It's been awhile since my last #StoriesOfCreativeTypes feature, and this is one that I've been really excited to share. It's taken me some time from the initial interview to write this story because honestly, life gets busy and crazy. I believe if I am given the privilege of writing people's stories then I should write them when I am in an environment where I can dedicate the time and focus to give people's stories the love, care, and justice they so deserve. With that said, I can't wait for you to read Endion Schichtel's story. The whole experience with this feature has been so unique in itself because I have never met Endion before in person and our interview took place from different states via video chatting.
Ashley Joyce Photography
First off, how did Endion and I end up connecting with one another? Endion was mentioned in my previous interview with Ashley Joyce Cummings.
Long story short: they were co-workers and then Ashley connected us together via Facebook message and now here we are! With all the above said, our interview location was not a casual, coffee shop meet up, but rather a first for me and for this #StoriesOfCreativeTypes series. With both of us not knowing exactly what to expect from our meeting, I was pleased with nothing short of a lively and fascinating time of conversation. We greeted one another when we met face to face through the screens of Facebook video-calling. We started our conversation out with basic introductions and questioning each other on how to pronounce one another's name.
Through our computer screens and on the wall behind Endion was a bright blue mural of the ocean and sea animals; I was quick to compliment how cool it was. She then, slightly giggling, expressed that it wasn't her wall, but instead it was her cousin's baby's room.
"I don't know how much Ashley told you about me, but I travel a lot. My current roommate is 13 months old." Endion laughed.
Before we get to Endion's amazing world travels, let's start from her early beginnings as a creative. Endion, a native to New Mexico, has grown up an artist; her childhood was surrounded by creativity and spent drawing comic books or doing some sort of hands on crafts. Her creativity influenced by her 80's generation graphic designer mom and craftsman dad who built their home and others in New Mexico. Most of her childhood summers were spent on a self-sustaining ranch in Southern New Mexico owned by her family. Her connection with that ranch got her thinking about the natural world a lot. In her mind as a child, she developed a deep sense that it was up to her to save the environment and rainforests. At her parents parties, she made tip jars for washing dishes with the plan of sending the money to organizations that saved manatees.
Before high school, she stopped drawing so much and started sewing. During her high school years at Albuquerque High School, she was a costume designer for the drama department. During her senior year, she started interning with the UNM drama department where she was creating 30+ costumes a month. Her original plan was to go to design school, but she changed her mind when she felt that choosing that path wouldn't really contribute to her desire to help the greater good. Instead, Endion decided to pursue a degree in Conservation Biology at University of New Mexico. While pursuing her studies, her creativity took a backseat. Since her degree was a heavily technical, she pursued many opportunities in various field schools abroad for research and data; one experience that included spending time studying and researching at the Turks & Caicos Islands.
During college to the transition after, she worked in the Forest Service (a government agency that focuses on maintaining and promoting national forests, camping areas, trails, and harvesting timber and resources) for a year working her way from volunteer to intern to full-time. Also, where she met and worked with Ashley Joyce Cummings. While she was there, she found her way back to creativity and was able to incorporate it into her work. Starting with her own full-time position because it was creative in itself; though given the title of "ranger", it was never fully defined because each project she worked on required its own unique role. As the youngest person there, she was thankful to have a director who wanted to capitalize on that. Her director was a great supporter of Endion pursuing random creative projects that would motivate and excite people to care about nature sites and spend time at them.
One of these big projects started when she met a young vegan rapper. Endion connected with this artist on many levels, one being that she herself was a lifetime vegetarian. Endion was able to the get the artist, MScottLovesLife, to sign a music license and produce a music video about sustainable recreation with the Forest Service. A historic moment in itself because the Forest Service had never purchased a music license other than Smokey Bear's theme song. The music video required collaboration with six entities outside of the government agency. One entity was an after school program that helped urban kids stay out of trouble after school by teaching them how to breakdance and hip hop dance.
Watch the video here: Music Video"Sustain" YouTube of Forest Service.
Other projects included: designing an entire three tiered wilderness themed cake mascot costume with hula hoops, facilitating in the creation of a wilderness playing card deck where each card in 52 cards represented a different wilderness area, and a poker deck that educates you about wild places you can go to.
For everyone, things change in life, and new opportunities come up; seems like my new favorite saying is "Don't settle." For Endion, she knew she didn't want to settle forever with the Forest Service. She had just finished her degree and felt that she had spent a good amount of time with the government agency.
"I knew I needed to go see the world to really understand what was going on in it. I needed to see what I could do." Endion shared.
She set her eyes on New Zealand. At the time, her plan was that NZ would set her up for a big part of her life and it did. However, not in the ways that she expected. Endion gained what would be considered by many people, a lifetime of experiences within the period of just a couple years.
Endion just turned 25, when she sold everything she could, packed up her life in two boxes, and bought a one-way ticket to New Zealand and took off a couple weeks after quitting her job at the Forest Service.
"As soon as I stepped away from what I knew in New Mexico, all of my expectations of what I thought would happen, totally changed." Endion expressed.
For over a year Endion lived out of a car, in a yoga community, and with the locals that she made friends with. Her time was spent exploring, doing various environmental work through WWOOF, performing with fire fans in a circus, and teaching art at an environmental kids camp. She also spent time living at Lost Gypsy Gallery where she helped a man run the gallery filled with automatons (moving machines and puppetry that you can control).
"I wasn't there long enough to learn anything, but I helped him out running the gallery and that was great. And the location was like stupid beautiful. It was the New Zealand Bush crashing with the ocean where we lived." Endion shared.
While journeying through New Zealand, she also discovered her love for drawing again:
"Everyday for 6 months since the day I left New Mexico, I kept a journal by doing a drawing a day. It started as a way to just remember what was happening. I hadn't kept up drawing since a little before high school other than doodles here and there or for whatever was needed for class to study. I went through one of the hardest winters of my life in New Zealand just processing my life and learning who I was away from everyone I knew. That journal turned into some profound therapy for me. 6 months to the day was the last page of that journal and coincidently ended on my birthday. That experience, got me really excited to be doing consistent creativity and I got such positive feedback from the people I showed it to; they were so supportive and wanted me to keep pursuing that. However, the story of the journal ends when it was stolen. While living out of my car during the summer, my car was broken into and everything was taken except for what I had on me. There was a lot of dark stuff that I was dealing with that was expressed in that journal so maybe that was a way of letting that go. My friends said that maybe it's a piece of art in itself, and that I needed that therapy and to have it taken away from me so I don't have that to look back on. The whole journaling process tapped something back into me. I can still remember the patterns and depictions of myself in the drawings. Regardless of what happened to it, it still led me to what I think I am trying to do now."
Endion adored the New Zealand landscape and explained to me how phenomenal it was; the range from glaciers to rainforests to black sand beaches and the desert.
"It's Neverland. When you think of Neverland with all of the cool things going on, it's there." Endion stated.
Endion expressed that if she had found a job and place that she wanted, she never would have left New Zealand. However, she was getting burnt out traveling by herself, and she knew it was time to move on to a new route. She was grateful to meet a new friend, in Endion's words, "A Spaniard named Alex" to have someone to share these experiences with. He also happened to be traveling the same route as she was.
Reflecting on her time in New Zealand, Endion stated, "I look back on it and as hard as it was, I loved it. I don't think you can fully know yourself until you've done something completely uncomfortable."
AUSTRALIA & ASIA:
Endion and Alex's next stop was Australia to stay with a friend. During this time, Endion was able to continue to feed her artistic side. She traveled through Melbourne where it was extremely street art dominated; she explained that every street corner you turned there were people spray painting or an incredible mural being done.
"I just spent a lot of time walking around and digesting all of that." Endion shared.
Portrait of Endion by Australian artist Michael Zacutti
Laughter between Endion and I echoed through our laptop mics as she shared one of her forever favorite stories:
"Through meeting people at a community space, there was a man who was a portrait artist who was moving out of a house that he owned. He needed help organizing his thousands upon thousands of collected fiber cast colored pencils; there were SO many. One shade of red would be 30 different colors. Each pencil had a number and he wanted to catalogue his collection so I did that for him in exchange for a place to live for two weeks. This is the kind of thing you have to do as a gypsy, you to have organize colored pencils so you have a place to live. He was an old crotchety man that was really particular about his pencils. He inspired and helped me change from just drawing with pen and ink to trying to use color."
Melbourne, Australia Street Art
"All of this makes me sound so crazy. Everyone I meet in all these crazy scenarios always feeds into some artistic side of me I am realizing; it's really been beneficial." Endion shared.
Singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" while judging an English competition at a grade school in Java, Indonesia
Australia and New Zealand are very expensive, and Endion had almost entirely been living off of her savings. She heard from other people that everyone who does New Zealand and Australia goes to Asia because it's dirt cheap. After visiting Endion's friend for a couple of months, Alex and Endion hitchhiked up and down the coast before leaving for Indonesia. They backpacked through all of Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia for about a month.
Java, Indonesia -- Mount Bromo Volcano
Malaysia Street Art
"That month of going through Asia was so different than the last year I had spent trying to establish a life, creating a community around myself, and figuring out who I was. I felt like a tourist and an actual traveler rather than a person living somewhere. It was really enriching in a lot of ways, but there was a point with my finances and myself where I said 'I don't want to do this anymore.'" Endion reflected.
At 27 years old, Endion felt that she had seen a lot of things and was ready to start working on her ideas that she had built while traveling. With that, she needed to find a base to start doing that and regroup so in July of this year, she went to live with her cousin in Maine. Currently, she is working as a grocer at a natural food store to "replenish her stock."
However, being back in the states hasn't stopped her creatively. Endion's response when I asked her what she is working on now:
"Lots of things. Probably dabbling in too much, but also trying to focus. I've been playing with this concept of a 'Conscious Army.' Everywhere I've gone I've seen people have these amazing skills in various things whether it's fire performing, dancing, drawing, or writing or whatever you can think of; it doesn't even have to be in the arts. I think back to my time in the Forest Service and how hard it was to get them to support a project involving people like that rapper. I think there is so much good that can be done with people who are just doing what they love if they are given the chance. So with the Conscious Army concept, I somehow want to facilitate that. Everywhere in the world, there are resources and people out there that I think aren't being used to their full potential. I know a beatbox poet/yoga instructor who uses beatbox poetry and yoga to help kids at rehab center. He goes to clinics and juvies to rap, lead creative writing sessions, and then do some yoga. He inspires these kids. I just think 'How cool is that that you just have someone who likes to perform on the street, going and helping someone get rehabilitated in whatever form whether it's drugs or something and he's only 23 just trying to figure it out on his own. Why shouldn't a bigger company invest more into these smalls guys who can help in the long run?' I don't think there's enough support for those in these creative endeavors. I want to bridge the gap between these individuals and these big organizations. The Conscious Army are people who are being conscious about what a problem is and then doing something about it and forming an active force against the problem. It doesn't matter where you are or what you are doing as long as you are doing good with what you love. I have this whole grand plan that slowly evolves around this concept, but if you really love something you make it work. Even if it's just an idea."
Endion, no doubt, has a traveler's heart. It was only fitting that as quickly as I asked about how she finds inspiration now being back she replied with, "Well, I'm leaving for Spain in January."
She found a $200 ticket from Boston to Spain, and it made me want to book a ticket right then and there. With the sincerest response, Endion looked at me and said "You can go. You can come crash in Barcelona at the house with me. Alex said there is plenty of room for any of my friends." I responded, "Don't tempt me, I gotta finish my degree" but also with "Oh my gosh I want to go" so yeah, for a moment I did seriously consider.
But aside from that new exciting adventure, her inspiration has come from reading graphic novels and documentaries that inspire to make a change for injustices. A great desire of hers is to help Syrian refugees someday that was fueled from watching film on the Middle East. Also, from places like Portland because it is full of young creatives that are just constantly creating and expressing themselves on the streets. She's inspired by just watching them just go for it like a street drummer who will invite you to just come and draw while they're playing.
So what are Endion's plans for Spain?
"From what I learned from going to NZ, I don't really have a lot of plans or expectations. I am packing a lot lighter though, I've learned. I'm living with Alex in Barcelona and a friend so I have a place to stay. I've been thinking about investigating into teaching ESL while there. At some point, I have to think about a career that will sustain me and family or whatever I have in the future and ESL is a way to do that and travel. Plus Barcelona has a wicked cool street art scene so I'd like to go there and try that. I'm really looking forward to it."
Ashley Joyce Photography
"I can't recommend traveling more to anyone. Especially for women because I think there is such a stigma towards women traveling alone in the world. Like yeah, there is some merit to it. You have to." Endion's advice on traveling.
Endion with her instantaneously contagious personality and energy that translates even across the states via facebook video was an absolute joy and her story was a complete fascination. Throughout her whole conversation, I was vicariously living through her travel experiences. I was honored to share some of my story with Endion where she quickly called me a part of her Conscious Army. Endion's stories can teach us a lot of things: one being, to challenge yourself to learn who you are outside of your comfort zone. Thank you Endion for being so grateful and gracious in the sharing of your story. Let's keep in touch no matter what.
I like your life,
RANDOMS THAT I COULDN'T BRING MYSELF TO EDIT OUT. ENJOY.
A very true statement by Endion, "There wouldn't be environmental problems if there wasn't human problems."
Me: "Do you like green chile?"
Endion: "Of course. Dude, I am from New Mexico."
Endion on her favorite food, "I had some pretty awesome tacos tonight from ingredients that were very southwestern. I couldn't eat one thing all the time because it wouldn't be special. If you made a mean brownie, I wouldn't be opposed."
Endion on her ideal day, "I hate when everyday's the same. There are days when I love the sun and days when you wake up and it's rainy and you feel good. There are days when you want to be alone and days when you want to be surrounded by people. I think a day is really good when you can be present in it."