When Hanna, my friend and the owner of Bliss Studio in Paris, suggested I do this exhibition in her space, I took it fairly lightly. I said , 'Sure, why not, sounds fun.' I didn't know the huge task I was taking on, having never done an exhibition or printed my work ever before. I also had no idea the emotional and mental challenge I was taking on. And I had no idea putting on this exhibition would see me thinking so reflectively over the last four years of life and travel and running this blog, where it's all going and where it's been. We were putting everything I'd been working on for the last four years on show.
When I started this blog four years ago from my laptop in London, I didn't have a lot going on. Exhausted, depressed and confused, I'd decided to quit my job, end my lease and leave London, I didn't know where I was going next, all I knew was that I didn't want to do what I'd been doing anymore. I was sleeping amongst various friends' spare rooms and couches until I left the city, my days were pretty empty and I didn't have many ideas for what to do or where to go next. The tiny flicker of light and hope I had was this blog, or the thought of it rather, as I hadn't created it yet. Dreaming up The Travelling Light up was the thing back then that put me in a space to feel the way I wanted to feel in life. So maybe I didn't know it at the time, but I somehow followed that feeling, consciously or unconsciously, I kept working on this blog just because it made me happy and gave me hope, even though it made no sense for someone with no income to spend time creating this.
The Travelling Light became like a guiding force, it helped me navigate life. I knew if this blog could make me feel this good, other things in my life could and should too and that I should hold out and wait for those things, amongst many tests, trials and errors along the way. That good feeling grew and grew in my life until now I feel like I'm at a point where I get to feel this feeling most of the time with the things that make up my life. I'm glad I followed that flicker of a feeling. It didn't make any sense but I guess it does now looking back with four years of story and perspective to go with it.
Putting on this exhibition brought up a lot of resistance and fear in me. At many points during the short two weeks we had to plan and execute the whole thing, I rode an emotional rollercoaster from nervousness to imposter syndrome, from inferiority complexes to excitement and the joy of creating to a complete inability to do or plan anything some days. I think they call this rollercoaster the creative process.
The word for exhibition in French is exposition and I was reminded every time I uttered those words that I was doing just that, exposing myself. I was about to expose all the things I treasure and have created, all the things I think are good, what I'm capable of, to my friends who I admire so much, many of whom are creatives, writers and photographers, and complete strangers too here in Paris. Bloggers are self-made, self-taught and unpaid, to begin with anyway. There's not much in society that legitimises our craft/s, we make our own, trust our own legitimacy. So to stand up tall as a blogger was scary. Spending hours, days, weeks creating something to sum up my work was far bigger than hitting publish on a blog post or share on an Instagram post.
Everything with this exhibition happened later than expected because some days I couldn't even bring myself to do the physical things I needed to do to get this up and running. Some days I couldn't bring myself to go to the printer or pick up art supplies because the emotional blocks were so strong at times. I had no idea I had all that resistance in me but the process of working through it and getting it all done eventually anyway was healing, the greatest triumph for me, positive without a doubt.
Many things were pointing me towards saying yes to this exhibition, signs saying this was something I should be doing. A big sign was that my artist sister, Louise, just happened to be in Paris for the entire duration of the set-up and the exhibition, and was happy to help me out. We're a good team and we work together on our branding agency, The Light Studio, very closely, her from Melbourne, me from Paris. She's the artist, the creative director, the graphic designer, I'm the strategist, the writer, the project manager. Her creative mind sparked the idea for the dying and dried flowers and the crystals interspersed throughout the photos and stories and she also lovingly and painstakingly created the beautiful decomposing flower installation in the window. I spent the last four years of life 'finding the light' on my travels and ultimately came to the conclusion that the light is everywhere anyway. It's in beautiful things and not beautiful things, in perfect things and imperfect things, the decomposing flowers represented that imperfect beauty, the crystals represented the light, present in every thing.
Here's the letter I had on show at the exhibition and lots of pics to follow from the preparations, the final exhibition and the vernissage viewing night in Paris. The stories we chose as the 12 to put on show were Maitreyi Village in India (everyone's favourite story during the exhibition), Midigama Beach in Sri Lanka, Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Scopello in Sicily, Nyepi Day in Bali, Gay Pride Day in Amsterdam, Our Land Island in India, Hope Beauty Salon in Phnom Penh (the second favourite story), Cabin on a Lake in France, Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen, Tea Tree Lake in Byron Bay and the Rooftops in Paris.
All photos by The Travelling Light, Louise McKnoulty and Ula Blocksage
After four years of travel and nomadic life with a few stops in my hometown, Brisbane, Australia in between, I discovered you can find the light wherever you are. It’s in the trees, it’s in your best friend, it’s in the ground you walk on, in the food you eat, in the water, the sky and even in everything manmade.
While I know you don’t have to travel to find the light, or connection, joy, beauty, inspiration, truth, because it’s everywhere, I certainly found it and felt it on my travels. I got to know this feeling and I practiced it, holding the light, by experiencing all these beautiful, foreign things.
Working online as a blogger and freelancer, I got to travel all around and experience 16 different cultures up-close and fairly in-depth, spending a month or more in each place, living in 24 different houses and apartments in the process and meeting too many people to ever keep count.
I found the light in regular people going about their daily routines different from mine back home. I found it in foreign landscapes, different colours from the land I knew. I found it in exotic food, flora, fauna, the changing temperature of the sea and the air. I found it in all the travellers, enlivened by all they experienced, looking all over the world for something, just like me.
Through it all I found that I always had the light in me anyway, at my darker times as well as my happier ones, at the airport, in transit, at home and in the beautiful, wild moments too. I could find the light, hold the light anywhere because it came from me.
Here are some of my most treasured places, moments and people from the last four years of travelling and documenting it all for my blog, The Travelling Light.
I’ll keep travelling all over, finding the light away and here in Paris, my new home. But I’ll know I really always have the light with me wherever I go.