JOURNEYMAKERS

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Travel is transformative. Seeing the world, and discovering new cultures and ways of life, has been the greatest privilege I have ever known. It is when my spirit feels most alive and when I feel most inspired to create my art. I have learned so much about myself by traveling outside my comfort zone. And though I have observed many differences in the way we live around the world, from South America to North Africa, Southeast Asia to the Middle East, I can confidently attest that human kindness and compassion is deeply universal. More often it is the people, not the places, that have made my journeys across the globe.

That is why when American Express Travel approached me this Summer to partner with them on their Journeymakers campaign, I leapt at the opportunity to contribute. I want nothing more than to honor the people who made my journeys so life changing and who irrevocably touched my heart. In the words of Maya Angelou "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." The exact words and actions, the chronology and order of events, might get a little muddled in memory, but the way these following individuals made me feel still stays with me today:



Jeenah Mari-Rose - Thailand, Laos, & Cambodia (March 2015)

My journey to Southeast Asia this past March was a big undertaking. I joined a 14 day live tour across Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia to discreetly cover the experience through Travel Write Draw. It was my fourth time touring with this company but my first time being hired to do it as an influencer. And as I quickly came to know, there are some things in life you can never quite be prepared for. Southeast Asia is a feast for the eyes but often draws people who are undergoing personal transitions. It is a region marked by many hardships but a great deal of hope too.

When I met my guide Jeenah in the hallway of our hotel in Bangkok, I was immediately impressed by her calm, collectedness. She struck me as someone who had seen a lot in her young life. She was vivacious and bold, having recently returned from a surfing trip to Morocco on her own. I felt a natural ease with her from the get go and our bond was quickly formed with her being the only person on the tour who knew I was there as a member of press. She was eager for me to see and experience the best, making sure I had the right art supplies and best views, to illustrate my journey.

But our friendship extended far beyond a working relationship. We shared stories of love lost and personal growth. She confided in me the difficulties of being on your own far from home, touring through a region that is for better or worse unbridled. And to think she was doing this all at 21. Her stories from back home, what motivated her to take the job, only touched my heart even more. I cherish those conversations and the fact that she felt that she could open up to me so honestly. Jeenah reminded me that vulnerability, and being out of your comfort zone, is where the greatest growth takes place.



Zlata Shkolnaya - Moscow, Russia (October 2014)

My trip to Russia was not particularly premeditated and perhaps that is why I got so much out of the journey. I was invited only two weeks before my departure to attend Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Moscow and illustrate the runway shows live. I was equally ecstatic and scared. I had never been to Russia before and I certainly did not speak the language. I also had not traveled alone since my trip to Greece nearly two years prior, and was feeling a great deal of anxiety journeying so far from home on my own. In many ways, I had forgotten my own strength that had once been so steadfast after Egypt.

My first day arriving at the Moscow Manege for the shows I was greeted by my translator for the week, Zlata Shkolnaya. Zlata had a very petite frame with a ginormous oversized bun that she wore the same way everyday. She had little to no interest in fashion, her passion and enormous talent resided in singing, and to this day I'm not entirely sure why she wanted to volunteer for fashion week. But she made me laugh to no end. Because she didn't care or know much about fashion, she observed everything around her with fresh eyes, and it forced me to do the same.

I really feel like I was destined to meet Zlata. Something about her was so refreshing and grounding. Every time I found myself getting flustered and overwhelmed with the work due, she managed to put everything back in perspective. She didn't subscribe to social media. She did not have an instagram account, she didn't know any of the designers, but she respected my passion and wanted to see me do well on this journey. Even more than the journey, Zlata wanted to see me do well in life. She really cared about me, as I did her.

One of my last mornings in Moscow, Zlata came to meet me early at the department store GUM for brunch. Somewhere between the jetlag and daily deadlines, I had reached my breaking point, and when I saw her, tears began streaming down my face. She looked at me and said "Meagan, please take good care." Those 5 words cut through the chaos like a knife. In that instant I was reminded that no matter what people ask of you, or whatever pressures you put on yourself, you cannot forget to take care of you. It brought my life in New York back into clarity too. Even though we haven't seen each other since, we still write to remind each other to take care.



Sherif Aboelwafa - Egypt & The Nile (April 2012)

I booked my trip to Egypt during a period of great uncertainty in my life. I had just finished my degree in fashion illustration at FIT and was fighting to secure full-time employment in New York. With a rapidly expiring student visa in the United States, the sponsorship situation was dire. I was also very much struggling from a broken heart. It was an emotional time to say the least. I didn't know where I belonged anymore and was eager to immerse myself in the unfamiliar, to feel as far away from my reality.

When I arrived in Cairo it didn't take long to feel like my former self again. I was hungry to learn, laugh, discover, and was instantly drawn to my tour guide Sherif who was born and raised in the city. He was warm and engaging. It was clear from the minute I met him that this was a man who cared deeply about our experience in his country. He wanted us to see the heart and soul of his home. While waiting for our overnight train to Aswan, he indulged my every query about the recent turmoil in Egypt, recounting exactly where he was the moment the revolution erupted on the streets of Cairo.

When we boarded our cruise up the Nile river, our friendship was further solidified. We both shared stories of love lost, our passion for our careers; his mother was also an artist and thus he really appreciated my skill and craft. I remember confiding in him how lost I had felt coming onto that tour and how much clarity I had found just from being there. Somewhere between all of our conversations, and his observations of me in the local marketplaces, he was able to determine that my favorite color was pink and that I loved gold embellishments.

As the tour came to a close, I was greeted at the hotel in Cairo with a custom-made pink pashmina scarf decorated in gold arabic. Sherif had called in from the Nile to ensure this was ready for me when I returned. He wanted me to have something I could wear in New York to remind me of our friendship and the strength I had found while in his country. I was brought to tears. Sherif was not only a journeymaker but a true kindred spirit. His passion for his job, and for embracing people from all corners of the world, continues to inspire me to see the good in people and keep my heart open.

Have you ever met any journeymakers in your travels? I would love to hear about the individuals who impacted your adventures around the world. You too can have the opportunity to thank your Journeymakers by sending a personal note or sharing a postcard here. I will be sharing more Journeymakers stories throughout the coming weeks and I can't wait to hear about yours.

Much love,
Meag xx

12 comments:

  1. wowww... you are so talnted!! the story about the friend you met when you were heart broken realy touched me.. great post!

    http://rosdays.blogspot.co.il/

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    1. @Rosita Bizerman thank you so, so much! Would love to hear one of your Journeymaker stories xx

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  2. What a story! You are truly interesting and an adventure to read!
    http://inkandlacedesigns.blogspot.com.au/

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    1. @lorenabr that is so incredibly sweet! Thank you for being such a loyal follower xx

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  3. I love your drawings! And the story just makes it better! Hope you can visit my blog sometime!

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    1. @Julia of course, would love to. What is your blog address? It isn't linked to your blogger profile. Thanks xx

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  4. Meagan A very well post organized here... I am unable to stop my self to comment after getting this post search... your first image in this post really heart my Heart.... Superb work here!!

    Thanks
    Dudhwa

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    1. @Shahib Alam that's amazing! It was painted from the heart so I'm glad it resonated with yours xx

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  5. I love this Meagan! As a traveler, artist and AMEX member, I'm so happy you shared Journeymakers platform with all of us. Some of my most remarkable moments are meeting generous and compassionate people abroad.

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    1. @Natalie Woo that is so heartwarming to hear!! I still have one more person to add to my list. Stay tuned xx

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  6. Amazing photos i loved seeing this thanks for sharing really amazing pics are this, nice very interesting and helpful blog post... see kolhapur property portal

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    1. @Gruhkoj Kolhapur great, glad you enjoyed! xx

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