On Travel (written on a plane home on 29 May 2010)

On Travel  (written on a plane home on 29 May 2010)

There are many reasons that compel people to travel. For some it is pleasure, or a holiday; for others it is business. Young persons will spread their wings on gap years; older parents will visit their offspring who have started families abroad.

I love to travel to escape from the pressures of my everyday existence; to leave behind the familiar with a sense of adventure where I can become someone I would like to be, for a short while.

But I am a bad tourist. I will travel with high expectations to a beautiful historic sunny destination; arrive with a sense of exhilaration and drink a coffee at a table sitting outside with a view: but then the child in me will be bored. I wish I could leave him behind, but he is always with me, so even reading guidebooks and dutifully taking photos, or riding on tourist road trains, he will be restless and pulling at my jacket complaining. So I have to supply him with a pencil and sketchbook, and a box of paints. Better still, I set him off on a ‘mission’ to go on a trail of old cities to report on the picturesque; or even set him on a challenge of journalising in words and drawings on a theme.

Thus it was that I brought my restless fidgety child to Umbria, Italy, to find the places in his picture book and seek them out; then find more of his own, and make a new picture book he can call his own.

The child is of course me, a person who is nervous and uncomfortable in his own skin; unable to relax or settle inwardly unless… unless what exactly?

Inspiration – that is what I seek, and I am inspired or not by what I see or hear around me, even in the most ordinary minutiae of life. Perhaps it is the sense of wonder that is my greatest talent; it is my most developed sense. The ability to wonder at an older couple walking past; she telling him off for not shaving that morning. Or a child chasing pigeons.

It is about standing back from life, and looking afresh around us. We are so busy hunting, gathering, eating, sleeping, making love or arguing, that its easy to forget what a strange and wonderful place the world is. The desire to draw and paint, on paper or in words, is the call to others to say ‘Hey, look at this – doesn’t that make you feel good?’

Others like to express themselves through dancing or singing, or maybe cooking or mathematics, and that’s fine too. My lot seems to be to wonder, but I need to express that wonder, and somehow ‘report’ on it. That is the lot of the artist and writer.

Both the article and the drawing above were done in the blank pages at the back of books I was reading, while travelling on planes and at the airport. You know what it’s like, you want to write something down but you don’t have a notebook or any paper on you. That must be why fiction books usually have a couple of blank pages at the back!

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