Travel bragging: Self-indulgence or artist’s date?

Wassily Kandinsky

People who regale others with tales of their travels are one of my pet peeves. In part, sheer jealousy’s to blame. My budget doesn’t allow for gallivanting around the globe, and folks who brag about their various excursions strike me as insensitive to those of us in their captive audiences who may have less discretionary income.

Besides, too much travel bores me. As an author and artist, I’m much happier creating new work of my own than engaging in passive appreciation of others’ creations at museums and galleries, and lounging around in bars or on beaches just doesn’t do it for me. And is taking a break from daily routine truly restorative? For me, it wreaks havoc with my natural rhythm, and I often need a day of recuperation before getting back into my normal groove. On the other hand, “artist’s dates,” as Julia Cameron calls them, can help replenish our creative wells.

Nonetheless, this past week I went AWOL from my blog and treated myself to a few days of self-indulgence right here in New York and New England. In part because of looming deadlines, I took four trips in four days – skiing on Monday and Wednesday, New York City on Tuesday and Thursday. I had coupons for free lift tickets I’d picked up at the Warren Miller extreme skiing movie before Christmas, and the one for Windham expired on January 15th, so I drove southwest into the Catskills on Monday, blasting my recently acquired reissues of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Revolver all the way down and back.

Tuesday I caught the 7am double-decker Megabus to New York City and spent five hours at the Guggenheim, taking in the Kandinsky retrospective the day before it closed. Trudging repeatedly up and down Frank Lloyd Wright’s ramp, I found I’d come through Monday’s exertions on the mountain in surprisingly good shape. Wednesday meant another 7am bus, this one to Stratton Mountain in southern Vermont with the Out of Control Ski Club to take advantage of another freebie. The view from the mountain top was magnificent, and I shared a memorable gondola ride with six men, whom I regaled with my ideas for a short story or perhaps a scene in my next novel featuring a gondola murder. They came up with some pretty good plot twists of their own. Then there was the aging ski instructor in the bar . . . but that’s fodder for another post.

Thursday’s jaunt was triggered by the need to visit my 80-year-old brother in the Bronx, plus my husband’s decision to attend a college reunion party in SoHo, our old Lower Manhattan neighborhood. Since we fled the city in 1979, the area has turned into an overpriced luxury mall with endless designer boutiques and trendy restaurants. But the Broome Street Bar where we had our second and more significant “cute meet” remains essentially unchanged since 1973. Oops, I sense another post coming on . . .

So there, I’ve indulged in exactly what I said I hated – travel bragging. I admit there’s a certain smug satisfaction in writing about my relatively privileged life. No, I can’t afford those cruises that cost thousands, but I’m fortunate to have the wherewithal to indulge myself on occasion. And these excursions – especially the solo trips where I’m accountable to no one – definitely restore my soul and spirit. They’re what Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way describes as “artist’s dates.” We artists and writers deserve them – they help replenish our wells of creativity, and they need not cost a fortune.

What about you? Have you treated yourself to an “artist’s date” lately? If so, what was it? And if not, why not? I’d love to read your comments here.

7 thoughts on “Travel bragging: Self-indulgence or artist’s date?

  1. Julie:
    I admit I am a travel bug and I, especially, love overseas travel. I have a degree in foreign languages but was never an “entitled” person, so since I was young, took the “C” trip, not the “A” trip. At this point in my life, I guess I could upgrade, but I like getting down and dirty so to speak.
    This past September, using air miles, I flew to Slovenia to visit a friend who lives next door to me here in Florida half the year and back in her home in Slovenia, on the coast, the other half. She has an olive tree farm and a small home. I love to walk, really walk, and walked for 8-12 miles a day (alone) along the Adriatic getting lots of contemplation time in, my favorite thing to do. I climbed up bell towers in towns where probably most residents have never been and sat and watched lots of people doing their Slovenian things.
    With my friend, I got to meet lots of locals, walk the salt fields, pick grapes and olives from private homes and vineyards, etc.
    I believe this always feeds my creative juices, whether I am writing about travel or not. I think its the people thing.
    Anyway, have a great day and some awesome travel!

  2. Enjoyed the post. I’m for a get-away once in awhile. In fact, we wrote our book on a series of “get-aways.” Much easier to concentrate away from the daily routine and demands. And we mixed some fun stuff in.

    • Thanks for commenting, Sharon. I admire you for being able to concentrate while away. I concentrate much better when I’m here in front of my computer.

  3. Lately my posts have been more about travel than about writing, because it’s what I happen to be doing. My wife and I are not wealthy, but we are retired, and we travel a fair amount in our RV. In fact (ahem, cough, cough), we are in Mazatlan, Mexico as I write this. The trip will provide lots of fodder for several articles I plan to write and might provide grist for some fiction. Other than that, for me it’s just time off.

    I’m a little puzzled that you resent other people’s travel stories. I don’t resent your regular posts about all the hits your blog gets. What would really be boring would be if we all wrote on the same topic.

    Peace from beautiful Mazatlan,
    ;- )

    Bob Sanchez

    • Hi Bob. I found your comment really thought-provoking. I guess I enjoy bragging about all the hits I’m getting because I feel it’s a direct result of all the effort I’m putting in, and it’s exciting to see the upward trajectory that results. It’s been an expenditure of time, not money – the process and the potential are there for anyone who wants to put in the effort.

      In general, I try to banish resentment and jealousy from my mind, along with other negative feelings, and to focus on the positive. I can conjure up jealousy for all kinds of reasons, but it’s productive only when it inspires me to try harder – for example, when I envy authors for the quality of their writing and try to learn from it.

      Mexico sounds great – enjoy!

  4. So glad you found that an excursion can get your creative juices flowing, Julie. It always does that for me. Since I write a blog that’s mostly about travel and adventure, I guess I’m one of those people who would get on your nerves. I’m aware it can sound like bragging, so I try not to talk about my travels, unless someone else brings it up. Once they do, it’s hard to shut me up, just as it’s hard to stop me from talking about anything I love, such as writing.

    I have very little discretionary income. But by writing about travel, or traveling to places where I can conduct research for my novel, I make it a bit more affordable, since I can claim part of my travel as a tax deduction. I typically travel on a small budget, and I live like a poor church mouse at home, just so I can afford the trips. We’ve been meaning to remodel parts of our outdated, crumbling home for some time, but the money always seems to go to travel. A friend of mine told me, “You’re remodeling your soul.”

    I find that traveling always contributes to, and never detracts from, my creativity. I do most of my journal writing when I’m traveling. We sightsee by day, and I write by night. This is a habit that’s hard to get into at home, when I write books by day, and want to take a break from writing by night. And, since my travels usually include research for my personal projects, the knowledge I gain directly fuels my writing. I, too, feel that I have a privileged life, because I do what I love for a living: I write. And that career takes me everywhere I want to go… both in the world, and in my mind.

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