‘I hoped to forge an artistic rebirth through the experiences and paintings I created.
By ALASKA YOUNG
12:00AM June 24, 2017
I participate in secret painting adventures, the most significant of which saw me lost in the vast back country of the midwest American nowheres.
As I wandered far from my workplace, family, community and phone contract, I hoped to forge an artistic rebirth through the experiences and paintings I created.
As we become disenchanted by our worker-bee existence, many of us design some grand gesture as the admission price for change. Travel and art remain a popular incubation tank for such transformation.
I had been working as a high school teacher and counsellor, completely frustrated with the daily restrictions that drained my life force and emitted nothing.
Eventually I found I could get through the day by painting small watercolours at my desk. I had never put any of my artistic desires into action but there, trapped in an office, I had started painting deserts.
Grand sprawling plains, shadowy mesas, deep canyons and friendly cactuses covered my pages. Amid the drudgery of alarm clocks and coffee pods, I started to pay attention to these soothing images and wondered if it offered a way out.
In my head it went like this: start painting more, quit job and leave in search of these landscapes. Then I tried it.
Exploring the US on a budget of $20 a day, regularly sleeping in parking lots and a brandishing a national park pass proved a solid recipe for transformation through adventure.
More exciting, there were others out there: avid rock climbers living in four-wheel-drives, ex-military writers crashing on transportable floors, shamanic massage therapists working out of coffee shops.
People were shifting their narratives but doing it quietly, unattached to any program or organised movement.
Any individual can have an inner adventure that completely transforms their world and return a changed person.
If we follow Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey” we can say that we return with knowledge that enriches our society, that they are never the same, we are all changed.
By travelling to a different culture, with the intention of creating art, we open a liminal space in which transformation can occur. When we make these decisions to change the way we spend our days, what we contribute to society is a small, incremental shift in consciousness.
And, just perhaps, they are the single units of change that through time can shift big beliefs about what it means to be a human in this world.