The Orwicks are a family from Beaverton, Oregon, USA. Their international art project Studio Everywhere officially launched with 10 month round the world trip. They’re traveling across Central and South America, Asia and Europe. In each country they initiate art projects with kids, where they invite them to paint self portraits expressing ‘how they see themselves in the world’. Their mission is, in their own words, to experience and learn more about how ART empowers, connects, and inspires across boundaries.
When I first heard about Studio Everywhere I was so inspired! What an amazing idea to travel and learn this way. I ‘met’ the family through the Families on the Move Facebook group and was very happy when they wanted to do this interview for our blog.
Who are you and where are you from originally?
We are Michael (Mike), Gabriela (Gaby) and Elena Orwick and we call Beaverton, Oregon, USA home.
Mike is a fine artist – michaelorwick.com. An Oregon native, he’s enjoyed international travel on and off, and has built his career upon the pursuit of beauty and colorful expression. He loves the water, hiking, and photography.
Elena turned 11 in Costa Rica, shortly after we started our round-the-world trip in August 2015. She is also an artist (elenagraceorwick.com) who paints mostly abstract and loves fashion. She is being travel-schooled for 6th grade and will be returning to the Arts and Communications Magnet Academy in Beaverton, OR next year.
Gaby comes from Bulgaria. She is a business consultant and program manager by trade. She came to the US as an exchange student a long time ago, and has always been drawn to explore – being leisure travel, business volunteering, or the outdoors.
We are inspired to travel and learn, and the spark that made the trip happen is what we’ve come to call “Studio Everywhere” – our family’s ambition to experience and learn more about how ART empowers, connects, and inspires across boundaries. Every country we go to, we try to do an art project, inviting children to paint and draw self-portraits, expressing “how they see themselves in the world.” At the end, we’d love to put together a photo book that tells the story of that journey.
What do you want to achieve with your blog studioeverywhere.org?
- Document our round-the-world StudioEverywhere trip
- Share our adventure with our friends and family.
- Promote our global art project – StudioEverywhere – working with children to paint self-portraits about how they see themselves in the world, to create a tapestry celebrating the special connection art fosters.
- (Hopefully) Inspire others to pursue their ambition.
What does travel mean to you and your family?
- Breaking routine, inviting discomfort, stretching our imagination, questioning the norm
- Learning about other cultures and people, learning about ourselves
- Making new friends, and reconnecting with old ones, around the world
- Exploring new places | Experiencing new food, climate, sounds and smells
- Pursuit of beauty in its many different forms
- Realizing and living a dream
- Ultimate family togetherness
How long are you planning to travel?
We plan to travel for ~10 months, in lieu of a school year.
What your top 3 favourite places you’ve visited and why? Insider tips welcome!
It’s very hard to choose “favorites” as each place we’ve visited holds a special place in our hearts. Below is a short list of places we’d definitely like to return to and explore further, if that’s a way to pick:
- Cusco & Machu Picchu – a place that truly embraces its heritage, stunning architecture, rich Inca history and gorgeous sites (Sacred Valley!), delicious food (lomo soltado, anticucho, lucuma shakes, chicha morada, pisco sours, and more), lamas (yes, we have an 11-year old in the mix), and a tremendous family achievement completing the grueling and rewarding 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
- Costa Rica – offered a charming glimpse of “what could be” in a place committed to education and the environment; great adventures zip lining, traversing handing bridges and dodging deadly spider and vipers in the Arenal jungle (recommend Tangara Hotel); the colors and beaches of Montezuma (stayed in CasaColores and loved it) and Guanacaste.
Recommend renting a car but beware of GPS directions and road conditions.
- Rio de Janeiro’s energy and feel was rejuvenating; the golden sands, sun and water inviting; loved watching people playing volleyball and foot volley on the beach; biking everywhere (get a SIM card and take advantage of the free rentals all over town); awe-inspiring vistas from Sugarloaf and Corcovado (be sure to go on a clear day though); and just so much to do and enjoy.
How do you determine where to go and how long to stay?
Given we only have 10 months, we thought long and hard where we’d like to go on this first (of hopefully many) round-the-world journey. We wanted to visit South America, Asia and Europe for a start, shying away from places with high political or weather volatility, as well as considering safety and cost of travel and living. Some places made the list so we could visit friends and family.
We made a dream list of placed we’d like to go to, and each picked a pillar experience. Did some research on optimal times to travel to each target region, and sought an itinerary that offered us spring/summer-like climate to facilitate minimal wardrobe changes and light packing.
The StudioEverywhere “how you see yourself in the world” self-portraits art project being a centerpiece of our trip, we targeted areas where we’d be able to more easily acquire art supplies and get help (contacts, translation, etc.) connecting with the community and arranging the project. It has been a gift as without it, we wouldn’t have gotten to know real people and connect at such a personal level, in such a short time.
Deciding how long to stay each place came at a balance of how many places we wanted to visit. We scrubbed our initial list over and over to narrow the “sampler platter” itinerary to less than 20 countries… and from there made sure we had 2-3 weeks in each, prioritizing the city / region / places we’d visit. We opted to see more in less time so that we’d be more informed about our future trips, when we’d likely want to spend several months in any one area and really get to know a place and connect with the locals.
What do you do to generate income while you travel?
We saved for the trip, and are (mostly) travelling on a budget – mostly staying at hostels, Airbnb, and such; cooking and eating local as much as possible; and balancing free experiences and tours / entrance fee attractions. It is easy to overspend, so suggest considering a contingency beyond the emergency fund and travel insurance.
Mike is an artist (michaelorwick.com) and tried to stock up his galleries prior to setting sail, so that his collectors would have access to his work while we are away. He’s preparing for a new body of work inspired by our travels when we return and suspect will be very busy back in the studio.
Gaby is taking a “sabbatical” from her consulting job in Portland, Oregon, and will be looking for a new client engagement upon returning home.
For the StudioEverywhere art project, we launched a gofund.me/StudioEverywhere site and are blessed with generous support, making it possible to provide and donate art supplies, and often food/drinks, to the orphanages and schools we work with.
What are the most important life lessons you’ve learned while traveling?
- Leave the expectations at home, and embrace the experiences as they come.
- Approaching the new with an “open mind, open heart” attitude gets you a long way.
- Art IS an universal language, and all kids like to paint and draw.
- Making time to reflect, share and be grateful keeps us connected and energized.
- Travel is an ultimate way to learn and feed our child-like curiosity
What’s the one piece of travel advice that you wished someone had given you before you left?
We had great encouragement and help planning for the trip and are grateful for the advice we did get and the network of wisdom available to us as we go – e.g. TripAdvisor, BootsnAll, Families on the Move have been wonderful resources. The best part has been not only learning to adapt but thriving on the new and different, while appreciating the familiar.
Mike, Gaby and Elena, thank you very much for taking the time to share your amazing story with us. I hope to hear lots more from Studio Everywhere in the future!