Korean Self-Published Illustrated Travel Journals

This year I inadvertently started collecting self-published illustrated travel journals, a happy habit born of my introduction to the world of indie bookstores and self-publishing in Korea. Self-published journals have this distinctly homemade feel that is really endearing. You won’t find Nat Geo-level photos or detailed information on where to eat and sleep, but you get a glimpse into the author’s personal travel experience, their creative style and personality. These are just some of my books that I have on hand right now. I could probably do a Part II with the rest of my collection.

This Alaska travel journal was one of the first books I bought at an indie bookstore in Korea. The author, MON, is a Japanese illustrator and I loved the mix of the photos, drawings and explanations. It’s printed on this newsprint-like paper that just adds to its homey charm. I also used this book’s physical dimensions as a reference for my own self-published book, Love Dad.

Hieun is an illustrator I met at an indie bookstore where we traded her Iceland travel journal for a pack of my Veggie Soup stickers. Iceland always looks gorgeous in photos, and it was neat to see her lovely illustrative take on the country. IG: @hieun__

The Drawing Hand is a visual artist I had discovered on IG and later had the pleasure to meet at the Seoul Illustration Fair and at her open studio. I love her use of color and her warm, cozy characters. She’s self-published several of her drawing books; this is her sketchbook from London. IG: @jejeviva

Meg is another illustrator based in Seoul whom I discovered on IG and later met at her open studio. She has a whole series of “Drawings from” books and her alcohol marker portraits in particular just bring a smile to your face. IG: @likemeg

Shashamiu’s travel journal of her honeymoon to Spain was the second self-published book I bought; it was one of those where as soon as I saw it, I had to have it. This book’s mix of ephemera, writing and illustrations just speak to my creative heart. Just look at this spread–isn’t this ticket train adorable??! She has a whole “Little Forest” of adorable animal characters (she is the cat and her husband is the bird). IG: @shashamiu

This. This Tokyo travel journal embodies what I love about the self-publishing scene in Korea. This book is the exact copy of the travel journal the author, Kyurim Kim, kept, jotting down observations and doodles and taping in ephemera in-country. Unlike the other authors above, illustration isn’t her day job but she definitely has a distinct drawing style. She’s also a self-proclaimed lover of stationery and her Insta and blog are always interesting. IG: @kyurimkim

Travel illustrations and journaling is an area I’d like to explore creatively for myself next year. If you follow me on Instagram you know that I travel quite a bit for work. But because it’s for work, and always a very busy schedule, I feel like I never really experience most of these places I’ve physically been to. So I thought travel journaling (after the trip) and scrapbooking might help me reflect and digest my travels more.

What is the indie and self-publishing scene like where you are? And have you seen illustrated travel journals like these? I’m curious what English or other language illustrated journals look like. Let me know!

If you’re curious, here’s my post on Books in 2019.


  1. Iโ€™ve never seen anything like these (unless you count the diary my then eight year old son had to keep one time we took him out of school to go to Paris). I want to go see if they exist and are available here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your son’s diary sounds like just the sort of thing that would fit right in in the Korean self-publishing world! Please do let me know if you find anything similar over there! I’m sute your gorgeous environment would inspire hand draen and written nature journals! Happy New Year Su!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I should really find his diary (and I think there was another for a UK trip) and read it/them again.
        Interestingly, there have been several books written ABOUT travel journals composed in/of New Zealand trips, but they are mainly from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Mark Twain and Anthony Trollope are amongst the people who traveled through this country and kept journals. And of course, the journals of Captain Cook and Joseph Banks the on-board botanist are the original NZ travel journals. Not self-published though ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Those would be so interesting to read. I really hope my first trip to NZ will be for pleasure. Before I go I would read all the interesting books about NZ and then spend my days lolling about in the hills drawing sheep and flowers in my travel nature sketchbook!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. Thanks for opening up this lovely world. I always envied folks who could draw and write in their journals about their travels, walks in the park, or lectures in school.

    I watched a bullet journal tutorial on YT the other day and whoa – that is something that I wished I could do but until I can support myself as a full time creative – it just looks like so much more work!

    But I’m thinking about how I can integrate some of those elements into my daily journals.

    Anyway, back to these journals – AWESOMENESSSSSS.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is definitely a unique and lovely world! And the YT and IG bullet journal is a whole nother story! I actually set up a bullet journal in 2019 but quickly found out I am a scribbler for my practical tasks, I didn’t find it worthwhile to beautify my to-dos. I would love to know if you incorporate more bujo or drawing into your journal! Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I, too, am a scribbler. I lined a page in my journal with bullet points, but I have yet to write anything on that page. Ha! Too scared because it looks so tidy. ๐Ÿ˜›


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