Travel Memories : Exposure to Great Art.

When I signed up to study abroad in the fall 2008, I knew that it was going to change me. And I wanted it to. I think most people get to a certain point in life and get bored. College is a great excuse to travel because you can get credit for it, and because you can run run as fast as you can away from the third-year slog when you're sick of the whole school routine, but not ready to graduate. 

So there I was, bored out of my mind and ready for something different, something independent, and I'd been wanting to travel abroad for as long as I can remember. So I choose an awesome program through my university that offered optimal traveling opportunities - 3 days of school work, 4 days of traveling each week with a 10-day trip to the destination of my choice. It sounds expensive, and you're right - it wasn't cheap. However, it was the best deal out there. It was the cost of a regular semester of tuition plus the inter-continental airfare, a 3-month EuRail pass, a €150 per week stipend for travel costs, and room and board included in the charming Haus Wartenberg [est. 1694.] Yes my friends, it does exist, this beyond-perfect program. I traveled to a grand total of 24 cities in 15 countries in less than 3 months.

But what does traveling abroad really do, aside from letting you escape your normal routine? Why and how did it change me, particularly as a writer and creative? 

There are less touristy ways to explore a city, but to me, the museums are one of the best ways. This is the essence of culture and human thought distilled over centuries, passionately portrayed through painting and sculpture, writing, architecture, furniture, and personal artifacts. One of my fondest memories was an afternoon spent at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which houses the most extensive collection of his pieces and personal items in the world. Then, of course, there is the Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, the Uffizzi and the Accademia in Florence, the Vatican Museum in Rome, the National Gallery and The Tate in London… I could go on. 

The opportunity to see this kind of work gave me perspective on the scope of art's emotional and cultural impact on humanity. Art matters. It is what remains of our legacy long after we are gone.

In that context, and at that time in my life, my perspective on my own writing and art shifted from being a source of anxiety to a source of identity, something to cultivate and be proud of. I still struggle with that concept, but I did come to understand that this is what God made me to do. The instinct to write when I was traveling became a source of solace and therapy, a way to commemorate my thoughts and experiences as I went, and to pay tribute to the artists that I deeply respect. 

Have you traveled abroad? What are some of your favorite museums? Pieces of art? 



1 : Me in Prague, Czech Republic. October 2008.  | 2 : Sculpture heads, the Vatican Museum, Rome. September 2008. | 3 : Fountain outside of the parliament building in Vienna, Austria. September 2008.

[All images were taken by me, Bethany Suckrow, except for my portrait, courtesy of Brenda Ronan.]


Adriana said...

You made me nostalgic.:)I love that building:the parliment in Vienna...
And yes travel does change you. I remember when I went from the first time abroad, from my little country to France, to visit my sister...It changed me forever.

P.S. I'm sorry for not commenting anymore on your blog.I'm still here, only that my life is such a mess these days. Have a great week-end Bethany.

Beth said...

I studied abroad as well. I was in Florence, and studied art, architecture, literature and cooking. I only traveled within Italy, but I wanted to see as much of that country as possible.
My favorite museum--the Palatina Gallery at the Palazzo Pitti. The nicest security guards in the world worked there--they let my friends and I stay after hours to look around.
Travel taught me that there's more to the world than my front door. I don't remember my first time abroad (I was a wee baby), but when I visited the UK when I was 10, my world changed. I got the travel bug, and knew I wanted to live there. Now I do. :)

Tom said...

I lived and worked abroad for 20 years and would not have missed it for the world. In my view, the best museum/gallery in the world is the Hermitage in St Petersburg. They have stuff in their basement brought out for occasional display that would furnish a great museum in any other city. It's quite something to stand between two da Vincis; close enough to reach out and touch. Not that touching would be a good idea. I saw one Italian lady who couldn't resist leave the gallery with her feet no longer touching the ground!

Katy Stokes said...

My study abroad was in Florence (from the other comments, I see I'm not the only one!) After my studies were over, I traveled to Paris and then London.

I will be honest....I was a bit museum-ed out. That is, until I arrived at the Musee Rodin. For me, it was a much-needed breath of fresh air. Small, but stunning and the art work in the gardens was lovely and relaxing.

I'm glad I stopped by your blog today because I think I needed a reminder of that feeling. Amazing how powerful our memories can be...

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