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2023 Bullet Journal Setup (and reviewing 2022's journal)

Before I left the United States in November, one of the items I had on my mind to figure out for my move to New Zealand was my bullet journal. I was getting relatively close to the end of my current journal, and wanted to decide on my next journal before leaving. My last couple of bullet journals have been in the style of a plain black Leuchtturm dotted notebook, with an attached band to hold it together. I’ve really enjoyed this style for the most part, but the one drawback I’ve found is that I tend to paste in a lot of ticket stubs, polaroid photos, notes from friends, pressed flowers, and so on. This adds bulk to the journal and the hard-bound style does not have a lot of room for this. I was also struggling with my desire to bring art supplies conflicting with my need to pack light, and wanted to find a solution to this problem as well.

After scouring the internet and asking Reddit for advice, I came up with this plan: I would get a Traveler’s Journal and set it up to allow for bullet journaling, plus painting and scrapbooking. This idea would reduce the number of journals/sketchpads/watercolor paper sets I carried around, and still allow me to do my combination of bullet journal planning alongside memory-keeping and artistic expression. Traveler’s Journals are customizable journal covers that allow you to easily add and remove notebooks with different types of paper, as well as other accessories. To start off, I bought the regular size notebook which came with blank paper, and added bulleted paper, a zipper pouch, and extra bands for adding additional notebooks.

A quick note about the material: these journals are made from leather. Typically I do not purchase commercial leather goods (occasionally I will buy used leather items from thrift shops) as this conflicts with my values about animals and how we treat them. But in this case, this was the best solution I could come up with. Sometimes it’s easier to be flexible than to stay rigid and hold onto an idea just for the sake of sticking to it. Anyway…

It was a bit funny to quell the excitement of having this nice new journal in my possession back in October, knowing that I wouldn’t actually use it until January. I considered stopping my 2022 bullet journal at the end of October and just starting up with the Traveler’s Journal at the start of November as I moved to NZ, but decided against that. I ended up having only a few spare pages at the end of December so it worked out nicely to just finish out the year in that journal. I will probably mail that back to my mom (or send it back with her if she visits me here!) so that I’m not carrying it around unnecessarily.

I was very glad to have it at the end of the year though. It’s always nice to flip back through and reminisce on the year–the memories sweet and bitter, the lessons learned, the tangible growth that I can measure. It's one of the things that I love most about journaling this way: setting aside time to reflect at the end of the year, as well as throughout it. Below you’ll find a selection of pages from my 2022 bullet journal--some of my favorite spreads that I thought I would share before getting into my setup for 2023. (Click on the image to view full-screen).

Now onto the new year! Below you’ll find a few images of how I’m starting to set up my new Traveler’s Journal for 2023. In packing for New Zealand I narrowed down my art supplies bag to a small selection of pens and pencils, as well as my beloved travel-size watercolor palette. I brought a couple of Micron pens to use for art-making (which I’ve used as my primary writing instrument in past bullet journals), but decided I would use a simple ballpoint pen in my journal so that I don’t have to worry about buying new Microns constantly. I have found already that the combination of thin paper and hard ballpoint leads to some show-through, but as I’m always practicing releasing the need to control things in my life, this was another lesson in letting go. It doesn’t have to look perfect–what’s important is that I’m creating a space to write down my thoughts, explore my spirituality, stay organized, get creative, and remember important moments.

Overall, you’ll notice that the theme here is keeping things simple so as to support my current nomadic lifestyle. Products in New Zealand are different (and often more expensive) than what I used in the US, so I’m swapping some things out and reducing the overall array of items I used to use to decorate my journals. In choosing to keep everything in one place, I’m limiting the amount of extra stuff I have to carry around and keep track of. The notebook in the front is the blank journal that came with the leather cover, which I will use for painting and drawing, gluing in little scraps and bits, writing quotes that resonate with me, and anything else that I want to remember. The second notebook will be the more traditional bullet journal style, where I will keep track of important dates and planning, do my daily journaling, and track things like books that I read or hikes that I go on.

At the start of my 2023 bullet journal, I skipped setting up a yearly calendar (I didn’t use it much last year, and any important birthdays or holidays are usually in my Google calendar anyway) and instead started with a page of my intentions for the coming year. Then I set up trackers for books and hikes. In my previous journal I had a Move tracker for the whole year. It was helpful to see patterns in my mood and movement, but I often forgot to fill it out (and then skipped the whole month of December–oops!). This time, I will set up trackers at the start of each month, so that I can be more focused on specific goals and hopefully remember to keep them filled out better.

That’s pretty much it! I left a couple of blank pages in case I came up with anything else to track for the year, or if I needed more space for books and hikes. Next, I set up one page for January. Since one of my intentions for this year is to explore my spirituality more, and because part of that for me is connecting with nature and its cycles, I decided to incorporate a lunar calendar and some Pagan holidays. I’ll continue this as long as it’s serving me–future months may look differently, but I’m happy with this initial setup.

Thanks for reading and I hope this gives you some inspiration for your own bullet journal! And remember, it doesn’t have to look amazing. The internet is overflowing with perfectly setup journals with beautiful calligraphy and intricate decorations on every spread. If you enjoy creating those things, then great! If it's not your jam, just keep it simple and find what works for you. As long as you are getting out of it what you need to, that’s what matters. Whether you’re looking to get organized and plan better, or simply have an outlet for your thoughts and a place to keep memories, journaling can be a great tool for personal growth.

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