Notes For Creators

creative soul surfing

9 life lessons learned on the road

We’re home again. After a month on the road, art trekking, I’m ready to dive into the next phase. 
It’s always good to reflect on where you’ve been, to have guideposts for where you’re going.
Here are 9 takeaways from life on the road, traveling through America:

1. The gap between the fit and the fat grows ever greater
More than ever the country seems to be dividing into two spheres. It’s not political as you might expect. It’s about health. 
As you leave the coastal areas it becomes more pronounced. 
California is healthier than Nevada. I’ve never seen a demographic map for obesity, but from my travels it’s most concentrated in middle America. 
Smaller communities appear to have a greater proportion of the overweight, with the noticeable exception of communities known for outdoors or health-conscious lifestyles. 
Like Santa Fe, New Mexico; Sedona, Arizona; Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 
In a website dedicated to celebrating creative living, this observation was one I wanted to skip over. But this health gap is so pervasive and so glaring a trend that it felt like self censure to hide it away.
I don’t know what to make of it except in a personal way: To refine my routines to ensure I’m in the desired category.
Life is trajectory. I want to make sure I’m surfing the arc of fit.

2. Creativity, ideosyncrasy and self-expression abound
Photographically I’ve been primarily interested in small vignettes that exemplify the everyday creative impulse. A sign. A re-purposed piece of machinery that now acts as a kind of decaying sculpture. Decorations. Yard ornaments. Interesting elements in the contemporary landscape.
What I’ve been missing are the people! My God I’ve been missing out. Out of shyness I suppose. 
You’ll know I’ve grown a pair when you see more photos of intriguing people. That means I’ll be brazenly asking people to let me take their photo. 
On this trip I passed a number of individuals individuating. Being themselves.
Specifically, I recall this moment. My son and I were walking back to our van in Santa Barbara when we passed a black guy in a fedora. I’m guessing he was 35-ish. He was striking! 
I thought to ask if I could photograph him . . . By the time I wrestled back and forth in my mind he was a block and a half away, and my son was a block in advance of me. I stood there watching both of them diminish from view.
He wore an open Cuban shirt, t-shirt underneath tucked neatly into chinos, the fedora, with short dreads bouncing underneath. There was something so alive in him I regret missing the opportunity. 
It was an opportunity of mere seconds . . . one that only required being ready. And being willing to step forward in that instant.
Which brings me to this . . . the lesson I’m always relearning . . . 
3. Ask!
Sweet Jeezy Jehosaphat I’m constantly relearning this one. This in fact may be my primary life lesson. 
Ask! Ask for what you want. 
You don’t have to be shrill about it. You can be a polite, amusing, soft-spoken asker. I’ve met champion askers . . . and they are rarely obnoxious. They are rarely rude. 
More commonly the askers tend to be thoughtful and creative. Even slyly out of the ordinary. People who ask tend to think beyond the accepted paradigm.
That’s not been me!
But I want it to be . . . .
So I’m starting with asking my own damn self to ask more. And to start with asking people if I can snap their pic for FreakyBeautiful.com.
You who are reading this can hold my feet to the fire. If you don’t see interesting people popping up from time to time in the images, connect with me. And let me have it. 
Subject line Wussy will be enough.
4. People make a journey
In Wild, Cheryl Strayed takes us along on an arduous journey traversing the spine of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Beginning in Arizona, she hiked the jagged route to Oregon with only intermittent breaks. 
Even in this solitary tale what stands out is the sweep of her personal history. Her mother’s early death. Her family coming apart in the wake of that death. The collapse of her young marriage. Her own free fall into heroin. Her hike-about was a stab at redemption. At changing her own story. And it did. 
The people she met along the way — whether ill intentioned or beneficent — stand out: Like the good Christian man who helps her pare down her oversized load . . . and insists she doesn’t need condoms. (She sneaks back and saves one.)
A solitary journey can be powerful, especially as a means to spiritual cleansing. 
Yet, still, it’s the people who matter most in your story. If Cheryl Strayed’s own story had not gone on to encompass engaging relationships it might have felt a hollow victory for her. 
I learned this deeply on this trip. 
For the second summer in a row I traveled with my family. My previous art trips were solo ventures. When I started out I had grand imaginings of the creative work I’d accomplish. Hooey! I did 95% of the driving and much of the communications en route . . . Even without my family it’s been rare to get more than an hour or two of creative work in a day.
With these special people on board, it quickly dawned on me: Why would I want to muck up the experience with a personal agenda?
So I quickly adapted, carving out a minimal creative burst or two each day while enjoying heaps of relationship time.
Which brings me to . . . 
5. Every long trip is a lifestyle, you’ve got to let it flow
Every extended trip takes on its own rhythm . . . and you have to go with it if you are to find the magic in it. 
When I travel solo I tend to rise with the sun and bug out quickly. I’m on the road before rush hour . . . when rush hour strikes, I’m off the road having breakfast . . . and from there I’m stopping every 60 to 90 minutes for a short yoga and exercise break . . . 
This was decidedly not the rhythm of my family trips, no matter how much I wished it so. The moment I learned to acquiesce to the rhythm of late nighters and late mornings, was the moment I relaxed into enjoyment. 
You know what? It evolved into a miracle of perfect timingness! We made all the necessary stops . . . with ample time for surprises along the way. See this retreat as one unplanned example.
6. If you’re laughing, it’s good
That about sums it up for every experience under the sun. It’s easy to tell if it’s good. You’re smiling. You’re chuckling. You’re letting the little things slough off.
7. Lots of stops enliven a trip
Some people are all about the miles. How many freaking miles can you go before your bladder bursts. Not us. 
Normally I’d tell you to do what I do on the solo trips. Get out and exercise every hour or so. But we didn’t always do that. Though we did stop often. Which got us moving.
It also set us up to see interesting bits of Americana and to make momentary and memorable connections.
8. Creatives inspire
On our trip we visited artists in their studios. Some artists we admired, others were not our cup of green tea. All of them inspired. 
Every time I set foot in the workspace of a creative I’m inspired. Artists work in an artform delivered via the retina; their spaces by nature are visually arresting.
Hanging out with people who’ve made a dramatic commitment to their own creative growth propels you too. 
I come away from these meetings more convinced than ever before that I must continue to seek out people who quietly go their own way. For they help me go mine.
9. Curiosity enriches everything it touches
Our son explored a riverbank in Big Sur, taking me with him. Following him down a steep embankment and under towering redwoods whose exposed roots were taller than me was humbling. I would have missed the experience if not for his sense of exploration.
It was the same with people we met along the way. By delving into the lives of some Los Angelinos doing laundry beside me, I learned about the personal impact of real estate values.
This FedEx driver feared his kids would never be able to afford the life they were growing up in.
Every life has moments of daring in it. Curiosity elicits revelations from strangers.
When people share their pivotal moments with you, the spirit of that message tucks into your soul and goes with you. 

For you 

Evan Griffith
__________________________
Click here for (occasional) notes for creators. Once a month, maybe.

Want to spark your creative best? Check out this little book: 

Burn Baby Burn: Spark The Creative Spirit Within


Share