Traveler's Notebooks - Why TRAVELER'S COMPANY Might Be Best for You
It's Michael again. We've talked about notebook covers before. Back when we first started stocking TRAVELER'S COMPANY, I half-joked that I was bound to end up switching to a Traveler's Notebook at some point, it was just a matter of time. Well, it took me longer than I expected, but eventually it happened, just a few weeks ago. So what made me change? I've always loved the look of them. The simplicity is beautiful, the leather is just so nice, and there's something iconic about the design. The size had put me off, though, being a bit too big for my pockets. And the Passport size would work, but seemed a bit too small. But I started to find the 90x140mm notebooks I was using a bit too small, especially with my favourite broad nibs, and most of the notebooks I had in that size weren't great with fountain pen ink anyway. I don't go far without my bag, and I take my iPad everywhere with me, which set a precedent for carrying something that was too big for a pocket - if my iPad went everywhere, why couldn't a slightly larger notebook?
There are two sizes of Traveler's Notebook - standard and passport. The passport size is small, the size of a passport, not too surprisingly. It's like a shorter version of the fairly common pocket notebook size of 90x140mm, coming in at 90x124mm. They're good if you want a little notebook with you for quick notes, and want it to fit in most pockets. Not so good if you want a bit of space for your thoughts or notes. These are often combined with inserts that hold cards, and other little pockets, to make an alternative to a wallet or purse.
Standard sized Traveler's Notebooks are quite big - too big for most pockets, though they might fit in a larger jacket or coat pocket, and would fit in most bags. The paper size is an A4 sheet folded in three, as is common for fliers and simple information leaflets. Opened out as a spread, using both sides of the paper, the notebook is over A5 in size, which is quite a bit of space for lists, notes, or even mind-mapping.
A little aside on the photo above left - the building in the background is a minor landmark in Exeter, not far from Cult Pens. It's known as The House That Moved. Because it moved. It was built around 1430, but in the 1960s it was in the way, and due to be demolished. The decision was made to save it, by jacking the whole building off the ground, and moving it to where it now stands.
As much as I want to get fully into bullet journaling, I have to accept that paper isn't going to work for that for me. I'm all in on digital organising, where I can search, make backups, type quickly, include links, copy and paste, and have everything synced to whichever device I'm using. I know. I work in a pen shop, I really should be more analog. But the part where paper really does still work best for me is thinking. If I want to think something through, paper and pen make that easier. So my choice is to fill in the places where digital doesn't work so well. One notebook for thinking, with no structure to it, just scribble whatever seems to help at the time. That book contains straightforward writing, lists, mind maps, etc. Then I have a weekly planner, undated, that I use pencil in, so it can easily change when plans change, as they so often do. For that, I use the Perpetual Diary Weekly insert, with the week on the left side of each spread, and squared paper on the right. The days can be planned on the left, while the right is for anything that spans multiple days, or just plans for that week overall.
If you're buying a Traveler's Notebook, you're probably also going to be buying Traveler's Company inserts, to match the size. Fortunately, one of the things they're well-known and well-loved for is the range and quality of their inserts. The basic notebooks are available in plain, lined, squared and dot-grid. The paper works well with all types of ink, including fountain pens. They're well-made and good quality. There's also quite an assortment of different diary or planner layouts, mainly undated so you can use them whenever you need to. Other inserts may come and go, but at the moment there are such oddities as the Sticker Release insert made from sticker backing paper for carrying or collecting stickers; pads for writing letters, and even washable paper (though we're not entirely sure why a machine-washable notebook is so useful!)
My Favourite Accessories
Accessories are a very personal thing, and my favourites won't be yours. Well, maybe they will. I love the leather pen holders, though they're too narrow for my favourite fountain pens. I've used two of them to hold a 0.2mm Pentel Orenznero pencil, which is perfect for use in the weekly planner insert, which really needs small writing that I can change later. Two pen loops seems like overkill, but it keeps the pencil very steady, so it doesn't get in the way. The cotton zipper case is lovely, and adds a zipped compartment on one side, and one large pocket and three card slots on the other. I keep mine around the back, wrapping behind all the other inserts. It holds a folding 30cm ruler, a tiny sharp knife, and an assortment of cards and cash. By taking a lot of the load off my wallet, I can have just a very slim wallet in my pocket. And a bit of searching on Etsy found a tiny little Bulbasaur charm to hang on the elastic closure. I've seen people say these are a help when getting hold of the elastic. To be honest, I think it gets in the way slightly more than it helps, but it's so cute.
Probably the best thing about a Traveler's Notebook is that it's so flexible that it becomes entirely yours, just what you need. If you happen to want three different lined notebooks for different types of notes, and nothing more, you can have just that. But if you want your notebook to double-up as a weekly planner and an extended wallet, it can do that too. And it can keep your pen handy too. If scrapbooking is your thing, there are double-sided stickers available to stick receipts, tickets, or almost anything else into your notebook. Well, within reason. It's a pocket notebook, don't try sticking an armadillo in there, even a small one. It won't go well for anyone involved. Like to sketch when you're out and about? There's a sketchbook insert, and even a watercolour paper insert. Prefer to plan a month or just a day at a time? There are daily and monthly inserts too.
What Makes TRAVELER'S COMPANY Different?
Plenty of other brands make similar covers now, and while Traveler's Company, or Midori as they were known then, did a lot to popularise them, they weren't the first to make a leather cover for one or more notebooks. So what makes them different to most others?
- Quality. Some others are every bit as good, but many aren't. The quality of the leather used by Traveler's Company is really, really nice. They last, and you'll find many people online showing off their Traveler's Notebooks that have been used for many years. Ageing nicely. Related to the quality, the leather is thick and strong, and ages well. Yes, it will get scratched and scuffed as you carry it, but that looks good.
- Simplicity. While some brands add pockets and pouches, or multiple elastics, Traveler's Company have kept things simple. One elastic loop to hold everything, and add pockets if you want to, but it's your choice.
- Closure. Many others have the closure through the spine, Traveler's Company have it in the middle of the back. Before getting one, I thought the knot would get in the way, but in use, I don't find it a problem.
- Metal Toggle. No, not a band name, though that could work too. There's a little metal disc at the top of the spine that grips the elastic, keeping things secure. Another part I thought would get in the way, but really hasn't at all.
- Sizes. Most others stick to a more standard size, like A5, A6, or 90x140mm. These have the advantage of more notebooks being available, but the Traveler's Company sizes have their advantages too. The Passport size is more likely to fit in your pocket than almost any alternative, and the Standard size certainly fits into compartments in my bag that an A5 notebook cover wouldn't.
- Inserts and Accessories. The huge range of notebooks and other inserts and accessories really turn your notebook cover into something more personal to you, more specific to your needs. Some brands may use more standard sizes of insert, but even putting them all together, it's no match for the range of inserts offered by TRAVELER'S COMPANY.
The Brass Collection
We've only talked about notebook covers and accessories so far, because that's what TC are best known for. But they also make a range of brass products that can be used separately, though they do pair especially nicely with the Traveler's Notebook covers. Brass and leather have some properties in common - they're both long-lasting and age nicely - gathering the patina of use, rather than trying to be unchanging. They show the story of how you use them, your own story. The various brass clips can hold your notebooks open for easier use, or mark up sections you need quick access to, or mark up places you want to refer to in your archive; but they could just as nicely make any other archive of papers look good while organising it better. The pens and pencils are a lovely brass take on the classic Japanese 'short pen', where most of the pen fits inside the cap when it's not in use, for easier pocketing, but make full-length writing instruments for comfort when you use them.