Travel as Muse

The suitcases are evidence that the muse has been fed.

A year ago I bought some new suitcases just prior to a family trip to Tuscany. Despite my preference for black in most things of apparel (t-shirts, pants, shoes, gloves, etc.) I chose not to purchase black suitcases because I wanted to make the baggage-claim process more efficient. So, we have taupe suitcases, purple suitcases, and orange suitcases. Of course, now, after a few trips during the last year, the suitcases are dirty. Black suitcases do not show dirt, but colored, non-black ones do.

But, this is something to celebrate!

My dirty orange suitcase means that I have used it. It has been somewhere. And that means that I have, too.

My life consists of a few environments that I frequent over and over again: my studio, my home, my car, my town. Suppose I lived month after month, year after year, only experiencing those environments. I am confident that in such a case my work would stagnate. And, I ask you, who wants to make stagnant work?

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.


St. Augustine

Recently I had the privilege of a first visit to San Antonio, Texas. I encountered the idyllic Riverwalk, bought some cowgirl boots, visited The Alamo, and ate Tex Mex multiple times in one weekend. It was a short trip, and a wonderful Saltshaker experience. Riverwalk amphitheatre

I planned my trip using the recommendations of friends and a little research before departing to be sure I found the beyond-the-guidebook treasures San Antonio has to offer. I visited Artpace, and encountered avant-garde installations that I am still processing for understanding and personal application.

There is such inherent value in travel, not just for an artist like me, but for anyone. It facilitates complex thought, fosters physical stamina, and enriches the traveler’s worldview. I have observed a duality in the nature of travel. Travelers often combine their immersion into the unfamiliar culture they are visiting with a search for commonality. When I visited Italy, I worked to understand the language, the food, the maps, the currency, etc. But I also found myself searching for commonality. I sought jewelers studios and a venue to purchase European jewelry-making tools because this is what I know.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.

Maya Angelou

The need for community is universal to the human condition. I bought a riveting hammer in Italy, and I know that somewhere in Italy, there is a metalsmith with the same hammer. He is creating wonderful jewelry. I need to know this.

Be it a trip around the globe, or just to a new corner of your own state, travel enriches life. A journey taken serves to feed the muse. And, as an artist, I find that a well-fed muse visits me more often and is therefore less elusive. (The topic of the elusive muse will be reserved for a future blog post.)

Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.

Pat Conroy

My mother often quoted the proverb about absence making the heart grow fonder, and I do think it is true. It is being away from home — traveling — that makes coming home that much sweeter. This is the place where community is not only present, but active and engaged on a daily basis. This is the place where the traveler has mastered the environment (as characterized by language, food, customs, navigating) and can then focus on responding to the muse and serving others through creating new work.

And, after gaining the perspective afforded by travel, often the community of home becomes healthier. And, health cannot be overvalued.

Where thou art


is Home.

-Emily Dickenson



~ by gingermeekallen on December 3, 2008.

One Response to “Travel as Muse”

  1. happy you returned from your travels refreshed, ginger. i enjoyed reading your musings about travel as it relates to enriching our lives and informs our art. when traveling, it seems second-nature to seek out commonality, yet the best parts of travel are often those unexpected moments, off-itinerary events that your soul drinks in. you don’t plan your vacation to the mountains to get a perfect view of the moon scratching the treetops outside your cabin window at midnight when you woke up thirsty and went to get a glass of water and happened to look up. but wow, was that ever worth it. who knows how an experience like that could inform my future work – or maybe it already has! I have a “vacation” envelope that needs to be refreshed with ideas (and funds). me and my soul need it. thanks for the reminder.

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