The best way to remember a trip isn’t just slowing down to really be present in a place. Instead, as I wrote for the National Geographic Traveler today, it’s STOPPING altogether. For me, that is often to draw a little something that catches my eye. That the results won’t win any awards hardly bothers me.
Here’s a handful of sketches that fill my last decade’s worth of travel journals.
In 2003, while researching the Yucatan and Chiapas for Lonely Planet’s Central America guidebook, I came across this cymbalist in San Cristóbol de Las Casas. I like how his hair was roughly the shape of the USA east coast.
Following Robert Louis Stevenson’s footsteps in Languedoc-Roussillon, France last October, I found the same leaning “spidery cross” in the village of Cheylard that Stevenson noted. He didn’t care much for the place, writing it was “little worth all this searching.” But I liked it. Even if the priest who let me in the “tottering church,” as Stevenson described it, had rubbed out the oversized genitalia that someone had carved in the stairway to the altar.
I probably would remember this secondary temple at the Mayan site of Palenque in southern Mexico. But taking the time to make this sloppy drawing, I noted: “Took a photo of 15 Italians in front of the nearby Templo de Inscripciones. Grazie x many. It helps to know a little Italian if you visit Mexico in August. Then a Chinese family joined me into the dark tomb, taking photos with flash. I warned it’s slippery. Gracias, in funny accent, x many. No one is over here, at its next-door neighbor, Templo del Conde. No one ever listens to the B sides, do they? Also far less likely to smell urine on the B sides.”
I liked these guys a lot. All moustached, in varying states of pudginess, and standing in full view behind the stage of a “Midnight Ramble” show at the late Levon Helm’s BARN, a Hudson River Valley musical institution. No cameras allowed, which was fine by me. That made it easier to find the time to draw them.