2015 Conundrum Week Two: Traveler’s Notebook

I’m a little late getting this post up considering it’s the last week of the month, but choosing which planner I want to use this year has been more of a challenge than I initially expected.

Long story short, I’m still carrying three different planners around with me every day (The Mulberry from week 1 was ruled out).

So anyway, the second contender in my 2015 planner conundrum is a regular size Traveler’s Notebook. I started out using a standard Midori brand TN (which I do adore) but ended up switching to this lovely Gemini leather notebook cover in tan made by Chic Sparrow.


The reason I was attracted to this TN is the fact that it has four elastics in it to hold notebooks, rather than Midori’s two. If I was going to use something that incorporates bound books as my planner, I knew from past attempts and failures that I would need several layouts going at once to do the trick and the Midori wouldn’t hold everything I needed, no matter how many elastic bands I fidgeted with.

Normally, in a ring planner, I like to have a full year’s monthly view, the entire year in a weekly view, and maybe the current week (or even month, if I have the room in the rings) of dailies to view for details. The beauty of a ring planner is that I can take pages out and put pages in with ease. Not so with a bound notebook system like a Traveler’s Notebook

Fortunately, I was able to find all the refills I needed to outfit this TN from Midori. Everything of the Midori brand that you see pictured here was purchased from Baum-Kuchen.

First off, I added one of the Refill 004 Pocket Stickers to the inside front to hold small miscellaneous papers. See it there on the bottom left corner?

inside cover

Ring planners traditionally have plenty of cubby-holes and pockets, but most TNs do not, so these stick on pockets are fantastic. Next up you can see the 007 Card Holder refill. I don’t usually keep too many business cards in my planners, so I have a couple Hobonichi stencils and my Starbucks reward card in them at the moment.

An essential for me is the 020 Kraft File. Again, because your average TN lacks pockets, I use this to hold important papers, bills and the like. Dated or time sensitive stuff goes here, front and center, impossible to ignore. You can also see the front cover of the Monthly Calendar booklet  in orange. I have added a simple Post-It Self Stick Pocket to the front to hold clips and small ephemera.

kraft env

The 2015 Monthly Calendar refill is awesome, but you usually have to snap these up pretty quickly at the start of the year or they sell out everywhere. Fortunately there is also an undated version (Refill 017) that is pretty easy to find. I’m too lazy to write in my own dates though, so thankfully I was able to snag the dated one.


I use color coding to identify pay dates (green), holidays that my office is closed (yellow) and other significant days. US Holidays are not noted on these refills, so my yellow dots come in very handy. I also use blue for special days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and red ones for date-dates (bow chicka wow wow!!)

The monthly refill is the whole year in one booklet. For the weeks, you get two notebooks with 6-months each (Jan – June and July – Dec). These are available as a dated 2015 Vertical Weekly Calendar, or as with the monthlies, as an un-dated version.


I only have one of the Weekly booklets in my TN currently, as I feel three notebooks at a time is about all I can stand. IF…and that is a big “if”…I added a fourth notebook, it would probably be an 002 Grid Notebook that would serve as a general capture tool (something I lack in this set up).

Oh, and I’ve also added a Hightide Page Clip Ruler from the Hobonichi store to mark my place in the weekly booklet. Mine is grey, but they also come in black, pink and blue.

Most of my detail work goes on the daily page, and on my favorite of the Midori inserts.


They are Refill 005 Free Diary. I love these things! They are dated and feature a simple bar at the top for a quick title or keyword, and a spot for ticking off the day of the week. The rest is my favorite thing in the whole wide world…quadrille paper. One notebook captures two months. I use these as a day per page planner here in this notebook, and in another TN I have going I use these pages to journal on. They are wonderfully versatile.

Here is the back of the Kraft File, with more papers (though this time they are non-date sensitive) tucked into it.

kraft back

In the very back, I have the 008 Zipper Case. I’ve just got a pad of sticky notes and some calendar stickers in it for the moment. Admittedly, I went a little nuts with the pocket refills, so I don’t really need this…but I like it, so it stays.


Just for the sake of being thorough, here is the inside back of this TN, with another Midori stick on pocket, this time 006 Pocket Sticker, added. This lovely Sparrow was customized to add a riveted on pen loop. With so many TN styles not including a pen loop, I find the fact that this one has one securely built in to be a key feature.

back pocket

In daily use, this set up almost worked for me. So close…it came SO CLOSE!

My main issue is that, although I need at various times to see monthly, weekly and daily views, I most often leave my planner of choice open on my desk to the weekly spread so that I can see on overview of what I’ve got going on all week at one quick glance. In my ringed planners, as I have discussed many times before, I  traditionally use (with great success I might add), a DayTimer Self Stick Hotlist on my Page Marker Ruler, located right in the current week, to note down a running list of my tasks.

week with sticker

With no rings, and therefore no Page Marker Ruler, I have no place for my HotList except stuck somewhere right onto the week’s page itself. This of course proves problematic in that it covers up a day (and also it leaves a sticky residue that interferes with smooth ink flow when trying to write on whatever day was under the HotList previously when I move it around).

That sounds like a simple, stupid thing to get caught up on, but believe it or not it has been quite a stumbling block to this system being a win. I am very much an “out of sight, out of mind” person with my task list, so although I do note daily tasks on the daily page on which they are due, if my book is open to the weekly spread (which it most often is during my work day) it becomes too cumbersome to flip to the necessary day and jot down or look at tasks.

Another issue I’m having is the battle to get this thing to lay flat in whatever view I happen to need. After much tweaking I figured out to put the weekly view in the middle, because that is most likely to lay flat easily with it smack dab in the middle of the book. Still, it takes some backward bending each time I open it.

Lastly, although having no rings to get in the way of my hand when writing is very nice, those sometimes-pesky rings do enable me to put in pages and take them out as needed. There is no punching and sticking stuff in my planner with this baby. Yes, I can fold papers up and tuck them into one of the plethora of pockets I’ve added….but it’s not the same. Sometimes I just flat out need to add pages for a while TO THE PLANNER ITSELF, in the rings, easily flippable and all that. But I can’t.

This and the lack of a good spot for my sticky HotList are the deal breakers I’m afraid.

Those of you who use TNs as their only planner, how do you handle situations where you need to add pages (or take them out when no longer needed) but you’re stuck with a whole booklet? And where do you track your tasks?

As a grade I would give this system a D. While I do have an inherent love for Traveler’s Notebooks and I really, really wanted this to work, sadly, this is going to have to be classified as a Fail and although I love this notebook and no doubt will find another use for it, it won’t be as my daily planner.

Right.  On to the next…

Wabi-Sabi and the Traveler’s Notebook

I have spent the majority of my life as a perfectionist.

There, I’ve said it.

Although, those who know me well don’t really need me to say it…it is quite obvious. I like order, uniformity, have high esthetic standards and like straight lines, right angles and flawless finishes. I have been known to start an entire page over in my day planner if I was unhappy with the way my handwriting looked.

Perfectionism is a fruitless pursuit, however, since in reality there is no such thing as “perfect”. I know this logically, but until recently, I haven’t really bothered to apply that knowledge and embrace the imperfection in life, and more specifically in myself.

I have written in my non-planner-related blog about how the sea of life has rounded and softened my hard edges, my right angles, over time. Along with all that tumbling about, I came across a Japanese concept called Wabi-Sabi, the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Expressed as an aesthetic, it is sometimes described as “the beauty of that which is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”.

Reading a book called Wabi-Sabi Simple by Richard Powel, this powerful sentence caught my attention, “Wabi-Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities…nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect”.

Wabi-Sabi reveals the stark honesty of natural processes – aging, wrinkling, fading, deteriorating, etc. Items reflecting the esthetic of Wabi-Sabi graphically mirror our own mortal journey through existence.

One ah-ha moment, served up, not on the mirror finish of the stereotypical silver platter, but rather in a rough, hand hewn Japanese tea bowl lovingly gilt at the broken places.

For when the Japanese mend broken objects, they ennoble the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered and has a history; it becomes more beautiful.

I now consider myself a recovering perfectionist, and I strive every day to take notice of and cherish the beauty and uniqueness of what I once perceived as flaws. It is effort, don’t get me wrong…but it is worthwhile, enlightening effort, and I have found that it nourishes my soul in a way directly opposite of how the path of striving for perfection once depleted it.

The path of life is a series of steps. New territory, new discoveries.

A few years ago, I discovered something very cool. As a writer, it instantly appealed to my love of all things pen, ink, fine paper and writing by hand:

I discovered the Traveler’s Notebook (affectionately known as a TN).

There are a plethora of reviews already written about them. The most widely known and commercially available of these little wonders is the Midori Traveler’s Notebook; this post is not meant to be a critical review…or a review at all. It is merely me sharing something that I love (and the lesson it taught me) with you, my planner and notebook peeps.

The essence of a Traveler’s Notebook, in case you are not already addicted to familiar with them, is a thick piece of hand cut leather, which holds its inserts (paper notebooks and other accessories) by means of an elastic band (and, in the case of the Midori brand, a modest tin clasp). The leather is usually naturally vegetable tanned but not otherwise treated, so as you use it, wear marks and the like become very apparent and as it ages a wonderful patina develops, making each TN unique to the life journey of its owner.


I have a small collection of these notebooks – my first, a genuine Midori courtesy of Wakako at Baum-Kutchen (I buy all my refills and accessories from her lovely shop, and find inspiration there even on days I’m not shopping), was a full sized brown leather beauty that serves as my journal. But my constant companion is a stunning find called a Traveler’s Star Edition. In lush camel colored leather, this beauty commemorates the 5th anniversary of the Midori Traveler’s Notebook in the smaller Passport size. I find the size easier to cart around with me, even on small handbag days.

I have had this notebook for a matter of months, rather than years, but it already looks as though, based on the cover, my life is akin to an Indiana Jones movie.

The newest addition to my TN family is a gorgeous regular size Camel addition by the wonderful & talented Mr. Ray Blake.

This is it on the very first day I started using it. Already I am looking eagerly forward to when it has become as much a part of me as my beloved Traveler’s Star has, and bears the marks of my life upon it.

There was a time, not that long ago, when just looking at scuffs, scratches and dings on any fine leather good would have made my left eye twitch uncontrollably and my OCD reach for leather lotion to buff out the marks and return it to “perfection”, but these notebooks have a quality to them that not only embraces the rough and tumble nature of life, but almost revels in it.

They change from day to day…from moment to moment really…every time you take it out of your pocket or bag and write in it…a key mark here, a pen clip indent there…just as we ourselves change, evolve, grow; become molded and re-formed by that which rubs up against us every day.

Nothing stays the same. Not the world. Not our trusty little Traveler’s Notebooks. Not even ourselves.

Yes, the used notebooks looks even more beautiful to me than the day I unwrapped them in all their pristine glory. That day it was a clean slate, full of potential…and today each one remains unchanged in its ability to make me catch my breath whenever I take it out of my handbag…only now they have become imbued with my energy; from my deepest thoughts scratched on its pages, to the ink marks from a shaking hand, or tear stains from nights I have wept myself to sleep.

What I once would have cursed as “ruining” my notebooks I now look upon as enhancements, embellishments…the emotional equivalent of bedazzling, if you will.

Quite an object lesson for a card-carrying member of Perfectionists Anonymous like me, and a gift that has turned out to be far more profound than a mere heft of leather and a couple elastics.

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons to be gained from the imperfection in each of us, the impermanence of the world and all of life that swirls around us, is that we ourselves are incomplete…and that we each have a story of our own waiting to be told.

Through my own experience with blogging, I have come to know this firsthand. As I not only open to those most tender and painful parts of myself (usually written first in one of my Traveler’s Notebooks) but also share the stories (and the wisdom that I have gleaned from them) with you, those wounds begin to heal. Transform. No longer something that feels weak or ugly to me, but now…much like that gilded bowl I mentioned earlier… something which served only to make me stronger and to reveal more of the beauty in life.

More wondrous still, I have discovered that when I share these stories and begin to heal myself, a joyous, mysterious ripple effect happens…others are touched and opened up in a way that allows for their own process of accessing their inner wisdom and they themselves begin to heal as well.

Each time I reach for my Traveler’s Notebook, I am reminded that there is value in the simple, humble, weathered and worn of this world. That shiny and new have far less to offer than the well-used and well-loved. That things which leave pocks, dings and scars on you can go on to become soothing balm to someone else.

That beauty does not come from being perfect…it comes, in all its flawed, pitted, frayed-edged glory, from being real.

wabi sabi bowl