Planting Vines

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I used to tell people I hated traveling, and I think I meant that I loved it, because sometimes we feel so strongly about something that it can only be described in extremes and sometimes I misplace my extreme. (I frequently tell everyone I know how much I hate cake and I have no idea why, because I always say yes to it. And I always enjoy it. But brownies and cookies are better and cake is never on my radar, so surely it goes in the hate column, yeah? Yes.)


But I really truly do hate traveling, at least in the traditional “Visit every place on your must-see list and take a selfie there” sense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I have a thing with expectations. I keep them low. I prefer to hop a flight and wander, where the only thing I google is the weather and where to go to acquire my morning coffee.

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So in the traditional sense, traveling isn’t for me. But in the nontraditional sense, wandering very much is.

I feel most alive when I’m surveying the streets of new, eyes darting around to my favorite parts of God’s creation – people. I will never stop being fascinated by people. Their battle scars and inner thoughts and fanny packs; it’s just too much for me to not become obsessed with all of it. So in that respect, traveling is my cup.

And I think the reason why is because – at home, in my environment – I’m so easily distracted. I’m a plant that can grow in many climates. I cling to the vines around me and grow where they grow until I realize that I’m an ivy crawling up a building I was never intended for. And for me, that’s why traveling is so key. When I’m alone and wandering and watching, I can very clearly see what I am intended for. Like my brain works rear-view mirror style and when I’m finally able to see what I’m not, I can better see what I am.

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Is this making sense? Gracious, this is not making sense.

So here’s what. I’ve been doing a ton of teaching lately – on creativity and purpose and the Internet and all of the above. And last week, in a beautiful studio in Singapore (thanks, Irene!), I watched the eyes of my students light up when they talked about what they do.

And I realized that my eyes light up that way – nearly every time – when I talk about design. When I talk about how hard a mixed media artist works and how far a textile designer has come and how we can vote with our dollar and support independent people that are trying to swim upstream to protect the environment or establish fair trade or create employment opportunities.

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I don’t know why I have that in me. I didn’t grow up in a bustling design community and I didn’t study design or seek it out. It just kind of grew within me, and then I stopped watering it because I felt conflicted about it. Like if I’d been given a megaphone, surely I should be saying something more important than where to purchase these incredibly gorgeous shoes?

But it’s not that simple, and it also is. There’s something in me that bends toward design and creation and art, like a flower bending to the east or the west or whatever direction it was intended to bend. And it’s not fair to starve the soil.

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Over the weekend, I jetted to Palm Springs (more on that later!) and spent the entire flight planning the beginning stages of a really beautiful product collaboration. And I don’t know if it’s leftover jet lag from back-to-back trips or if it’s the joyful adrenaline of creation but I’m just in this happy fog of purpose. Like, for now, I am supposed to spend my time doing this.

So I did and I am and I will. And I can’t wait to see where this healthy little vine leads.

What are you working on, friends?

  • I love this! It totally makes sense, don’t worry. I think a lot of people are too concerned nowadays with checking things off a list they’re “supposed” to do (aka see monuments and tourist traps) and less concerned with experiencing real things that travel is supposed to teach you, like seeing another culture first-hand (including finding a good coffee place!)

    I can’t wait to travel more, but for the second goal, not the first. :) Happy wandering to you!

  • What beautiful thoughts, Erin. I’m the same, I suppose, in that I’ve never been a fan of tours nor itineraries, but exploring new places with new eyes and a boatload of wandering is one of my favorite things to do. That said, I think we define our own sense of traveling; that my (our) way is as much traveling as following Rick Steves’ recommendations are, so as long as we find a thrill and experience we’re comfortable with and inspired by. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as acting on it. Glad you had such recent constructive trips! I look forward to hearing more. In the past six months I acquired an opportunity to relocate to Los Angeles (from Paris) and work for an organization that makes my heart sing. I know not (literally no idea, ha) what my life will look like there, but I’m optimistic. This is what life and passion is all about, right?

    • OMG Danielle, that is so so exciting! We lived in Los Angeles for 6 years, so email me for tips! :) You’ll love the adventure ahead!!!

  • Design is your bliss, obviously. You see beauty and possibility in the ordinary things, and I think that’s why I love your Instagrams, for instance. I kind of feel like you naturally look at things with an eye for design. It’s what I call “blissfinding”, if you will. I know, some people think it’s silly or flighty for me to call it that, but hey: Isn’t that what we should be doing more of — finding the beauty in all things?

    Looove the retreat/road trip posts, by the way. I should road trip more! Who knows what loveliness I’ll see, right?

    Hope you are well xx

  • This is my first time at your site and I love the intro. It’s so true, travel is about the experience; really immersing ones self in a place. The guidebook is purely to help figure out what and where to eat, give you a little map so you know how to get back, but really nothing else. There shouldn’t be any sense of hurry or ticking off a list. I totally agree with that.
    Finding and following one’s bliss has finally, truly caught on with me. I’ve been staying home with my little one’s for awhile now and I’ve been a bit lost. Last year, I started a blog to help me get back to painting and drawing and finding the things that inspire me. It’s really helped me feel like I have something that’s all my own. That’s a big vine I’ve been following that I hope will create many little vines! Thank you for this!

    • Ah, I love hearing this, Nina – good for you! :) Excited to see how painting, drawing and collecting helps boost your soul. I know it does mine!

  • Lovely Erin, thanks for this post. I am sitting in a cafe in Amsterdam drinking my first coffee for the day and smiling at your spot on words. I know will always feel this way after I read one of your posts – you write so beautifully – but still, each time it’s a terrific way to kick off the day. And speaking of projects and travel and drinking in new sights , I feel exactly the way you do. There is a little ball of uncertainty in my gut about what comes next ( I’m taking time out of PR world to create products that mix learning languages with creativity and design) but deep down it’s just so damn right I can’t ignore it. Thanks again. S

    • Oh gracious, I love what you’re doing, Steph! What an amazing transition! And thank you for your sweet words and encouragement. I feel so grateful for your kindness. :)

  • This resonates so hard with me!! I literally was writing something *yesterday* on the “How did I get here?” front! (and I’m sitting 11 feet from some flowering vines on my deck that need bailing out from last night’s heavy rains, incidentally…love when the metaphorical and the actual rub elbows…) Your words, as always, delight and inspire. I love hearing your voice in my head (even if it’s only how I imagine your voice :). You’re a gift! And it’s not even my Birthday!!

    • Oh Erin – you’re the sweetest. How did I get here is a convo I have often – it’s so funny how life just ebbs into what it is. :)

  • My vine is flailing a little these days – not sure where to go or what to do next but not entirely content with where I am and not free to just uproot and seek the next plot of land. Not that I want to entirely uproot from my current garden! All metaphors to say I need to find me again in baby and him and us and family.

    • I hear ya, Jamie. Babies tend to make us dig around a little deeper in this soil of ours, yes? :)

  • I love this post. I love how you bend and move with your vines and aren’t afraid to jump on new ones Tarzan-style. :) I’m swinging through vines as well, not fixated on a specific outcome. I think that’s key for me – being open to the opportunities that I’m sure to meet. xo

  • Oh Erin, not only are you talented when it comes to design but you write in such an honest and beautiful way that always inspires me. Keep reflecting, growing, and seeking. I look forward to seeing where your little vine will go next!

  • I did a mini weekend getaway to Kansas City by MYSELF in April to see a friend and attend a blogging conference, and it gave me so much clarity. I was shocked, really. I came back and relaunched my blog with a gorgeous design and have felt so inspired to create there again. I was missing that for a very long time. Thanks for putting into words what makes total sense in my brain but that I probably would never have been able to verbalize. xo!

    • Ahhh I hear you! Traveling by myself is one of my favorite pleasures. I’ll never forget my solo trek to Ireland over 5 years ago. Life changing! (And the new blog looks great!)

  • This is so lovely and spot on. I, too, find wandering the best part of travel (and somehow, unfortunately, so much harder to do at home). I love too your beautiful words, “happy fog of purpose” and that this is right for you “for now.” I find it so easy to get caught up in this giant question of what am I supposed to be doing with me life, which is just too big, too overwhelming, and increasingly I’m thinking – unanswerable. Instead, I’m trying to focus on what I want to do right now, because what more can we ask of ourselves? Thanks for this reminder and permission to ease up, follow our intuition.

    • Gah! You are SOOOOO right, Jen! I’m the same way; I think we need a PLAN. But maybe the plan is to remember that life is fleeting and humans are created to adapt to a changing environment (including our passions!). I’m trying instead to focus on being grateful for a career that allows me the flexibility to listen to my gut rather than my head! :)

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