The week has been a little bit crazy for me, stress-wise. We’re busy making plans, sorting through items, and getting paperwork together, but in the meantime I still have to go to work everyday and sit and think about all the things yet to get done. Painful. But I think I’ve finally found something to calm me down a bit.

I’ve always been attracted to sketchbooks, especially of the travel kind. I love the blend of quick drawings with a few words jotted down, a small map, an itinerary, a few facts. It’s a little personal postcard of a place.

In true “I can do that,” form, I’ve tried to keep my own sketchbooks before. They don’t ever live up to what I imagine they should be, probably because I’m not an artist. I can draw in a copy-things-onto-paper sort of way, but when I step back the proportions are always off, the details are skewed, and it’s generally not amazing. I need to see something to draw it: if you asked me to draw anything from memory I’d have to give you a stick figure.

But all that is okay, because my sketchbooks aren’t going in a gallery anywhere. They’re just for me, to remember that time I sat on the steps of the Vatican and drew a statue, or when we rested in the park and I sketched an abbey with cypress trees. I use a Moleskine journal, of course, because even if I’m not a real artist I like to pretend I am.

Florence's Duomo

My first real travel sketchbook was when I took a month-long trip to Italy, Switzerland, and Paris in college. It was really more of a journal with some sketches thrown in among my tiny frenetic handwriting. The writing is nothing special, nor are the drawings, but I like looking at them if only to remind myself of that experience.

San Antimo Abbey, and a row of Cypress trees

After college, I tried to do the same thing later when I lived in Prague for six months but I wasn’t as consistent at it. I kept the journal then left spots “to fill in later,” leaving a lot of half-done drawings that still sit there today.

An Unfinished Astronomical Clock, Prague

 Since I got back from Prague I’ve been slowly filling in the drawings from pictures (It’s already two-dimensional! Perfect!) when I have time. Yesterday I worked on a lovely castle from southern Bohemia. And it was amazing. When I concentrated that hard on curving the line just right, and shading that area just enough, my stress floated away. It took a swim, and enjoyed the current. It remembered the red roofs of Prague, and the steps up the clocktower. It sat down and admired the bridges spanning the Vltava River. It came back eventually, of course, but it was a little bit meeker, like a horror movie watched in the daytime.

So I’ve found my new stress-management, for the times when I have the lists made but just have to wait. And while my stress takes a breather I can fill in my forlorn sketchbook, finishing it up and making room for a new one.

Here are some far better and more inspiring sketchbooks (color! perspective! composition!):

This pinboard has a lot of great examples, with links (Did I mention I’m on Pinterest now? Oh, my. I think I’m addicted.)

And I just love the style of Yelena Bryksenkova‘s travel sketches. If only I could paint and draw like that.