Six Hand-Drawn Travel Books That Just Might Make You Want to Put Down the Camera and Pick Up a Pencil

If you're like me, sometimes when you travel you're tempted to spend part of your trip behind the lens of a camera or snapping photos on your phone to share later. But putting down the gadgets and picking up a pencil can help us to slow down and have a more "mindful" journey. Here are six hand-drawn books I've recently enjoyed about travel or places that just might inspire me to put down the camera (only for a bit) and pick up a pencil.


Photography, even for those of us who love it — or at least love looking at the results later — can have its downsides, especially when we are traveling. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in snapping photos, setting up cameras, trying to capture that perfect shot that it turns into a stressor of its own.

Trying to capture the spirit of place with pencil and paper instead of a lens is something I’ve long thought of trying to do again. I set out on the road this Summer equipped with a fresh set of Prismacolors (one that my now-grown children wouldn’t touch — all MINE!). The sad pencils went unused.

But here are six books I’ve found that might inspire me to put those pencils to good use. Some are books I’ve found just perusing the shelves at my local library. Often, they’ve eventually ended up purchased and having a permanent home on my coffee table. I find myself relaxing just looking at these hand-sketched drawings.

My advice to myself on keeping a sketch journal: be like when you were a kid; turn off the inner critic and draw! Things that are worth doing are worth doing badly at first!

But I can still aspire to create sketches like the delightful ones in these books.

Here they are; six travel sketchbooks that I keep coming back to again and again:

The Little Pleasures of Paris by Leslie Jonath 

The Little Pleasures of Paris travel sketch book

I found the delightful The Little Pleasures of Paris by Leslie Jonath at my local library. This book was where I “discovered” the flower and bird market which is open on Sundays. Subsequently, I found myself heading there when I ended up having to take an earlier train than expected on a Sunday.

The watercolor illustrations in the book by Lizzy Stewart capture the author’s Paris memories: everything from The Thinker, To Les Bateaux Mouches, to a petit déjeuner of croissants and coffee.  Trés fantastique!

Seattle Sketcher by Gabriel Campanario 

Seattle Sketcher Travel Sketch Book

I’m from Seattle and saw “Seattle Sketcher” Gabriel Campario’s sketches in the Seattle Times on occasion. And, being from Seattle, I love the book for places I recognize. But I think I would also love it if I were a visitor to the city. After all, I love similar hand-drawn books that add to my wanderlust for places I’ve never been. He captures Seattle perfectly in his sketches of everything from Dick’s Drive-In to Lake Union houseboats.

Seattle Walk Report by Susanna Ryan 

Seattle Walk Report Travel Sketch Book

The Seattle Walk Report  (I like it some much I also wrote about it in another post) is a recent release. The book is based on the author’s successful Instagram account where she draws random things she saw taking walks through Seattle neighborhoods. Unlike the other books in this post, her “sketches” are cute black ink pen cartoons. However, like the Seattle Sketcher, they capture places I instantly recognize.

Away and Aware: A Field Guide to Mindful Travel by Sara Clemence 

Away and Aware Travel Sketch Book

Away and Aware: A Field Guide to Mindful Travel is precisely the sort of thing that makes me interested in picking up a pencil instead of a camera during my travels. Just looking at the book makes me feel more mindful, take a breath, and relax. Tips accompany the illustrations. You may already be aware of many of them. But, perhaps, you need a reminder to put them into practice and be more present during your adventures.

Edible French: Tasty Expressions and Cultural Bites by Clotilde Dusoulier 

Edible French

While it’s not exactly a book about France or travel, it is about both food and the French language. Edible French by Clotilde Dusoulie (of the French cooking website Chocolate and Zucchini) is a delightful read about French-language idioms related to food. And there are many, from “Sparing the Goat and the Cabbage” (see above) to “Mettre du piment dans sa vie,” (adding chili pepper to one’s life, which I need to do more of)! Also included are some phrases that are similar to English idioms, brought to life by the charming sketches by Mélina Josserand. There’s also a crepe recipe tucked away in there!

A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch 

A Fine Romance

A Fine Romance is Susan Branch’s lovely illustrated journal about a trip through the English countryside. She visits places from the Yorkshire Dales, to Lacock, to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm in the Lake District. Sketches, photos, and handwriting accompany her charming recollection of how she fell in love with England. I’m very tempted to try to give my trip around Scotland this type of treatment!

If you like travel sketches and travel sketchbooks, you might also be interested in this:

As I was writing this, I came across They Draw and Travel, which has charming hand-drawn maps from many artists. Their website is lovely, AND they have books out now as well!

They Draw and Travel
Do you have any favorite hand-drawn travel books?

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