Fountain pens are built to last. They may run out of ink, but they can be refilled over and over again. The same thing can't be said for notebooks. Pages are filled with everything from beautiful prose to grocery lists, and the tears and scratches that mar the covers are reminders of the journey. Once these books are their most worn and beautiful, we chuck them out or put them on a shelf to collect dust. I've been longing for a notebook that could acquire these beautiful signs of age while lasting as long as a good pen.
I found the answer in the form of the leather Midori Traveler's Notebook. Leather lasts for decades, if taken care of, but it gains character over time. The Midori Traveler's Notebook isn't a notebook as much as an expandable system that I stumbled upon while browsing pictures of fountain pens. I turned to YouTube for more info and discovered a cult-like following of crafty women that post videos of their personalized notebooks. The stickers, decorative tapes, and cat-shaped paperclips were an instant turnoff. I loved that the full-sized Midori Traveler's Notebook was small enough to throw in a bag but large enough for detailed notes, but I wasn't interested in a notebook that had to be bejeweled. There simply aren't many male-friendly resources and reviews of this notebook. After a bit of searching, I found the Stuff & Things Review of the Midori Traveler's Notebook, and it was just the push that I needed.
The heart of the Midori Traveler's Notebook is a simple leather notebook cover. An elastic band makes up the spine of the cover and makes it possible to add notebook inserts. This band is held together by a small metal clasp. The cover comes with another elastic band that threads through the leather and around the notebook to keep it closed. There's even a small bookmark ribbon in the cover that makes it easier to quickly flip the notebook open to the next blank pages. The standard notebook kit also includes an extra elastic band, protective sleeve, and a blank 64 page notebook insert (refill 001). The notebook is only capable of holding one insert out of the box; however, Midori does sell additional connection bands that make it possible to add multiple inserts at once. I find that the Midori works well with two inserts, but the inserts tend to buldge out of the cover when three or more are inserted. This is largely due to Midori's process for adding additional inserts, but I'm sure that a quick internet search will reveal ways to avoid the buldge. The standard size of the Traveler's Notebook is close to A5 in height, but skinnier in width.
The Midori Traveler's Notebook is essentially a $40 flap of leather that requires expensive inserts. If you're looking for a budget notebook, you can stop reading right now, because the Midori isn't for you. Despite the expense, the quality of the notebook materials make up for the expensive price tag. The leather is cut precisely and sealed at the edges. The unique metal class appears to be hand clamped and gives the notebook an antique look. I've used the Midori Traveler's Notebook for months now, and the elastic bands are just as springy as they were when the notebook arrived in the mail. The Midori paper is superb for fountain pens, with minimal feathering. So yes, it's an expensive leather flap, but it's a damned good one. The Midori Traveler's Notebook is available in a standard and passport size. It comes in brown or black leather, although the company does release occasional limited editions.
I've tested several of the notebook inserts available for the Midori Traveler's notebook, and I enjoy writing on the lightweight paper the most. This refill uses 128 pages of the legendary Tomoe River paper, which is slightly thicker than tissue paper but is the perfect pairing for fountain pens. Tomoe River paper does have a significantly longer dry time than the stock insert paper, and Midori only makes a blank version of this refill. I would do shameful things for a dot grid version of the lightweight refill, but for now the great writing feel can't make up for the lack of guiding lines and grids. My handwriting isn't great to begin with, and the lack of writing guides make it worse.
There are endless ways to customize a Midori Traveler's Notebook, and I'm just getting started with mine. If you're curious, here is my current setup. Notice the lack of animal paper clips and inspirational phrases. This notebook is just as good without the stickers, so don't let the the crazy crafters be a turnoff:
- Lightweight Tomoe River Refill 013 - For meeting notes and ideas that I'll probably never review.
- Blank Refill 003 - For book and article notes.
- Ruled Refill 001 - My backup and eventual replacement for the lightweight refill. I need lines!
- Homemade Craft Folder - Made from a plain manilla folder and packaging tape. You can find the design here.
- Patrick Ng's Chronodex planner January - July 2016 - Printed on plain office paper. I'm still trying to find an easy way to bind this into its own book. The Chronodex system is a fantastic compliment to a digital task manager.
- Midori Medium Pen Loop - Works well with my Lamy 2000, after a bit of breaking in.
The Midori Traveler's Notebook is a great choice for crafters and businesspeople alike. The size of the notebook is a nice balance between functional and portable, and the beautiful leather cover lives on well after the refills fill up. The scratches and scuffs on the notebook's cover are a testament to its journey, and I couldn't be happier with the story that they tell. I'm sure that this notebook will stand the test of time, so I hope to revisit it in the future, once my workflows mature. If you're interested in this notebook but are still on the fence, check out my link list of resources that helped to push me over the edge.