I’ve come to understand that truths behind words such as family, love, happiness, home and freedom are all based on a feeling versus a tangible place or object. During our travels people ask me where is home and it always takes me a minute to respond. There are so many places that are home to me, from the mountains of East Tennessee where I grew up, to the Philippines where I spent my childhood, or Chiang Mai where we have called home for the past few months. This past week we spent it on the island of Koh Lanta. It’s always a surreal feeling when you see familiar faces in completely foreign place. Aaron’s childhood friend Patrick came to visit, and though it has been years since we’ve seen him, our conversations felt like it hasn’t skipped a beat. Last time we saw Patrick was in our college apartment, bonding over cheap 40’s while him and Aaron played video games. Today we are here watching the sunset on an island in Thailand, (still drinking cheap beer), and catching up. The way he chain smokes and laughs is like deja vu, and seeing him felt like he brought a piece of our other home to us. While here, we stayed with our friends who were our neighbors in the same zen compound we once called home in the fall of last year. They invited us down to the island to catch up, so we invited Patrick to join us and for the first time since we left home, we are with familiar faces in a completely different place. I can’t pin why it felt like home, maybe it’s the island vibe that we connect to, it could be reuniting with Patrick after all these years, or sharing a small space with close friends again. Home is such a beautiful feeling, and its what keeps us traveling. We have found our pieces of home, friends, love, and freedom sprinkled in different places all along our journey.
Danmala designer Kathy creates inspiring art with nature’s abundance of life and beauty. Her process is purely therapeutic for both the creator and the receiver of her art. She transcends into a meditative state as she collects the natural elements around her.
“Her inspiration is given from the golden sound residing within perfect silence. They are reflections of the inexpressible, a gesture which points towards life’s abundance, an unspoken verse of Love. The danmalas remind us all to listen to the unheard voice of nature, creation, and the eternal mystery.”
We consider ourselves slow travelers, only after a couple weeks in a place do we really feel that we begin to crack its shell. This is when we start to know the personality behind faces, the story behind the past, and know which dusty roads leads to surrounding villages. I write this during our revisit to Cambodia, as we walk to the sandy coastline of Kampot and as we board a tiny boat to the small island of Koh Tonsay. This charming island inhabited by only 7 families, had no electricity but rather generators that ran a few hours a day. No clocks or wifi and all the food consumed is the food caught from the sea and eaten from the land. No matter how slow we go, there’s something about island life that flows even slower, steadier, and in the most content pace. Our days here felt like a constant state of meditation. The walls of our huts were only halfway connected to its straw roof allowing the breeze to follows us indoors. When I hear noises in the night that move about on our roof, or right outside our thin layers of leafy walls, I clinch our sheets and wonder why us humans have found ways to separate ourselves so far from nature. Why do these noises from other inhabitants of this earth sound so alien to me? Have I gotten so used to the chaotic sounds of the city, that I fall fast asleep during honking horns and drunken rambles of the street, yet lie awake at night to sounds of night creatures? Every step of this journey has been a rewiring of balance. I realize this worlds vastness, as I look up I almost get dizzy with the starry display of an even bigger cosmic world that reflects on the serene ocean. As it washes ashore against my feet, smile as I reflect myself to be a dust-like particle in this vast space and I couldn’t feel any smaller.
There’s something about Cambodia that makes it stand way out among the other SE Asian countries we’ve visited so far. It’s something I’ll probably forever struggle with trying to put into words, but there’s a unique feeling I get here that I haven’t felt anywhere else. It’s a mixed feeling of nostalgia, mystery, enchantment, anger, sadness, sympathy… maybe it’s just my subconscious speaking of the country’s dark history, but even before I really learned about all that happened here, I knew this place was something special. It’s the kind of place that continuously triggers thoughts and evokes emotions.
During the Khmer Rouge era, people living in Cambodian cities were forced to evacuate their homes to become slaves in the countryside. The regime’s mission was to solely create a population that was made to work as laborers in one huge federation of collective farms. Anyone in opposition (this meant all intellectuals and educated people) must be eliminated, together with all non-communist aspects of traditional Cambodian society. So in 1975 the beautiful capital city of Phnom Pehn was completely deserted, leaving it to be the world’s largest ghost town. In the end nearly 3 million people or 1/3 of the country’s total population was killed.
In a strange way it almost seems as if time stopped here in the 1970s when all of this happened. Charmie and I visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former high school in Central Phnom Penh that was converted into a torture prison in 1975. Nearly 20,000 people were tortured here before being hauled to a killing field about 14km away. On display at the museum were hundreds of documented “mugshots” of the innocent prisoners held there. The faces I saw on the walls looked exactly like the people I see on the streets of Phnom Penh today. They appear to wear the same outfits, have the same haircuts, use the same expressions…. it honestly feels like the majority of people have not changed one bit from that time. It makes it seem like the mass genocide took place only yesterday. It’s as if the Cambodian people just went back to their old homes after the reign was over and acted as if nothing happened.
I look for emotions in the eyes of people I pass on the streets. When I see anyone that looks over the age of 50, I try to imagine the type of life they’ve lived….the terrible sounds and scenes they’ve witnessed. I think about the people close to them that were lost. When I pass someone around my age I wonder what their childhood was like. How did their parents raise them with that darkness still lingering?
You see corruption everywhere you look and you know it’s not stopping anytime soon. Entire families sleep on the sidewalks while policemen drive brand new Range Rovers. The roads leading to the capital city are ridiculous…large portions aren’t even paved. The people of Cambodia are continuing to be dealt a shit hand, but I think now they’re simply content with finally having a sense of peace and quiet. Finally not having to lock their doors in fear of who will come knocking.
I know I’m not the only passing tourist that wonders what this place would look like if the war never took place. This place is wild. The people are beautiful. I can safely say Cambodia has been my favorite stop of the journey so far.
Meet Sophie, an artist, avid painter, and fellow textile lover of Magic Carpet Yoga Mats. Inspired by traditional and ethnic rug designs, she created an outlet for her passion in painting and transformed her paintings of ethnic rug patterns into sustainably printed yoga mats. Combing art with yoga just made sun salutations that much more beautiful. She’s captured the eyes of art enthusiasts and yogis alike such as Oprah Magazine and Fitness Magazine. Her Magic Carpet Yoga mats have also landed a spot on Anthropologie’s shelves! I think she’s doing a few things right 😉 Sophie is truly a humble and inspiring being, she shares with us advice on following our bliss, and being a creative entrepreneur.
Many creatives struggle with honing in on one craft and mastering it. They find that they are a jack of all trades and a master at none. Did you find yourself at this position before? Or have you always focused on being a painter?
I’ve definitely found myself in this position before! My excitement for different projects often feels impeding to focusing on just one trade, skill, or medium. I focused on painting in college and use these skills in Magic Carpet Yoga Mats, but am also very interested in sculpture, installation, and performance art. My studio mate Faye Kendall and I currently operate as a collective called The Dog and Wolf and actively create collaborative installation work together.
What made you decide on yoga mats as a medium for your beautiful paintings?
The idea for Magic Carpet Yoga Mats initially came as a desire to see rug imagery on yoga mats. Since I am a painter, it then followed to paint these designs.
For starting art-entrepreneurs keeping sane and balance is key. What is your advice for fueling their creative side, and your advice on sharpening their business side.
This is a tricky one! I can’t say I’ve found this balance yet for myself. It always seems like the administrative tasks take up so much more time than anticipated and getting into the studio becomes difficult some weeks. I’ve found that keeping certain days as holy, studio days, can be very helpful. I’m also working on being less hard on myself for not making it into the studio as often as I would like, or for delaying some administrative tasks so that the creative ones may hold precedent.
It’s a saturated marketing online and offline, what is our advice for artists/artisans and creatives alike on making your craft stand out?
My advice here is to be consistent with your branding and have all of your sites (website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) linked to each other. Also, connect with your network of peers online! We are each other’s best allies. 🙂
Lastly, what’s manifetsting for MCYM in 2014?
I am hard at work on new yoga mat designs for this year and next! We are also developing some secret-for-now new products for hot yoga enthusiasts, moms, dads, and more. This summer you will also see some creative partnerships with other designers on our site. Stay tuned!
Photo credit: Olivia Vale Photography & Ana Mercedes Photography, Model is Ceci Alejandra, Styling by Shari Gerstenberger, and make up by Erin Freeman.
I hope you intend to do something that scares you, gives you chills down your spine, and makes your heart race. I hope you question your truths, dare greatly and ask yourself, What other way is there to live? I have found my mini victories sitting right outside of my comfort zone and realized the more you step out of it, the more gravitational it becomes. Let it pull you, let it have you saying “hell yes” to something you never in a million years thought you would do. There’s no safe way to be wholehearted. Bulletproof and perfect don’t exist. Being vulnerable and being real is scary but it’s not half as scary as standing on the outside looking back on your life saying what if? I hope you dare greatly.
This past Saturday we spent it on the busy streets of Chiang Mai for their annual flower festival. Exotic flowers and traditional music filled the streets as beautiful traditionally adorned Thai locals showcased their culture. When we first heard about it, we were told it started at 8AM, so being the night owls that we are this was a challenge to be up and fight a crowd. Funny thing is, it didn’t start until after 5PM! haha We’ve gotten used to the relaxed concept of time around here, so we didn’t mind at all. We spent most of the day temple hopping, sipping smoothies, and finding new discoveries in our own neighborhood. At sundown, the exotic blooms made its way down the streets of Tha Pae. The parade was a beautiful representation of their vibrant culture through people, through artsy floats, music, and yes, their beautiful ethnic threads!
This is the longest we’ve sat still in the past year and we’ve gotten to know the four walls of our apartment very well these few months. We love how the sun shines in through all our open windows and the noisy street noises remind us of the chaos that sits right outside of our balcony. We had found our groove, found our work and life routine, and even made some neighborhood friends. And then it hits us. We’re antsy to leave, antsy to pack and ready to hit the road, the sky or the sea. Not that Thailand is any less exciting since we got here, but our cameras has had time to collect some dust, and blank pages of our journals are still left blank awaiting more stories to be told. Wanderlust, you fickle thing. It’s time to go once more, so we booked a train and it’s leaving Tuesday.
The artwork and design that blossomed in the 60’s expresses the experimentation and the color of the era’s counterculture landscape. The psychedelic movement and it’s harmonious presence in both art,music, literature and philosophy takes us on a visual trip. These amazing vinyl artwork emerged in the 60’s and has us feeling the vibration decades later.