To celebrate its 100th birthday in 2011, The New York Public Library hosted “Find the Future” which included an amazing exhibition of artifacts at their 42nd Street building, a really cool interactive event (a overnight scavenger hunt in the library for a lucky few), and corresponding online game. One of the aspects of the online game was to respond to writing prompts and then entries would be read and commented on by other “players”. In response to one of the prompts I wrote “My Worldwide Creative Journey: to visit, see, absorb, learn, and/or sing!” I have updated and changed the piece a few times in the years since I first drafted it, and I still enjoy the idea of it, this imagined journey; it reminds me of all the wonderful opportunities I still have to explore this planet.
I find there is nothing like a change of venue to spark my creativity and to move me into a more “in the moment” mindset. I detach from my expectations and learn to enjoy what is right in front of me. Yes, before I go on a trip I make of list of things I think I would like to do, but often I find the most satisfying experiences are the small unexpected interactions and sights, not the tourist attractions. I think it’s fun to compare how common objects in another country differ from what I usually see at home. I also enjoy the variations in architecture, art, music, food, and things experienced through my senses like the smell of the air, the sound of the crowds speaking another language, the warmth of the paving stones beneath my feet.
When I travel I hear different melodies in my mind inspired by sounds from whatever place I am visiting. I don’t always capture them all, but it’s okay, I enjoy that part of the journey and don’t pressure myself into turning everything I see, hear, or do into a song.
My ideal destinations are listed below in an “around-the-world” configuration, but I am not fixed to this one-trip notion, as in some ways I am a homebody, and the “idea of travel” often makes me happier than the actual reality of getting from one place to another. Don’t get me wrong, I love when I arrive, rest, get acclimated, and enjoy my new surroundings. But because I live defensively (I have many sensitivities and therefore must avoid citrus, freshly painted places, cologne/perfumes, among other things) taking public transportation is often difficult, and I need time to recover on arrival and when I return home.
As I created my imaginary itinerary, I thought about visiting several more countries and continents, and if the political climate settles down and travel becomes safer I will may consider those destinations in the future. I was also deterred from some selections by an old mantra in my mind: “The Equator is HOT!” (I heard this once shouted by a little boy on a children’s TV program and it was so cute it stuck in my mind) so, I avoided really hot places as I am a delicate flower and need moderate climates.
My Worldwide Creative Journey
1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I will start my journey off by flying to Rio! I can’t wait to see the Corcovado and Sugarloaf mountains near the sea, ride a cable car. Of course, I intend to listen to as much Brazilian jazz, samba and bossa nova as my mind can hold. If I’m lucky enough I may see & hear a sabia (singing bird) as I walk along the black and white waves of the paved sidewalk. I will allow myself to tan as I walk around, but not too much. (Sunscreen will be applied!) I’ll probably avoid Carnival season as I am not too fond of crowds, but I will try to schedule my arrival around a jazz festival. Perhaps I will learn some Portuguese and sing a little Brazilian song. In any case, I have my own lyrics that will work with Gilberto Gil’s “Refazenda” if I have to pull something out of the hat.
2. Buenos Aires, Argentina. I want to see the brightly painted houses and ceramics of Argentina that I have only seen in photos. And, I want to take my own photos! I know a lot of my time will be focused on photographing unusual doorways, walls and windows. Some of the things I want to try in this country are horseback riding, learning the tango (or at least watching some excellent tango dancers in action), and tasting that Chimichurri sauce I have heard of so much. (Then I will leave the Americas and cross the Atlantic ocean heading for the green hills where my ancestors roamed.)
3. Lochalsh, Scotland, & London, England; United Kingdom. I long to walk beside the mountains and lochs in Scotland. I would sketch the stones and ruins and visit Eilean Donan Castle. I have been to London a couple of times since I first imagined this itinerary, but my time was short and I was not able to enjoy everything the way I have dreamed, so if I get the chance to return I hope to experience more of the city life and to visit the Pizza Express Jazz Club (and other music venues.) I still haven’t seen the Chelsea Bridge or the set of Eastenders, my favorite BBC television program. But, in any case, I will make an effort to walk along the Thames again, to visit the East End, and tour some lovely Cathedrals.
4. The Hague, The Netherlands. I just happen to know a couple of lovely people who live in or near The Hague. Ideally, I would schedule my visit to coordinate with a music festival as my friends are a wonderful jazz singers and I want to see them expressing themselves in their home setting. I hope to be able to sing a song about musical experiences we have shared. Maybe a side trip to Amsterdam as I know will be drawn towards all things revolving around the Dutch Masters and Rembrandt. I will take as many mental snapshots as I can in addition to the actual photos I will take of all the many flowers and greenery, and will search out places on the canals where the boats are moored to focus on nautical subjects.
5. Paris, France. My plan is to have no plan in Paris, but to arrive during the Spring season and somehow eat at least one decadent pastry. I want to totally live in the moment and try to get by as best I can with my very limited knowledge of the French language. A totally “in the moment” experience.
6. Rome, Milan, Modena, and other cities in Italy. Even though I have been to Rome a few times (and will be there again in 2 weeks) I know I will want to return again and again as I adore the San Lorenzo area of town. At the FELT CLUB & SCHOOL they host wonderful jazz workshops twice a year. I think the city is so accessible with its interconnecting buses, trams, and trains. I hope that each time I go to Italy I will learn more and more of the language and will be continually inspired by the ancient ruins, art, music, and cuisine. I urgently wish to visit Milan and Modena and as I have friends that live, play, and teach jazz in those beautiful cities. I will eat at least one gelato since I always seem to forget to do this. Where are my priorities?
7. Belgrade, Serbia. In 2011 I was invited to jam with a jazz friend in Serbia so I added this stop to my itinerary. But I waited too long, and now he lives in New York! If he ever decides goes back to home to Serbia for a visit, maybe I could coordinate my flights to coincide (smile). I wanted to see the city through his eyes and had hoped he would drive me around showing me the sights, perhaps catching a glimpse of the Danube River at some point. He told me years ago he would show me the best places to eat and what to taste first (I would like to try a savory burek pastry – they look wonderful in photos). And, I want to visit some of the older landmarks and tour a museum or two, maybe go bicycling riding if the weather permits. I imagine this part of my journey will be relaxing and stress-free as I hang out with my friend and see what he used to do on a typical day (before he moved to my home town.)
8. Djulirri & Malarrak, Australia. So mystical! Dreaming of being surrounded by the spiritual, colorful rock art created by our ancient ancestors in Australia. I found a wonderful website called “Protect Australia’s Spirit” which is dedicated to a campaign to raise awareness and funds to document and preserve this country’s extraordinary collection of Aboriginal rock art. I want to spend some quiet, reflective time studying this work up close.
9. Tokyo, Japan. After a my peaceful time surrounded by inspiring art, I will travel to hear more friends play more jazz. (Yes, I have jazz friends in Japan too, crazy right?) Unfortunately, since I first visualized traveling there so many tragedies have occurred. So, I would expect that things are different there right now because of the after effects of the earthquake, tsunami, and all the issues surrounding Fukushima. I know my musical Japanese friends here in New York have been raising funds in order to assist their communities back home. I have heard that touring is still going on (jazz gigs in Tokyo) and I would like to support that in any way I can. During the day, I expect I will do a lot of walking and looking and absorbing all the local sights, sounds, arts and handicrafts. I am a big fan of Japanese paper goods and may try to find some to take home if I have room in my luggage. (I will pack everything up nicely for my flight over the Pacific Ocean back to North America.)
10. Talkeetna, Alaska, USA. About 20 years ago I read “Edges of the Earth: A Man, a Woman, a Child in the Alaskan Wilderness” by Richard Leo. I could not tell you chapter by chapter all the things he and his young family went through after leaving their harried business world to attempt homesteading in Alaska, but I can tell you that at the time I read this memoir, the thought of escaping to a place of freshness and natural beauty really appealed to me. I do not think I would be cut out for this type of lifestyle. It sounded like a physically difficult existence and you need to be able to accept total self-reliance, including the struggle to find and store food and maintain a shelter all on your own if need be. That would be overwhelming to me. But, In any case, I would still like the opportunity to see Denali, the wonderful mountain that is the pivot of Leo’s world, and to breathe the fresh Alaskan air in Spring, Summer or Fall.
11. Banff & Toronto, Canada. Lake Louise has always been on my list of places that I want to visit in my lifetime. I don’t know why it is that I should be so attracted to that particular lake, but I saw a photo of it about 20+ years ago and that was it – wanted to go there. I want to stay at a posh resort in or near Banff National Park and I want to see as much of the wilderness as is safe to do. In Toronto, I will visit jazz friends and time my visit so I can hear the wonderful children’s choir “We Are One” at the Toronto Center for the Performing Arts. I suppose I could walk home at this point, maybe travel back along the Long Trail like i did as a teen, but I won’t. I will take a train back to the States. I have always wanted to try a sleeper-car!
12. Reykjavik, Iceland. While I am “up North” I might just go a little higher and see Iceland. Honestly, I know nothing about the Icelandic music or art scenes. I hope to learn more about that when I arrive, but when I think of travelling to Iceland I just want to be surrounded by wide expanses of nature–volcanoes, ice, cliffs, rivers and the sea. I will go puffin and whale watching and will focus my photography on textures and colors. If I get a chance I will gaze at the Northern lights and relax and re-energize in an Icelandic thermal pool before heading to Europe.
HOME – New York City! And back to square one, my city. Time to reflect and process and manifest experience into creative activity. Ah!