Originally published on PassionPassport.com
When she was three years old, Andrea Muñoz’ mother gave her a pen to keep her occupied. She’s been drawing ever since.
Now, there is a book Andrea keeps with her at all times, tucked in her bag or sitting on her desk.
A quick flip through the book will tell you the story of Andrea’s travels, because each two-page spread is dedicated to a specific city or country. The page on the left holds memorabilia from her trips (flowers, receipts, tickets), and an original sketch of the location occupies the right.
The sketches keep the places alive in Andrea’s memory. Every time she looks through her journal, she is reminded of how she felt while she was there.
Andrea walked through the Roman Forum with her mother and brother, surrounded by centuries old statues and columns. Eventually, they came to a viewpoint overlooking the Colosseum.
She had one overwhelming thought — I have to draw this.
Her mother gave her a scrap piece of paper — the printed ticket for the Forum and Colosseum — and Andrea began drawing on the back.
She sketched and thought about the stories that lived inside the Colosseum — the games, the fun for some and pain for others, the warriors, the spectators. Pictures hadn’t captured how impressive the massive structure in front of her was.
When she drew the final line, she felt as though she had a connection with the place because she’d taken the time to observe instead of simply pausing for a photo. She looked at her sketch, then hurried to meet her family and head inside the Colosseum.
Andrea spotted the tip of the pyramid over the buildings of Cairo as she made her way to the Pyramids of Giza, her first stop in Egypt. A sight she’d watched in documentaries and movies, had seen in her mother’s pictures, and had always dreamed of experiencing in person.
After choosing between a horse and a camel, a guide led her through the sand into the nothingness of the desert. He noticed her camera and expertly took her to the best places for photos, including a hill with a perfect view of the pyramids.
The three pyramids stood, one in front of the other, slowly fading in color to match the sky. The sight overwhelmed Andrea — it was so much more than she had expected.
So she sat down in the sand and pulled out her sketchbook. The guide talked with her while she drew — about the political situation in Egypt, the experience of his coworkers with the tourism industry, and how he wanted to start his own business. He took photos using her camera, capturing details she wouldn’t have thought to photograph or add to her drawing.
Andrea wandered in between an ocean of palm trees and dunes and an endless expanse of water. It took some time before she noticed the two young boys following her.
They posed upon seeing her camera, and wanted to give the photos their approval before she kept going. It didn’t take long for Andrea to realize the boys were still following her.
When she sat down to sketch, the boys came to investigate what she was doing. A disjointed conversation followed — the boys speaking Portuguese to Andrea’s Spanish. Though they couldn’t really communicate, the boys lit up when Andrea handed them some pens and let them color the sand in.
Andrea woke early to get the town to herself. She knew this drawing would take a while because of the detailed houses and windows.
When she found a spot — on the roof of a typical, cave house — she lost herself in the soothing practice of sketching. The blue of the ocean and the blue of the domed buildings combined perfectly with the white.
Shadows changed as the sun rose and Andrea felt grateful she was able to visit a place so peaceful.
A few hours later, as tourists began to crowd around Andrea to see what she was doing, a Greek woman emerged from the house. She yelled in incomprehensible Greek and, when Andrea made no move to leave, grabbed an umbrella from inside and jabbed at the building. Andrea had been sitting on her roof.
Though she found another place to sit nearby, the sketch is a little disjointed because she was forced to change perspectives. It doesn’t matter though, when Andrea looks at her drawing of Santorini, she is reminded that travel is not only about the beautiful things.
Most people didn’t want to go up the mountain, including the Everest base camp trek guide. But Andrea did.
There was nothing else to do at the lodge, so Andrea hiked four hours to the top of Kala Patthar. She passed other hikers, already on their way down, who asked if she was going to the top. It was getting late in the day.
Andrea reached the top an hour before sunset. She looked around, not really believing everything around her was real, took out her sketchbook, and started to draw. Her gloves stayed on because of the cold, though they made it difficult to take the caps off her pens.
Everest’s peak glowed as she finished the last strokes of the sketch, the sun having already sunk behind the mountain. The sketch wasn’t perfect, but how many other people would have Everest in their sketchbook?
Sometimes, Andrea deviates from reality in her drawings. She adds to what she sees in front of her to incorporate all of her experiences in a place.
It could be as simple as adding a fish because she went diving and loves the feeling of being underwater. Or it could be the addition of a waterfall, which she stumbled upon while exploring the island by herself.
It’s more important that she captures the idea of a place and not worry about if she has drawn it in perfect likeness.
People told Andrea to skip Stonehenge, but she’d been there with her mother and brother, and when she got there, she couldn’t imagine skipping it. The grass was swollen with green and the sun was setting behind the standing stones.
As she sat, taking in the atmosphere, she couldn’t help but think about how much she’d grown. Her mother and brother were with her the last time she’d been in London, but Andrea hadn’t started documenting her travels in her sketchbook yet.
So she took her time to draw, attempting to capture the ethereal atmosphere and light shining in between the stones. The final product didn’t quite capture real life, but it came close.