Back in early January and February of this year, I found myself looking for a Traveler’s Notebook (TN) as a gift for one of my daughters. She had always envied my Traveler’s Company regular-sized version, but she didn’t think she would get on with the elongated, rectangular size. We had looked at the passport sized alternative, but decided that was too small for anything she wanted to do with it. That meant something outside of the Midori/Traveler’s Company line and a bit more customized. To me, that always means Etsy. A brief search later, revealed the ideal choice from the Etsy shop of Marta Cardoso in Porto, Portugal.
Two of Marta’s products really caught my eye—an A6 TN in Crazy Horse Brown (the top two pictures below), and an A6 wallet insert (lower two pictures below):
I bought the TN first at about $57 Canadian (CAD), without the wallet insert, and Marta went well above and beyond the call of standard customer service to get it to me in time for my daughter’s birthday. I liked it, and more importantly, so did she, a lot. The wallet insert (again about $57 CAD) was ordered in fairly rapid succession. But we wanted some further customization that Marta was only too happy to provide. First, we wanted the wallet insert to be in the matching Crazy Horse Brown, which is a tougher, thicker leather, than that pictured above and secondly, we wanted the pocket on the left hand side of the wallet, behind the two credit card slots, to be divided into two further card slots, giving a total of four. Marta said that was no trouble at all, and the order was completed and shipped only days later; excellent service!
By this time, deliveries, and international shipping in particular, were beginning to be disrupted by the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), also known as human coronavirus 19 (HCoV-19), or just the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19). And my wife and daughter asked me a perfectly sensible question, and given that my PhD has been at least one third immunology and epidemiology since 2012, it was a question I should damn well better be able to answer. Only I couldn’t, not really. What they wanted to know was this:
If the traveler’s notebook and the wallet insert were all handmade in Portugal, by the lovely Marta, how could we be sure that they did not carry infectious virus particles on their surface or on the packaging?
Well the thing is, SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus, it’s new, and by definition, what we know of the four other common coronaviruses (229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1), may not necessarily hold true for the new one. Because my PhD is what it is, and I find myself as a teaching assistant for prof’s on a range of different courses (including epidemiology), I have to keep current with the latest research. And one truly excellent way is to hit up the long-running podcast This Week in Virology hosted by Higgins Professor Vincent R. Racaniello, of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. I’ve been following Professor Racaniello and his co-hosts since about episode 78, and they’re up to about episode 600 now. Of course, I’m lucky, as a grad’ student, I have access to the latest academic journals and research papers that the TWiV crew constantly talk about, via my university’s library subscriptions. But these days, many journals are dropping their pay-walls, to allow free access to papers in the name of SARS-CoV-2 research. So I’m going to encourage you all—listen to TWiV, arm yourself with some science in these days of criminal misinformation, and download some of the primary research they and I reference.
A Quick Science Diversion
I have to say, I cheated here. I remembered an episode of TWiV and an article discussed in a recent AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Science Magazine, which kind of cut my research time down a bit. Basically, the authors of a paper that was still in pre-press (not yet published) at the time, had treated several different surfaces with known amounts and concentrations of SARS-CoV-1 (the first coronavirus to be termed severe acute respiratory syndrome) and SARS-CoV-2, and—under stated laboratory conditions—measured how long viable virus particles could be measured on these surfaces. I’m going to remove some of the complicated concentration (titer) values of the viral solution, because, well this isn’t an epidemiology class and I won’t be setting any assignments. I’ll give you the bare bones of what they said:
SARS-CoV-2 remained viable in aerosols throughout the duration of our experiment (3 hours), with a reduction in infectious titer from 103.5 to 102.7 TCID50 per liter of air. This reduction was similar to that observed with SARS-CoV-1…
SARS-CoV-2 was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard, and viable virus was detected up to 72 hours after application to these surfaces… although the virus titer was greatly reduced… after 72 hours on plastic and… after 48 hours on stainless steel…
On copper, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 4 hours and no viable SARS-CoV-1 was measured after 8 hours. On cardboard, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 24 hours and no viable SARS-CoV-1 was measured after 8 hours…
(van Doremalen, et al., 2020, p. 1)
So, while the authors hadn’t actually tested how long SARS-CoV-2 was viable on Crazy Horse Brown leather, under laboratory conditions no viable virus was observed on cardboard after 24 hours. Which made me think that, after knocking around in various planes and automobiles for about a week, then my package was unlikely to be carrying any viable virus from its point of origin in Portugal. Which meant that we only really had to worry about the outer packaging, handled en route by United States and Canadian customs and postal services.
Could I trust them? Would I trust them?
Not a bloody chance. I’m a fat, early to mid’ 50s, borderline Type II Diabetic, and have high blood pressure. If I were to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, then my co-morbidities would place me in a high-risk group. Nobody wants to die for a notebook, and the idea of placing the lives of anybody in my family in the hands of a MAGA-hat-wearing customs officer, who thought that SARS-CoV-2 was some left-wing hoax, would be laughable if it weren’t such a tragic concern.
We resolved these difficulties by the simple expedient of handling the parcel whilst wearing a pair of latex surgical gloves (our home first-aid cupboard has a couple of boxes of those at all times), and immediately disposing of the outer packaging in a manner which did not risk contaminating anything else. Professor Bazin‘s, King’s College class of ’95 aseptic technique in microbiology was carefully considered, and I dropped the outer envelope into our log stove and watched it burn. I’m sure Professor Bazin would have approved, had he been sitting on our sofa at the time.
Okay, Let’s Look at the Notebook!
This isn’t my daughter’s arrangement of her birthday present, instead I’ve packed it with an arrangement of inserts that she uses, and that I felt would be useful and interesting, and an array of my cards to show what it’s like in use.
In this configuration, the A6 notebook is about 16.5cm long, about 13.5cm wide (including the bulky Laban fountain pen in the clip on the side), and 4cm thick. Thickness of course, can be reduced by not using so many inserts, but the Oribushop TN handles it all with no trouble whatsoever, and isn’t stretched in any way. The notebook contains the customized Oribushop wallet insert in matching leather, which has four credit card slots, and one zip pocket. One of my own Kraft paper folders, an old plastic card wallet insert from a regular-sized TN, both of which were cut down to size with a good desktop guillotine (but something a lot less expensive and far more basic would easily do the job). In addition, there was a passport-sized plastic card and zip pocket insert, and an A6 Life brand Vermilion notebook, both from Wonder Pens in Toronto. So the TN was well-stuffed, yet handled everything with rugged efficiency.
You can opt for any one of the Oribushop Traveler’s Notebooks to come with a stitched, reinforced spine (as you can probably see in their product photo’s above). I considered the option—worrying that the elastic closure band might stretch or tear the opening in the leather over time—but chose against it for the sake of flexibility, and thickness. On the whole, I’m happy I did. My daughter prefers the look of the TN without the added reinforcing, and even loaded as it is, the leather and elastic are under no strain.
The TN comes with two leather pockets, front and back, which can be used to hold an A6 notebook or just paperwork like tickets and receipts. Personally, I think the addition of the pockets on their own makes this a superior design to the Midori/Traveler’s Company original.
In the picture above, the wallet insert is laying flat on the left-hand side of the TN. held by one part of the two elastic content bands. The cards fit nicely, with plenty of room for my large, and less than nimble, fingers to grasp the plastic and get them in or out without stressing the leather or the stitching.
Although both the stitching and the leather look like they could take a great deal of stressing before they suffered any ill-effects. I’ve been all over both the TN and wallet insert, carefully checking the work, and I am definitely impressed.
The leather zip pocket has a subtle, beige zip, which matches the stitching. The pocket itself is pretty flat, so I’m not sure it would look that good with a bulging load of coins or something similar, but it’s great for keeping more important paperwork nice and secure. The Kraft inserts are of my own manufacture, and I find them extremely useful, nice to decorate with a few personal photo’s or stickers, and very cheap and quick to make from a sheet of Kraft card stock, and a stick of paper glue.
Like a lot of people these days, I seem to have a plastic card for everything from finance, driving, health, and leisure, to straightforward identification, so I never have enough card slots in any wallet I ever carry. The A6 Oribushop Traveler’s Notebook will happily take additional passport-sized inserts to give you a few additional spaces.
One soft-cover page of an A6 notebook of your choice slots easily into either one of the front or rear pockets.
I’ve used a Traveler’s Company pen holder from Wonder Pens, originally in camel leather to hold my pen, but I really do recommend looking for something better than this.
It looks fine, and it (or maybe the brown) makes a nice color match with the Oribushop Crazy Horse Brown leather. Unfortunately I have one major issue with the Traveler’s Company leather pen holders—they stretch, and pens that aren’t held on by something else (e.g., a notebook’s elastic closure band) just fall out. I once kicked a rather expensive Sailor Pro Gear across a mall car park as the result of this stretched pen holder, so now, I fill it with a far less pricey, and much bulkier, Laban 325. If anybody can advise me of a decent pen holder that would do the job pictured above, and doesn’t have this problem, I’d be much obliged.
What notebook, or books, you use is obviously entirely up to you. I prefer something with a bit less of a shiny coating than, for example, Rhodia/Clairefontaine. The three notebooks pictured above are my favorites: i) The Midori MD A6, which is a little bit thick and bulky for a Traveler’s Notebook setup, but which also comes in a light version, pack of 3, with 48 pages each, which I think would be great. It’s also worth noting that the elastic that Marta Cardoso uses, supports the heavier MD notebooks without any trouble at all. ii) A great little A6 52gsm Tomoe River notebook from a favorite supplier of this blog, The Paper Penguin on Etsy.
The Tomoe River notebook is pictured open above, the paper is every bit as good as it always is, and the notebooks are well made and shipped quickly. My only issue is that Tomoe River paper, in a daily carry notebook like this, creases very easily and can look a little shabby over time. iii) My choice would be the A6 Life Vermilion notebook, which covers everything I want for this setup… great paper, perfect size, lined, plain or graph layouts, looks classy and isn’t too expensive either.
With the exception of the Tomoe River notebook, all of these books are available from the wonderful folks at Wonder Pens, who are still very much working to fulfill your stationery needs in these precarious times.
The Oribushop Traveler’s Notebook is a high quality product. The stitching and leather work is as good or better than you’ll buy anywhere else, and the design, including end-pockets, is superior to many. The range of sizes available makes it an incredibly flexible daily carry. The A6 option my daughter chose allows for a huge selection of content, and can be used with many of the Traveler’s Company passport-sized inserts. If the Oribushop was not temporarily closed due to current SARS-CoV-2 concerns, then I would probably already have an identical setup myself.
If you’re not up for reading or listening to the level of science featured in Vincent Racaniello’s truly excellent TWiV, then there’s also a popular science podcast that bases all of its material on solid research and evidence, and as a bonus, publishes full transcripts and links to all of its reference material—Gimlet Media’s Science Vs.
A more text-based alternative, is Science-Based Medicine. In the authors’ own words, the contributors are:
… physicians and other professionals who are alarmed at the manner in which unscientific and pseudoscientific health care ideas have increasingly infiltrated academic medicine and medicine at large.
In regular times, I would recommend these sites to anybody. Right now, I cannot recommend them enough, to everybody.
van Doremalen, N., Bushmaker, T., Morris, D., Holbrook, M., Gamble, A., Williamson, B., Tamin, A., Harcourt, J., Thornburg, N., Gerber, S., Lloyd-Smith, J., de Wit, E., and Munster, V. (2020, March 17). Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. New England Journal of Medicine, doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973. Retrieved from: