about ~ wander.essence ~

~ wander.essence ~ 

~ the art of meandering around the world in a leisurely manner, lingering in a place & discovering, layer by layer, its unique character – its essence – while, at the same time, discovering one’s inner self ~

It is traveling intentionally and with awareness, and then distilling the experience into creative expression.

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Lake Langano, Ethiopia October 2012

In this blog, I seek to mingle travel and art.  I hope to inspire curious explorers of the world to make an art of wandering, and then turn that wandering into art. My focus is on people in later life, usually 50+ folks who have time and money to travel and also want to explore their creative selves in the process.

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A glimpse of the Treasury at Petra, Jordan November, 2011

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~ what I hope to do here ~

This blog will encompass all things travel, covering all my travels going forward and possibly consolidating the high points of some of my earlier travels.  I hope to include posts about:

  • travel imaginings – what inspires our destination choices;
  • immersion in a destination BEFORE embarking on a journey;
  • the intentional experience of a destination – by walking, bicycling or driving AND observing; sampling and writing about local food; keeping a journal; taking photographs; sketching or painting; writing poems, travel essays or short stories; creating collages; or expressing creative urges in otherwise meaningful ways;
  • creative expression, through blogging or other means, about a destination upon return.

I plan to offer challenges to my readers: poetry challenges, photography challenges, writing (fiction and non-fiction) challenges, and other artistic challenges. The challenges will vary according to my whim.  I’ll encourage fellow wanderers, as well as myself, to set intentions before each trip – intentions to notice something new, to define what’s iconic about a place, to describe a place using the five senses, to try a new activity or local food, to write a poem or a prosaic stream of consciousness –  to create something, anything that ignites our souls.

I plan to talk about the variety of art that people make of their travels, and I hope to feature artists here on my blog – in interviews, guest posts and even a podcast.  Wait.  That all takes time, so give me a few moments to get things underway!

I’ve been inspired by many creatives in the 8 years since I started blogging – bloggers who: post weekly walks and invite others to join; write poetry accompanied by beautiful photos;  feature weekly coffee hours or wanderings close to home;  take one trip a month; take staycations or iconic road trips; write series like Friday letters or create photo challenges or Share Your World questions; write a weekly haiku; or paint pictures with gorgeous words, distilling places into their essence.  I’ve encountered bloggers who can tell a mesmerizing story, with words or photos, or who compile photos into thematic arrangements.

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Longji Rice Terraces, Guangxi, China 2015

My sister, and other artists I follow, create artistic bullet journals.  I know a 70+ year-old man who attends marathons all over the world and meets his best friend, also a runner, from Egypt.  When they meet, they sit on a bench together and paint.  I know a blogger who paints scenes from her travels, and another who does alcohol ink painting.

I hope to inspire and be inspired in this space. Frankly, I’ve become bored with what I’ve been doing, and I hope to be energized by pushing myself to try new things.   I invite you to join in this community of wanderers and artists, and to stretch yourself to be as creative as your heart desires. 🙂

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The Blue Church in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland August, 2016

In my dreams, I’d like to eventually create retreats for solo travelers who would love to create art from their travels. As a teacher, traveler and long-time blogger, I’d love the chance to gather with other creative travelers and offer a fun and inspiring experience. Retreats could focus on some of the following (this is a work in process, so if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them!):

  1. Living like a local – staying in one place and exploring the local culture
  2. Travel blogging
  3. “Bring a character to….”
  4. Memoir writing
  5. Writing a food blog – experiencing cuisines in a culture
  6. Creative journaling
  7. Photography scavenger hunts
  8. Urban hikes
  9. Walking

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~ who am i? ~

I’m a nomad, a pilgrim, a vagabond, a wanderer. I’ve gone solo on many of my travels, but I’ve also traveled with my husband, family and friends. Traveling with others allows for shared experiences, enriching both journeys and relationships.  Balancing independence and companionship requires a balancing act, and I will explore that balance on this blog.  When I travel with others, I still need space, and negotiating that space to reflect on the journey and nourish my creative side is essential.  I personally thrive on solo travel because it challenges me to rely on my wits, it immerses me in a culture, and it allows me to linger and observe.  Solo travel inspires confidence, makes one more tolerant, and builds resilience.

I am crazy for books (mostly fiction) and I delight in writing and photography.  I am addicted to textiles – the more exotic the better –  as well as home decor, architecture, art, and unique clothing.  I love sampling cuisines from every culture. I adore breezes, cool crisp air, and mountains. I enjoy both urban and nature hiking. I relish riding a motorbike or a bicycle, taking a slow cruise down a river, riding a decrepit taxi or a tuk-tuk through chaotic cities or among ancient temples. I love being transported to other cultures, especially those that evoke nostalgia.

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riding a motorbike in Bagan, Myanmar February 2015

It’s funny how travel can lead you down twisting alleys and to mountaintops and open fields and into wadis deep in the middle of terra-cotta canyons. It can lead you to dead-end streets, up hundreds of steps to monasteries in the desert, and to dancing parties in city squares. It can lead you to tangled and decaying ruins and marble palaces and manicured gardens. It can lead you to magical moments in hot air balloons over moonscapes. It can lead you down chaotic streets crowded with motorbikes and rickshaws and elephants and cows. It can lead you down dirty rivers at sunrise, in the midst of people on ghats at the water’s edge. It can lead you to encounters with people who open your eyes and hearts or who, alternately, test your patience. Ultimately, it can lead you back to yourself.

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me at the Longji Rice Terraces in Guangxi Province, China 2015

I’m an English major (College of William & Mary) with a Master’s degree in International Commerce & Policy (George Mason University).  I have worked as a Busch Gardens cash control teller, a newspaper reporter, a banker and credit analyst, a stockbroker, an English teacher and an English-as-a-foreign-language teacher. I have written numerous short stories, poems and a novel; I’m currently working on a memoir.  None of my writing has (yet) been published.  No matter.  I believe people should keep creating and expressing themselves, even if what they create is slow to meet success in the world at large.  Everyone has an artist inside of them, waiting to break out.

My art of choice is blogging.  I focus on photography, keeping a journal, and writing. I am especially inspired by writers who set their stories in foreign locales.  When I was an English major at the College of William and Mary back in the day, I dreamed of being a writer like Hemingway.  I wondered, How can I write like Hemingway when I’ve never traveled outside of my own country? I have nothing to say about my mundane and boring life.  That question set me on a quest to travel, but only many years later, after raising a family and doing all the “shoulds” one does in life.

I have traveled to 30 countries (including my home country of the U.S. – to most states as well as to one U.S. territory), most after I turned 50. I have been writing blogs since 2010, when I went to South Korea to teach English. I blogged about my expat experience, and then made the mistake of starting a new blog for each region of the world, creating 16 blogs. Yikes! That created a lot of confusion for my readers! I blogged about my year in Korea, two years in Oman, a year in China, and one semester in Japan, and on top of that, had blogs for my travels in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and America.

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Japan, 2017

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I hope you’ll come wandering (& creating) with me.

~ Cathy Birdsong Dutchak ~