Recently, I was asked to describe the “art” of traveling, and I was a little (uncharacteristically!) flummoxed.

To me, the “art” of travel means expanding my opportunities to immerse myself in a culture without expanding my wallet.  Or conversely, traveling frugally without missing out on what a place, its people and its culture have to offer.

I have two rules of thumb when I travel:  I like to live like a local as much as possible (which is one reason I housesit), and I like to volunteer.


For example, to launch my housesitting book (How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva) in Mexico where I spend half my year, I coordinated a fundraiser for a shelter that helps Central American refugees.  People were so responsive!  We raised enough to feed, clothe, shelter and counsel 101 refugees for a night.  (If you’re interested, check out “Todos Somos Migrantes,” an article I wrote about the shelter for the local English-language magazine:  It was sobering and inspiring…
While I wouldn’t call myself a “travel artist,” I do try to travel authentically — to be genuine myself, to be open and willing to try new things and to share some of myself.
In the spirit of trying new things, I took a free drawing class at London’s National Gallery last week.  (I’m housesitting here with my British beau for the holidays.  Magical!)  The photo on the left is the Fourteenth Century Italian painting we were copying, “Coronation of the Virgin with Adoring Saints” that hung in a church in Florence.  Worshippers would have approached the painting and, with the flickering candlelight reflecting off the real gold leaf, would no doubt have had a mystical experience.  The rich blue is lapis mined in Afghanistan!
The drawing on the right is my rendition of St. Catherine, depicted in the lower right corner of the original painting.
Ordinarily, this is a painting I would have sailed by without a thought…Not my taste.  But in hearing the docent’s explanation of its background and sitting and staring at it for an hour, I had my own mystical insight:  My mastery of the “art” of traveling does not extend to creating actual art!