Travel Love: How a Sharpie Makes the World Shine Brighter
Visiting a distant land? Full of new sights, sounds, smells… Maybe think about carrying a sketchbook with you. This little habit has opened my eyes to beautiful things in the places I have been honored to trek in this world. I am crazy-dedicated to the practice of travel sketching,…. but I hear you. Cameras are pretty amazing contraptions. (And yes, I still do carry a camera with me. I love photographs too.) So you might ask how such rudimentary tools as a marker and paper can replace the vivid colorful creations of a digital camera? Let me explain…
Why Sketching Can Rock the Socks off of Photos
Imagine you are crossing a square in a small European village, maybe on your way to find a local café to indulge in some mind-blowing gelato. There’s a pretty fountain at the center of the square, and you snap a photo. You have logged this beautiful scene. Done.
Okay, now let’s rewind. You cross the square, see the fountain… and decide to take out your sketchbook instead of the camera. Now something magical happens. You sit down, feel the bench beneath you and the sun on your face. You look at the fountain, and see the tiny details hidden in its cornices – details that show its place in the world. Details that only exist here.You sketch a bit of those lovely details. And then you notice some locals playing a game of chess across the way. You turn the page and draw in some gestural lines portraying these local personalities… and you write a little passage “Bright sun, warm bench. Sounds of a fountain splashing and murmurs of locals playing chess.”
See what happened? You experienced that place more deeply. This is the essence of travel: to feel, experience, explore. Sketching is a tool that deepens all of these aspects of being in a place. And the memories you sketch show a more vivid tangible experience than any postcard perfect photograph.
Bonus benefit: You are way more likely to meet new people. Being a rather shy introvert, this is a nice tool for me. People love to come by and check out what you’re doing, and ask you about it. Seriously, you make new friends everywhere you go.
All you need is a sketchpad (I prefer the spiral notebook kind) and a Sharpie – fine point. If you really want to get into it, you can get a range of pens like these. Find a place, and focus on the details that delight you. Don’t worry about making a postcard. Just pick out one thing you love, and draw that. And don’t worry if you think it looks terrible. Because (a) you only get better by practice, so keep drawing and (b) who cares? You are making a memory of your experience! That coolness outshines any doubts or fears of what constitutes a “good drawing.”
P.S. If you’d like, share some of your sketches. I just posted a few of my travel sketchbooks for the fun of it. Visit India, Budapest and El Salvador by way of ink and paper, and let me know what you think!