Well, you see, when you ask someone what would they do if they had money, most people would say, without even thinking- Travel.
We, as humans are born with such a desire to know, to see, to explore, that had us climb mountains, cross seas and oceans, dive deep and fly high in search of something to soothe our souls. In this search of ours to know, we have encountered billions of stories and seen millions of people living their lives and sometimes, we had even imagined ourselves to be a part of that local universe.
We travel to belong. To find our place in this (still) undiscovered world, and think of the different lives we would have lived if we were just been born someplace else. People from the valleys imagine living on top of the mountains. People from the mountains daydream of the sea and people from the tiny and remote villages wish to be in a bustling and vibrant metropolis.
It is perhaps that we are born on this planet, but we don’t quite belong here? Have you ever wondered why are you here? Well, that is a really good question.
Setting aside the travelling to say we’ve been there and saw that and taking pictures to prove it to our friends, there is the other kind of travelling, when we just go in search of ourselves.
And when during those quiet moments on a plane, train, car, boat, whatever means of transportation might be available, including one’s own feet, you space out and imagine you are not a traveller, but a local.
Travelling means being part of the everyday lives of other people. We catch a glimpse on how other people live, how their lives are, what their normal looks like. And we marvel at it while sitting in a local pub and eat hot sweet potato chilly soup with warm bread and butter and sip a glass of white wine, listening to the locals’ chatter and their laughter. And our lives get richer, our imagination awakens and we find ourselves believing for a moment we are also one of them. That is the magic of travel. That fleeting moment of belonging.
We lose ourselves in forests, foreign alleys, take the less beaten path and see the new world with wonder eyes. We see new faces, new customs, we taste new dishes and new wines, we hear different languages and even different realities than ours, and we marvel some more. How is it that people are so different?
And then, you find yourself in a book shop reaching for the same dear-old-book as a stranger, and you both smile. Or you take the wrong coffee cup at the local brewery and after taking the first sip, you realize it is the same as you have ordered. Perhaps sweeter than you would have liked, but it is the same, universal latte. And you and the real owner, both smile, like before, sharing something. Or when the friendly dog of a local comes to you with the ball, pleading eyes and wiggling tail to invite you to play with him. And you throw the dirty ball a couple of times, while the owner of the dog watches you amused and bursts into laughter when the dog – at some point – seems confused. Or that moment when you are so caught up in your writing that you do not hear the stranger asking to share your table, but he sits down anyway, while you scribble furiously an idea that just came to you in your rugged notebook. And when you finally get out of your head you see the stranger next to you drawing with a passion in his own tiny notebook filled with colours and stains, always on the rush, always with a fear of not being able to capture the entire feeling. And you smile. Or when you go to a church to clear your head and rest your tired body, and the person greeting you says they’re having an organ concert that evening, would you be staying? It seems that there is an emeritus organ teacher playing, such an amazing feat for that small village of theirs. And you start nodding so furiously that they smile. And you listen to the wordless emotions, the grave and vibrant tones of the instrument, and you get transposed into another realm, without borders, without other language than the universal one of emotion. And at the end of it, you turn to leave and you see an old man coming down from the choir helped by a younger boy, and you get introduced to the emeritus professor, who moved out there from the big city after his retirement, bought an organ, repaired it and now is teaching the village children music, including his own nephew. And you know you still have tears in your eyes, and the old man puts his thin and parchment white fingers on your forearm and thanks you. And you think to yourself- shouldn’t be the other way around? Or when you find yourself giving directions to others, because they took you for a local, and you just happen to know the way as you just came from that place. And they thank you, smiling and pocketing their maps, and follow your instructions. Or when you are staying in line to get some ice cream and one local comes to ask the ice cream lady if they have brought some pear and rosemary or mulberry and thyme to take home, and you end up thanking him for the recommendation after the first taste.
These are just tiny little bits of things that may happen when one travels. Near or far.
Travelling does not need to be thousands of miles away, on the other side of the globe, in order to be called travel. The simple idea of removing yourself from the usual known and extremely beaten path is travel.
And then you may find tiny stories just like the ones above.
It only takes a moment. Or a lifetime. To get inspired is what we all crave and to find meaning is what we’re all struggling with. Inspiration hits when we least expect it and it may hit hard without consideration. It may come when cleaning the house and we find ourselves in a pile of clothes searching for NASA pictures to print for the new office. Or when driving far away on an orange code for storms and we end up in a coffee shop surrounded by drenched strangers sharing a cinnamon bottle. Or when we’re reading. Oh, I love that one. Reading is the best way to get inspired. We just witnessed someone else’s inspiration. And then there are times when one has to write 1000 words essays, and gets to 122 and is just stuck. Uninspired.
The advice I have received and follow (or try to) is that inspiration comes when we’re actually doing the work. Then inspiration will come. One way or the other. The magical thing is that we cannot plan it, change it, store it or maneuver it as we wish.
People are a constant source of inspiration. People-watching is a well-known activity for creatives. We just spend hours watching people, on the streets, in coffee-houses, buses, in museums, wherever and whenever possible. Not in a creepy way, but in a way that will inspire Art. People equal Art. The purest form of art is humankind. One would argue that nature is, but hear me out. Humanity in itself is magical. We live and breathe and create and destroy, love and struggle with the same passion. And this passion is the fuel for inspiration.
There is something extraordinary in the way people live their lives, and there are stories everywhere we look. As long as we keep our eyes open and soul open, it is impossible not to get inspired.
But, hey, let’s assume we’re stuck, uninspired and we know not where to look. What do we do when we’re in the middle of a project and there’s nowhere to go anymore? I have listened to Neil Gaiman’s inspiring words on writer’s block. And he talks about two steps. One is to take a breather. And the second one is to retrace our steps and, by doing that, we will find where the story went off course.
Long walks help. This is my go-to breather. Regardless of where my steps may take me, different city, different country, a park, a library, a bookstore, a church, a forest, a coffee house, the simple act of getting out of my head is, most of the times, enough to get me back to the writing table. Not necessarily cured, but willing to try again. And to tell the story.
The weeks I spend most inside are the weeks where I feel most uninspired. Stuck. Truly empty. And so I grab my coat, my shoes, and my bag and get out. Some days I have to force myself to get out. Some days it works, some others it doesn’t. Some days are harder than others. And we all know them. The days when we’re too drained to even move from the bed, desk, sofa. The days when the gloom is clouding all our thoughts and slithering deep in our bones, leaving us fatigued, breathless, and weary. I do not use lightly the word “depressed”, as it is too close to home, but we all know this kind of days. When we’re unable to move. And then sleep helps. A long shower helps. A decent cup of green tea helps. A good old book helps. A conversation with a friend helps. Journaling helps. Music helps. Gardening helps. Ironing, dusting, cleaning the house, rearranging the shelves, the sock drawer, repotting some plants, lighting a candle. It all helps. Action beats inaction at any time. Action is the only answer. Even, or perhaps, especially when it is so damn hard.
Another place I find myself wandering when things get tough is a museum. I can go alone, not talk to anyone, marvel at the art, get inspired, drink a good cup of coffee, buy some flowers and some fresh bread and some fruits for home afterward. They’re usually not crowded (do not think at the Mona Lisa room now), extremely airy and with great lighting, very well curated and truly truly inspiring. Best part of it, we can take your time with ourselves. With the art and with our thoughts. All in one room. Boom, inspiration comes!
One of my dreams is to write a road-trip book. Adventures, friendship, love, heartbreak, discoveries, coffee shops, and the long road in front of you. Have been gathering material for some time now, took some epic road-trips in the past and day-dreaming about a longer one across America, from one National Park to another, with a bunch of good old friends, just wandering the world and seeing the majestic beauties of the giant sequoias, the Joshua trees, the Grand Canyon, Glacier Bay, Yosemite, Zion… even the names sound fabulous. There’s so much beauty in this world and there’s so much to explore, and to see to get inspired, that even keeping a Pinterest board with these wonders will do the work for the moment. And then, there’s Japan. Calling me louder and louder. And Iceland. And the Hymalaians. And Africa and India, and Peru and Brazil… There’s no place in this world where I wouldn’t want to go. Last month I wrote an Essay on Travelling.
This month’s essay is a mess. Ideas came at me all at once and none, in particular, stayed long enough to actually develop it. That only proves the above idea that inspiration hits in mysterious ways. Chaotic ways and we should grab it while we can. When I started these essays, I promised myself they will be raw, no rewriting. Just thoughts on paper on some topics I care for.
This is the result.
Well, now things get serious. We talked about Time, Communities, Travelling and Inspiration. All in the light of being creative and living that creative and authentic life that most of us strive for. Have been struggling with this month’s theme, as I looked at the list of topics I wanted to talk about for a while, feeling like none of them would suffice. Or be good enough. Because, oh, yes… I was feeling vulnerable.
Don’t we all?
Anyhow, here I am, end of the month, a fresh-brewed mug of tea with mint from the garden and linden from some friends’ garden, windows open, listening to the outside noise, happy it is all nature sounds, even in the midst of a bustling city. Evening, just ended the workday and am ready to relax, but not too relaxed as this essay is getting on my nerves, because if there is something I am good at is not showing any signs of vulnerability. It is always kept in check, packed under millions of other layers, ignored and frowned upon as we all do.
Since the beginning of this month, I have been part of a lovely project on Instagram (a wonderful project that I totally encourage you to try) organized/inspired by Juliane from @onebouquetperday. Juliane started it in 2013, so it has been going on for a while, but just this year I have found it. When I began, I thought it would do me a lot of good to go in the garden early in the morning and pick some flowers, as everything was in bloom and looked amazing, and to capture that moment of peace in a single photo. I also thought it would last for a week. Little did I know. I am going (strong) in my fourth week now, and totally loving it. It just adds that little something that was missing from my morning strolls at sunrise in the Garden of Eden, as I call this little sacred space we tend to.
How is this tied with the vulnerability you ask. Well, since you ask… Every project you do with other people makes you put yourself “out there”. You know, in the real world. And everything you create or do or think or say in such environment leaves you open for criticism, ironies, bullying, comparison, and all the other things that made you – an introvert- NOT put yourself out there.
Therefore, I encourage you to try to find a small project, anything that may bring you out of your shell, and damned be the fear that will try to silence you. Dare to be vulnerable. Show your heart to the world. Do not hide your gifts.
I still say it as a whisper that I am a writer. And still, try to disguise it and explain it and justify it by adding- well, I try… well, I’d like to think I am... and so on.
But allowing myself to be open to criticism and showing my soul to strangers has brought me more joy and happiness than bad vibes.
So, do it. Be vulnerable. Be authentic, tell people about your thoughts and wishes, about your ideas and allow your creative part to be free. Unleash that vibrant energy that fills your lungs and raises your spirit high to go “out there”. And accept your vulnerability. Care for it. Talk about it. Understand it. But do not let it control your life and do not live your life out of fear of what would people say or think. That is their problem, not yours. Yours is to be true to yourself, no matter what.
Go to group therapy. Talk about your soul and your fears. Play and allow yourself to be present. Tell people about your creative side. And about your desires and thoughts and feelings, especially.
Or write stories for your friends. Taking Neil Gaiman’s writing course in the past month (oh boy, what a treat!!) I have started to really enjoy writing short stories. So much that I decided to write 10 stories this year for 10 of my friends based on one photo of theirs from either Instagram, or blog or another social platform of their choice. Mind you, most of my friends have a gift for photography and I would like to thank deviantArt for meeting most of them back then. Oh, the glorious days of dev. I miss them sometimes. Now, back to writing and being vulnerable. I have already written two, started the third which will be posted really soon. You can read them in the Short Stories page of this website. They are different as the people I write for are different. They have a piece of soul from me, from them, and some mystical inspiration that was captured in that photo. Here’s yet another way of being vulnerable- telling your friends- Hey, I wrote a story about this picture of yours. Or even worse- hey, I think about writing a story about this picture of yours– worse because then you have informed them and they will have expectations. (yes, hard to live with that, I know. hahaha)
Try to be more present and do more “out there” for the people to see, allow yourself to be vulnerable and step by step you’ll learn how to do it, how to trust people and how to believe in yourself. There is this book that I’ve been reading for a while now, “Hardwiring Happiness” by Rick Hanson about experience-dependent-neuroplasticity (try to say that three times fast) which discusses retraining your brain to think and act positively by changing its wiring in response to experience, repeated stimuli, environmental cues, and learning. And how to learn from good and positive experiences. I believe that is an experiment worth doing with yourself. Learning how to see more good than bad and how to give more impact to good experiences.
This month’s post is also delivered in 1000 words in full, as promised.