Miscellaneous November 20, 2023

Travelling While Artistic

By M.C Cruz Issaoui

More than sharing my artistic journey I wanted to share some tips and tricks about international travel as an artist (struggling artist not established). I also delve into the why as well as the how because I think it can be just as interesting, if not more so.

Life changes suddenly and quickly sometimes, one day you are traveling solo and the next you meet someone in a beach town in Morocco, get married and have a beautiful baby daughter. I will start with the solo travel since I am supposing many readers will be starting from that point.


First of all, as an artist is it worth it to spend your hard earned money on travel abroad? Yes, it is for a few reasons starting with gaining a new perspective on the world. And those new perspectives will only enhance your creativity and storytelling abilities. This has certainly been the case for me. The journey to places like La Alhambra in Granada, Spain and the Sahara Desert,Morocco was more beautiful and inspiring than I could have ever imagined. I remember standing in the gardens of La Alhambra taking pictures and thinking this is “absolutely a dream come true”. In fact, I decided to write a children’s book based on the legends and folklore of La Alhambra. I hope that one day it will be published…Ojala╠ü!

Connection to Roots

Another important reason for traveling abroad, at least in my case, was to reconnect with my family history. This is not just an individual “finding myself” because the truth is that even my parents weren’t clear about our roots. As a family with nomadic tendencies we have migrated from Andalusia, Spain to Chile to Canada and now I have a brother living in Japan. Along the way, across time and space a lot of information was lost. Living in Canada where I was constantly labeled one thing or another (always inaccurately), I felt an intense need to seek the truth, to find out whom we came from. Not surprisingly my family origins are a mix of ethnicities and “races” that crosses continents. In North America it’s difficult to understand because many people prefer simple categories that reduce everyone to one label. Instead of reduction I decided to do research and add onto my ancestral roots. I feel like this only enhanced my creativity and gave me so much more inspiration for storytelling. It also gave me beautiful places in the world that I could go to and feel a connection to human history and the earth that sustains us. In Tangier,Morocco I feel that connection because I now know that my great uncle Jose Cruz Herrera lived there and painted lovely oil paintings of the cityscape and the people who inhabited it. There were many more ancestors who lived partially in Morocco and Spain. I honestly wish I had known all of this earlier in life. In my earlier years I often felt that I was drifting aimlessly in a society that didn’t fully accept me and most likely never will. Having an understanding of my family history would have given me a sense of security and belonging in the world. Perhaps this resonates with you and motivates you to embark on your own journey towards understanding your origins. If not, I hope you at least put yourself in the shoes of someone like me and can see how difficult life could be without a sense of connection.

Making New Friends

I find that sometimes in a city like Toronto that it is relatively easy to get stuck in a rut, where you are always talking to the same people and not expanding your horizons. Again, this is about gaining new perspectives and new inspirations for your creative vision. I also found that in Toronto there are clear divisions amongst ethnic groups and people tend to not want to socialize beyond their groups. Since I am a child of Chilean immigrants, there was usually no place for me to go in Canada because the community is tiny. Traveling has meant finding community and friends in a wide variety of places and people. From Santiago, Chile where I have my tattoo artist who I can talk about politics and anime while getting tattooed to the Sahara Desert where I had long philosophical conversations with a man who grew up in a nomadic family who journeyed across the desert on a regular basis. I love that I had the ability to travel to these places and find these friends. The conversations would go so much deeper than what I had in North America. Maybe it’s because of the hustle culture where people feel they need to be productive and compete against each other constantly to succeed. It certainly feels that way at times, so the conversations never go as deep as they could. Maybe people feel pressed for time. In the Sahara an older man told me that in Europe people never have time unlike life in the Sahara. He meant it as a criticism and he was proud of the fact that people in the desert are not constantly glancing at watches or phones to see the time. It is true that time in the Sahara goes by differently, I had the privilege to experience that. There is also such a perfect silence in the desert. Sometimes I felt that I could hear only the hum of the earth and wind blowing through grains of sand. For someone who gets sensory overload in any city, it was such a welcome change. I highly recommend the Sahara Desert to anyone who is suffering from overstimulation in the city. Go walk on a dune alone and just sit there and gaze at the immense blue sky. Bring a sketchbook and draw with pencils, trust me it’s the most relaxing experience ever. I also believe this quality time alone helps to relate to people in a more positive way later on.

Learning To Trust Again

If we pause to think about it, traveling far from home for any length of time is one big trust exercise. Just getting on a plane is a huge leap of faith. Faith in strangers who you may never even meet like the pilot, who you are trusting to not fly the plane into mountains. That got dark but it’s the truth. Then you are arriving in a foreign land and trusting in strangers yet again to find the appropriate lodging, food, etc.

I have many examples of situations where I suddenly needed to find a place to sleep because the original plan fell through. In Tangier Morocco, a hotel owner was kind enough to allow me to stay a night for free even offering me free breakfast and lunch the next day. I’d had a long journey from Essaouira to Tangier and along the way I missed a train and arrived extremely late at night in Tangier. I was able to get a taxi to the Medina but the driver didn’t know where my hotel was. This particular driver insisted on being paid extra because he got lost along the way, nevermind that we still had no idea where the hotel was. I wandered the Medina for a half hour looking for my hotel and was even assisted by some young men who were hanging out late at night. It was a desperate situation because I was overly tired and unsure of the intentions of all these people but it turned out alright in the end. As they say in Morocco, “Hamdula”. In Tokyo Japan, I missed my evening flight to Canada and once again I was thrust into the predicament of finding a place to sleep at night. A friend of my brother offered me a bunk bed at the hostel that he was staying in. Again I had to trust that he was a good person and that I would be able to sleep peacefully. Fortunately, my brothers have very decent friends which is more than I can say for some of my acquaintances. The next day we found a very cool place to have breakfast overlooking the Tokyo cityscape and complete with a drinks bar. Highly recommend the drinks bar in Japan because you can get various drinks and soups for one low price. It’s all about those money saving deals if you’re an independent artist on the road. But I digress, having faith in people, even just some people, can be just as valuable as having a full wallet, maybe even more so. These experiences are priceless and of course, you will have more fuel for the creative fire.