Welcome! My name is Candace and I’m a writer, sketch artist, and illustrator with a passion for telling stories about the world—be it through words or watercolors.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
Seven years ago, I hesitantly took Campbell’s advice. I let go of the life I had planned and opened myself to the myriad possibilities the world has to offer. While stepping off the edge of a safe existence into the unknown was a terrifying prospect, I also sensed that something incredible awaited me if I could take that initial leap of faith.
Life has been an adventure ever since.
Welcome to The Great Affair
That leap of faith I just mentioned? It’s exactly what this blog is all about. I’ve been writing The Great Affair since 2008, ever since I first launched myself into the unknown (more on that soon). Although it’s now evolved into part-blog, part-portfolio, my vision for the site remains unchanged.
Through the stories and sketches I share here, I hope you’ll fall in love with the world and the possibilities it offers.
I hope you’ll be inspired to take your own leap of faith.
I hope you’ll live life to its fullest.
The name of the blog itself comes from the following quote:
I first came across Stevenson’s words on a magnet in the Art Institute of Chicago’s bookshop. It was my senior year of university and the only traveling I’d done up to that point had involved family roadtrips along the East Coast of the U.S.
Even still, the quote spoke to me like a yet-understood language on ancient parchment.
The great affair is to move.
As I rolled the phrase across my tongue, it conjured up images of a worn-down bus winding its way through lush, jungled hills; of a ferry plying the waters of a churning sea; and of a train barreling across the countryside. Anything, really, that takes us from here to there and back again.
But beyond the literal action of a trip, about where we travel or how we get there, it seemed to speak of the spirit behind the movement—the why. That insatiable desire for newness and adventure, for different air and foreign sounds, for a journey.
The great affair of creating a life worth living—and of writing for ourselves a story worth telling.
My journey: Falling in love with the world
“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.”
—Charles Dudley Warner
I’ve always wanted to travel. Although I never traveled outside the U.S. while I was growing up, something in me still knew it wanted more—that little twitch they call wanderlust. While studying English in college (not the most practical of degrees, I now realize), I was as lost and directionless as they come. Did I want to be a songwriter? An editor? A college professor? One April afternoon in 2008, I ultimately decided I would regret not seeing the world more than anything else. Then, with just a month to go before graduation, two friends offered me a serendipitous invitation: “Candace, come to London with us.” I had no idea at the time how much those six words would change my life.
I was soon writing about the world. As with traveling, I’d always wanted to pursue writing. The thing is, I have no imagination and thus make for a rather appalling fiction writer. But not long after I left London, something inspired me to google “Masters in Travel Writing.” Not only did such a program exist, but it was offered by a university back in London. I instantly knew that was the path for me. I could use the tools and techniques of creative writing, but didn’t have to invent stories—a brilliant compromise in my books. My writing has now appeared in places like BBC Travel, World Hum, and National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel site, and I’m also at work on an illustrated memoir.
Then I started sketching on the road. You know how right when you think you’ve figured your life out, the universe throws a curveball your way? The curveball in my case was a very good one, but unexpected nonetheless. I’ve loved to paint since even before I loved to write, but it was only five years ago that I brought a sketchbook and watercolors with me on a weekend trip to Portugal. From that moment on I was hooked. Sketching and illustration have now become an intrinsic part of what I do, and I’m grateful to call myself a self-made, self-sustaining artist. I’ve drawn my way through more than 30 countries, been featured in The New York Times as a sketch artist, and published a book of sketches and stories from Southeast Asia and Japan.
It turns out Joseph Campbell is right. When we’re open to possibility, magic happens. In the last seven years, I’ve volunteered on a Tahitian black pearl farm, solo-hiked a 220-mile pilgrimage through rural Turkey, sketched Machu Picchu on assignment for National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel site, crashed a Berber picnic in Morocco, and driven an auto-rickshaw 2,000 miles across India—where I’ve also lived and left a significant part of my heart. More importantly, writing and sketching are now inextricably linked for me—I couldn’t imagine doing one without the other. I love sketching for how it opens the door to serendipitous encounters, and these connections with each culture are the stories I’m most drawn to tell.
It’s at this point of convergence that I finally found my path and passion:
The next chapter: Finding—and redefining—home
“Sitting still is a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it.”
As I shared above, my initial decision to travel was fueled by a deep-seated desire for movement—and at every step of the way, the world has helped me bring that desire to fruition. Now when I close my eyes, I can still picture gloaming sunlight poring into the carriage of an Indian train, as it moves through the Thar Desert at sunset; I can feel the wind against my face as a wooden Thai long-tail boat carries me across the Andaman Sea; I can feel the press of fellow passengers on a chicken bus in Guatemala. And by moving through the world, it has felt as though I’ve kept moving forward in life as well.
But over the last seven years, as I traveled through fifty countries on six continents, another desire began to materialize—one that upon first examination seemed entirely at odds with my need to move: a desire for stillness. Slowness. Home. I didn’t know what to make of such a desire at first. How does a perpetual traveler slow down? How could I transition from a life of constant movement to one built on more still and solid ground? Wouldn’t something be lost in the process—something lost in myself?
These are the questions I’m now seeking answers for. While many save up to travel the world for a year, I’m doing things in reverse and taking a few months to be at home in one place—in the intriguing, inspiring city of San Francisco, California. I first visited the Bay Area as an adult in 2012, to attend the Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference, and left one week later with newfound connections to writers, artists, and creative professionals. I continued to pass through the city several times a year, but only staying for a week or two at a time.
This past summer, a realization hit me—that the incredible community I’d found in San Francisco was like a house I had built for myself, but never taken the time to live in. And relationships—just like a home—flourish when we’re present.
While I’m reveling in the new rituals of life in the Bay Area—library membership, yoga at Grace Cathedral, sketching sessions in front of San Francisco icons—I’m also searching for those deeper answers; asking myself what it was that drew me to a life of travel, and how I can now seek to bring those things home. I’m learning that home is something we create for ourselves, that it can be a physical place or a person, a country we connect with or the meaningful objects we carry with us. Home can be all of the above—but only after we have found it within ourselves.
Because ultimately, home is not only where you are, but who you are.
A few more facts about me
Just so we’ve really gotten to know each other, there’s a couple other things you should know:
- I am hopelessly smitten with Wes Anderson.
- I get my middle name from my paternal grandfather, Webb Rose Rardon.
- My favorite food is Mexican. Give me some guacamole and a margarita and I will love you forever (but not as much as Wes).
- I collect postcards, foreign beer labels, and found playing cards. I’m still looking for the queen of spades.
A brief note on advertising
The Great Affair is the online home of my writing and sketching portfolio, which means everything you read here will have been written by yours truly only. And that’s a promise. I’ve made a decision to support myself through freelance writing and sketching commissions, so this site does not accept any form of advertising, be it paid links, banner ads, or sponsored content. I also don’t accept press trips; please know that all journeys documented here for your reading pleasure have been self-funded, or occasionally by partnering with like-minded companies and organizations.
Get in touch
Now that I’ve shared my story, I’d love to hear yours—to get in touch, send me an email at [email protected] or a message through the contact page. And please feel free to join me elsewhere on the interweb:
- Newsletter: Sign up for Serendipity’s Sketchbook
- Facebook: The Great Affair Facebook Page
- Twitter: @candacerardon
- Instagram: @candacerardon