When I set off on a two year sailing voyage, I had a fantasy of who I’d become. With the stunning South Pacific islands as my inspiration, I’d learn to paint like the French artist Paul Gauguin. I would crawl inside an artistic cocoon and emerge as a master painter.
Gauguin sailed to Tahiti to escape “everything that is artificial and conventional” about European culture—a sentiment I can relate to, except that my modern world of strip malls, fast food and Rebecca Black is a tiny bit more artificial than the one Gauguin ran away from in 1891. (If he was still alive today, I’m sure he’d poke his eyeballs out with the pointy end of a paintbrush.) Gauguin escaped to Polynesia to paint colorful depictions of Tahitian life (and perhaps more importantly, to philander with prepubescent island girls).
Anyway … I wanted to be like Gauguin (except for the whole sex-with-minors part). In my vision of life at sea, I spent my days dabbing a pigment-engorged paintbrush against a canvas of possibility, recreating the exotic forms of the South Pacific islands: the curvy bodies, the flora, and the relaxed way of life in these spectacular peaks born from the ocean.
Unfortunately, I didn’t become like Gauguin because ocean life wasn’t always the leisurely sojourn of my imagination. My time was dominated by scrubbing laundry by hand, cleaning up rampant mildew, or toiling over how to cook an edible dish from lentils, breadcrumbs, slightly smelly eggs, cornflakes and stale oregano flakes (which were possibly mildew flakes).
But mostly, in my spare time, I plotted creative ways to hunt, beg, trade, or kill for fresh fruit.
In the remote islands, fruit was hard to come by. When we reached the sandy coral shores of the Tuamotu Archipelago, fruit ceased to exist. Desperately craving a bite of vitamin C, I turned to my paints for comfort. Somewhere in the depths of my subconscious, I must have reasoned that, if my eyes believed they were seeing succulent fruits, I could trick my body out of getting scurvy.
This is all I painted in two years: fruit, fruit and more fruit. It captures how desperate I was to wrap my parched lips around some ripe melons, and philander with innocent, juicy flesh. I call it:
A Legal-Age Orgy Of Colors
What do you miss most when you travel? How do you quench your longing?
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.