This article was originally published in the Sketchnote Army blog on 25 April 2016.
I prepared well in advance all practical details of this solo trip to India, like visa, vaccines, drugs, itinerary, hotels, etc. My goal was a journey which makes me grow internally rather than only enjoy the visit to tourist places. Therefore I also prepared myself to accept the unexpected as part of the journey. See my sketchnotes one month before leaving about that.
I also prepared carefully my material for photography and for sketchnotes. Considering my desire to travel light, I chose the essentials only. One notebook, 3 black markers (0.2, 0.5, 0.8), one marker for shadows, my favourite black pencil, a set of Faber-Castell watercolour pencils, an eraser and a pencil sharpener. All these preparations turned out to be what I’ve had need, no more no less.
One thing only did not go as I had imagined it: sketchnoting on place! Before leaving I planned to sketch during the day and every evening what I’ve seen, learnt and experienced during that day. This plan was based on wrong assumptions; that I would have had the availability, the right conditions and the proper mental state. I was immediately faced to a different reality.
My first days were very intense with a tour by car (with a driver with me). I visited many cities and beautiful sites on the pre-established itinerary from Delhi to Jaipur, then Agra, then Delhi again.
See the photos and the sketchnotes. During these days I changed the itinerary on the spot from time to time to follow my intuition or my driver’s advices.
Taking notes in the car while traveling was quickly discarded due to the mad Indian traffic or due to the bad road conditions. I was only able to write down keywords and some signs on the corner of my pages. At night, after a shower and a good vegetarian dinner (in different places every night) I was so exhausted that I felt unable to take decent notes or to draw. I still was thinking about my second week to do that correctly.
After the tour by car, I left my driver in Delhi and, alone, continued my trip by train, towards the north. Well, I finally managed to start to fill in some pages in the train. It’s worth to mention that this was possible only because this train offered me good conditions to do it. This was far to be the case in the train on return one week later.
During my stay in Haridwar and in Rishikesh I was again faced to the same difficulties to take notes. Traveling by bus, tuk tuk or rickshaw is worse than by car. But I continued writing down keywords and signs, many signs, on another small notebook that I bought locally. Then I arrived in the Phool Chatti ashram, a heaven on earth, for a retreat of one week. I was expecting to have time to sketch, to write, to draw. Again, wrong assumptions… The daily schedule of the ashram was intense; see one of my sketchnotes on it.
I also spent the free time of my first days washing my dirty clothes. I had the opportunity to work on my sketchnotes in the last days of my stay but in the meantime I continued with keywords and signs on the small notebook.
The drawings of the meditative walks are the only pieces that I did on the moment while I was on the place. The watercolor on the banks of the Ganges river is even done with water from the river itself.
My take-aways from this experience concerning sketchnoting:
- Never plan in advance too much, be flexible and ready for the unexpected
- Related to the previous point, and really linked to me: Put aside beauty and draw like it comes naturally on the moment
- In case of lack of time or for any other reason, quickly write down a maximum of information on the spot, can be keywords or simple signs that will remember you what was your idea, your feelings, your impressions, the colours, etc [I use these technique when I practice live graphic harvesting at work during events]
- When visiting, especially in crowd and choppy conditions, just take with you a small blocnote and a pencil. Leave other material in the car or in the room, they will be useless and they only risk to distract you from the essentials
- Photography is also helpful to remember later what was seen to draw it
Last but not least, the best feedback I received on my return after I published my photos and my sketchnotes is about the latter. People told me that they were able to perceive more my emotions through the sketchnotes than through photos. Another proof of the power of handmade sketchnotes.
In the original article on Sketchnotes Army, my friend Mauro added this part at the bottom:
You can see the whole bunch of sketchnotes and photos here:
I’m speechless Claudio! But there is one more of your sketchnotes I want to add to your story.
For our readers: Claudio live and work in Brussels.
Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this story with us, Claudio!