systematizing: traveler’s notebook
A warm breeze brings the smell of dried grass and sickly sweet flowers. They’re drying up under the unrelenting sun. It is too early for the hottest days of the summer to arrive, but they’re here nevertheless. A fountain sprays some water to the air every now and then, the droplets not doing much to cool down the people sitting around it. Heavy curtains twirl lazily in the breeze, even they cannot move much. There is not a single cloud in the sky, and the sky will continue to be that spotless bright blue for almost twelve more hours. The only thing left to do is put another tray of ice in the freezer and pull a chair in front of the window, hoping to catch a single breath of fresh, cool air.
Keeping an organised planner used to be second nature to me throughout school, since our school would print out special planners for the students. By the end of the year, the double ring binding would be bent, the cardboard covers frayed and pages torn for writing random notes. It was a cathartic feeling to throw the planner into a garbage can at the last day of school and not having to plan anything during the summer.
Well, during Covid the future was so uncertain that it was almost impossible to plan, and the general last-minute culture here does not lend itself well to planning ahead. So, for the past year or two, my planner needed to be extremely flexible with lots of spaces for notes and last minute scribbles. Also, I have a strong preference to A5-ish sizes, as it feels like the perfect size to have enough space to write without being overly bulky. I was hoping to find a refillable cover and a few different options so that I could try different formats or change the purpose of the notebook if necessary.
It's easy to see why the Traveler’s Notebook system was a good fit.
Though, it doesn’t mean I did not have my doubts about it. Usually, I am not the biggest fan of getting into any type of system, as I don’t like following a rigid framework on paper. So much so that, I tend to not buy notebooks with clearly marked margins or heading/date spaces. You know, what if I don’t want to put up a date? What if topics spill over and I don’t need a heading space? The thought of being limited to one brand of refill did not sit well with me. Even though I already had a TN at the time, this post from The Gentleman Stationer gives me more incentive to try chopping a few liked notebooks. I have heard of many other people making refills for the sizes of TN as well, since it is a very well-liked and established brand.
Then, there was the plethora of options. There are just so many options for refills from the regular lineup, to stickers, to the B-sides to other limited editions that they release. It is near impossible to try to catch them all. So, I decided one thing very early on: I would not try to get any limited editions, unless they were extremely tempting and that I already had an existing use case for it. I would keep it as simple as possible.
It was time to chose a cover. The two sizes are the Regular (A5 slim) and a Passport size. I went with a black leather Regular cover, whereas my boyfriend went with a brown Passport size to use it as his pocket notebook. He wants me to tell you all that he loves his Passport size too. For me, it got a little getting used to. The first refill comes out of the cover bundle, a blank one, and I had gotten the number 019. It’s a weekly planner insert with the days of the week on the left side and a grid page for notes on the right. The date part is empty, so I could just leave it unused when I am on a holiday or during the summer break.
This worked well until now, and I enjoyed the process of opening up my planner and online calendars on Sunday evenings and writing out my week, colour coding it according to my currently inked pens. A5 slim size gives you enough height for all seven days of the week without feeling restricted, while the narrow width keeps it compact. I only got the folder and the pencil board as an add-on, but they’re a story for a different time. The blank refill turned out to be much more useful with the pencil board, since I could write on a straight line now, and I kept using it for meetings for my side project.
So, what happens now? It is time for me to switch planner styles. I want to give Hobonichi a try next year, hopefully it’ll be a good addition to a handle a busy schedule. A more rigid format is necessary for me, and my TN will become the meeting notebook with three refills inside. The flexibility strikes again. Unfortunately, many fancy planners do not start in September, but in January, so I have a few months to think, research and change my mind about what planner I want for 2024. I wish there were more academic-oriented planners though, it is tough to keep a single year across two notebooks.
I am trying to keep myself from ordering the olive TN (my favourite colour) passport size, so please don’t tell me how much I am already missing out.
Thank you for reading! Let me know if you have any planner suggestions that behave well with fountain pens. Ideally, there should be a monthly, weekly and daily layouts in varying degrees of detail, but I’ll settle for monthly + daily layouts if there is enough space to cram stuff in a monthly square.