I just returned from a two-week trip to Portugal and Spain. I know, lucky me! One of my favorite things about traveling is getting to appreciate all the history, architecture, art, crafts, culture, and food of a country or region. 

It’s funny, isn’t it, that when we travel–unless we are swimming in the ocean or hiking in the woods–we are often to be found exploring art museums, taking selfies next to famous sculptures, admiring centuries-old cathedrals and castles, listening to music in local pubs, etc. We stand in line for hours for a glimpse of the Mona Lisa or a chance to climb the Eiffel Tower. We plunk down our hard-earned cash to see a Broadway play or attend an opera in Milan. We make pilgrimages to the places where great writers once lived or worked. In other words, even on vacation, we seek out art. And through art, we understand the cultures we are exploring and the people we are meeting and even the food we are eating. 

And then we bring that art home. We bring it home on t-shirts and coasters and postcards and coffee mugs. We bring it home in books and CDs and on our camera rolls. We show it off to everyone who asks what we bought on the trip. We show them jewelry we purchased from an artisan’s stand near the beach, and a watercolor we picked up from an artist who had set up her easel in a town square, and a piece of hand-blown glass from the factory tour we took that afternoon. 

And we bring the art home in our stories. We talk about the dramatic looks on the faces of the Flamenco dancers, and tell a story about a performance artist who posed as a statue and fooled us till we walked right up to him, and we joke about a poet who could make up funny poems on the spot in that café by the fountain. We retell the stories we heard about how the great architect Gaudi died penniless in a tram accident and how Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald first met at a bar in Paris. Somehow, we know people will be interested to hear about the ups and downs in the lives of the artists we all adore. Somehow we know these stories will not bore them. 

So once again, I’m pointing out that none of us can escape art. Nor do we want to. We plan our vacations to include the great works of art, or we stumble across great art in little back-alley shops or on the street corner, and we are delighted. 

I say it often in this blog, but it can’t be said enough . . . art matters. And though the respect paid to artists varies greatly by country, one thing is consistent: every country, every region, every city uses its art to attract visitors and to say, “See this art? This is us. This is who we are. Come be one with us.”