Going through a divorce was the hardest thing I ever had to do. My world view was blown up, and everything I believed to be true shattered.
I was 21 when I got married — needless to say, far, far too young — and only 27 when I divorced. We had traveled extensively together. My world had grown. I’d seen things — big, beautiful, wonderful things: the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower, the Great Pyramids, the Swiss Alps.
I’d met people, travelers and locals. People who had alternative lifestyles and ways of doing things. They were not Midwesterners, and I liked that because it was different, and I like different.
To put it mildly, I had been changed. There were other ways of looking at the world. Other religions than the one I was raised, other ways of life. There was siesta, and Prosecco. A more relaxed way.
The whole of Europe averaged eight weeks of vacation a year back then. And that time was respected; nobody emailed you while you were away. In Nepal, the Buddhists and Hindus lived in harmony, burning incense to purify and spinning prayer wheels to offer up their prayers into the universe.
I did not want this exploration to end just because I lost my travel partner when I went through my divorce. It was go it alone or stay home. Staying home was not a option.
The next stop: Oaxaca to study Spanish. The art, the color! Frida Kahlo and real Mexican mole! I brought back so much Mexican folk art from that trip, I started a collection. Most importantly, it was a journey inward. Travel really is always a journey inward. Being a tourist might not be, but being a traveler is.
I was not running away from anything, I was running towards something. A way of life that fit, a career in art. Just being in Oaxaca made me want to make art. The Spanish didn’t go so well — or, better put, I didn’t keep it up when I got home, and can only speak Spanglish to this day — but the impact remained. I was thinking in Spanish while I was there, and that was pretty awesome!
And so it was that the next time I returned to Mexico for any length was to study art for the winter. An experience that changed my art, or better put it kick started my career as an artist. I learned a way of making art that didn’t ask what something looked like but it made me feel. That fit me. That’s why I wanted to make art. Photos were not enough: I wanted to insert how I felt into my art. Yes!
It would be nearly a decade later, while studying art in Florence, Italy, that I would return to a curiosity about what something or someone actually looked like. The more classical training in art. Maybe a backwards way, but it was my path, and one where I was always moving forward.
I recently returned to Mexico to study art again — just a week ago. It got me thinking of all this, about how intimately travel and art are woven into my story. I thought I’d write a blog post about it. One has turned into three, and I’ll see you back here next week for more ramblings on art and travel.
In the meantime, I love hearing from you, your stories from the road. What have you learned while traveling, and do you think about the difference between being a tourist and a traveler? Come discuss it on Facebook and Instagram!