Jolie Guillebeau

Archive for March, 2013

193 and 35. Completion.

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Here’s the whole globe in all its glory.

Strangely, until I uploaded the photo here, I hadn’t noticed the shape of the shadow on the left. Do you see the man standing there?

Normally, I think I’d probably tweak something like that, since it could be distracting. But since I was thinking of a particular man as I was painting this globe, I kind of love that this one appears here.

193 and 55.

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

One week from today, we’ll arrive in Norway. It will be my 55th country, and Chris’s 193rd country.

Chris has been calling it “The End of the World” and while I think that might be true for him, for me it’s just the end of an era.

He’s been on this quest for more than seven years and it’s pretty incredible to think that he’ll have been to every country on the planet.

Meanwhile, I’ll have a completed globe here for you tomorrow.

To infinity and beyond…

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

In 2006, we returned to the States to live. My chances to practice being brave just kept multiplying.

The biggest part of being brave for me was finding my own adventures. Chris and I traveled together once or twice a year, and now I’ve been to 54 countries, but the bigger adventure for me was learning to find my own way. Even though we’d been on all these adventures and I had so many great stories, I’d never really traveled alone. Even more importantly, I’d never really been alone for more than a day or two.

So when Chris decided to visit every country in the world, I resisted. The idea of two weeks alone was terrible. But just like before, he nudged me to find my braver self.

This has mostly been his journey. He’s the one who has slept on airport floors, ridden in crowded busses, eaten granola bars for days at a time. But it’s been mine, too. I’ve come to a place where being alone isn’t so terrible anymore.

I’m at home in myself. Wherever that takes me.


Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Over the next four years, I had lots of opportunities to test that principle about being brave.

Traveling to ten countries a year leads to more and more bravery. As does living in a tiny space with hundreds of other people.

Sometimes my bravery was obvious. I stood on deck at one in the morning, while our ship was in the Bay of Benin and managed to stay calm while a fire destroyed a large part of our ship’s engine room. Even more terrifying, I learned to drive a manual transmission in an IKEA parking lot in Bremerhaven, Germany.

I scolded a pickpocket in Freetown when he tried to take my friend’s backpack, and I jumped off the ship to swim in the warm Atlantic, when we had a few extra hours before we were scheduled to arrive in port. I even survived malaria, with only a little complaining.

Of course, the less obvious bravery may have been the most significant, even though the stories aren’t as fun to tell. Being brave when confronting a parent whose child needed better care than our small school could offer. Or standing up for myself when another crew member wasn’t kind. Those moments of bravery stick with me the most.

So while I kept counting countries, the bigger and better result of my willingness to say yes was the chance to continue being brave. And that was worth more than just thirty stamps in my passport.


Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Technically, adventure didn’t come calling, but a certain adventurer did. By the time I met Chris, I’d ignored that longing for adventure for so long, that I’d almost forgotten it existed.

But he reminded me of the fun of adventure.

When we were in college, he’d been to every state but Maine, and five other countries. I’d been to every state that borders Alabama, plus Virginia and Louisiana. In other words, I’d never left the South.

He was the most well-traveled person I knew.

And of course, he still is.


Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The globe sat on my dresser long after it ceased to be useful. In fact, I’m thinking that my weakness in Eastern European geography is because I still have a picture in my mind of how borders there looked in 1984 when my globe was made.

But the globe taught me more than geography. It was a talisman—a promise of adventures to come. I had plans. Plans that included the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Northern Lights. There were also plans for museum visits, meals in Spain, the Colosseum in Rome and Stratford-upon-Avon.

I wanted it all.

But I was just a girl from Alabama who cried every night of summer camp, so I wasn’t sure all that adventure was really an option for me.

I was always torn between the longing for adventure and the need for security. So I kept my longing for adventure neatly bottled away, because I was afraid.

Lucky for me, adventure came calling.


Thursday, March 21st, 2013

I had a slow start to our adventuring. First, I had to finish college. And paying for school while working at the Boys and Girls Club doesn’t quite leave much money for travel.

Though we saved for a year for our first trip to New York City, then later we went to Montreal, I was 25 years old before I finally crossed an ocean. Then I made up for it. Before my 26th birthday, I’d been to ten countries.

That was a big leap for a little girl who cried at summer camp. But I was ready. I’d become a different person– one who had learned how to say yes. I was on my way to finding one of the principles that has governed me since then. I learned it on a roller coaster ride in Montreal, and again one night in the car as we talked over our future life.

It’s this: I’ll never regret being brave.

So as we pondered what to do with our life, I realized this was our chance. If I didn’t say yes right now, we were never going to leave our condo and our Toyota Corolla. We’d always just be waiting for some adventure to come along.

So in the summer of 2002, we spent six weeks in China and Thailand, with a stopover in Japan. Then we left that fall for a big adventure that led us overseas for four years. We joined a ship on the north coast of Germany that became our home. Within just a few months I’d been to ten different countries.

Of course, Chris had gotten a head start, but he was only five countries ahead. I was pretty sure with the right planning, I might be able to catch up with him.


Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

First, before we continue with the story– in the interest of accountability I must correct some facts from yesterday. My mom called.

This was Christmas 1984. And she says we went to see 101 Dalmations, but I’m still sure it’s Pinocchio. (A quick search on Wikipedia proves me right about the movie, but wrong about the year.)

Anyway, the globe definitely arrived that year. And like Pinocchio, I was itching for adventure. I was seven, and I was certain that I wanted to live in Paris and be an artist.

I’d sit on the green carpet in that room with Sandy and MaryJo– two teenage girls that were often left babysitting me, and we’d spin the globe and close our eyes and point. Where ever our finger landed when the globe stopped was where we were going to live when we grew up.

I always demanded another spin if my finger landed anywhere but France. Though most of the time my finger landed in the Pacific Ocean.

Of course, no matter where I landed I always had to pause the game and go look up that country in my World Book Encyclopedia, because I wanted to know everything. Eventually, my mom gave up and moved them up to my room instead of attempting to keep them on the shelf downstairs.

I guess that Wikipedia search at the beginning of this story proves that somethings don’t change.

193 and 35.

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Christmas 1983 was pretty much the best Christmas of all time. Others have been pretty good, but 1983 is the standard to which the rest must aspire.

We’d just moved into a new house and I got the pink bedroom with the green carpet. It was terribly green, but fairly new, so my mom didn’t want to replace it just because the color was horrid.

For some reason, my bedroom furniture didn’t move with us– I don’t remember exactly why. Looking back, I’m guessing it’s because Santa was already planning for Christmas Eve and didn’t want to have to move the furniture twice.

My mom and I went to a movie on Christmas Eve. We sawPinocchio and I was terrified of the giant whale.

While we were at the movies, “Santa” came to our house early. We came home to discover my bedroom door taped shut, bells hung on the doorknob and a sign that said, “Do not open until Christmas Morning.”

We spent a very long time looking under the door, but couldn’t see much. Finally my mom convinced me to go to bed– I slept in her room that night. (Conveniently, Santa had left a pair of pajamas on her bed for me.)

Christmas morning we woke up and opened the door. I found a whole new set of bedroom furniture and yellow walls instead of pink. The yellow matched the green carpet perfectly. Everything was so pretty– it was white wicker with a white wrought iron bedframe and little flowers on the bedspread and curtains.

Santa had left my other presents in there too. And on top of my new dresser was a globe. I spent hours sitting on that green carpet with that globe over the next few years.

More tomorrow…

Tea for Two (Squared)

Friday, March 15th, 2013

As part of the year of light, I pledged to paint things with lighter backgrounds. I’d gotten pretty comfortable with the cool grey background that had become such a part of my painting process, and decided I needed to change it up a bit.

This is the perfect example of why that pledge has been so much fun. Painting white objects on a white tablecloth is not for the faint of heart, and I really labored over getting the tones just right.

I made a few jokes about a recent popular book title as I kept painting more and more shades of grey in to some of the shadowy spots on the table, and I kept worrying that everything was too dark all around and it wouldn’t read as white.

You can watch it grow here– each piece looks pretty dark, yes?

But once I put it all together, it surprised me– in a happy way. I hope you love it too.