A while ago I got a nice email from a french girl who asked me if we could do a feature on her project. I had a look at her work and was very impressed! Julie is a 31-year-old freelance graphic and web designer from Paris. When traveling she collects everything she crosses: photos, stamps, postcards, receipts, notes, underground tickets, napkins and so on to create beautiful travel notebooks for her “Les Carnets de Traverse” project. I interviewed Julie because I was keen to know how she came up with the idea. Enjoy!

How is traveling part of your life?

It has taken on more and more importance through the years. I became a freelancer in 2008 to have more time and freedom with the work I do. I also had a keen interest in being my own boss. Now I can no longer imagine a year without backpacking somewhere. Discovering and feeling the world is what keeps me sane and happy.

How did you come up with the idea of “Les Carnets de Traverse”?

It has taken me about 10 years to find a personal way of writing down my travels. Yet, it’s still shifting.
At the beginning, I tried drawing and painting but it was not convincing enough. Ultimately I started shooting Polaroids and that really made the difference. I was in Amsterdam in March 2008 when I finally had found my way with my first travelogue: 10 pages of taped Polaroids with added hand-writings. It was a simple thing that found instant acclaim, so I made another one. Helsinki this time. Eventually I started a website to show them all together… Les Carnets de Traverse were born.

Have you always been into “scrapbooking” or keeping travel notebooks?

I’ve always written things down. The first time I took a plane – to Reunion Island – I got a window seat and wrote down notes during most of the 10 hour flight. Seeing Africa right beneath me was amazing and inspiring all at once. Of course, a geography teacher had made sure I knew Africa existed, but seeing it with my own eyes, even just from the plane, the rivers, forests, roads connecting small villages… I just had to write it down. So I would never forget it. To keep it with me for good.

There is a certain freshness, an almost childlike innocence about discovering something for the first time, which is very precious to me. I find that it happens a lot while traveling and that exact feeling is the starting point for my travelogues.

What is your favourite page and why?

I love stamps! They are so graphic, especially Japanese ones. In Japan, you have stamps everywhere, on every train station, cable car, viewpoints, skyscraper…

What I love about them is their unpredictability, like with instant photography: you never know what’s going to happen. Is there enough ink? Too much? When it’s very cold, paper will not react as usual for example. It’s dirty and you have to wait for it to dry. That’s the poetry of imperfection. A graphic journey, really.

How do you put your pages together and how long does it take to finish one page?

I scan Polaroids, tickets, maps, and all the stuff I brought back that I find interesting. Texts are scanned too, because I like using my handwriting. Depending on the journey, I use typewriter (Portugal) or Dymo lettering (Sumatra), or these letters you transfer on paper (Helsinki). All is finally composed in Photoshop.

How much time it takes is hard to say. But between starting putting things together and the publication on my website, let’s say five months, at least. I need time to think, modify, go back to one page, move items, rewrite texts, etc.

Do you work on the pages while on the road?

Not really. When I travel, I need to clear my head, dream, and let it go. All I do is take pictures and write (and that’s quite a job already). I write down many things, from places’ names to personal feelings. This is kind of spontaneous…I never work on images or graphics on the road. I save this part for home.

What are your upcoming plans?

Well, I have to fill my online shop! I have many ideas, but now the challenge is to make things happen.

Also, I go to Reunion Island this spring for one month, where I will teach courses on graphic design. Then,  I have a good friend’s wedding in Helsinki in June and I will probably take a trip to India this summer. I’ve never been there before and I’m very excited!

If you are in Paris, Marseilles, or Reunion Island, I will be in a few bookshops to sign my book, “Portugal, Itinéraires de Voyageurs.” Stay tuned on facebook, twitter or the newsletter on my blog.

Thank you Julie for your impressive insights and keep up the good work!


This post was written by Nina Hüpen-Bestendonk, who has a funny name even for Germans; she is a wicked go-getter and creative freelance designer, photographer and blogger.

She has an eye for beauty and even finds it in ugly apartment blogs. Her weekly photo chronicle “My week in pictures” has already become a classic among urban Berliners. Find out more at smaracuja.de.