Watercolouring her Way Around the World – Interview with Candace

“It’s been 12 years since my last art lesson, but recently I decided to spend less time in front of a [computer] screen when I travel” 

When I heard Candace declare this on a video a few years ago my interest was instantly piqued.

How many amongst us have also not drawn since primary school?
Yet are prepared to give it a go?

If you can’t see the video:  Click here http://youtu.be/MFE6lVpQmn8

She explained in the video how sketching… “makes me stop. As a photographer the images I want to capture are almost never-ending. With my sketchbook in hand I become the camera.”

As someone who takes way too many photographs I loved her concept of letting the places she visited adjust her aperture as she tentatively embarked upon her new way of recording global impressions… and within two years, Candace has published her first book of travel sketches – Beneath the Lantern’s Glow, which she compiled on a trip to South-East Asia last year -

So, here, as part my series of interviews with travellers who offer inspirational ways of recording travel memories, I asked her…


1. Why keep a travel journal?

I’ve always kept a travel journal for the same reason many people do – to remember the small details that fall away so quickly after a trip ends:

  •    the names of restaurants and new foods
  •          how long a particular bus or train journey took
  •                the sounds and smells of each city.

But then about three years ago, I began doing on-location watercolour sketches in my journal. Sometimes they were of a complete scene, other times a smaller snapshot.

Dublin sketch by Candace

“What are we drawing here?” asks the barman, Joe
“This,” I say, gesturing at the pub

It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with travel sketching. One thing I love about it is that it has changed the way I move through the world – sketching slows me down and helps me observe a place with more focused eyes. It helps me pay more attention.

The second reason is that people are very quick to approach you when you’re sketching. There’s something about art that transcends language and cultural barriers; it opens the door to serendipitous encounters that might never have happened had I not been sketching in one place for several hours.

Candace Sketching in Japan

Sketching opens the door to serendipitous encounters that might never have happened had I not been sketching in one place for several hours.

In a way, my sketchbook also helps create the moments I record in it. I might head to a café to draw a street-scape, start talking with the man next to me, and then jot down a line or two from our dialogue on the sketch itself. Sketching has become both my muse and medium on the road – it creates the very stories I love to tell, stories of connection and serendipity, and I now can’t imagine ever travelling without my sketchbook.

Veli Iz sketch by Candace

“Isn’t it easier to take a photo with your mobile?”asks Stan

2. What do you include in your travel journal?

As much as I can!
Besides sketches and writing, I love including

  • ticket stubs
  •    maps
  •       postcards
  •          stickers
  •             pressed flowers
  •                business cards from hotels and restaurants
  •                   brochures for companies we used, and
  •                      any other ephemera that will trigger my memory in the future –
  •                         for instance, a used sugar packet from a favourite café.

Candace Journal - Porto

3. How do you keep your journal?

When I first started sketching, I still kept everything together in the same journal (usually an A4 spiral-bound sketchbook), and I mixed in pages of writing with sketches and ephemera. But about a year after I started sketching, I began sharing my sketches with other people – be it on my blog, on other websites, or even in magazine articles. This shift necessitated a change in sketchbooks as well – so I now do the sketches in their own book, and I carry a Moleskine for the writing and ephemera-collecting.

On the drawing side of things, I try to do all of my sketches on-location. Sometimes rain or nightfall will force me indoors, but I really enjoy doing the entire process – from outlining the sketch in pencil, to filling in the details with pen, to finally adding colour with paints – right there on the spot.

Candace sketching - Vienna

I try to do all of my sketches on-location.


For me, sketching is all about capturing the essence of a place and telling the story of your time there, and I find that finishing the sketch where you began it gives a nice sense of completion to that particular story.


Vienna sketch by Candace

‘The glass of water every coffee is served with -
“For dishwashing,”
our server Rene jokes’

In addition to the actual picture I’m sketching, I also enjoy including little annotations on the sketch itself – these are usually sensory observations, snippets of dialogue from either a conversation I had during the sketch or from one I overheard, and even small haiku-like reflections on how I’m feeling that day, or how the sketch is going. I find these notes add another layer to the story the sketch is telling, and that they take it beyond a purely visual creation.

4. How often do you update your travel journal?

I update it daily.
Now that I keep two separate books – my sketchbook and my travel journal – I try to do at least one sketch a day, but the frequency of my note taking varies. Some days, I simply paste in that day’s ephemera with a couple of lines in my journal; other times I sit down over a beer or coffee at the end of the day and write out a few pages of thoughts and notes. 

5. What is your favourite piece of travel journaling equipment?

It would have to be my Winsor & Newton watercolour field kit – a wonderful gift from two friends soon after I started sketching.

Candace sketching supplies


Although I also bring along a sketchbook, drawing pens, watercolor pencils, squirrel-hair paintbrush, and glue sticks for pasting in ephemera, nothing compares to bringing a sketch to life with colour.


6. Why does this type of travel journaling work for you?

Before I began sketching, I barely remembered places – because I let my camera do all the work for me, I moved through a city quickly and my journal tended to focus on personal reflections that unfolded during the trip. The reason that keeping a travel sketchbook works for me is because I myself become the camera. Sketching opens up my mind and imprints the intricate details of a new place on it.

There’s a quote I love by Frederick Franck:

“When I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle.”

I feel the same could be said of travel sketching – that even when we’re drawing an ordinary scene, it has this way of becoming alive and full of meaning. The mundane is made magical.

Candace Sketching - Mostar

I never forget the people I met while sketching.

I never forget the places I sketch, because of how present I was during the process – and more importantly, I never forget the people I met while sketching.



Candace Rose Rardon is a travel writer and sketch artist originally from the state of Virginia, although she has also called the UK, New Zealand, and India home.

She recently released her first book of travel sketches, “Beneath the Lantern’s Glow: Sketches and stories from Southeast Asia and Japan”.
Her blog: The Great Affair
Connect with Candace on Twitter and/or Facebook:

                                    Candace Rardon on twitter  Candace on Facebook



Do you keep any form of travel journal?

Contact me if you’d like to share how *you* recount your travel memories -
Allow us to take a peek in *your* ‘journal  :)


Share a few tips in the comments below


Journey Jottings... highlights your holiday adventures

Exploring Kings Canyon from Down Under – The Kings Creek Walk

Looking up at the sheer canyon walls from the shady tree lined creek bed I could make out pimply protuberances sticking out along the top -
People… up on the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, were leaning out over the edge admiring the view or snapping a photie of the stunning red rugged cliff face, which from my vantage point, down here on the canyon-floor required no such antics!

Kings Canyon Walls looking up at people along the top

I’ve enlarged them for you in the picture above on the left, which is clipped from the top left of the right hand photo… that gives a sense of scale!

This was our second day visiting Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park.
 (pron Wah-tah-kah), named in 1989 is the local Luritja people’s name for the Umbrella bush (Acacia ligilata), which is a common plant on the sand plains in the region.

Watarrka National Park map

Watarrka – Kings Canyon is in the red centre of Australia

Assuming bigger must be best, meaning a 6km (3.75 miles) challenging Rim walk must be better than an easy 2km (1.25 miles) Creek stroll, we’d tackled the 500 (or so) steps taking us up and around the Kings Canyon Rim Walk (click the link for the full story!) on our first day, so we’d already circumnavigated the canyon around the top getting some bird’s eye views of the sheer sides that appeared to be oh-so crisply cut right down to the canyon floor, where the Kings Creek Walk that we were doing today meandered.

Kings Canyon Rim Walk

Down here on the creek bed, it was a very different place to the harsh environment up on the rim where the sun not only beats down from overhead, but also rebounds back up from the barren red hot rock underfoot.
Down here is where the Luritja people would have lived.
Sheltered from the extremes of the weather.
Down here there was a sense of protection and I could feel the life and the footsteps that had gone before me
- and I don’t mean those of tourists!

River Red Gums in Kings Creek

The River Red Gum known as Itara (pron I-tar-ah) in the local Luritja tongue were an important food source.
Ngapari (pron nah-pah-ri), a white sugary scale that forms on the River Red Gum leaves was collected by the women as they shook the branches making bits of the sweet crust fall either into a receptacle or onto a flat rock below, where it was swept together with a small branch and packed into a ball for sharing.

River Red Gums on the Kings Creek Walk

Then, there are the big white grubs - maku (pron mah-koo), which live at the bottom of long tubes leading from the surface down to the roots of the River Red Gums when they’ve been exposed by flood-waters. The women put a long piece of hooked grass down these tubes and would pull the grub out quickly to then cook on hot coals.

Kings Canyon from Kings Creek

Aboriginals appreciate their precious landscapes.

They look up to and bestow a healthy respect to the land-forms that support them.

And as the canyon walls rose up to encompass and embrace us it also signaled that we were reaching the end of our permitted trail.

In these lower reaches aboriginal families would have camped together - But the women and children, like us visitors, would not venture further into the canyon’s inner secret folds.

Beyond this point lies a hidden world where mens’ private ceremonies were performed.

The end of the Kings Creek walk

It was here, at our turning point, that we came upon a side channel of water remaining in this otherwise dry creek.
As we stood beside this pool there was a sense of sanctuary and oneness with nature when a pair of yellow and white birds came in to drink – sharing this life giving resource.

And there was evidence of years of previous occupation at the edge of the pool – small wells for storing water, which covered with a rock would have preserved this liquid gold from evaporation so when the main pool finally disappeared leaving exposed dry rock, a final vestige would be saved for survival.

Plant life in the Kings Creek river bed

Also of interest on the far side was the remains of a huge woody plant base – that looked ancient.

I have no idea what it was – Just that it resembled in shape an enormous hollowed out sea urchin shell! (if you know do tell in the comments below!)

But no matter what it was – “that thing belongs here“.

Traditional owners of Watarrka ask that you respect their trees

Trees are precious and important -
The traditional owners of Watarrka ask that you respect them

And as we prepared to leave this special place, I caught sight of this stunning reflection of the canyon walls in this precious pool of liquid life.

Kings Canyon reflected in a pool of water

Circumnavigating the Canyon around the top on the Kings Canyon Rim Walk (6km)
and then penetrating the base of the canyon walls up the creek-bed walk (2km)
offered two very different perspectives.

Is one better than the other?

Or is it a simple case of…

they’re different :)


Story Map of walking up Kings Creek, below Kings Canyon

My Story Map of Walking Kings Creek to view Kings Canyon from Down Under


How To Plan a Trip – Interview with Pretraveller

Travelling comprises of:

  • Dream
  •      Plan
  •           Experience
  •                Share 

Here, on Journey Jottings, we mainly talk about the second two – travel experiences and how to record those memories for sharing and future enjoyment.
But some people don’t only journal after the event, they focus on effectively turning their dreams into plans before they go. 

Anne, of Pretraveller is the go-to person for pulling together your trip before you set off so I asked her, as part of my series of interviews with travellers who offer inspirational ways of recording travel memories, how does she create a pre-travel journal to plan a trip?


1. Why prepare a ‘pre-travel journal’ to plan a trip?

The process of planning a trip provides me with almost as much pleasure as actually going! I enjoy coming up with travel ideas and seeing if we can make them work within our travel budget.

If I have anything which would constitute a ‘pre-travel journal’…

it would be my travel spreadsheets.

One of the first things I do when thinking about a trip is to put together a rough itinerary and costing. Depending on the size of the trip and my familiarity with the destination this can be either a quick or lengthy undertaking.

Spreadsheet Itinerary

Unfortunately as a family of five who can only travel during the school holidays if you want to fly anywhere the costs really add up quickly. For example my husband was keen on the idea of having a white Christmas in Europe. I put the spreadsheet together and for a four week trip it added up to over $A30,000. We decided that we really didn’t want to have to wait to save up that much money and that it would be better to do cheaper trips more often and save the Europe idea for the future.

I have subsequently put together spreadsheets for shorter trips of approximately 2 weeks duration to central Australia, the Darwin region, the North Island of New Zealand and Vietnam as well as a few more local road trip options. For my family the costs for these trips start from about $A7,000 which is still a lot of money but is much more affordable. We intend to do one of these trips in 2015 once we have saved up the money required.

With my husband returning to work we anticipate that we should be able to do a bigger trip every two years and still achieve our other savings goals.

2. What do you include as part of your pre-travel planning?

My key tools to put together an itinerary are:

  • A spread sheet to accumulate the travel information together
  • On-line flight website
  • Google Maps
  • On-line vehicle hire or transportation websites, and
  • Destination tourist websites.

In my travel spreadsheets I include a lot of web-links to the sites I’ve referenced. I usually also build up a specific folder of internet bookmarks for a particular trip. These days I mostly put things together on-line so it is unlikely that I will have much hard-copy material in advance of a trip.

In the past we have bought guidebooks and maps etc as you can see below!

Pretraveller Travel References


These days I do not make a decision about whether to purchase travel information until we are actually already committed to a particular trip. And sad to say my guide book buying days may be over…

Once we are in a position to start booking a trip I will also keep all of the booking details in my now more detailed spreadsheet and I will also start putting together a document holder to keep copies of booking confirmations.

3. How do you keep your pre-travel plans?

While preparing for a trip my notes and information are mostly within my spreadsheet. When I shift from the top level planning phase into the detailed planning phase I usually go back through and revise the itinerary to confirm that it is still valid, and I also do a lot more on-line research for each place we intend to visit.

Sometimes events happen which will cause me to change our plans.
For example, we were booked to visit the South Island of New Zealand in 2010. One month before we were scheduled to depart the first Christchurch earthquake occurred. As you can imagine this caused me to revisit our plans. I had already booked accommodation in central Christchurch, so I quickly made a decision that I was not comfortable with that option any more and I cancelled that booking and rebooked into one of the airport hotels. We also reduced the amount of time we had planned for Christchurch and I also ended up reversing our route of travel. So we went clockwise around the South Island which also meshed better with my parents travel plans.

We ended up having a great trip, but a few months later when the second Christchurch earthquake occurred and so many people died I felt that my decision to avoid staying in the city was justified. I also felt a bit of a near miss had occurred because we had briefly visited central Christchurch during our trip and some of the buildings we had visited were ones which later collapsed.

4. How far ahead do you start creating your pre-travel plans?

I can create an initial spreadsheet for a trip sometimes years ahead of the actual trip, or even multiple trip options well in advance.
My initial aim is to come up with ideas that my husband and I can discuss, and we then agree our travel budget allocation to save up for the trip and the likely year it can happen. We do not borrow money for travel or cannibalise our other savings goals so this step is really important.

Once we have the money saved we then shift into the final decision making phase where if we have a few options that we are considering if a good flight deal comes up that will be a factor in our decision making.

Once we shift into the decision making and booking phase my spreadsheets start to contain a lot more information. I usually lock in the critical parts of the trip first and then work through the less critical bookings in slower time.

Now, this all sounds like I micro plan each trip but this is not the case.
At heart I am a mostly ad hoc traveller. I still fondly recall my first trip to Europe where I walked off the aircraft in Berlin not even knowing where I was going to stay that night! All I had was a piece of paper with a rough itinerary of places I was interested in visiting so that I ended up in Rome on time to catch my next flight six weeks later. I did mostly stick to my itinerary but I made a few changes as I went along.

What I plan are the big picture elements

  • the budget
  • a rough itinerary, which is flexible (but I have researched how many days I think we will need in each place or area)
  • I will also book the major transport elements such as flights, hire cars, trains etc,
  • and any obvious accommodation elements.

For example on our New Zealand trip I only pre booked

  • our flights
  • our starting accommodation
  • our hire minibus and
  • our travel insurance.

I had also put together our planned itinerary but we were not locked into it. So I had information about points of interest along the way of things we may wish to visit. Some we did visit and others we didn’t visit. I was happy that we did not pre-book all of our accommodation as initially we shared three bedroom units with my parents. After a couple of nights it became obvious that we really need to be in separate accommodation so I changed my booking approach.

But when my husband and I (pre-kids) visited Europe in 2001 we went in peak tourist season so we did pre-book a lot of the accommodation for the first half of our trip. For the second half we left it flexible as we were shifting to the shoulder season.

5. What is your favourite piece of pre-travel journaling equipment?

My favourite pre-planning ‘equipment’ is Microsoft Excel and the internet.

With these two tools I can create a trip plan for anywhere I want to go!

Favourite equipment for planning a trip - the internet and a spreadsheet

I utilise information from a variety of sources, including

  • other travel blogs
  • tourist websites and
  • operator websites, and
  • I do also utilise guidebooks – but in the early stages of planning I would try to borrow them from the library.

6. Why does pre-travel journaling work for you?

I personally really enjoy the process of planning a trip right from the early stages to the actual trip itself.
In my normal job I am an engineer and project manager so planning is an essential element of my work, so there is a natural fit to me being focused on the planning part of our trips. I don’t see myself as a ‘control freak’ – although my husband may disagree!

What I don’t like is planning a trip which does not come to fruition – that only makes me feel frustrated!

7. And how about after the trip? How do you record that?

I also like to journal my actual trip.
Here are some of our mementos.

Travel mementos

These days I put together photo books rather than photo albums, and I can definitely say that photo books take up a lot less space on the bookshelf for more photos! I usually also keep a travel journal and collect other mementos as we travel.
My husband is a keen amateur photographer so we usually end up with many many photos to choose from and he enjoys the process of taking, sorting and editing the photos. My job is to then put them together with captions and a story into the photo book. 


Anne Sunderland-Smith of Pretraveller

Anne Sutherland-Smith is a spreadsheet queen.
On her travel blog – Pretraveller – she helps people travel with confidence and gives ideas and inspiration for travel destinations.

Click the icons below to connect with Anne on Twitter and/or Facebook

 Pretraveller on twitter   Pretraveller Facebook

Pre-Travel Planning Templates

Editor’s Note: There were so many people in the Comments below feeling they’d like to give Anne’s method of using a Spreadsheet a “go” she’s proffered a link to her website where you can download her Pre-Travel planning templates and also see more of her examples so you too can get the most out of them:

Pre-Travel Planning Templates click here

Do you keep any form of travel journal?

Contact me if you’d like to share how *you* recount your travel memories -
Allow us to take a peek in *your* ‘journal  :)


Share a few tips in the comments below 

Journey Jottings... highlights your holiday adventures