This article was published in September 2021 on via their content series: The Elements of Adventure with Matt Walker – the original piece can be found here

All images documented by the talented and creative Andrea Laughery @laughclan

Want to give Field Notes a spin? It’s my go to for journaling and thought capture: Field Notes – take 10% off with the code: Adventure


Routines & Journaling

Journaling. The word can evoke a feeling of peace, calm, thoughts of beautiful penmanship, poetic reflections, and the musings of a philosopher.

Thomas Jefferson. Marie Curie. Anne Frank. Lewis and Clark. Marco Polo. Leonardo Davinci. Thomas Edison. Winston Churchill. Frida Kahlo. Che Guavara. Henry David Thoreau. The list of individuals that kept journals goes on and on and it is astounding to have a glimpse into the genius, creativity, and daily lives of such iconic and influential people.

But, my journaling looks nothing like theirs. At all. It’s a dumpster fire of unreadable chicken scratch, ranting, emotional outburst and thoughts that don’t connect or tie together. These writings are not a memoir nor are they a reflective exercise to share my perspective with others or the world. They are brain dump written without restraint, uncensored, and brutal in their delivery.

And…those same journals can be an opening, a place of renewal, offering clarity, a chance to reflect and create opportunity as well as a new way of living – open to adventure.

I work with two journals. One that holds reflections and future possibilities – the depth journal. And one that is my ‘everyday carry’ – that holds the to-do lists, random thoughts, and details I don’t want to forget (or rely on my memory to hold, which it usually doesn’t!).

They both have their place.

The slow mornings around the campfire, down jacket on, coffee, and the world slowly waking – those mornings are perfect for the depth journal. Creating space to reflect, write without judgment, and consider what’s next, what I want to accomplish in relationships, as a father, and in my work. It’s the slow, deliberate pause, the intentional moment to stop and examine. These moments start as a few minutes and can creep slowly and easily into a half-hour and longer.

The everyday carry notebook, the one that’s in my pocket or the lid of my pack, is the living extension of my brain that allows me to dump thoughts or reminders so that I can be present in the moment. It’s the external hard drive so that I don’t have to hold it all. It’s a gift, really, to then be present in the experience and with those around me.

I encourage you to release all expectations as to how a journal should be. It’s yours to create, yours to use, and yours to define. There are no hard and fast rules. Use it daily, once a week, only while camping or on a hike. No rules, No right way. No wrong way. Just blank pages to be filled with whatever your mind creates.

Consider these opportunities for journaling:

 Over coffee in the quiet morning before the world wakes up and the demands of the day begin.
 Mid-morning after the initial out the door push is complete and you contemplate the next part of the day.
 Once a week – Sunday evening as the week wraps and a new week begins.
 With another person – take some time together to sit, write, share your perspective, and connect with another.

Some possibilities for getting off the blank page:

 Take a series of full breaths: what do you feel physically and emotionally? Start from this place and simply describe your experience as you settle in.
 Brain dump: dump all of the thoughts, the to-do’s, the pieces not complete. Use the opportunity to literally let go of all of the information you are holding.
 One please, one thank you, and one wow. Write one thing you would like to see happen, one thing you are grateful for, and one “wow” you experience in the world.

These are your blank pages and yours to create as you wish, let them be a place for clearing the noise from your mind, creating space for new possibilities, and planning your next adventures. See you out there!