Bullet Journaling Abroad

Traveling abroad can be daunting, especially in the context of studying abroad. When living in a foreign country for months or more, acclimating can be a challenge. One of the best ways to adjust is to fall into a routine. One that is both therapeutic and practical is bullet journaling.

What is Bullet Journaling?

“Journaling” is often associated with something similar to keeping a diary; writing down thoughts and events from the day or week. Keeping a planner on the other hand, is more the scheduling of weekly, monthly, or yearly events, including to dos, important dates, contacts, etc. Using a bullet journal is a sort of happy medium between the two. There is also the benefit of a bullet journal also being a sketchbook and a notebook. However, it is important to keep in mind that a bullet journal can be one or all of the above depending on personal preference. The customizability of such a journal is what makes it so useful. The creator of the bullet journal simply wanted a tool to simultaneously keep track of the past and present, as well as planning for the future.

Bullet Journaling rule

“Rules” to Bullet Journaling:

There are only a few simple aspects that are at the core of keeping a bullet journal. However, by following only these steps, a user could have a comprehensive and organized journal. Of course, many of those who bullet journal enjoy adding their own twist to these basic steps.

An Index and a Future Log should be within the first few pages of a bullet journal. The Index is similar to a book index and corresponds to the numbered pages. The Future Log is just that: a very basic year-long calendar to track things like birthdays, travel dates, big events, etc. A Monthly Log is simply the tasks the user needs to accomplish during that month. A Daily Log tracks tasks to be done during that day. These are written as reminders and easy notes. What follows these few pages is completely up to the creator.

Bullet Journaling pig

The beauty of bullet journals is that they follow no strict guidelines. Though there are the “rules,” how simple or how much detail the user wants to make a bullet journal is completely open. What is a “rule” is generally considered useful and what is suggested to begin bullet journaling. However, everyone is most productive in their own way, which is why bullet journaling’s openness is useful for most.

Bullet Journaling tea
Courtesy of @sama.rie

How I Bullet Journal Abroad:

I originally began bullet journaling in preparation for my year abroad in Japan. My journal was handy for tracking all of the important tasks that were necessary to finish before I left. Important documents, packing, and last-minute scheduling made up most of my pages. During this time, my bullet journal was very basic and simple. While it got the job done, there was little motivation to continue.

Once I began my year abroad, I began to lose interest in my bullet journal because at that time I was not using it to its full potential. I left it in my room and mainly used it as a glorified to-do list.

However, once school began in earnest, I found that the best way to use my bullet journal was to decorate it in a way that was appealing to me. I began using colored pens, markers, stickers, and washi tape. In doing so, I looked forward to organizing my week in my journal. What make it even more valuable was when I began inserting my travel memories in the form of Polaroids, ticket stubs, stamps, etc. By doing so, my bullet journal began to transform from a planner to an invaluable way to track my time abroad. I finally felt like I was using my bullet journal to its full potential. I keep any precious memories in my bullet journal. Nevertheless, it continues to support my studies and travels as being a useful organizational tool.

Bullet Journaling equipment
Courtesy of @sama.rie

Things to Remember:

Many people put extra effort into personalizing and making their bullet journal a creative outlet. However, that is not a requirement. Having a bullet journal is not something that needs to take a large amount of time.  Keeping a bullet journal should not be the cause of stress but rather its relief.  Bullet journaling while abroad is a useful tool to keep your schedule organized, track memories, and well as an artistic outlet. So get Journaling!

Bullet Journaling type

Links to Start Bullet Journaling:

To begin bullet journaling, the following links are very useful. They range from the creator’s initial idea to more creative and artsy versions. It would also be useful to go on social media like Instagram and Tumblr for ideas. For example, some of above images and featured image are from my own Instagram and bullet journal. I got many of my ideas from the Instagram bullet journal community.

Bullet Journaling book

Profile photo of Sam Schommer


Sam Schommer

Sam is an International Affairs student at Northern Arizona University. Currently, she is studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan at Waseda University for the duration of her third undergrad year. As an international affairs major, she feels it her duty to be up to date about culture (particularly memes), politics, and social issues both in her home and abroad. An Arizona native, Sam has lived in America her whole life and her year in Japan is the first time she has been out of the country more than a few days. To see what she’s been up to in Japan as well as some other interesting places, check out her Instagram and Twitter!

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