Travelling as Artist and Writer

Different creative types travel differently. A  photographer might need to stop at very bridge and cathedral, a performer might need to visit the opera or the theatre. If you’re a foodie blogger, then of course you need eateries.


This week’s post is a little different; this blog was co-written by my wife Chloe Fenech. This is the first of our collaborative posts, where we’ll chat to you about travel, ourselves and each other and what inspires us abroad and at home. Don’t forget to click the little ‘follow’ button below!

Travelling together as newly-wed artist and writer, we had to figure out early on what our holiday needs were. Writers are naturally hermit-like, preferring the company of Wolfe to wives, but some of them can be tempted to write in public if you bribe them with a fine whisky, a beautifully ornate coffee shop that screams bourgeois, or even a semi-comfortable tree stump in -2 degrees, if you really ask nicely.

J: The act of writing is an act of solitude. When they’re working writers are as fiercely anti-social and hard to approach as a lion feasting on a wildebeest. But writers look for inspiration differently than artists. They need the buzz of life, to people-watch, to get involved and experience life up close. Artists seek inspiration more quietly, more reflectively. So we had to plan around those two disparate needs.

Artists on the other hand, are a bit of a varied bunch. Some adopt the butterfly-like strolling and wandering through parks, gardens and open spaces seeking inspiration. Others prefer the cloistered casing of museum cabinets or dusty galleries. I figured I fit somewhere down the middle.

So planning a honeymoon, a writing retreat and a painting holiday all in one, was something of a tricky experience. The writer, of course, was keen to create a detailed itinerary, and I was more keen to just see where the world could take me.

Our first choice, a romantic and nostalgic decision, was of course Cuba. The island so neatly capsuled in the past and so beautiful in its isolation, yet so very close to change. We imagined ourselves wandering across the breezy Malecon, amongst crumbling houses and the emblematic old Fords. Hemingway would of course be our tour guide on this island that time forgot, but for all its melancholy spirit, something about Cuba kept us away. Perhaps next time, we say.

J: Cuba would have suited the needs of a writer. Especially one so enamoured with nostalgia. Being the heartland of the Hemingway myth, however, would have been too much of a bias. It would have been shackling. Besides, it has always been a dream for the writer to visit South America. So that factored into our thinking.

When you can, in theory, travel anywhere, where becomes your everywhere? The artist in me was enamoured for the misty, Hobbit-happy landscape of Milford Sound and New Zealand, but it seems there’s a limit to being able to ‘go anywhere’, at least for now.

Where can you find beauty in both nature and cities? That was our dilemma. Though we were travelling very much together, our preferences could not have been more different. I am not taken in by architecture or design, but I can immerse myself easily into the city-life. The clinking of tea spoons in the cafes, the hum of foreign voices…but what of nature? We’d spent so long on our little Mediterranean island that we were afraid to forget the smells of fresh grass and mountain air.

J: Nature is a great comfort for any creative mind. The nature that is prevalent in Malta is of the sea-blue variety. And in Cuba, it would have been more of the same. So we thought of seeking out landscapes so wildly different to what we were used to. Something we would never see again. Something to imprint itself violently on our memories.


European Tour, Brazil, Mexico, Africa, we debated and then discarded them all. Neither wanted to be the anchor that tied the other down, nor the balloon that set itself free on the breeze. Planning a holiday for one is easy, planning a holiday for two is much more of a challenge. Eventually, and we’re not 100% sure how, but just in time we settled on a trip to Chile. Planning the honeymoon was harder than planning the wedding.

J: Chile turned out to be The Land of the Great Compromise. The writer always craved South America. He had raised himself on a diet of Octavio Paz, Cesar Vallejo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and of course Pablo Neruda. The artist on the other hand had a thirst for mountains. Chile, the land of mountains and poetry, was the inevitable choice.


There are of course disadvantages to travelling as the artist-writer duo. It’s important to realise that the two do things differently, never mind that you’re already two individuals with different likes and dislikes.

You may be asked to take random photos of notebooks and paintings in odd places, stare for far too long at a glass of wine or even sneak off to a coffee house with a short menu and even shorter skirts, but it’s all in the spirit of creative travel.


J: Curiosity is a great motivator for any traveller. But the creative mind does curiosity for art’s sake. An artistic traveller feels like Livingston exploring the dark heartlands of Africa or Darwin observing the finches of the Galapagos. Every memory could and will be used in some future endeavour. So a lot more is at stake.

And of course, we let our creativity bloom along the way. I amassed several sheets of sketches and small watercolours – only one that had to be surrendered to ice crystals (thanks, Patagonia), and notebooks were filled will impressions of an incredible city and undoubtedly, from whose ever perspective you look at it, the most beautiful landscape on earth.

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