Journal keepers treasure these opportunities to meet each other in person. Earlier this year, the Traveler’s Notebook 10th Anniversary Exhibition was held at lifestyle store Log-On at Festival Walk. Local amateurs and experts joined those from Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore to share their experiences and get their hands on accessories and limited-edition notebooks.
Patrick Ng Chi-him, the senior stationery merchandiser at Log-On, was one of the organisers. Ng introduced the notebooks and their concept to Hong Kong and has been promoting journaling culture over the past 10 years.
Ng says we pay too little attention to the things around us in our daily lives. “Everything becomes amazing when we go travelling, be it a chair, a coffee shop, or a piece of architecture. It is eye-opening because everything is new to us,” he says.
Ng explains the term “Techo”(手帳) used by most journal keepers in Asia, is a Japanese word that refers to notebooks, including travellers’ notebooks, diaries, schedule books and planners. He attributes the popularity of journals to the website moleskinerie.com, where fans of the Italian designed Moleskine notebooks showed off the writing, sketches and creative artwork they created in them. The site was later purchased by Moleskine.
“Moleskinerie.com inspires a lot of people and persuades others to take out a pen to write,” Ng says.
It may seem ironic that keeping a journal should be enjoying a revival in the digital age, but in a way it makes sense. Ng says paper has a unique physical presence. The feeling of receiving a text message or e-card differs from receiving an actual card. The capacity for storing digital data seems to be infinite but it can also seem ephemeral.
“When you store so many photos in your computer, you feel insecure. A physical notebook gives you a sense of security”, Ng says. “Technological advances will change production methods. But there will still be a pen and a piece of paper. We have to continuously educate our next generation to use them.”
Ng recalls how he used to make journals out of A4 paper when he was at school. It was easy to carry and fold. He was the editor-in-chief for his school publication, which was produced through real-time collaboration with schoolmates. Back then he had to draw illustrations and graphics by hand. Today’s design processes take place on computers and online without face-to-face communication, but Ng still enjoys doing things the old fashioned way.
“I am a visual person. I need visual memories,” Ng smiles.
As if to illustrate the point he shows Varsity his journals. Nearly every page is rich with visuals – there are maps, sketches and graphics. To Ng, a journal is a place where he can safely put down his thoughts and reflect upon himself. Journaling helps him to organise thoughts, clear his mind, and relieve stress.
“There are too many complicated things happening every day,” says Ng.
Pressure builds up easily when thoughts, feelings and tasks are confined to the mind. But when we list the tasks on paper, we are transforming what is on our minds into something tangible on paper. This provides a release from anxiety because we have a clearer idea on what is coming next.
Clinical psychologist Rebecca Cheung Wing-yan agrees that journaling can help to relieve stress. “I believe human beings are born with a need to express themselves by different approaches… Writing it down is one way,” says Cheung.
She explains that keeping journals helps us to recall the things that have happened and how we felt about them. The process prompts us to rethink issues and situations from different perspectives.