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Glen at Uluru

Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), Australia, 2008

I love to travel! As an artist, it is where I find my inspiration. I feel alive and fully awake outside my comfort zone. I love the new experiences and meeting new people.  And I’ve figured out ways to travel well without breaking the bank. I use my frequent flyer miles to fly to amazing places (that’s getting me to Italy in September).  I’ve been doing house exchanges for many years now – and have several coming up (San Miguel de Allende and South of France) – which translates to staying in wonderful homes in amazing places for free!  I’ve done many artist residencies most of which were also free of charge – Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium;Helene Wurlitzer,Taos, New Mexico; Fundacion Valparaiso, Spain to name a few.  And I have done artist exchanges, where we exchange homes and studios. I’ve been lucky – but as they say, “Luck follows the prepared mind.” I plan ahead, do my research and put it out to the Universe.

“A pilgrimage is any journey with the purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler.” Phil Cousineau

I don’t take travel lightly. I choose a place that I resonate with – where I’m drawn to – whether it’s a pilgrimage to an ancient sacred site or a city that inspires with art and culture, or a artist residency or exchange that is sure to feed my spirit.  I’ve come up with 10 reasons how travel makes my heart sing.

  1. Awakening my creative spirit. I grab a pencil, a brush, my camera to freeze the moment and capture the essence. New inspiration comes in the form of a symbol inscribed in stone, a fresco, an ancient sculpture. My trip sparks a new interest – a new shape, a new color, a new form. I discover an artist’s work, learn a new technique, see a new color combination. I jot down notes, make sketches, save scraps of paper that I can later use as collage. I can’t wait to get back to the studio to explore these new ideas.
  2. Meeting new people – expanding my world – from the taxi driver to the food vendor, to the hotel personnel – I try to engage. I ask a local for advice on where to eat, where to listen to music, what’s their favorite hang-out – and often that develops into a rich sharing.  I try to seek out artists in their studios, on the street, or in the galleries. As a printmaker, I love visiting print studios – often inviting the artist to visit me in Mazatlan, and perhaps we stir up an exchange, an exhibition, a workshop – furthering the connection.
  3. Taking a pilgrimage to a sacred site – I approach with anticipation and reverence honoring those who came before me. I am fully engaged and try to activate my 6th sense and imagination; who walked these very cobblestones, who carved these symbols with their hands? I rarely hire a guide because I want to walk the site as close to alone as possible, to feel the spirit of place. I look for a special spot where I can commune with the ancestors, the gods and goddesses. If possible, I do a short meditation, yoga, or tai chi. “The person who travels to a sacred site is not the same person when they return home. They have awakened to a greater respect for the planet, accelerating a beautiful unity and harmony between all living people, cultures, and religions. The ancient one who created these sites help us remember that this is the most important truth there is. ” Aluna Joy Yaxkin
  4. Learning the history of a people who walked the earth before me. I prefer to ‘google’ a site before and after visiting vs hiring a guide. There is so much information available on the internet – and honestly – I won’t remember the details and dates anyway. I take away what I am interested in –  What was their life like? What were their rituals? Who did they worship? What were their symbols? Were they peace loving or warriors?  Were they connected to the earth and the heavens? What did they leave behind?
  5. Opening myself to adventure and the unknown – I love my life, but sometimes I just need to shake it up! I think I’ve always been this way. I don’t think its running away – its running towards something I can’t quite put my finger on, to something I can’t plan or even imagine. Beyond my wildest dreams! Opening myself to new experiences that will somehow change me, and perhaps have a spiritual impact. In Phil Cousineau’s book, The Art of Pilgrimage, he recounts a story about Joseph Campbell who said, “Unless you leave room for serendipity, how can the divine enter in? The beginning of the adventure of finding yourself is to lose your way.”
  6. Experiencing new cultures – From eating delicacies of a region to enjoying local music, I travel outside the tourist areas if necessary and seek out the local delights. In Oaxaca, the mole and the hot chocolate, in Peru, the potatoes, quinoa, river trout and pisco sours, in Mazatlan – the fresh fish, shrimp dishes and Pacifico beer.  Music captures the flavor of an area and I seek it out in local cafes, bars, or on the plazas. I delight in the rhythm and move my feet and hips to the music. Visiting the mercados and small shops, the local crafts are a feast for the eyes – from the textiles in Oaxaca and Peru that overwhelm me with their intricate designs, to beautifully painted ceramics in Guanajuato and San Miguel, the wooden and ceramic masks in Patzcauro, and hand-made silver and beaded jewelry most everywhere I travel.
  7. Knowing I can rise to the challenge.  You know what they say – Shit happens! No matter how well planned, or researched, there is always a glitch whether large or small that I have to deal with along the way. It’s problem solving 101, it’s thinking on my feet. In situations like this, I feel my heart quicken and my brain churn as the possible scenarios and solutions play themselves out in my head.  I take a moment to breathe, ask my spirit guides for help, open myself to divine intervention. I say my mantra, “In Her Hands”, calling forth the Goddess energy.  Here are some examples:  I realize the tour company never sent me the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu and I only have the receipt; I discover I am in the wrong terminal 10 minutes before my flight; my taxi driver drops me off in a strange city in Greece after dark with no hotel. Adrenaline pulses through my body.  “For what gives value to travel is fear. It breaks down a kind of inner structure we have.” Camus
  8. Moving out of my comfort zone. My normal routine is replaced by the new and unexpected – new food, new bed, new people, new forms of transportation, new sites and sounds, new time zone, waking at a different hour. My senses are heightened, I am more alert. Although there may be times that something doesn’t live up to my expectations, I always enjoy the differences from my everyday life and it usually makes for a good story! I’m never afraid to change a hotel or even a city if it is not working. (Exit stage left!) I love coming home after a trip to enjoy the contrast between what I just experienced and my normal routine. Maybe something in me has shifted….
  9. Awakening my sense of gratitude. This is true especially if I am traveling in a third world country or seeing people suffering from poverty. I realize how good my life is and how many daily comforts I take for granted. I count my blessings and say a gratitude prayer. I donate to a local charity, purchase hand-made wares directly from the maker if possible, treat everyone with respect, smile and send out love.
  10. Savoring the memories.  Almost as delicious as anticipating a trip, is savoring it once you return home. I share it with my friends over a meal or a cup of coffee.  I exchange experiences, trade stories, especially those: “You won’t believe what happened….”  I enjoy posting photos on Facebook and blogging about my inspirations.  I proudly display my new pot or textile which brings a smile and a memory every time I pass it. The world gets smaller….

Planning a journey is half the fun, right? I’m looking forward to a 3 week artist residency at the Venice Printmaking Studio in Italy followed by a visit with an artist friend in Zurich this September/October and a house exchange in San Miguel de Allende in January. I am also planning two Art Vacations where I take artists to incredible locations to create, make prints and enjoy the sites – 1) Peru – May 2016 and 2)Oaxaca, Mexico – June 2016. Find out more details on my website: http://www.glenrogersart.com or email at glen@glenrogersart.com.

Do you have anything to contribute? I would love to hear your comments.