Charm from Jet Set Candy (represent your favorite cities or home base!)
  2. Everlane Weekender Bag  (our go-to weekender bag for every short trip! Have you seen our other favorite weekenders and our Everlane tote review?)
  3. Cord Tacos from This is Ground
  4. J.Crew Sleep Mask
  5. Let’s Travel Passport Stamp Phone Case from Casetify (currently protecting Meagan’s phone!)
  6. Jet Set Notebook from Sloane Stationary
  7. Passport Notebook Set from Rifle Paper Company
  8. Inside Suitcases 12 month Calendar from LittleLow on Etsy
  9. MIPOW Smart Power Tube Portable Battery
  10. Secret Paris Coloring Book (or any travel coloring book!)
  11. Cuyana Leather Travel Case Set

Gift Guide for Travelers: Men who Travel

Gift Guide for Travelers:  Men who Travel - www.AFriendAfar.com

  1. Cord Burrito from This is Ground
  2. Scratch Off World Map (keeping track of Stephanie’s travels!)
  3. Leather World Map Passport Case
  4. Leather Personalized Luggage Tag
  5. Cord Tacos from This is Ground
  6. Globetrotter Hotel Key Tag (we LOVE ours!)
  7. Baggu Large Zip Pouch
  8. Adventure Journal from Sloane Stationary
  9. MIPOW Smart Power Tube Portable Battery
  10. Herschel Novel Duffel
  11. Everlane Weekender Bag (our go-to weekender bag for every short trip!)

We love Monday Escapes at Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey and Weekend Wanderlust with Justin + Lauren!  Join us over there!

                                          badgeWeekend-Wanderlust-Logo-V2

Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.

Top 10 Gifts for the Traveler: Home Decor Edition

Looking for the perfect gift for a travel addict? Whether they travel often or they’re more of an armchair traveler, here are our favorite home decor gifts that bring the world back to their home base.

Travel Gift Guide: Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

Our Travel Gift Guide to Bring the World Back Home

Travel Gift Guide: Rifle Paper Company City Coasters - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

These Rifle Paper Co. Cities Coasters include chic illustrations of London, Paris, New York, and Tokyo. We use ours for parties and at the office.

Travel Gift Guide: Cities calendar - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

A similar gift that we just couldn’t resist is this great calendar, also by Rifle Paper Co. We love that you can frame the illustrated maps after you use it.

Travel Gift Guide: Bolga Baskets from Ghana - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

Stephanie was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana, and the famous souvenir from her region was the Bolga Basket. We love how they bring so much color and character into our homes!

Travel Gift Guide: National Parks Print - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

Stephanie’s been visiting a lot of National Parks lately, and this map is the perfect gift for any National Park fanatic who can’t get enough of the outdoors!

Travel Gift Guide: Chalkboard Globe - - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

Meagan collects globes, and while these aren’t her typical vintage globes, they’d be so fun! We love the idea of putting your next location on them. Next stop: Morocco!

And this one from CB2 is such a fun alternative to your typical corkboard map!

Travel Gift Guide: Ideal Bookshelf Travel Print - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

A little art is always a great idea! This fun print by An Ideal Bookshelf includes classic books of travel and adventure to inspire your next trip.

Travel Gift Guide: Nomad by Sibella Court - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

An absolute favorite, this beautiful coffee table book by Sibella Court has given us so much inspiration for how to display our most precious souvenirs.

Travel Gift Guide: Bolivian Pillows - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

We’re suckers for bringing home textiles when we’re traveling, so naturally, we fell in love with these beautiful Bolivian pillows at Project Bly. We think you’ll love their entire store!

Travel Gift Guide: Hammam Towels Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

Stephanie just got back from Istanbul and picked up some of these colorful Turkish towels at the Grand Bazaar. You can score some for yourself or a friend here.

Check out more of our favorite gifts for travelers here and here!

Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.

Bazaars of Istanbul

One of the main draws of Istanbul for many people is the shopping in the bazaars! Just like a visit to any major market anywhere, it can be overwhelming and chaotic, but also an amazing cultural experience. One of my favorite things about the Grand Bazaar was how colorful it was. Between the ceiling, lanterns, textiles, and sweet treats, it truly is a feast for the eyes! It definitely made my list of top 5 sights to see in this magical city!

22580858688_6f6e775cdb_oOn my list of what to buy was hammam towels, scarves, tiles, Turkish delight and apple tea (since I became addicted during my stay)! Of course, Istanbul and Turkey in general are famous for their carpets and textiles, but it wasn’t in my budget this time to purchase one. Something to keep in mind is that bargaining is expected, so make sure you’re in the mood to negotiate. Be patient and don’t get too attached- it’s easier that way to walk away and perhaps end up with a good deal.

Spice Bazaar- Bazaars of Istanbul- www.afriendafar.com #istanbul #spicebazaar

The Egyptian or Spice Bazaar near the New Mosque and close to the Galata Bridge is another great market to explore if you’re shopping for food. Besides spices of course, there’s dried fruit, nuts sweets, tea, coffee and more. If you’re buying Turkish delight or baklava, you can buy it fresh (not boxed) and have the shop vacuum seal it! We happened to stumble upon a Turkish coffee roaster just outside the market with a very long line. I bought some Turkish coffee for gifts with the logic that if locals are standing in line to purchase it must be pretty good!

Hammam Towels- Bazaars of Istanbul- www.afriendafar.com #bazaars #istanbul

If you’re looking for a more structured visit to the Grand Bazaar, consider joining a tour such as the Grand Bazaar Walk from Istanbul Walks. If you’re a photography buff, there’s a photography walk from Alternative City Walks. I researched this as a possibility if I went alone, but I ended up going with colleagues so opted not to take the tour. No matter how you visit the bazaars, the experience is bound to be a memorable one!

Have you visited the bazaars in Istanbul? Do you want to ? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.
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Travel Coloring Books for Adults

While Stephanie has been floating around Albuquerque, I’ve been back in Atlanta looking for new ways to feed my wanderlusting soul. I started with awesome twitter chats where I’ve made new friends and come up with great ideas (chat with us here!). Now I’ve moved on to that “stress-relieving” activity that’s all the rage. Yes, I’ve been coloring in coloring books. Not just any coloring books, mind you, but two travel-themed books: Secret Paris and Secret Tokyo. Let me tell you, it’s a wonderful way to pass the time.

Tokyo Coloring Book for Adults - www.AFriendAfar.com

Secret Paris and Secret Tokyo

My friend gave me the Secret Paris book a few weeks back, so when I saw Secret Tokyo in a shop today, I had to bring it home. Having been to both Paris and Tokyo, I was thrilled to start coloring in cityscapes and souvenirs in the colors that I remembered from my trips.

The author that makes the Secret Paris and Secret Tokyo books also makes a Secret New York, so you have 3 beautifully detailed cities covered right there. I’ve found multiple more travel-themed coloring books below. I think they make an amazing gift for your favorite traveler! They’re absolutely perfect for when you’re daydreaming at home, and I can’t wait to take one on a plane to pass the time on a short flight or to keep me busy until bedtime on a long-haul flight. Coloring in the City of Lights on the way to Paris? What better way to get excited about the beautiful colors and architectural details that make that city so unique!

Paris Coloring Book for Adults - www.AFriendAfar.com

Our Favorite Travel Coloring Books

Secret ParisSecret Paris 

Secret TokyoSecret Tokyo

Secret New YorkSecret New York

Splendid CitiesSplendid Cities

CityScapesCreative Haven CityScapes

World Traveler
World Traveler Coloring Book

What do you think of this new coloring book craze? Which of these coloring books is now on your wish list?  Tell us in the comments!

Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.

Guest Post: 8 Family Travel Tips from Alli

We recently introduced you to two of our Friends Afar, Krista and Ja. We have a new and wonderful friend for you today – Alli! You’re going to love Alli! We sure do! We met her at our church in Atlanta where she had started Lazarus Ministries, an amazing non-profit that does wonderful work with Atlanta’s homeless community. Fun fact: that’s where fellow blog author Stephanie met her husband!

 Now Alli’s living in Washington, D.C. with her husband Joe, her pup Duke, and her darling little boy Jack who is wonderfully featured in this post. Alli has also expanded Lazarus Ministries to Washington, D.C., so if you’re in the area, find out how you can get involved here.  Alli’s been traveling all over the U.S. with Jack and Duke in tow, so she has some great tips on family travel! In fact, Jack has already seen more of North America than most people you know, so he’s Our Little Friend Afar! Enjoy!
Meet Our Friend Afar: Alli and Jack - www.AFriendAfar.com

Family Travel Tips from Our Friend Afar: Alli

Some of my friends call me crazy. I have a 15 month old son named Jack, and he has been to 22 states, Canada, 13 major cities, and has had his feet in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. I travel for work, to be able to see both mine and my husband’s family, and for adventure. Sometimes he is traveling with me and my husband, but sometimes it is just me and our dog. I didn’t plan his first year to be so full, but it happened.  I learned a few things from my various trips, so I thought I would write a few tips.

1) Be mentally prepared and realistic. Just a couple of weeks ago, I loaded up the car with Jack and our dog, Duke, and drove from Washington, DC to Dalton, Georgia. Normally, it’s a 10 hour drive, but it would have been torture to try to make it in that time driving by myself with a toddler and a dog. I managed my expectations to be more realistic and knew it would be closer to 14 or 15 hours. We stopped every 2 hours — mainly so Jack could play. Because I was mentally prepared, it was a pleasant trip. I also try to make sure my expectations of the day match what it will be like.

2) What you wear matters. Of course, I want to be comfortable. But I am more on top of things if I don’t feel and look sloppy. I usually wear stretchy jeans, a shirt that it is not terribly noticeable if it is a little dirty from toddler hands (but still cute), my Puma ballet sneaker flats, and a stylish hat.  Also, bringing an extra shirt is ideal.  I highly recommend not wearing one piece suits (this is important for the bathroom… I’ll get to that).

3) Ration the toys. I keep most of Jack’s toys up front with me (or in my bag if on a plane or train) and hand them back to him one at a time. I have them positioned to be handed back safely. If I give him all of the toys at once, he gets bored much more quickly. Once I have handed him all of his toys, it is usually time to stop for a break. (It would take about 1.5 to 2 hours to go through all of his toys. We do this at home as well, and I have been told it helps with focus.) I usually bring a mixture of 15 toys and books.

3) Think ahead about entertainment. The last trip I mentioned was 14 hours long. We did that with no TV. I was prepared with a playlist that had songs we both like, some NPR podcasts, and audiobooks. When he was happy, occupied and content, I would listen to the podcasts or audiobooks. When he started to get fidgety, I would play the surefire songs that make him smile and clap (for Jack those are Mind Games by Leagues and Shake it Off by Taylor Swift — pretty much a guaranteed smile). Swing by the library and spend a second on iTunes; you will not regret it.

4) Nature does call. For me the hardest thing when traveling with a baby or toddler (and a dog!) is going to the bathroom. With the baby, I wear him as I go to the bathroom. He is too busy and public bathrooms are too nasty for me to let him down at all. Once in the Seattle airport family room, there was a little chair attached to the wall that had straps. That was a luxury! Especially since I was a wearing a fashionable jumpsuit that was one piece (learned my lesson there because not all airports or bathrooms have those and we had other layovers).

Family Travel Tips - www.AFriendAfar.com

5) Snacks. Jack was 7 months old when I drove from DC to Wilmington, NC by myself. It was the first time traveling alone with him. I was so worried about food and snacks, but another mom showed me the dissolvable snacks. It was such a relief to know that he couldn’t choke on them.

6) Traveling with a dog. Our dog, Duke, is a six year old boxer that is a saint. He is a therapy dog, has a wonderful demeanor, and loves the car! I actually have to spell C-A-R if I am not ready for him to know we are getting ready to go. Traveling with a dog brings its own obstacles. We can only do drive-thru restaurants unless I packed meals. I do not travel with him without another adult in the summer. I have to leave him in the car when I need to go to the bathroom. My sister recommended leaving a sign saying that I am just running in to go to the bathroom so that there is no confusion and so people know he is in there for just a few minutes. I always leave the windows down enough for him to get air and park in the shade. I also put the air on full blast for a few minutes before parking. Dogs should not be left for more than a few minutes. I hurry and then let him out to do his business.

7) Bring the right supplies; borrow the rest. A mirror in the backseat so I can see Jack while I am driving and travel dog dishes that go flat when not in use are the types of things that I find irreplaceable (I am hoping that the right carseat goes without saying, but just in case…). Highchair, portacrib, infant bathtub —  I try to borrow in the destination city. In the day of social media, it only takes one post to find someone’s friend’s sister’s cousin who has what is needed.

8) Be ready for THOSE moments. Like when your son is asleep, you’re listening to a Desmond Tutu audiobook, and you are overwhelmed with the beauty of the moment as you drive through the Shenandoah Valley. Or the flight from DC to Minneapolis where he is looking out the windows and giggling at the clouds. Or when a restaurant in Knoxville lets you, your son, and your dog sit in the fenced in patio, and your son stands at the fence holding his sippy cup and waving to people as they pass by. Those are the moments that make you glad you were crazy enough to take him on this adventure no matter how much work it is for you. Those moments.

Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.

The Best Twitter Chats for Travel Lovers

If you’re like us, you don’t just love to travel, you also love sharing stories and getting new ideas from like-minded travelers. Today we’ve found a great selection of organized Twitter chats that help you do just that. In these chats, the host asks questions, and their followers answer by sharing experiences, travel tips, photos, and ideas. Whether you’re an active Twitter user or someone who occasionally follows social media, head on over and follow these conversations for great ideas and fun new travelers to follow. You never know what you’ll find or where your new friends will be from! We especially love seeing the photos that people share of their favorite locations. It often adds a few new spots to our ever-growing destination list!

Twitter Chats for Travel Lovers

Monday
2pm EST: #GirlsTravel
Host: @sheswanderful

3pm EST: #TravelPics
Host: @AntiTourist

3pm EST: #TravelCult
Host: @TravelHistory_

Tuesday
1pm EST: #TRLT (The Road Less Traveled)
Host: @TheTravelCamel

3:30pm EST: #NUTS (Not-So Usual Therapy Session)
Host: @Midliferoadtrip

5:30pm EST: #TTOT (Travel Talk on Twitter)
Host: @TravelDudes

Wednesday
2pm EST: #ExpediaChat
Hosts: @Expedia

3:30pm EST: #RTWChat
Host: @BootsnAll

5pm EST: #Travex
Host: @TravelSquire and @MGPtravelblog

8pm EST: #FoodTravelChat
Host: @FoodTravelChat

Thursday
1:30pm EST: #JSETT
Host: @JetSetExtra

Friday
12pm EST: #TravelSkills
Host: @johnnyjet and @cjmcginnis

All day: #FriFotos
Host:  @EpsteinTravels

Saturday
11am EST: #WeekendWanderlust
Host: @JustinLaurenXO

Do you know about any other travel-themed Twitter chats we should join? Tell us about them in the comments!

Don’t forget to connect with us on Twitter for great travel news, pictures, and tips! We love hearing from you!

Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.

Wanderlust Style: Vintage Maps as Decor

A few weeks ago we shared with you how we use vintage suitcases to bring that wanderlust style into our home. We love vintage maps as well, and we wanted to share some of our favorite inspirations, including a great DIY that currently graces our living room.

Vintage Classroom Maps in Home Decor

I just adore vintage classroom maps! Their faded colors, tattered edges, and wooden dowel rods for hanging give them so much character. I also love when the maps are old enough that their subject matter has changed – maybe they feature the Soviet Union or the Territory of Alaska. My husband and I have a large classroom map of the world entirely in Spanish. It adds so much character to our guestroom.

Maps in Home Decor - Vintage Classroom Map Collage - www.AFriendAfar.com

[Sources: Top: Conversation Pieces; Bottom: Country Living, Apartment Therapy, Shelterriffic]

Vintage Maps as Wallpaper

If you’re looking to make a really big statement, I love the idea of maps for wallpaper. You can either get a large scale mural of a world map or a city map like the black and white map of London below, or you can make your own “wallpaper” by hanging maps in a collage all over the wall.

[Sources: Majesty MapsThe Inspired Room]

Maps in the Bedroom: Headboards!

As I mentioned above, my husband and I have a giant Spanish language world map that was once used in a classroom. Lucky for us, it’s the same width as a queen-sized bed, and it now serves as a headboard in our guestroom. We hope it inspires sweet globetrotting dreams for our guests.

[Sources: Urban OutfittersMy Favorite and My Best, The Painted Hive, and 47 Park Avenue]

Other Great Examples

The map collages on the slanted ceilings shown below fascinate me. What a dreamy and unexpected idea! Since I’m also a collector of globes, of course, a vignette of globes in front of a large-scale map also caught my eye.

[Sources: Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge, and Elle Decor]

And one final idea for you: the vintage-style map of Italy below, which we purchased at Paper-Source, was my husband’s and my gift to each other for our second anniversary. I used cotton thread to stitch our honeymoon trip along the train routes in Italy. The hearts mark the cities that we visited: Rome, Florence, and Venice.

Sewn Map DIY - Maps as Decor - www.AFriendAfar.com

Do you have any maps decorating your home? Tell us about them in the comments!

 

Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.