Introducing the “Passport to People Series” where I’ll take you around the globe, via inspiring, creative souls I’ve met while on my travels!
Meet Haley Houseman, the one woman revolution whose musings and creations are housed at hedhouseman.com. I’m cheating a bit on this addition to my Passport to People series since I technically didn’t meet Haley on the road but rather, wandering down the hallways of my high school. But if there was a ever a person who was born a creative, it is Haley. Since our very first encounter, she captivated me with her radiant spirit and endearing quirks. Never have I known a person so self-assured and to be witness to such an electrifying kind of confidence is a very inspiring thing. I liken Haley’s pieces, be it her written work or her illustrations, to modern-day ethnographic inquiries. She reports on a sub-cultural level, giving voice to areas often ignored such as contemporary Wicca and the reclamation of Native American fashion. The way she draws the human form in her pen sketches is as if she’s trapped the very essence of her human subject on paper. As teenagers, we bonded over a shared love of music and the great unknown. After high school, each of us pursued cultural gap years in Asia (hers, in India; mine in Thailand.) She then continued to see the world while attending NYU, studying abroad three times: in Accra, Ghana, Prague, Czech Republic, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a semester at a time. Currently, she continues the balancing act of writer, illustrator, and editor in the breeding grounds of America’s greatest minds: NYC. She is a living, breathing work-of-art who, with great privilege, is also a close friend.
Hello, hello my dear! Tell me up what you’ve been up to!
Uff, so many things. I have my first proper critical essay coming out soon, but the work on that is nearly over. I’ve start – the extremely preliminary stages of – a book, and I’m branching out into making some merchandise from my illustrations for a friend’s shop. I also recently began reading tarot for more than just my friends, which is a really interesting and engaging way of getting to know new people. I tend to keep a lot of plates spinning at once – it’s the curse of the Gemini. I’m never bored, at least!
Hah, the curse of the Gemini! Of course you’re working on a million and one things. What’s playing in the background?
“Mykonos” by Fleet Foxes. It makes me want to pack my suitcases and flee, specifically to Croatia or Greece.
When you’re on the road, what devices are you toting along?
I usually come armed with a notebook and a camera – but I turn both of them to the architecture of the streets and the people who fill them. Like most travelers, I have a fascination with the local, the “authentic’ – but I spent a lot of time studying and deconstructing what that authenticity might look like. I let myself enjoy both the tourist-y part of travel and push myself to engage more deeply when I can. But both are real, are authentic, and engaging. I like to draw neighborhoods, cafes, quotidian things. I like to write about the flavor of the food and the smells – sensations I can’t carry back in a photo. I photograph the things I am terrified I will forget the exact details of, but I go back more to the drawings and writing when I return.
So are you still keep a journal?
I’ve been keeping a semi-daily journal since I was quite small, maybe 9 or 10. My parents always encouraged lots of time spent in my own world, writing and drawing. I wasn’t much of an athlete, but my parents saved all my old sketchbooks the way I imagine some parents saved trophies. Journaling has always been intensely private, and I don’t even really go back and read through them. I keep them as a matter of habit, to clear out the senses, make writing a practice rather than a chore. I have my journal with me pretty much at all times, and use any downtime I have, like waiting rooms or commuting, to work out what I’m thinking.
As I’ve developed as a writer into someone thinking about published work, my journal has become a space to write out my first impressions of what I’m reading, or current events, cultural events I’m thinking about. I keep a separate notebook for sketching, and another for polished notes on reading that I come back to. I also keep a file of notes on index cards for my book.
While traveling, has there ever been a moment that has left an imprint in your soul?
The freedom of being truly and properly alone in a foreign place – any foreign place – was a total revelation to me. I grew up quite sheltered, quite protected, and the independence was totally mind-blowing. It changed how I see the world, and my conception of what possibilities exist. Now I have these wandering feet that just won’t quit.
Do you connect more to people, animals, architecture, landscapes, or objects?
People, always people. I’m naturally extroverted, I love languages and chatting with people. My writing background is an eclectic mix, but journalism is a common thread. Learning about other people, and the place they live through their own eyes, is one of the gifts of slow travel. That said, I’m very design oriented, and enjoy traveling alone, so the first things I notice and write about often are the spaces I am in, and the landscapes that hold them.
Is there a place that you’ve vibed with on an artistic level?
I learned a profound amount about non-Western art when I lived in India and Ghana – India because I had left the US for the first time, and here is such a powerfully rich, visual culture. I had a fabulous teacher that encouraged me to engage on a deep and critical level with the traditions I encountered. She was a gift. Many of my favorite artists are Indian or non-Western, and I have her to thank for opening up my eyes to all that my American education, however liberal, had missed.
Loving your interpretation of these questions! I know you’ve only recently started traveling in the last decade. What was a memorable ‘first’ abroad? .
I jumped off a moving train as the first in a memorable series misadventures last time I went backpacking in India. Also slept outside an airport. Also bribed a cop. That was a long 24 hours.
What is a good place to travel to but you would never want to live there?
I loved, loved, loved visiting the Peruvian rainforest, but could not live there for many very obvious reasons. I also loved Hungary, but could not live there because Hungarian is probably the most difficult language I have ever encountered.
Hmmm, the rainforest you said? Did you try anything weird there?
Well, I ate termites… off a tree. They taste like lemons, and crawl around your mouth. 10/10, would recommend.
Love a fellow adventurous eater! Okay, so you’ve been condemned to die. But fortunately, you get to have a ‘last supper’ anywhere in the world before you go. What would it be?
Well, I’m New England true blue – my last meal would be all the lobster, steamers, oyster, corn and chowder I could stuff my face with, followed by berry shortcake, with fresh biscuits and homemade whip cream and berries from my parent’s backyard.
Here are some pictures taken on Haley’s travels…
I think chowder would be on my menu too! Okay, what’s the most important skill you’ve learned whilst traveling?
Remaining calm – unless it’s going to do you serious physical harm, you can get through any minor or major disaster. And keeping your own composure helps other retain their own, often to positive effect.
Your number one traveling companion is….
I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with a lot of great traveling friends- traveling in duos is my preferred mode. But one friend – with whom I am my best, most relaxed, most open self, also happens to love the same wandering and magical coincidence-fueled sort of trips I adore. She’s low maintenance and down for anything, my most perfect traveler. We’re planning a cross country train trip. She’s a real gem.
You got any strange travel rituals?
On my way out of the country for the first time, I lost my boarding pass, nearly lost my passport, and had to sprint to the gate, where they were kind enough to hold the flight because I was already sobbing. Since then, I arrive to my departure point hilariously early, with a list of all necessary items I count and re-count. I always pack the night before. Oh, and I always wear a saint’s medal, or my Ganesh – something auspicious for the journey.
Seems like fortune truly favors the brave. Thank you Haley and we’re wishing you the best of luck with your published career!
Be sure to read more of her published work below!
Personal site: HEDHouseman