When people heard that I was planning to go on a three month trip through South America, I often got the same response: “You’re going alone?” I had never traveled solo before and as I hopped on to the plane to Lima, a little bit of fear sunk in. I thought maybe I couldn’t hack such a long stretch on my own.
How wrong I was.
It’s actually difficult to stay solo on a solo trip. You’re always meeting someone going your way and this makes for quick friends. I met a lot of friends along the way, but far and away my favorite was a Canadian named Jonathan.
I ran into Jo at the very beginning of my trip in Lima. We were on the bus going through Peru and we found that we had the same loose plans: head to Cusco, trek to Machu Picchu via the Salktantay Trail, and then continue on to La Paz in Bolivia.
We hit it off pretty quick, likely due to the fact that we both enjoy conversing in song lyrics. He has a deep reservoir of American songs on tap and is keen to use them to express how he’s feeling. I get along just fine with this style of communication.
For Jo, though, music is more than just a way to be a little silly. You see, Jo is the lead singer for a small French-Canadian band called Le Scone and has the heart of a performer (watch them jam out in an acoustic session here). I have a great memory of Jo at the front of the bus on the way to Arequipa playing a Backstreet Boys song on a borrowed ukelele into a terrible microphone. Swaying from side to side as he tried to play, sing, and balance on a moving bus, his energy was on fire with the whole bus singing along with him.
Jo and I traveled for a few weeks together and we found we had a lot in common. We both love the outdoors, have a willingness to be adventurous, and are linked by the sphere of law (his current area of work and my future one). Despite all these things in common, I think it’s the creative energy in Jo that I gravitate towards.
Creative work is hard. Admittedly, I’m no master with words, but I would still consider myself a writer, albeit one in a tiny, obscure place on the great wide web. I’m a shaper of words and I take pride in the things you can see on The Orange Sky and my personal site. The work takes thought and toil, but it’s incredibly rewarding.
It’s because I consider creativity a part of my identity that I gravitate towards others who I feel are fellow creatives. Jo is alive when he’s playing music and the vibrancy I saw in him reminded me of an important someone back home. I’ve been seeing Asha - someone I coincidentally got to know the last time I left the US - for close to a year and a half now and I think one of the most beautiful things about her is the creative energy she has.
Much like I’m a writer, Asha is a painter (although, I’d argue, she has a knack for the written word, too). She pours that creative energy into blank canvases in the form of shapes and colors. To hear her talk about art is to bear witness to a wonderful passion. The occasional glimpses of her work that she shyly allows me to see always leave me with a better understanding of the world inside her.
The expression of your inner creativity is a terrifying endeavor. To write, to sing, or to paint is to lay yourself bare before others. It takes bravery, a deep sense of self, and a mind open to the world around us. When I see others on the same journey of expression, I can’t help but be in awe of those qualities.
I don’t think those qualities only express themselves in just an artist’s creation, either. In Jo and Asha, I think those qualities are present beyond their art: it is simply part of who they are. It’s what makes one a good friend or valuable significant other. I, like Kurt Vonnegut, believe that to pursue the creation of art grows the soul.
Create something. Let it grow you into something beautiful. Others will recognize.