The First Few Paintings Back In The UK

A week and a day ago I landed back in the UK after a solid 24 hours spent getting taxis and navigating airport transfers and eating weird plane pasta. I was officially back home after spending 3 weeks living remotely in the north east region of Panama as part of La Wayaka Current artist residency.

All in all, the residency was amazing. I experienced things that I still can’t quite put into words and met amazing artists and observed customs and rituals that I will never forget. Whilst this was all great for my soul I was secretly a bit gutted that I didn’t get the opportunity to paint more.

A big part of me says that an artist can create work anywhere and shouldn’t need a designated studio space, the other opposing half says that of course an artist needs space and quiet time and enough natural light to get a composition right.

Whilst the atmosphere and sheer sense of adventure that came with La Wayaka was great (and one of the main reasons I pursued the residency in the first place) it was difficult to set up a studio space there. The wooden floors of the studio/community house were crawling with ants (and occasionally cockroaches) and the humidity meant that any paper left out in the open for any length of time would warp and wither.

Although on the flip side I got to work in an environment of giant hibiscus flowers and fireflies and coconut trees - so it’s difficult to complain.

That being said, it was surpassingly nice to be back at the kitchen table without bugs biting me or kids shouting or a perpetually sweaty face. I think I managed to distill some of the colours and shapes I absorbed in Armila, and made some paintings that I’m quite fond of.

I made ‘Polpo’ and ‘Polpo II’ with the intention of commemorating the memory of the warm salty water of the Caribbean beaches I was lucky enough to visit, with the sheer vibrancy of the Tropics.

Pre Solo Travel Anxiety: Flip Your Mindset

I'm not sure what it is, during the run-up to a big trip, that makes your brain turn to mush.

Perhaps it's the sense of a deadline, and the thought of the days or weeks where you won't have phone signal (BILLS, TAXES, SPONTANEOUS EMAIL THAT MUST BE REPLIED TO IMMEDIATELY).

Or maybe it's the annoying purchases that are so boring you pretty much forget about them until the week before you leave, when you realise that they are absolutely essential (I simply MUST have 3 different types of aftersun and itch cream). 

And of course once you're swimming in that cesspool of worry, the atomic bomb of anxiety hits - what about all the things that could go wrong?! (this list is infinite).

Joking aside, pre-travel anxiety is real, and can leave you spinning out to such a degree that you completely lose control and end up questioning why you booked the trip in the first place. You shouldn't have to tolerate this sort of uncontrollable worry. 

I remember before travelling to Iceland (where I stayed for just over 2 months) I had never travelled alone before, and whilst I didn't consciously feel too worried about this (since Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world to travel around), the anxiety started to seep out in worried thoughts that I now recognise are completely irrational. It was obviously buried in some unconscious place, ready to come to the surface when I was caught off guard.

For example, in the week before leaving, I panicked over any tiny sign of possible illness, and started to worry that I'd get sick and be unable to travel - that I'd end up missing out on an opportunity that I'd spent months building up to. I don't usually have any sort of health anxiety or hypochondria, so this way of thinking was very unlike me - I barely recognised myself.

As a person who’s long dealt with persistent anxiety, I’ve realised that I’m always looking for reassurance - for outside opinions that validate my warped inner thinking. I want guidance, reassurance, a solid plan, but of course adventurous travel is the complete antithesis of all these things.

Of course this leads to me seeking out stories and personal accounts on why solo travel as a woman is a bad idea, just for the sense of having someone to relate to. I start to question my ability to get by on my own, and unconsciously absorb other peoples’ apprehension. I start to feel guilty, naive and nihilistic for wanting to visit countries that the Western world considers dangerous.

To the outsider it may seem that the whole idea of travelling isn’t worth my emotional stress. I even question it myself sometimes, when the anxiety is at its worst, but then that feeling in my gut always comes back - the sense that I was born to explore and have daring adventures and if I don’t at least try then the sense of ‘what if?’ might just kill me.

I worry sometimes that travel is at risk of becoming an exclusively male pursuit.

If women stop travelling alone, because they accept that it’s simply too dangerous, they never get the pay off.

The joy of realising that despite what they believed their whole life, they can navigate unexpected crises on their own. The crackling excitement of stepping into a territory where only ancient civilisations remain. The sheer sense of power you can only get from being completely alone and with only yourself to rely on.

When I first firmed up my plans to travel to Panama, I was told by a few people I hardly even knew that Central America is an extremely dangerous place for women. Quite simply, I decided immediately that wasn’t going to let this perception in.

I feel as though I owe it to adventurous women everywhere, and to my future daughters should I ever have any, to throw myself into experiences that pull me in, for reasons I can’t quite explain, as these are the experiences that will shape my very being for years to come.

If you’re at that point of overwhelming anxiety before a trip, try to step out of fear and into courage. As your trip draws closer, you need to start building a forcefield to block out the opinions and negative energy of others. It may seem harsh, but simply refuse to engage with people who only have negative opinions, or make comments that make you feel apprehensive rather than excited.

Trust that the universe has your back.

That people are out there to help you, not hurt you.

Remember that you’re an intelligent woman who knows what she’s doing, and that you’ve probably done way more stupid and dangerous things in your home town (getting so drunk you black out, walking home with complete strangers - we’ve all done it) than you would ever dream of doing half way around the world.

You’ve got a pretty small window to travel, before life gets complicated or you become physically unable.

So throw yourself into the wild, and discover the woman you were always meant to be.

When a young person is moved by a passion and feels compelled to go on this sort of quest, I think you have to let her. You can’t stop her. In our culture we don’t have formal rights of passage like in some ancient cultures. Subjecting yourself to risk... may be something you have to go through to be a woman.

— Jon Krakauer

Image - Pixabay


Street View

Long before coloured walls became a backdrop for Instagram bloggers, they made up just one aspect of intricately decorated city architecture. 

The appearance of a city is a projection of its people, I think, so it's always fascinating to browse photos of far-reaching multi coloured buildings, and imagine whose hand painted them. 

Before travelling to Panama next month I'm easing myself into the world of amateur (very amateur) photography. I have absolutely no experience as a photographer, but have massive amounts of respect for those who do.

Similarly to this inspiration post from a few weeks ago, below I've rounded up some of the photos that inspired me this week. They weren't taken by me (Flickr really is an inspiration goldmine) but they do have that spark of colour and interest that I think I might adopt in my own photography someday.