Personal experience

I traveled the world and wrote a book about it

About the first successes and new tourist routes

Even in high school, I realized that any creative work, whether it is creating scenery for a school play or drawing a poster against bad habits, brings me great pleasure. I began to think about the profession of designer, but with drawing gypsum heads in the preparatory courses I didn’t do absolutely anything, so I entered the design at the Higher School of Economics, where the tests were a little different: I had to create a project on a free topic.

For the first lesson of the practice courses that everyone who studies at our university attends, we had to bring sketchbooks and draw something in them. Then I began to be interested in thin, clean and a bit naive graphics. The next task was to keep a notebook on a topic for a whole year. I wanted to do something related to travel, because I travel a lot on trains, on airplanes, and on cars - unless I can ride a bike.

It seemed to me that writing for a whole year could only be about the longest railway trip in the world, so I created Moscow-Vladivostok, a hand-drawn diary of a man traveling along the Trans-Siberian Railway. It tells about the settlements along the route, and also gives tips on what to buy from food or local souvenirs at the stations, what sights to see when the train is parked. Particular attention was paid to life in the train and the atmosphere of the reserved seat. This sketchbook was quite popular on the Internet. My next successful project was the alcohol map of Kitay Gorod, which was published by many Moscow city media. The map is recommendations of drinks in various bars and pubs, phrases and tips of experienced people eavesdropped on the street.

"Moscow - Vladivostok" Alcohol map of Kitai Gorod

I always return to Nizhny to be inspired and recharged. At some point, the university needed to make a project related to the topography and topic of territorial branding. And I realized that I would do something related to my native Nizhny Novgorod region. She created a drawn black and white map of the streets - Gogol, Sergievskaya, Ilyinskaya and Nizhny Novgorod. There I registered with the help of fonts and various drawings all kinds of stories that happened to me: this is my school, this is the house we climbed on the roof, here I ran away from homeless people, there are a lot of cats here, I like to go laugh and cry here. It was a long process, but at the same time something akin to mantra or drawing patterns. When I completely finished the map, I realized that it helped me reboot and recover. Even now, walking along these streets, I catch myself thinking that I am walking on my own drawn map.

I believe that Nizhny is the most beautiful city in the world. Seriously. I live a stone's throw from Fedorovsky embankment, there is always a stunning sunset, a view of the confluence of two rivers and ships, the pleasant smell of the river and the noise of cars. And this is an amazing combination. In each district of the city you can find some charm of your own: for example, I love the Children's Railway or the Automobile Plant with its socialist-realist architecture. By the way, the most beautiful Pyaterochka in the world is the one located on Fedorovsky embankment, because there is a panoramic view of the sunset through the glass doors. I think it could very well be included in some tourist guide.

In general, my projects are very similar in many respects: there are many little things, small characters and there is always an accompanying text - I like to compose stories. They are always based on personal interest. Interest in trains, Nizhny Novgorod, travel.

About studying in Bologna and adventures on the Iranian border


Going abroad to study is amazing. This was my first experience,
and I immediately wanted to match all the pictures from the Tumblr: it’s fashionable to dress, draw a lot and walk along the beautiful streets


It so happened that in the third year I was transferred from the direction of "Illustration" to "Graphic Design". Although I still saw myself as an illustrator, not a designer. I began to look for opportunities to leave somewhere and found that one of the most unique, in my opinion, draftsmen - Victoria Semykina - is from Russia, but lives in Bologna: organizes courses in small groups. I decided, scrapped the last money for a ticket, booked a room, left my usual studies and flew to Bologna. Going abroad to study is amazing. This was my first experience, and I immediately wanted to match all the pictures from the Tumblr: it’s fashionable to dress, draw a lot and walk along the beautiful streets. In the end, I did this, but with a very small amount of money. I had to give all the cash for tuition. Therefore, as I wrote in the book, for the remaining money I bought pasta, pesto, tea, cola - and I lived like that. But it was fun.

I had wonderful classmates: ladies from about thirty years old, emigrants. There was no one from Russia except one girl from Krasnoyarsk. And they all asked me: how is it now in Moscow? And how did you, girl, come with such a rate of euro? Take my slice of pizza, you probably have so little money! I’m renting an apartment in Moscow, what do you think, maybe raise the price, has the course changed? As a tenant student, I said that it’s not worth it.

We studied for eight to ten hours, and still needed to draw some drafts after school and bring them the next morning. We were given a variety of tasks: sketching figures of people in seven or ten seconds, looking for interesting angles, working with unusual formats - for example, a panoramic notepad. It turned out that if you try to do something a hundred times, a hundred and first will work out. I often try to convince myself of the opposite, but in fact it works like that.

Traveling for me is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, and at some point I had the opportunity to get an illustrator on an expedition conducted by the School of Cultural Studies in the same HSE. Every year they send students and teachers to absolutely amazing places so that people encounter real field work, ask some grandfather Semyon about how the public spaces of his village have changed, and a report has been generated on this topic. Last year, we traveled to Iran through Armenia and Georgia.

"My Iranian Diary"

I had to illustrate everything not because the expedition did not have a photographer or videographer, but because the illustrator gives a certain new dimension to the projects that the guys make. My travel sketchbooks always include notes, local memes, and travel tips, so they read as a separate book. This is a story about an expedition for people who are not used to reading scientific reports.

Iran is not the most popular tourist destination, I was pretty scared to go on this first expedition. Also, the Armenian border guards added fuel to the fire, saying that we were going to Iran for the last time in our lives. Seeing our pale faces, however, they explained: because we would not like it there.

Drawing in the field is really very different from creating work at home with a cup of tea. You need to be able to quickly select a plot and build a composition, to have tricks in your head that will help a quick drawing look good. You need to understand what is better to photograph, and what to sketch on the spot. There are things that you can draw quickly - for example, when people dine, and you draw, because everyone is crouched and you have half an hour - or while everyone is sleeping. And it’s hard - you draw either when everyone is eating, or when everyone is sleeping, and you practically don’t eat or sleep.

About the book and rethinking what happened

After each trip to the Lower, from the first year, I was haunted by a certain languor. When you go to university, everything around you changes a lot, and returning back, you seem to fall into the scenery of the film that you watched a hundred years ago. This feeling seemed (and seems) very important to me. I always wanted to somehow capture and describe it, so I kept my drawings of different years.


It is probably logical that the work on the book, which tells about the year, lasted a whole year: it was initially assumed that I would draw it in one summer, but the work was more voluminous


At some point, the guys from Eksmo Publishing House wrote to me, offered to meet and chat. I thought that it would be about the publication of some of the previous projects, but it turned out that they want a completely different thing: they want a story about my life, a kind of biography. Everything that happened to me during the third year was quite interesting: I went to give lectures in Krasnoyarsk, studied in Bologna, worked at the Dial, had heartaches with me, then I left for Iran.

It is probably logical that the work on the book, which tells about the year, lasted a whole year: it was initially assumed that I would draw it in one summer, but the work turned out to be more voluminous. So it turned out that eleven months passed from the first illustration to the hastily finished cover.

My first drafts were very different from what happened in the end. Many of the things that were described at the beginning of the book are now perceived in a new way: I discover new meanings of spoken words, think about where I could do otherwise. Something written now generally seems stupid. There was something I didn’t have time to write about, because I had a limited number of pages.

Map of the center of Nizhny Novgorod

I would add more notebooks from my travels. But one of the book’s ideas is that people should add the story of their life in it, answer the same questions that I asked myself, paste something, cut it out, write it out. The story of a single person is no less important than my own. It would be uninteresting to turn this into a regular diary of my emotions and experiences. In the end, it turned out even better than I imagined: not just a snotty story, but a story about success and a certain overcoming of oneself.

Watch the video: How to travel the world with almost no money. Tomislav Perko. TEDxTUHH (November 2019).

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