Sunday, April 27, 2014

Europe... long ago and yesterday

Bear with me...
i'm all over the place today, looking at old journals,
so this post may not be the most coherent.
Years ago, i took a solo trip to Europe.
It was one of the most memorable times of my life,
partly because i was in Europe,
and partly because i was alone.
I was only there 3 weeks,
but in those few weeks,
my life changed.
Being alone forces one to be courageous,
consciously or unconsciously.
There were a few awakenings on that trip,
but there were also a few times
where i was frightened,
and wondered whether i had made the right decision
to go alone.
But i had always wanted to go to Europe
and none of my friends (at the time) wanted to join me.
So i went.
Now that i look back,
i think this is where my *illustrated journaling* was born.
i had been drawing and keeping journals for years separately,
but in Europe, 
being surrounded by such beautiful architecture,
i began combining both -
the sketching and the writing.
I bought myself a little sketchbook while i was there,
and began to sketch people
and markets
and cathedrals.
My senses were all at their peak -
the visual beauty & despair,
the taste of different foods,
the sounds,
the different scents in the air,
On my first night in Vienna,
from the open window
in my tiny hotel room on the 3rd floor,
i was soothed to sleep
by the sounds of someone playing the cello
in the building across the cobble stone street.

Whenever i look at my sketches,
i am transported back in time
as though i were still there.
some of it is good,
some of it is not.
Some is heaven, some is hell.

I don’t live in the past,
but once in a while,
i like going back there,
just to gain a new perspective
on where i am today.
Some may wonder what the point is,
but here’s the point for me:
it is my life
in little snippets
on paper.
It is a way for me to remember.
A way for me to be reminded
of where i’ve been
and why i’m going where i’m going.
When i returned back to Canada,
exhausted, sweltering in the summer heat,
and about 10lbs lighter from all the walking,
I sat on one of the chairs & waited for my ride home.
As i sat there,
i thought of what i had seen during the past weeks,
some of the people i had met,
some of the museums and art galleries i had visited,
the trains i had missed
the sanctuaries i had found,
and the experiences i could have done without.
…and i wondered,
had it all been worth it?
Out of nowhere,
an older woman with white hair sat next to me,
and asked me if i was arriving or leaving.
“i’m arriving - from Europe”, i said.
She smiled at me, and with a tinge of sadness in her eyes, she replied:
“oh, that’s wonderful. i’ve always wanted to go to Europe,
but i’ve never been, and at this age,
i doubt that i will ever make it there”.

And in an instant, 
i knew that it had been worth it.
All of it.

So if any of you out there
are doubting the value of keeping a sketchbook,
stop doubting
and start keeping one today.
It doesn't need to be a fancy one.
It just needs to belong to YOU.


  1. Such an interesting read and perspective my dear! Thanks for sharing... funny how that old crone was sitting there just when you needed her to be!! Great advice too!!

    Hugs Giggles

  2. Your journal pages are wonderful and must be very meaningful to you, I love how you tell us your story. I too for years have had little books by me filled with poetry and drawings…bits of this and bits of that, as time goes by they sit and multiply on the shelves in my cave, but they are so dear and real companions to daily life!

  3. My husband and I went with my cousin and husband to Europe nearly 20 years ago. We were so excited to be in Paris/London/Edinburgh, etc. visiting great works of art and being "grown-ups" in a foreign land. When I look back at us now I am so happy that we took the opportunity to branch out from the what was the normal for our families and reach for what was a dream to us.
    I couldn't have imagined being there alone though - your bravery constantly amazes me!! Your sketches are great! What great memories you have!

  4. Pauline, this has been a great read!!! Truly a great read! Inspiring! I can't imagine how you traveled alone...i have always dreamt of it but could never do it and don't think that's a bright possibility in my situation!!! It was brave of you :) I loved ur sketchbook and the sketches with all those notes. It's so nice to know you :)

  5. Lovely! I took a trip around Europe {not alone} when I was 19 and it was both hellish and magical. It's something I'll never regret doing and would actually quite like to do again; the thought of doing it alone is both scary and extremely tantalising!

    I loved hearing about your trip; it's those little details - like the cello player across the street - that we can forget, and having a journal keeps that safe for when we want to have a little reminisce. I actually just went through and old photo album the other day from my Europe trip and it's such a strange wistful and thankful feeling {not to mention I was tiny back then!}. I've always kept travel journals but not with drawings, just pages and pages of description! I love seeing your drawings.