1 Week ‘Til America

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I knew the hour was early when I opened my eyes and was greeted by a feeble grey light filtering through my window. I stumbled blearily into the kitchen and the clock showed six oh five. But a sudden realisation woke me right up. This time next week, I’ll be sitting on a plane, about to depart my home for six weeks, and ready to see what there is to see in the USA.

Despite my love of travelling, it’s been a long time since I’ve been so cognizant of an upcoming holiday. It doesn’t usually hit me until the day before, and then it usually feels like a huge inconvenience because of all the effort involved.

This time, it’s different. For the first time in a long time, I feel really excited. Almost like a newbie traveller again. Perhaps it’s because my trip to America has been in the pipeline for so long now- practically a year- that it’s surreal to think that a countdown of 365 days has dwindled down to seven. I’ve waited a long time for this trip and now it’s almost upon me.

***

In the hour of transformation between silver dawn and golden day, time seems to take on another dimension. It stretches out before me, like a piece of elastic. I see the 29 years of my life that have led to this moment, and they seem like nothing at all.

And yet six weeks stretches out of sight, and trying to decipher what it encompasses feels like looking into eternity. It’s vague and grey, like the early morning, appearing unpredictable yet feeling like fate.

Let’s just wander through the hours, undecided about directions but confident we will get to where we need to go. And when it all eventually falls into place, something will have shifted and life will be different. I will appear the same but feel changed.

***

Let America slumber in her final dreams. The silver dawn approaches, and with it, a golden horizon of opportunities.

Let It Pass

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Music often makes me feel like I was born in the wrong time. I’m wrapped up in songs that call from distant horizons. Their familiar melodies rise and fall like gentle waves, slowly carrying me away over lulling seas to some eternal land of yesteryear.

Every so often, though, there’s a song that sends out currents strong enough to pull me back to the coastline, like a lighthouse twinkling on a promised land. When an exploration of a modern soundscape confirms that music from the here and now is not altogether lost, it feels like Christmas.

Most cherished of all are the times when I’m guided by an invisible beacon. Like today. I was drifting aimlessly, when I stumbled, quite by chance, into the floating lullaby of autumn leaves that is Jakob Ogawa’s “Let It Pass”. It was like sighting an unknown island paradise in the middle of the sea and then walking, in a daze, through a mirage of sound along a humming shore.

I became lost in an echo of lazy beach days and summer afternoons, where the salty breeze messed our hair while we watched as the burnt sun sank slowly to kiss the balmy ocean, and a hazy dusk spread across the sea to bathe the world in a final glow of glittering light. The waves were liquid amber, and the air was filled with the carefree laughter of youth, as we picked up handfuls of sand and let the grains slip through our fingers, falling freely like specks of gold in the twilight. Then, suddenly, it was dark, and I was all alone, haunted by the laughter of ghosts and surrounded by the shadows of faded memories. The grains of sand lay trapped in an hourglass, and the air was heavy with sadness and bittersweet nostalgia. The best things in life always end far too soon.

Despite getting caught up in a web of sentimentality, I simply adore this song. It has the sort of melody that I feel, rather than hear, so that I fall into it, like I fall into dreams. Those are my absolute favourite types of songs.

Kandy Colours

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There’s no denying I’ve been very focused on my upcoming travels recently. If I look to the future, I have one month to go until my hike on Kangaroo Island, and two months to go until my storm chasing tour begins in Oklahoma City. But it also occurred to me that today is one month since I set off for Columbo Fort station to board the train for Hatton, thus beginning my solo adventures in Sri Lanka. The days loomed uncertain, and as the train chugged along through the lush green countryside, I found myself wishing it would never end. I was content to just sit by the window and watch the world go by, without having to make any decisions.

There’s a sense of ease and calmness when I think about past travels. After all, there are no loose ends to tie up, no variables to consider, no surprises waiting to derail best-laid plans. There’s nothing to worry about anymore. Everything’s happened and it all worked out and even if it didn’t, it feels of little consequence- if anything, faded mishaps become colourful stories. It’s comforting to look back on it all, like being on a train that takes you in the direction that it has always been destined to go.

Thinking back on my time in Sri Lanka has made for a welcome change from the rapid fire thinking that has accompanied my holiday planning in the last few days. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to ease up on my forward thinking altogether so that I can look back and spend some quality time documenting my experiences on Adam’s Peak, Horton Plains, Ohiya, Ella, Kegalle, and Sigiriya. Not to mention, it’s high time I started my Snapshots of Sri Lanka project, which I’ve been rather neglectful of. Actually, I think I’ve been purposefully putting it off, because I remember well what a mammoth task it is to sort through 2000+ photos. That said, I have the time I always dreamed of for this sort of thing, so I really have no excuses. It can be hard to commit to a project that feels overwhelming, but the hardest part is always getting started- and I have.

Once I remembered the success of managing these types of projects lies in breaking them into small parts, it really wasn’t so hard to begin. So far, the photo at the start of this post has really captured my eye. It was taken at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, and I’m totally loving the colours. It can be difficult to offer a new perspective of places that have been photographed a million times, but I enjoy the challenge. Walking the creative path can be immensely frustrating, but also full of rewards and satisfaction- and that is why we pursue it, time and time again.

A Secret Unlocked

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I came across this quote the other day, and it instantly resonated with me. Here was the secret to overcoming all the struggles and frustrations I’ve had with my writing over the years. For the longest time, I believed there was no point in attempting to write if I didn’t feel inspired. I would know if inspiration was paying me a visit because writing wouldn’t be an effort. The words would simply flow, and my fingers would fly over the keyboard.

This belief meant I wasted many years waiting for a creative spark that never came. Not being able to write like I once had was upsetting- writing is the one thing that’s always defined me, and losing that ability felt like I’d lost myself.

There is nothing better than when the words do come readily, because it’s clear then that you’ve tapped into some source of inspiration, and such creative energy is a wonderful feeling for any artist to experience. But I guess I needed to learn that writing isn’t always that easy. Yet, funnily enough, when I finally realised that, all of a sudden, writing didn’t seem to be so hard anymore.

I think, as a teen, I had a somewhat romanticised notion of the writing process. But as I’ve grown older, and learnt more about how the world works, I’ve realised that in order to experience success with my writing, it must be approached in the same way as anything that you might invest your love and time and energy into. Like with any relationship, or friendship, or career, you need to show a daily commitment and dedication. That’s the hard part.

Now that writing has become a habit, I am filled with an abundance of ideas. I see stories in everything. Inspiration, actually, is all around. Travelling is what brought on this realisation at first. But the everyday is equally as inspiring- the quiet moments, the simple things. When you write about your experiences, it doesn’t have to be perfect. The important thing is that you try.

Just write.

In a Mandala Mood

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When colouring books for adults became a thing a couple of years back, I was overjoyed. I love colouring in. I love the fact that I can still participate in a form of visual art without having to draw anything- since I absolutely suck at drawing. All I have to do is fill in a black and white page with texta marks. Such a simple process, and yet completely transformative, as a bright and vivid scene gradually emerges from nothingness. Colour is the light of imagination, and from it, ideas come alive.

The first adult colouring books I bought, back in 2015, contained beautifully detailed ink illustrations by Johanna Basford. The scenes in ‘Secret Garden’ and ‘Lost Ocean’ are incredibly intricate, and I would spend quite a bit of time thinking about the colour schemes I should use. Completing one of the pages required a lot of focus, patience, and dedication, but it was always an enjoyable activity, and the perfect way to relax after a long week of teaching.

There were certainly enough illustrations in these books to last me a few years at the rate I was going, but after my trip to Nepal in October 2016, I wanted a change. I’d seen hundreds of stunning mandala images in Kathmandu and Namche Bazaar, and when I arrived home, I went searching for a mandala colouring book. It took me a while, but when I came across Jim Gogarty’s book, I knew I’d found exactly what I was looking for.

I’ve finished about eleven of the 100 mandalas so far, and I love the creative freedom involved with bringing the abstract shapes and patterns to life. In my other colouring books, the colours I choose to zhuzh up a picture are influenced by the real life colours of the illustrated objects. With the mandalas, there’s no preconceptions. It’s more about ‘feeling’ the colours. This line feels like a blue, this circle feels like a red. And then, on the next page, a line might feel like an orange, and a circle might feel like a green. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s creativity in its purest form.

One Month

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Today marks one month since I started An Evolution of Adventure. I am immensely proud of the fact that I have been writing every day since then. It was a goal I hoped to achieve, but one that I was not entirely confident I would. I thought it would be too hard.

As it’s turned out, it’s been easy. Writing has simply become part of my daily routine, and the best thing is, I haven’t forced it to be. That’s made all the difference, because it means that now, I look forward to writing, instead of regarding it as something that has to be done, like a chore on a to-do list. And of course, when you enjoy something, it gives you joy. Writing is now a source of personal satisfaction rather than frustration.

The reason why writing has suddenly become easier for me is because I’ve learnt that it is only as difficult as I choose to make it. Simplicity is best, but we are so used to life being complicated that we tend to forget this. Sure, there are still times when I sit and deliberate over words. The creative process has a mind of its own, and sometimes it wants to transform a simple idea into something bigger than Ben Hur. When it all starts to get too much, I know, now, to get back to basics. Or rather, I apply this knowledge, because deep down, I think I always knew. The key to achieving success in writing, for me, is to stop overthinking things and focus on what it is that I want to say. Essentially, it all comes down to that wise philosophy to keep it simple, stupid.

I’m delighted that the year has got off to such a great start, creatively, and I can’t wait to continue writing. After all, if writing is a form of alchemy, I’ll be in for a magical year.

The Himalayan 100: A Sneak Peek

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I’m so grateful for the extra time I have in my life these days to devote to my creative projects, because once upon a time, I simply didn’t. I’d get back from a holiday, transfer my hundreds of images into a folder on the computer, and then gaze wistfully through them from time to time, as a form of procrastination. It frustrated me immensely because there were stories to tell, but no time to tell them.

This year, I’m determined to keep on top of the documentation side of my travels, as I still have the tendency to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stories and snapshots that accumulate over the course of an adventure. I think what will make my creative life so much easier, though, is that I’ve finally realised just how flexible the documentation process can be.

Over the next few days, I’ll be uploading one of my most recent creative projects. The Himalayan 100 is a picture essay featuring, you guessed it, one hundred of my favourite images from my amazing trek to Everest Base Camp in October 2016.

It was definitely tough to choose only 100 images out of a collection of over 1100, but ultimately it’s an open-ended project, and that’s what I love about it. These are my top 100 photos now, but who knows what The Himalayan 100 will look like if I revisit it in five years?

This is what I love about the creative process- it knows how to keep you on your toes. In the end, there may be many a frustrating moment, but there will never be a dull one!