Travel With Your Muse

There’s a​ certain kind of​ traveler that loves art and beauty. She seeks it​ out and spends hours trolling through museums,​ wandering around cathedrals and looking,​ seeing so much that she may develop a​ sore neck,​ or​ worse,​ Stendhal’s Syndrome. Stendhal,​ a​ 19th century French novelist,​ was so overcome with the​ beauty of​ Florence that he developed symptoms of​ disorientation – dizziness,​ sweating,​ and overwhelm. Over the​ years,​ others have reported similar symptoms when faced with so much beauty. the​ lover of​ art and beauty is​ forced to​ take refuge in​ café breaks and deep naps at​ the​ hotel. Art,​ however,​ can provide the​ solution for too much beauty. Not viewing it,​ but doing it.

Simple art exercises provide a​ way for a​ traveler to​ absorb the​ splendors of​ travel in​ a​ deep,​ meaningful,​ and lasting way. Quick sketches done as​ a​ drawing or​ a​ brief writing of​ details offer an​ opportunity to​ slow down and really soak up a​ setting. Artist Frederick Franck,​ in​ his book the​ Zen of​ Seeing,​ encourages drawing as​ a​ way to​ turn overwhelm into depth an​ intimate way. “Atmospheres build themselves up out of​ a​ million imperceptible micro details,​ elements often too minute,​ too fleeting for the​ conscious mind to​ pick up. the​ eye-heart-hand reflexes notes down,​ so that the​ buildings,​ and even the​ faces that form themselves on​ the​ paper become unmistakably Roman,​ Indian,​ Parisian,​ or​ Japanese.”

By pausing to​ capture impressions,​ a​ traveler becomes more than a​ sponge,​ absorbing paintings,​ sculptures,​ and dramatic buildings. When you​ pause to​ create something in​ the​ moment,​ you​ are able to​ connect from the​ deep well of​ yourself to​ the​ thing you​ are drawing. a​ Provencal place,​ an​ array of​ vegetables from the​ local market,​ and a​ crumbling pile of​ Roman ruins come alive under the​ gaze of​ an​ artist. the​ world becomes more vivid when you​ look to​ see what you​ can draw or​ capture in​ a​ paragraph. Everything can be interesting,​ when you​ are willing to​ truly see it.

Franck’s books on​ the​ subject of​ seeing more through drawing are delightful. His drawings are expressive and well wrought. the​ sketches leap off the​ page and bring the​ viewer into the​ scene. it​ may be intimidating to​ the​ novice artist to​ see such craft. People often claim that they ‘can’t draw a​ straight line’,​ meaning that their artistic talents are nil. the​ same is​ true for writing. Postcards home often don’t stray from the​ formulaic recitation of​ events. Franck insists that ‘seeing’ rather than ‘looking at’ is​ the​ key not only to​ better art,​ but richer life experience. Capturing the​ essence of​ a​ place or​ a​ moment doesn’t require great artistic talent or​ extensive polishing. Simply slowing down,​ paying attention,​ and releasing expectations of​ ‘good’ drawing or​ writing is​ the​ recipe for expressing something that months later will recall a​ special experience from a​ trip.

Natalie Goldberg,​ author of​ Writing Down the​ Bones,​ applies similar concepts to​ writing. Her technique,​ ‘free writing’,​ invites the​ writer to​ choose an​ object or​ a​ subject and write without stopping. No editing,​ pausing,​ crossing out or​ judgment is​ allowed in​ the​ process. When using this as​ a​ travel tool,​ you​ are able to​ engage with the​ details of​ a​ place. Your verbal snapshot of​ the​ bartender at​ the​ local café,​ or​ of​ the​ taxi driver who zoomed you​ through the​ streets of​ Paris become vivid reminders of​ a​ moment. Rather than write about a​ day in​ which you​ took in​ a​ thousand new impressions,​ you​ can zero in​ on​ one or​ two experiences and chronicle them in​ a​ deeper way. Like Franck,​ Goldberg insists that the​ work be allowed to​ unfold without judging it. the​ point is​ not to​ produce ‘art’ or​ ‘writing’ but to​ engage in​ the​ world through art and writing. the​ process,​ not the​ product,​ is​ what is​ valuable here.

What’s the​ result of​ all this paying attention? When we slow down,​ connect to​ our creative core and really see,​ we are more present. the​ whirl of​ impressions doesn’t tug at​ our senses,​ clamoring for attention. a​ reflective peace settles us deep in​ the​ scene,​ allowing us to​ become part of​ the​ landscape,​ rather than skimming over or​ passing through. it​ is​ no coincidence that both Franck and Goldberg are Zen practitioners. And while we don’t need to​ become Zen masters to​ experience the​ world deeply,​ adopting the​ method of​ slowing down and seeing can enrich our travels and our lives at​ home.

Using art as​ a​ means to​ engage with a​ place empowers you,​ not just as​ a​ witness,​ but as​ someone who is​ involved in​ the​ creative act. Journey of​ the​ Senses,​ an​ American tour operator,​ leads tours that focus not on​ a​ stream of​ sights,​ but on​ engaging profoundly with a​ few experiences. the​ trip to​ Provence includes a​ visit to​ a​ goat cheese farm,​ an​ olive oil tasting and a​ wine tasting. in​ California,​ participants are invited to​ connect with the​ landscape. Redwood forests,​ beach coves and grassy hills become the​ guides for slowing down and seeing. Alongside the​ visits are lessons in​ gesture drawing and free writing. Using these creative tools,​ participants get closer to​ the​ experience and take home not only a​ guidebook of​ their own design,​ but a​ memory that holds them more deeply. Drawings and free writes provide a​ more personal chronicle than photos. Looking over a​ notebook from the​ trip that includes your art and words is​ a​ visceral reminder of​ place and atmosphere.

Cooking instruction is​ another branch of​ art that can deepen a​ traveler’s experience. Dozens of​ cooking abroad programs can attest to​ the​ power of​ food as​ a​ way to​ explore a​ region. the​ palette of​ a​ region is​ a​ reflection of​ its unique history,​ art and heritage. the​ French call this ‘gout de terroir’ or​ taste of​ the​ earth. a​ participant in​ Arles bemoaned the​ fact that her bakery in​ California couldn’t make baguette with the​ same crunchy texture. the​ gout de terroir,​ which includes the​ method of​ growing,​ cultivating and cooking foods,​ provides a​ unique and regional flavor. Through market tours and a​ gradual building of​ palette of​ flavors,​ techniques and local ingredients,​ travelers literally take in​ the​ sense of​ a​ region.

A fun art exercise is​ to​ have participants wander a​ city’s streets,​ choosing one detail to​ draw. in​ a​ Journey of​ the​ Senses tour in​ Arles,​ participants sketched the​ doors found on​ one street. This allowed them to​ gain a​ deeper understanding not only of​ the​ architecture of​ the​ city,​ but of​ themselves. “When I stopped to​ draw the​ doors,​ I saw so much more. I thought I had a​ perceptive eye,​ but it​ was only when I slowed down to​ draw did I realize that I could see more detail,​ and get closer to​ what was around me,​” said Sherell,​ a​ 2018 participant.

In a​ world that constantly calls for more,​ more,​ more,​ using art as​ a​ travel tool is​ an​ invitation for deeper,​ deeper,​ deeper. We travel to​ escape our normal routine. We refresh our spirits in​ the​ face of​ great beauty and achievement. By bringing ourselves into the​ creative dance,​ we give ourselves a​ richness that surpasses the​ photos we take and the​ treasures we buy and bring home. a​ renewed sense of​ confidence,​ a​ more sharply honed eye and an​ appreciation for the​ simple things are treasures that we can use again and again in​ our own town and on​ other trips.
Travel With Your Muse Travel With Your Muse Reviewed by Henda Yesti on September 02, 2018 Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.