Getting creative MOJO back by painting

Somewhere around Toulouse I lost my creative spark. My mojo. I felt exhausted and drained of inspiration. My painterly photography style depended on me being inspired so when it took a hiatus, I stopped working on my craft. I was scheduled to arrive back in NY after seven months on the road and take on my "house project" - which was all about de-greasing, cleaning, painting and fixing the house that I rented out and afforded me the lifestyle of travel and creating art on the road. I wasn't thrilled about spending my summer doing this. And, I was right, it was hard work, physically and mentally taxing and just plain unpleasant. And worse yet, I seemed devoid of any creativity. I would look at work I had done a few months ago and think to myself, will I ever get that kind of inspiration back? 

One day a friend suggested I go down the Pinterest rabbit hole. With an hour on my hands and a desire to create but without a spark, I took to clicking around PInterest. I came upon these wonderful videos about acrylic pouring and alcohol ink paintings. It was mesmerizing watching the paintings come to life and even better, it seemed like something I could try my hand at. 

I made a quick trip to Dick Blick to stock up on supplies and went to work. Each evening after a long day of hauling out debris from the basement, scrubbing the cabinets or making repairs, I would pour a glass of wine and then set to work to make some acrylic pours. It was mind expanding!

 

Brooklyn & New York City, my home.

Sometimes we forget the benefits of being in your own hometown. It isn't until you have visitors come and stay that you are reminded of the good things about the place you live. I can go on about the painful commutes into the city from Brooklyn, the relentless noise from traffic and the masses of humanity everywhere when all I want is a bit of peace and quiet and the annoyance at how expensive it is do anything in this town. 

However, there are many free or nearly free things to do in my fair city that not only give you a sense of place but provide excellent shots to annoy your friends back home. 

Lower Manhattan at Sunset

Lower Manhattan at Sunset

In general, I tell my friends who come for a visit to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, take the Staten Island Ferry for excellent water views of lower Manhattan. Go to Times Square but leave quickly and meander through the beautiful neighborhoods of Chelsea and the West Village. Walk the Hi-Line for a different perspective on the city - go in the evening when it is less crowded and us local New Yorkers walk our dogs and gather on the benches for a quick chat with a fellow neighbor. The Whitney Museum has moved to the Meatpacking District. It is a gorgeous museum that has free entries on one Friday a month. Not only is the art great, there are free and informative tours and the outdoor spaces provide yet more great views of our city. 

Brooklyn Bridge  

Brooklyn Bridge

 

The Freedom Tower, free to photograph from many angles

The Freedom Tower, free to photograph from many angles

Take the Staten Island Ferry. It's free.

Take the Staten Island Ferry. It's free.

Travelers Tip: Avoid chain restaurants and go to a local place in Chelsea, the West Village or Brooklyn- Williamsburg and Park Slope have many amazing places to choose from. Our city boasts cuisine from every country in the world - all at varying price ranges. Here the world is literally your oyster, or taco, or dumpling!

You can have an amazing time in New York City and Brooklyn without breaking the bank. 

NYC at Night from Barge Music in Brooklyn.

NYC at Night from Barge Music in Brooklyn.

Panoramic NYC.

Panoramic NYC.

On the Road: Botswana to Zimbabwe

Surprises on the road

Day two dawned bright and warm. Today's travel took us across Botswana to Chobe Elephant Park and then onwards to Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls.

Botswana is very flat...for many kilometers we saw nothing but road, brush and the occasional acacia tree.

Botswana is very flat...for many kilometers we saw nothing but road, brush and the occasional acacia tree.

Then all of a sudden this happened:

Once the elephant got a whiff of us, he sauntered off into the brush. And we continued on our drive towards Chobe Elephant Park.  Our first real game drive and we were rewarded with many wonderful sightings in a beautiful landscape looking from Botswana into Namibia. 

The senses were truly heightened by seeing so many animals in one place. The sounds the animals make (or don't make, in the case of an elephant coming upon us boy, we were all surprised!) the bird calls, the scent of the animals, even the oxygen in the air - well, these words cannot adequately describe the visceral experience. This game drive was great for getting a taste of what Botswana has to offer. To be so up close and yet observing the animals in their natural habitat was amazing. I couldn't wait for more drives coming in the next few days.

Looking out to Namibia.

Looking out to Namibia.

Overland in Africa

Do you Overland?

Overlanding in Africa seemed like it would be the uber road trip.

Overlanding in Africa seemed like it would be the uber road trip.

I arrived in Johannesburg the afternoon before our departure on the overland trip which would take us to five countries in Southern Africa over the course of 21 days. The summer had been a wet one for South Africa so far so everything was lush and bright green, quite a technicolor world after leaving the monochrome of New York City. The birds were singing in the trees - songs I was unfamiliar with coming from the North Hemisphere - I just knew their songs would become the theme music to my sojourn here in Africa. 

Would I get to see giraffe on my overland trip? I hoped so.

Would I get to see giraffe on my overland trip? I hoped so.

I was greeted by the welcoming Drifters staff to their Johannesburg lodge and told that dinner would be served at 7pm. A meeting with our overland group would occur just after dinner. With a little time to spare, I went up to my room and greedily crawled into the bed for a delicious post travel nap.

Awaking to the cooler air of dusk - I went down stairs to have a cocktail and meet other fellow travelers. This lodge was the beginning and end of some of the Drifters trips so I found a few young people skyping home regaling blurry images on the computer screen about their exploits - then there was the rest of us, nervously excited for the start. Wondering what was in store. I had never been on a group trip before and I had most certainly never been to Africa - excited for both more than I had been for any other trip but still nervous about the style I had picked. Would I like camping out night after night? Would I like my tent mate. What would the travel in a truck really be like? Would I like the people I was traveling with? Would I be way older than my fellow companions? All questions that would get answered in one form or another as the next 21 days unfolded. 

Our guide Buks, was a born and bred South African and a no-nonsense kind of a guy. His real name wasn't Buks, but a nickname because, as he told it, he was short and ugly and that is what this nickname meant in Africaans. Self deprecating and with a wry sense of humor, seemed like good traits for a guide. As it turned out, for this tour we would be just four; 3 different generations of women with me being the oldest and Buks. Indeed, he was going to need a sense of humor! 

Our initial meeting was brief. More of an opportunity to meet and greet. Buks went over the itinerary and told us about the importance of being safe and observant and that it was his job to make sure we got back in one piece. And most importantly he demanded from us that there be "no indirect speech". Huh? As a man, he explained, women had a way of not saying things clearly, that men were meant to figure things out based on what we women weren't saying. Ok! So, if we had to go to the loo, we were to tell him, "Hey, I need the loo."  Point taken. 
Then it was off to bed so we would be chipper for our early departure. 
 

They don't call it Overland for nothin!

Put her into gear and off we go!  

Put her into gear and off we go!

 

Wheels up at 6am.

Our first day out we traveled nearly 900 kilometers to get to our first camp in Nata, Botswana. The day was an example of what many days would be to come. Settling in and watching the scenery pass by as we traveled along lonesome roads that sometimes yielded small townships, dramatic scenery and locals plying their goods, it was a great way to begin to take in the vastness of Africa. 

Along the road.

Along the road.


We arrived near to dusk and pitched our tents on a sandy spot near the very clean bathrooms. We were the only ones at the Drifters campground. Buks showed us how to set up our tents - it was clear this was a job that I would struggle with the entire trip...thankfully Tina and Eliane helped me (or actually just put it up while I stood by helplessly).

Tent sweet Tent

Tent sweet Tent

 

Dinner was at the restaurant situated on the larger part of the camp. We enjoyed a delicious meal and then walked back to the camp in the dark with only our torches and the stars to light the way. After the terrible cold of winter in New York, I relished the fact that the evening was balmy, that I was in flip flops walking on the sandy path and that the bush was alive with the sounds of small nocturnal animals and maybe not so small - which was an even more thrilling thought.

I hunkered down in my tent, tried to sleep but frankly, was just to excited! I was truly in Africa.  I was truly on my solo journey. And life was beautiful!

De-ice your wings and FLY!

JFK on a cold clear winter day. Perfect time to fly.

JFK on a cold clear winter day. Perfect time to fly.

After many long months of prepping and planning I am finally on my way. The journey began when I packed up my house and vacated it and then spent a few glorious weeks in the summer bliss of central New York State. Autumn brought me back to my beloved Brooklyn for long delicious dinners with my nearest and dearest friends, wrapping up work projects and planning the big journey...the life I have known these last twenty five years is changing and opening up in the most beautiful way. So, lets take off into the wild blue...

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