Europe19: Reflections from my 3 month trip

August 23, 2019 | 8 Comments

It’s time to finally wrap up my articles from this year’s massive 14 week trip in Europe (Italy, Scotland, France, Spain and the Netherlands).

And to continue a tradition, it’s time to share a few reflections from my time away. I’ve been back for just over two weeks, so in some ways my trip is still fresh. In other ways it feels as if it were a lifetime ago!

1. Too long a trip?

Here are a few thoughts on my 14 weeks of travel:

  • This year’s trip was three weeks longer than last year’s (14 vs 11 weeks) and that additional three weeks made a big difference to how long the trip felt. My basic itinerary for the two years was the same – teaching in Italy, visiting my sister in Scotland, a little bit of European travel (including one quieter week to catch up on work) and then the Urban Sketchers Symposium. The extra three weeks was added this year primarily because of teaching two additional Palladian Odyssey tours in Umbria. So the extra three weeks this year were ‘full-on’ ones but I don’t feel as if they added significantly to travel fatigue.
  • So how did I go travelling for that length of time? I loved it and was totally fine with living out of a suitcase for 14 weeks. I did start to miss my washing machine and the ability to have a simple home-cooked meal with fresh veggies, but apart from that, I really love living out of a suitcase and having minimal possessions. This year I really established some streamlined routines for packing and unpacking as I moved from place to place. I did start to miss my family in Sydney but that was offset by the special time I had with family in Scotland.
  • I tried to schedule some downtime into the itinerary ( 2.5 weeks on the Isle of Lewis and 1 week in Gouda) but as I was at places where I had family or friends, I didn’t have the serious recharge time I had last year when I was staying in a small village totally on my own. But overall, even though I was with people most of the trip I did have enough solo time.
  • As I was working most days during the trip, it wasn’t a vacation, so it wasn’t at all hard to slip back into my work when I came home. Working in ahotel room on small tables with uncomfortable chairs was the main problem.
  • Excessive baggage – my 13 sketchbooks and all the art supplies collected along the way (purchased or from goodies bag at the symposium)  – was a big issue but one that I had planned for. So sending an expensive parcel home at the 6 week mark, paying for additional baggage and buying a new suitcase was simply what I had to do.
  • Perhaps the one issue which feels a touch overwhelming (but in a good way) is the abundance of rich experiences I had. I look through my sketchbooks and what I see is not simply the artwork on the pages. It’s all the special times which are encoded into the lines and washes. When I share my images online all you see is the image, but for me I’m filled with incredible memories. I had so many precious moments in such a short period of time that it’s impossible to process them. It’s hard to express this feeling in words, but I hope this makes a little sense.

But to answer my question – was is too long a trip? I started to think about going home at the week 12 mark, so maybe that was the limit. There is something special that happens with my art when I am sketching non-stop for an extended period, so the benefits of a long trip totally outweigh the inconveniences of travel.

2. It’s always about the people

The highlight of any trip is always the people who were part of it. So of course that was true for this trip as well! As I mentioned above – when I look at my sketchbooks I don’t see amazing cities, impressive buildings, beautiful landscapes and yummy food. I see time spent with people!

I had four incredible weeks teaching as part of the Palladian Odyssey tours (and BTW there are still some places available for the Veneto tour!), spending time with my sister and family, with very close church friends and lots of sketchers everywhere I went!

A number of sketchmeets in the locations where I wasn’t teaching was a really special way of connecting with more people and I will definitely do more of that in the future.

My mind is buzzing with all the ideas and thoughts I have as a result of conversations during my trip. I’m just not sure I can do them all justice.

(Note: these photos only show a few of the people I spent time with during my trip!)

And also there are a lot of new friends I made along the way as a result of my sketching!


3. Too much work

I have a new online course beginning in a few weeks time and to be able to have this ready for a September start I had to do a lot of work while I was in Europe. I had planned for this and was very happy to spend time reviewing videos and writing handouts, but it was a burden throughout most of the trip.

I’m certainly not complaining as I love what I do, and to run your own business you have to work hard! But it was a big lesson learnt: don’t plan to work on any SketchingNow projects while overseas.

I’m totally happy to put the hours in when I’m in Europe but I realised there were a lot of opportunities for creating some travel sketching projects. So next time I have a big trip I’ll block out my time to focus on my art and explore more options for sketching-based projects while I’m overseas.

4. New sketchbook format, more sketching

This trip I changed from the landscape format A4 moleskine to the portrait one and I absolutely loved it!

I will write a separate article about it later (I promise – but please be patient!) but in summary the format was so much easier to use and freed me up to sketch more. I also started working bigger – in essence I was often doing an A3 size sketch.

As a result I went through more sketchbooks than I expected – filling nearly 13 books! (My initial estimate was 10-11 books.)

5. Sketching developments

Spending 14 weeks non-stop sketching obviously had a positive impact on my sketching. Here are a few thoughts that I had about my work:

  •  I feel as if my use of watercolour developed but I haven’t had a chance to really define it yet. But the most significant aspects are that I started using more water in my palette but at the same time using less water in my brush! If you are enrolled in SketchingNow Watercolour please check out the bonus video in Lesson 1 which I recorded mid-way through the trip for more details about this.
  • An idea which was floating in the back of my mind all the time was to say more with less.
  • As a result of feeling more comfortable with the portrait format, I think that I took more risks with my sketching this trip and there are a lot more quick ink sketches scattered throughout my books.
  • I’m always trying to include a broad range of subject matter in my sketches and this year was more varied than previous trips. I started drawing people in the first few weeks of the trip but somehow that fell by the wayside, and the symposium was so busy that I didn’t even sketch people in Amsterdam.

In general I’m very happy with my collection of sketchbooks and hope to record some flip-through videos in the coming weeks.


Anyway… I could go on and on for hours about my massive trip. It was truly an incredible experience and I’m so thankful that at this stage in my life I’m able to travel and remote work overseas so much.

I’m also extremely thankful to Mike Botton and Chantal Vincent. Mike does such an incredible job as tour director for Palladian Odyssey and it was such a pleasure to work with him for 5 weeks in Italy this trip! He is such a fun sketcher to hang out with to and makes sure I always have enough food. And Chantal did a truly outstanding work holding the fort for SketchingNow throughout the three months and making my work so much easier in so many ways.

And finally thank YOU for coming along and especially a big thanks if you have left comments for me here on the blog. I really appreciate it!



  • Sabine Koch says:

    I always liked your sketches but on this trip they grew better and better! Your first photo with all these sketchbooks is so beautiful.

  • Carmel Campbell says:

    You are amazing filling so many sketchbooks not just with sketches but memories. I cannot imagine living out of a suitcase for 14 weeks. After three weeks I can hardly wait to boil the kettle or start some coffee or get out of the jeans I have been wearing for a couple of weeks. Thanks for sharing your trip with us. Traveling is fun, and I agree, mostly because of people you met on your way.

  • Rhonda Roebuck says:

    Hi Liz, I loved reading about the trip! It is great to hear how you adapt to all the different venues and to learn about the materials you use. Thanks for taking the time to post all this information.

  • Ellen Agger says:

    I’m a new sketcher and a huge fan of yours, Liz. I am savouring your posts and have been following your trip with great interest. It was so fun to recognize Assisi in that first photo block! I spent time there this past May at the wonderful Calendimaggio festival, a medieval festival to welcome spring. Although I wasn’t able to sketch much on my trip (which I hope will change on my next one), I want to still make some sketches from photos I took. Your 14 week observations and reflections really resonated with me. Thanks for all you do and for sharing so well!

  • Ah…the memories those sketchbooks hold. I think being away from home for 14 weeks has to be hard. When I travel for a long time I am usually ready to head home by the end of 4 weeks. I tend to rent apartments whenever I can. I like having the space to spread out a bit and the room to work indoors if I need to. Also I usually have the convenience of having a washing machine which makes life much easier, and I can make breakfast if I want. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your sketches. It was great seeing you again in Amsterdam even if it was just for a moment.

  • Long says:

    Hi Liz,
    I am a registered nurse and a designer and big fan of you. I don’t have time to draw at the moment but I will :D. Love your blog. Hopefully, you can share an article about what you bring for any sketching tour :D.
    Long from Hobart, TAS

  • Brenda Porter says:

    Dear Liz,
    I am adventure travel guide and so travel a lot. I loved how you emphasized how sketching brings back wonderful memories of the people in the beautiful places you visited.
    Thank you again for sharing all of your lessons learned

  • JC Brown says:

    Hi Liz-. Enjoying this all vicariously…dream of coming along with you to an exotic locale someday! Thank you for sharing, tho you must be exhausted. I simply don’t know how you do it all.

    Grateful as ever.


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