Photographer and blogger at Cismithphotography.com
It's a challenge having to articulate what travel does for the artist, because It's constantly evolving its role. In my belief, it expands experiences to draw from. It stirs up your spirit by simply taking your "survival instincts" off of autopilot and making sure you're paying attention to where you're heading. It opens up your free time to use and apply your creative tools and techniques to display your perspectives.
To elaborate: EVERYTHING is about perspectives. Art, writing, psychology, culture, government, happiness, travel. Inside and outside, the more perspectives you have, the better equipped you are at understanding, contributing to society, the world, making better personal decisions and making yourself happy. Travel gives you more perspectives to pull from. Duh.
Why I decided to "take the leap" and live abroad was because I've traveled before, and the experience never left me alone. I studied abroad in Australia, and instead of going back to University after the semester had ended, I took a semester off to backpack across the country. It was easy since I was already there, had friends from university to host me, a Wwoofer catalog to lead me to work in exchange for room and board, and with Australia being a western country, it was easier because it was somewhat familiar to home. The bunny-slope for a first time backpacker.
One thing I found was a large amount of time to reflect on myself and what I was seeing as I passed through new cities and towns. What I was hearing about America and other world issues from people in other countries. Conversations on where I have been and where I wanted to go. My new education's notebook consisted of a sketch book and a camera to document the experiences I was living and the perspectives I was discovering.
On a different level, travel yanked away my TV, my Youtube, my ability to check emails every few hours. It didn't allow me to form a routine, except that everyday my priorities were make sure I ate and found a place to sleep. I was taken away from safety nets and found out how incredibly easy it was to unplug myself from entertainment, luxury comforts, American work culture and the "normalcy" I had been brought up in. With all the drawing and photography, my mind shifted to a more visual processing. I started to think inside my head with images more than in a narrative voice. My mind literally changed the way I thought. Artist by conditioning, not by title. Art by processing, not by obligation.
…and then I had to go back home to finish school. I went through reverse culture shock. I stopped drawing and photographing as much. I just didn't have the time because I had to find work, pay rent, pay bills, gas up my truck and frankly I was depressed. There was an invisible substance that was missing from my life. My visual thinking began to weaken and my narrative voice became more prominent again, like a beer belly after you stop doing sit-ups. I got back into the routine of American work culture, all the while looking back out to other travelers I had met along the way by watching their lives via my Facebook newsfeed. Lenny's traveling the world, working though workaway.info. Alex got a job with a bungee jumping company during her travels through New Zealand. Mike mentions how well Korea pays English teachers AND pays for their flights and accommodation. Lyndsy is Wwoof-ing across Asia. Spencer and Vishal are Couchsurfing across Europe. Mindy now freelances as a personal hiking guide, getting paid to take people across mountain ranges. Tanner and Alexis get commissioned to install sculptures in Museums and city parks through Art Residencies and some friends open up online businesses, from ebay to web design, getting paid in dollars and living in Thai Baht. Many don't have artistic intentions, but they've managed to survive abroad by being creative with their life. They've created a way to live in the "real world", but not as others back home would call it. Perspectives to pull from.
I had to get back out. This time I decided to live abroad, not just see the world. I needed to stir my lethargic spirit and add to my perspectives pile. Wake up my zoned out autopilot thinking, and start communicating with others through broken language, hand gestures or charades. (creativity is at it's purest form when you don't speak the same language as the cook, and try to find out if the food is chicken or pork.) I quit my job. I bought a ticket, I sold everything, I organized a small bit of work to start me off (cold-calling and letters are incredibly under-utilized by most people) and then fully realized what I was doing when I fastened my seat belt on that plane out of LAX.
It's much scarier looking over the edge than it is actually taking the leap. Once you're out, you can't remember what was so scary. The flinch that keeps you from traveling is your worst enemy in more ways than from what is obvious (read The Flinch - a short and free book available online, written by Julien Smith)
If you can't push past your flinch, you can run through it by trying this:
Think about a country you've always wanted to go to. Don't think too hard about it, just listen to what pops into your head. Look up the best time for weather to visit the place (Lonely Planet is a good source). Without thinking, buy a plane ticket for that time of year, at least 6 months from now. I promise, it will work out, nothing will happen like you expect so go easy on the planning, it'll be one of the most memorable and life-changing events in your life, and you will thank yourself afterwards.
And relax, you will never have everything wrapped up. You will never be fully ready. You will always be missing a big event or a friend's birthday or job opportunities, no matter how well you attempt to juggle your schedule. It's OK, everything will work out to be OK, and now you have a deadline as your guideline. Now you have to prepare at least a little bit by searching volunteer work, work abroad sites, teaching jobs, university resources, freelance jobs, N.G.O.s within the area. Google search and emails are your greatest assets. Ask everyone if they have a position for you for a week, a month or even ask them how long they need help for. They'll make things easier, give you advice, get you situated, help cover basic costs, show you other routes to take through the country, introduce you into a world you will never imagine properly without getting a first hand perspective. Your leap will introduce you to people who do this often. Who buy open ended tickets. Who have a fire in their belly for travel. The world. People on the street. Their art. Their lifestyle. Life. You'll find nothing but more fuel, inspiration and challenges that lead you to a better understanding of yourself and your place in this massive little world of ours
Currently I'm working on these projects:
The shear talent and energy of people I continue to meet and friends that I continue to idolize, carry me foreword like a drafting car. I feed off of the creative ways that people have chosen to live their lives. How some can change their lives so redly and with such focus. Witnessing the resourcefulness as they fund their ventures by selling postcards and paintings, kick starters/Crowdfunders and grants to create a NGO, a charity, a business, an artist space, whatever it may be to expand their creative lifestyles into comfortable living.
My dreams for the future give me epilepsy fits. An online business, a gallery, freelancing and educating. I plan on high-fiving every interest that comes within my winded-up, overactive hands until I find my limit. Then I will create a space (business and personal) where I can "come home to" six months out of the year and be able to enjoy my time in my very own gigantic, ceramic-sculptured beer garden.