For a long time, I’d always dismissed the idea of carrying a sketch book when a camera would have easily done the job for me. After all, why go through the strenuous effort of capturing an image that could otherwise be forever fossilized in an SD card? Human memory is already so frail, and our perception so ambiguous, that embarking on a sketching journey might leave us lost and completely unsure of what we were trying to draw in the first place.

Thankfully, I purchased a friendly sketch book a few hours before I left to Hong Kong.

At first, I was not sure what to do with it, and I’m convinced it wasn’t so comfortable with me either. The book and I, we exchanged long, silent stares while I clumsily attempted to position it between my tiny compartmentalized food. Those sitting close to me looked at my hand with anticipation, “you’re an artist?“, they asked with an anxious smile, and I would once more drown my embarrassment in another glass of airplane wine.

Eventually I put pen to paper.

Sketch #1, en route Hong Kong
Sketch #1, en route Hong Kong (notice the glass of wine)

The first squeaky line was all it took. The pen became the mastermind behind all creations and I humbly volunteered as a spectator of my daily musings. My thoughts went from potential photographs to a never-ending sequence of possibilities, colours, shades and tonalities.

Quick sketch of Budha, and Taiwan's Kaohsiung
Quick sketch of Budha, and Taiwan’s Kaohsiung

Everywhere I’d go, and anywhere I’d sit, the book would make its way out of my bag. The pen would curl itself in between my fingers and give birth to something I’d not yet imagined. I noticed people around me looking, smiling, pointing, and choosing to become active participants in my experience.

A type of interaction that isn’t often mentioned in travel blogs, the simple conversations that transcend language barriers, the kind of human connection that flows from the beauty in creation — that is what I experience each time the magic pen performs its wonders. I’ve sketched for information, for directions, for food, and for love.

I’ve sketched to show others how grateful I was for their hospitality, I’ve sketched to remind myself never to forget the memories uncaptured by a photograph.

Budha Memorial Center, on a day it didn't rain
Budha Memorial Center, on a day it didn’t rain

So next time you get annoyed at that tiny light that won’t let you sleep, or at the franctic sound of a pen zig-zaging on paper, remember that this, too, is a way to travel… in and out of oneself.