In which, yet again, I become what I judge. This time was quicker than usual! (It took twenty years for me to end up fat and the owner of a fake Christmas tree, but only weeks to end up with a Traveler’s Notebook!)
Behold. My Traveler’s Notebook.
This object has totally captured my imagination. I’m not really sure why, as it’s just a piece of leather and some elastic, a tin clamp, a waxed thread bookmark, paper, and accessories, but I adore it. (No hyperbole. Sometimes I just sit and hold it and look at it.)
So elegant and clever. So satisfying. The smell of the leather, the feel of the paper. The thoroughly modern faux-rusticity.
You feel as if, should the world end, you’d carry this with you always, and scribble in it with the smallest and most cramped hand to save what little paper was left. Future feral generations would marvel at the even-cut edges, the fineness of the paper, the way the leather was treated. The impossibly complicated dried-out old plastic-and-steel pen, and the precision-milled pen clip. It would be scarred and bent, but beautiful, and you’d have put all you knew in it for them.
(Of course, what will really happen is that when this journaling generation goes, there will be millions upon millions of these things, stuffed with inspirational stickers and craft paper flowers and tabs and clips and cutesy drawings and a personal, woman’s-eye view into life way back in the teens, unearthed in boxes in grandmas’ houses and glutting the antiques market and whatever will pass for eBay by then. If they come back in style, like Polaroid cameras have now, people will probably buy them and gut them and re-use the by-then antique leather covers.)
I got the notebook itself (a “fauxdori,” made by a company called September Leather) for free, using points from my Chase Amazon card. (I can’t tell you how much I’ve spent on accessories since it’s completely embarrassing.) I soon restrung it with a Midori repair kit, even though the original elastics were just fine, to make it look more like a Midori.
I’ve purchased hand-made inserts, official Midori inserts. Pencil boards, kraft folders, pens. Colored pencils, brush pens, a couple of stencils. Book darts, washi tape, a repair kit, double sided tape, pen holder clips, and Midori post-its designed to fit inside.
And, if all that weren’t enough, I also bought a passport-sized Midori, plus a few accessories for it, too.
I use the little one as a wallet. It’s the most expensive wallet I’ve ever carried, and it’s not even a wallet! But it does hold one’s passport perfectly, plus money and cards.
I looooooooooove it.
The big one, the standard size, is my daily journal. And sketchbook. And spiritual journal. And place for lists and to-dos, and a catch-all for random bits of paper, and post-its dispenser, and pen holder, and it just looks cool and feels cool and is fun to handle.
It’s really nice to journal by hand again; I haven’t done so regularly since high school. It’s different than writing online or even typing, and I’m enjoying it very much. My wretched handwriting is slowly improving, and I’ve begun to sketch and doodle, too — something I’ve never really done.
Sometimes I sketch things from books I’m reading; other sketches are scenes from what I’m watching on TV. I have no talent for art but it’s fun, and feels better than wasting time scrolling endlessly on social media.
I discovered the Traveler’s Notebook by accident when looking up Bullet Journaling. And here’s where the judgement comes in.
In August, I posted this innocuous entry about the chores I’d done that day, and Jinjer, whom I blame completely for my journal obsession, told me about the world of BuJo and posted a handy link.
And fell down the rabbit hole of modern planner obsession. Just like standing in front of a Franklin Planner display back in the day, only seemingly infinite. Instagram hashtags, Pinterest, endless blogs and YouTube flip-throughs. And eventually I stumbled across the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, a refillable Japanese stationer’s flagship product, and that was that. Had to have one. Had to have two.
The judgement thing was that, at first, as I looked at all the stuff, at the endless pictures of piles of planners and journals and pens and stickers and stamps and tapes and myriad other stupid meaningless and often plastic accessories, I thought, “Gross. Wasteful. Needless. These people could bullet journal with a Bic and a two dollar spiral notebook!”
I came across online stationery and pen stores, and thought, “How fucking stupid and pretentious can anyone be? Nobody needs a two hundred dollar fucking fountain pen.” But before two months were out, I’d placed my first Jet Pens order, and read through maybe half of their lovely, clever tutorials, learning several useful things.
Full disclosure: I did buy a fucking fountain pen, but it was under two bucks. I just wanted to see if I, as a leftie, could write with it. Turns out I can, but I have to hold it upside down, in order to pull rather than push the nib. I’m not super fond of it because I prefer superfine pens, and it writes medium-to-heavy.
So my knee-jerk reaction was a negative judgement, and I ended up turning into what I’d judged. In almost no time at all.
Do I need not only one but two relatively expensive journal solutions? No, I could write online here, or in a private local document. Or if I simply had to go analogue (which I felt I did, as there appears to be evidence it’s good for brain plasticity), any pen and pad of paper would do. It’s just typical Western gluttony and wastefulness (even if it does stimulate the economy (which I’m not confident is wholly good no matter what they say)).
Do any non-professionals need special paper types, wide varieties of writing utensils, or other accessories? No, not at all. I’m no artist, or famous diarist, or world traveler.
But do I really need most of what I have? No. And I’m ashamed of it, honestly, but not enough to force privation on myself. I focus instead on my gratitude and good fortune, most of the time.
Much of my adult life I couldn’t have afforded to buy these things on a whim; I would have put them on wishlists and eventually forgotten about them. Now that I’m in a spot where I can drop sixty bucks on a glorified wallet I don’t need, well, I did. So I’m just like everybody else and I use my discretionary income to buy shit I do not, in any way, shape, or form, need, but only want.
It feels weird. It’s strange that when my life is at its most abundant and comfortable, I’m mentally so Spartan in outlook. I frequently feel a sense of melancholy about how normalized my relative wealth is, when so many are still suffering heartbreaking lack. I have so much, from hot running water to grocery delivery to the luxury of enough free time to make my own bread and pickles and salsa and soups and sauces and hats and socks. Other people are literally shooed off of the park benches they’re trying to sleep on.
Oh, well, enough pontificating. The positive outcome of all this is that not only do I have a couple of objects that give me great pleasure every time I use them, and a new habit of offline analog time, but also I donated an equal amount to the local food kitchen and shelter just so I could stand myself! True story.