1 Month, 4 Countries + A Couple of Sketchbooks

Amanda Michele's Travel Sketchbooks: Nice, France
Vieux-Nice, France

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
— Henry Miller

If the opportunity for adventure presents itself, I’m not usually one to let it slip by. So when I had the chance to combine my honeymoon in Europe with a work trip to Laos I obviously went with it. A month of traveling sounded AMAZING! So many different sights and foods and people but mostly I was excited to see how changing my surroundings in such a dramatic way would impact my art. It’s safe to say I learned a few things about myself but I mostly this trip reminded me of who I am at my core, as an artist.

Amanda Michele's Travel Sketchbooks: Madrid, Spain

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

Color was a huge influence on me during this adventure, which if you have read any of my other journal posts you know that’s not a surprise. The challenge with capturing the colors while traveling came down to timing. This wasn’t just an art-y trip. I needed to sketch in between having a wonderful honeymoon with my husband or working while I was in Laos. I couldn’t just sit for hours painting whatever struck my fancy (although that would have been awesome!), I wanted to be able to explore these new places too.

So what I found worked best for me was to hit the ground running. Explore as much as I could. Get inspired by as much as I could. Pause to take it in and then, when we were back resting at our Airbnbs,  to take a moment and paint from those scenes that inspired me throughout the day. After the paint is dry, we would revisit our favorite spots and with a sense of calm purpose, I would put the finishing touches on each sketch right there.

Amanda Michele's Travel Sketchbooks: Luang Prabang, Laos
Top of Mount Phou Si, Luang Prabang, Laos

There were slower moments, though. Like our whole day at a beach just outside of Nice. I was able to create a sketch from start to finish there. Oh, and no worries about pulling a Monet and getting sand in my paints, it was an all rounded rock beach.

Amanda Michele's Travel Sketchbooks: Nice, France
La Plage Paloma Beach À St Jean Cap Ferrat, France

Each country I visited offered something new. I loved the grittiness of the winding streets of Lisbon with everything just overflowing with creativity and art. We took a sleeper train to Madrid, and though we were only there for one day, it felt comfortable yet new. Our time in Nice was full of pink sunsets and pink rosé. We spent most of our time on the beach here and I couldn’t ask for anything better. After our honeymoon, I flew to Laos with an accidental overnight stay in Bangkok (The title of this post could be “1 Month, 5 Countries…” but I don’t think its fair to count Thailand just yet). Laos was lush and green and full of the nicest people you will find anywhere in the world. Although I spent almost 2 weeks there, which is the longest of all my stays, I would go back for more in a heartbeat.

Amanda Michele's Travel Sketchbooks: Lisbon, Portugal
Porto Do Sol, Lisbon, Portugal

For my whole trip, I had only what fit in my carry on. That means I had to pack for 2 very different climates and types of trips PLUS bring my art supplies. So if you want to travel and make art without taking up your entire suitcase here’s what I recommend:


My sketchbook, whether I’m traveling or at home is always Moleskin Watercolor Notebooks. I brought along 3 sketchbooks: 1 at  5″ × 8¼” and 2 mini ones at  3½” × 5½”. The mini ones fit perfectly in my little crossbody purse so I preferred those on the go but every now and then it was nice to work on something a bit more substantial feeling.


I used the Winsor & Newton Paint Pan Set of 24 during my travels. It’s compact but comes with a lot of colors and space for mixing. It was a change to go from tubed watercolor (which is my usual go-to) to pan watercolor but I still loved the feel of these paints and sometimes I’ll bust them out even when I’m not traveling these days.


When I’m painting at home I usually have a big jar of water next to me to use, but since I’m a model AirBnB guest I didn’t want to use anyone’s glasses as painting jars on this trip. The Pentel Aquash Water Brush was a perfect solution for this since handle of this brush holds a fair amount of water and just a light squeeze will give you plenty to work with.


I tended to use my colored pencils more on this trip than my pens. After one of the white pens exploded on my paints (I blame the changing pressure from the flights over), it was mostly colored pencils from then on. My favorite pencil brand is Prismacolor and I took a handful them along to use.

If you want to learn what pens I use, or any other supply I create with, you can visit my “Tools + Materials” page.

Amanda Michele's Travel Sketchbooks: Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos