If You Ever Lose Hope...

About the Illustrations

The Survivors, those whose words fill up the pages of this book, survived the unspeakable things that must be spoken: torture, sexual assault, a suicide attempt, a brutal hate crime, near spiritual annihilation. The decimation of one’s home due to the savage disregard for the earth and for so many of those who live upon it. Child abuse. The anguish of a parent who was powerless to protect his child from cruelty. The awful, intimate understanding of what it’s like to bleed due to someone else’s wounds. Utter subjugation. The severing of one’s wings. And the grief that comes from losing someone you love; grief that has sunk so far into you that even your bones weep and compassion begs: Leave this world, and you will leave your pain behind. 

The Survivors survived. More importantly, because simply surviving isn’t enough, they came to feel joy again.  

I hope the illustrations convey that joy. They are a small offering to the Survivors: the light that I wish had always been theirs. The illustrations are collages made from my travel photos. I chose elements that I liked in various photos from different countries. Via computer, I erased the backgrounds, recolored the elements, and resized them. I also filled the inside of shapes with parts of photos. Then I layered all the elements and shapes on top of each other one by one. Here’s a picture of one of my leaf element files. 

Click on each illustration to see some of the photos that I used in the collage and read a little about my travels. If you click on an illustration and it doesn’t take you to another page, it just means I haven’t posted information for that illustration yet.

I hope you enjoy the photos behind the story!

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More illustrations coming soon! :)

As to why I used travel photos in a story about hope: It's because travel makes me feel hopeful, most especially in a world where nationality often supersedes humanity. 

Travel, as I view it, isn’t about taking pictures at monuments or buying souvenirs. And it’s not about ticking experiences off a bucket list. Travel is about arriving at a place where you know no one and leaving it with a friend. Travel is about learning to see in the person you were taught to hate, something so fragile, so gentle, so beautiful, that your eyes beg your tongue, “Explain to everyone how to see this.” Travel is about a pledge to the earth: I will keep my mind and heart as you keep your fields and forests: open.

Things that are sometimes quiet at home get loud when you travel: your voice, injustice, questions that you are afraid to ask. It is not travel’s intention to let them retreat back into silence. On the contrary, travel equips them with a megaphone. “Hear me!” “Do something about me!” “Ask me!”

 

For those who don’t fit in, travel offers an exquisite gift: the knowledge that “normal is subjective. For those seeking their place in the world, travel offers the road, companions to walk with, and footprints from past wanderers who whisper to all of those with an ear to the earth, “I traversed this path too. You are not alone.” 

Travel is about understanding how much you can share even when you don’t share the same language. Kindness needs no translation. 

At core, travel is about replacing fear with love.