The world beyond my window has disappeared, shrouded by a dense mist that draws everything inside it, a well-kept secret waiting to be revealed. Every morning I stand here; I pull back the curtains and gaze out across unexplored hillsides, their greens and browns growing more familiar with each passing day. Their lines will soon be as recognisable as those that criss-cross my palm, this daily moment in time a gift that Lee and I have given one another; to stand at the same window each morning, drink tea from the same cup, and share breakfast at the same table as we house sit for the next six months.
We have spent the past year arriving. We arrived and then departed more times than I am able to recall, a blurred mass of newness and fresh slates, their wiping clean wiping me out. With every hoist of my backpack I felt an ebbing of sorts, a vital part of me draining away as though a plug had been pulled from the soles of my feet. Everything was losing its shine, and my dwindling energy resources no longer afforded time for the things I most love to do, the things that make me most myself. Writing, reading, being creative.
Our last four months on the road passed by almost entirely devoid of art, save for our design business, and even that suffered, skirting dangerously close to becoming a problem rather than a passion. A barren hole now stood where my creativity once flowed, and I felt my sanity circling its dark edges.
I simply didn’t feel creative on the road. For the latter part of the year I mostly just felt exhausted, possibly even a little depressed. Everything was suffering – our relationship, our work, our mental health. And so we chose to come here to France, so we can slow down and regain what was lost somewhere along the way. I realised that, far more than travel, art is what is important to me. Without that I am lost, adrift in the unknown without a purpose.
So we have come in search of balance, to continue our exploration of the world at a pace that leaves more than enough time for me to pick up a pen, or a book, or a charcoal pastel. As my friend Candace put it so perfectly: “The tricky part for us, I think, is because travel is the inspiration for our art, it can become easy to let the travelling take over.”
When you are travelling, you are what you are in that moment, your most immediate self. The people you meet see only that version of you, and it’s hard to maintain your wholeness in this fragmented and transitory existence. My creativity was the first thing that suffered, marred by bus journeys and cramped rooms and lack of sleep. The only way for me to maintain my passion for travel and my inherent need to create, was to slow down and start again, to master the art of making art on the road.
It’s only our second week here in France, but already I feel myself coming back to old ways, with new ones still emerging. There is so much life in this stillness, so much to discover in this delicious half year of ours. Today we walked the woods that lay just beyond our doorstep, collecting leaves and Horse Chestnuts and new memories. A deer darted from our path, galloping across the fields beyond, thrilling us both with its closeness. The ability to forage and collect freely made my heart sing, no longer restricted by what my backpack affords me to carry. Lee mocked me as I filled my pockets with my muddy treasures, then washed them clean on returning home and set them on the table, my artist’s eye soothed by their sleek beauty.
I sit here now at my laptop, my notepad and pens spread across the blue linen tablecloth. The last of the days warmth streams through the window, warming my back as I type, and my fingertips still bear the charcoal stains from my afternoon of sketching. I feel as though I am stepping back into myself again, as though the past year has been spent in some kind of fugue state. There is so much space for us to be ourselves in, no longer kept to the confines of a single hotel room. Now we have an entire house. A spare room is to become our office in the coming days, the sofa my writer’s retreat, and the woods outside my daily source of inspiration.
Here, in the midst of so much beauty, four miles from the nearest town, where the only noise that breaks the silence is the call of tree frogs and the bell of our resident cat. Right here, where there is time to combine all that brings me joy. My love, my art, travel. This is where the adventure finally begins, an adventure lived my way.
Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
- John Muir