One of the interesting things about being here is that I’ve tapped into my creative side more. It isn’t that odd, when I stop and think about it. Botswana is glorious. Southern Africa is glorious. Something about the space and the light and the newness of everything, the whole vast continent spread out north of us, has opened my mind in new ways. Being out of context helps me. It always does.
I’ve been journaling more. I’ve been more careful to capture ephemera – tickets and receipts and other daily details. I’ve been trying to post a photo a day on Instagram. And I’ve been taking and editing photographs and playing with lenses, including the new 400mm lens Steve surprised me with before our Christmas trip. All are deeply nourishing for me. Writing this blog – trying to keep up with a self-set once a week post – has forced me to be more consistent with expression. It’s true what they say – the more you write, the more you write. What has surprised me a bit with the blog is that what I had expected to be essentially a trip report has become more a space for reflection and random musings, at least for me.
I recently decided that, while we are here, I would experiment with watercolor painting. I am not an especially visual person, but I figured that a three-week-long trip in a truck, with lots of space and time, would be the perfect opportunity to try something new. I hoped that working with watercolors would help me capture some of the landscapes here, which I find frustratingly difficult to photograph. I’m inspired by my sisters – one who can draw and paint and the other who makes beautiful photographs. For some reason it seems that, in our 30s, we’re all trying to feed our creative sides more.
I wanted to share some of my favorite writing tools and some of my new watercolor supplies. Next on my list – a fountain pen (hoping to start small and work my way up to this one, in caramel *swoon*) and a beautiful canvas bag for all of these tools.
Back in the U.S. I kept my schedule in two ways – on my Microsoft Outlook calendar and via a to-do list next to my computer. But because I didn’t have a smartphone, I could never keep track of appointments or meetings unless I was hauling my laptop everywhere. I’d tried various planners in the past but I hated them all. This was love at first sight. I’m a huge fan of the simplicity and style of Moleskine, and the layout of this notebook cannot be matched. I can see my week at a glance on the left and use the right for notes and reminders.
This planner, while keeping track of the day-to-day, also reminds me of the bigger world and feeds my sense of wanderlust with pages listing international holidays, time zones, and area codes. It also has this wonderful map that you can customize. Mine connects heartlines between Montana and Botswana.
I carry the 5 x 8.25 size because it matches my journal. I’ve toyed with going smaller for easy of carry, but right now I’m loving this one. Even with a smartphone (I joined the 21st century in 2017) I carry this everywhere and absolutely love it.
I’ve kept a journal fairly steadily since 2012 and I’ve made my 2018 resolution to write every day, even if I’m just recording the weather or what I ate for breakfast. I love this plain journal. It is light and perfect for travel. I can post things in it but I mainly use it as a good, old fashioned diary. I like to carry the khaki one to differentiate it from the black planner (and also because I like taupe) and I find it hilarious that Moleskine has changed the color to the more sophisticated “grey.”
I prefer the softcover because when I’m not writing on a flat surface I can bend the book to get more writing leverage. It takes ink fairly well, although it does ghost through the pages. I’m curious to see what happens with an EF fountain pen. Keeping a daily journal, especially while traveling, makes it easy to settle the day, remember details, and recall important moments. I’ve used all of my daily journals as the basis for pieces that I’ve published. I’m often amazed at the details or reflections that come back to life reading them, and for more creative pieces I like to stitch together the musings of several diaries across years and places to build a cohesive narrative.
Clearly, I’m brand loyal with my journals. This one is great – and one of the few books I like as a hardcover. It opens flat and takes paint well, though the pages do warp. I keep one as a travel sketchbook (as it turns out, I’m a pretty lousy landscape painter) and one as a more general paint book.
It is interesting – I’m not good at painting but I like it. It was a lot of fun to try to capture the spaces we were in, and I loved the process if not the outcome. Even Steve, who is usually my biggest cheerleader, seemed to be struggling to relate what I had on the canvas with what was in front of us. I’m delighted by my own efforts, though – I suggested we throw out all our maps and try to find the places we’ve been just using my paintings!
This pretty little tin is perfect – small, compact, and easy to travel with. I was looking for something sturdy and not plastic, and this fits the bill. The colors are great, especially for landscapes, although I’m not in love with the brushes. The sponge is wonderful for more abstract tree leaves and the double palettes are really nice. What I especially love is that it is fairly lightweight and can be thrown in a bag or in a backpack and hauled along anywhere.
So, there you have them – some of my everyday and travel tools for thinking, writing, and remembering. I love recommendations, if you have any you want to send my way!