“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
We’re inspired by the places we explore and the people that we meet there, and our guides feel the same way! Hannah, who organizes a Sunday Drawing by the Beach activity on Vayable shares her story about traveling to India and being inspired by the land, people, and energy of the world around her to create beautiful paintings (featured here in this post).
by Hannah, painter, model, interior designer, Vayable guide in the Los Angeles area
I came to India to travel and to visit my good friend, Lobsang, whom I’ve known for many years. He is a Buddhist monk from the region of northeast India between Bhutan and Tibet, called Tawang. I met him when I was in high school and decided to attend weekly Buddhist sanghas to deal with the pressures of being a teenager. He was always the friend who I would sheepishly go to with “what does it all mean” questions, and the friend I would proudly show off and introduce to my other high school friends as my very own “spiritual mentor”.
Lately he’s transitioned more to the role of “good friend” and “life-consultant”. A few years ago he built a school for orphaned children and village kids who live in extremely dire circumstances, deep in the foothills of the Himalayas, where he grew up. He wanted to provide for children who are living much the same childhood he led until he entered the monastery – a life devoid of parent figures, full of hard manual work (beginning at age 3), suffering abuse, starvation, and lack of any basic hygiene or health care. The school is located in an extremely tiny village with very few people, and is a three day drive from the nearest (slightly bigger village) over waterfalls – that’s right: real, gushing waterfalls which CAN kill you – and the broken down remains of old carrier trucks and military vehicles that did not make it over the narrow roads of the mountain pass.
I traveled to the school with a friend who was teaching English in Asia and wanted to join me in my journey. We intended to spend a week visiting and ended up living there for almost a month, teaching English, some art, some history, and helping to put on a sloppy, but cute Himalayan version of the Ugly Duckling. We also spent time with the live-in, resident teachers discussing their syllabi and the differences between an Eastern and Western approach to teaching and raising children. I think perhaps I learned more from them than they did from us!
The location was incredibly beautiful – saddled between Bhutan and the beginnings of the Himalayan steps toward middle Tibet, we were literally in the clouds. Sitting on the side of the hill, listening to the monkeys rustling the trees in the nearby jungle, watching the clouds slowly envelop the jutting peaks in the distance and smelling the nag champa incense burning for evening prayer (in English, Tibetan, Hindi, and the native language of Tawang), I truly felt that I was in Heaven.
I sketched the face of every kid at that school, but I did not truly start painting until I traveled back to grimy, hot, jungly, bustling Delhi. For me, Lobsang’s school was too perfect, too beautiful. It was the areas on the way from Bengal to Delhi and in western Rajasthan that truly inspired me to make paintings. There was something to the way people lived in these areas – literally on top of each other and yet, to some extent, in harmony. They bathed openly in the lakes surrounding tourist-ridden Jodhpur architectural ruins; they laid out fabric at night and slept alongside each other in groups of over a hundred on the train platform and shaved over the tracks in the morning while waiting for the express train.
The presence of people was everywhere: in the embers and smells of the burning trash piles on the corner of the street, in the Tibetan scrawlings on the side of a road-side shack from Kathmandu to Darjeeling, in the candle-lit Hindu altar seen through a crevice in the crumbling wall of the Red Fort in Delhi. And the colors were enough to throw my painter’s brain into a tail-spin. I feel sympathy for artists who visit this area of the world – there is simply TOO MUCH to take in. I fell in love with the orderly chaos of life in these places that I visited. In this work I want to show people a view of the world that may not be easy to look at, but perhaps is the best view for us to see.