About Me: The Long(ish) Story - Awol - THE ART OF TRAVEL

About Me: The Long(ish) Story

Hi, I’m Alex. I’m a designer, art director, artist and traveller. Travel fuels my creativity, and my curiosity feeds my compulsive need to explore new places. I split my time between creating, and travelling for inspiration.

I’ve always been an insatiably curious person, hungry to know everything, experience everything, and make things. Travel has been an essential part of my life from my late teens, as essential to my creativity as breathing.

The world is my muse. But it wasn’t always like this – in fact, I grew up in a place that restricted travel about as much as current-day North Korea.

I spent my childhood in Bucharest, where travel was restricted to all but a special few. My grandparents were established artists in Romania: straddling the disciplines of fine arts, textile, fashion design, sculpture and ceramics, they were constantly innovating and finding new ways to merge their talents while pushing established boundaries.

My grandparents and me in their art studios, and me in one of my grandmother’s silk scarf designs on the beach

They took me under their creative wings and taught me to draw, paint and sculpt. Along with my family, they encouraged my creative pursuits by exposing me to arts & culture in every possible shape and form from a very early age.

Later, when we moved to Canada, we couldn’t afford to travel much, so I learned about the world through reading everything I could get my hands on, while constantly making stuff: drawings, paintings, sketches, mosaics, collages and fashion sketches. I wanted to be a fashion designer, an artist, and an architect, all at the same time.

And then suddenly, at 16, my world expanded, my creative inspiration soared, and my travel addiction began.

Some travel snapshots: exploring Belgium, Bali and the French Alps

My parents moved to Holland when I was 16. They couldn’t NOT go, since my father had the opportunity of a lifetime to work on the UN tribunal for prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, making a real, positive and necessary difference in the world.

I refused to go with them because I was stubborn and I wanted to hang out with my friends. As a punishment, every summer they bought me a plane ticket and forced me to visit them in Europe – we explored new cities, countries and cultures. As my world-view expanded, I found myself daydreaming of new adventures outside my comfortable Ottawa suburb. After graduating university with a degree in Criminology, I found myself in the midst of an existential, quarter-life panic attack.

I saw my life flash before my eyes: a sensible future with a sensible career choice, and the next 25 years living comfortably in a comfortable comfort zone.

This sensible, comfortable future self made me feel about as free as a caged bird. Two months later, I moved to South Korea, where I would spend the next 3 years teaching, travelling around Asia, and painting.

After my 3 year Korean adventure I moved to Montreal, where I competed a degree in Graphic Design. I fell in love with design because it marries my favourite things – imagery and language. Design has the potential to connect with people, tell stories, and communicate pretty much anything and everything, in a meaningful way. There’s always something new to learn, and I’ve never done the same thing twice.

Design has allowed me to create a life that revolves around creativity, curiosity, and travel; I am perpetually in pursuit of new ideas, novelty and creative challenges. I meet amazing people and work with grown-ups who really are still kids at heart.

Clowning around with Cirque du Soleil cast while art directing a photoshoot

After having worked for thirteen years in Montreal as an artistic director and designer, with dream clients ranging from Cirque du Soleil, Madonna, and countless others across the cultural, fashion, institutional and technology industries, I began to feel a strong pull towards creating something totally new.

The only problem was that I had absolutely no idea what that “new” thing was, only that it was creating an almost unbearable itch, and that itch was a bitch.

The answer came to me in a flash at 9000 feet in the air, while suffering from altitude sickness on a hike in Colombia’s Cocora Valley with my boyfriend. While we were manically admiring the infinite beauty of our surroundings (ferns! leaves! rocks! palm trees! donkey poop!), the extreme temperature changes and lack of oxygen to my brain left me wishing I had something useful to wrap myself in, while my brain was trying to and a way to capture the magic of that sweaty and chilling moment.

Colombia: hikes, donkeys, palm trees and altitude sickness preceding my Awol creative “flash”
I had a moment of total clarity: I would create my own little world, inspired by my experiences around the world.

A micro-universe where art, design and travel became one. Where creativity and travel meet to provide functional, beautiful objects that are inspired by my travels around the world. Art that tells stories and shares magical places, but that also serves a function. Art that people can wear, use, or carry forward in their own journeys. And so, Awol was born.

Me wearing The Dreamer silk scarf, inspired by adventures in the sky. Behind me are the original drawings I made for this design.
Awol is my creative happy place – a space where I paint, draw, illustrate, and design the world as I move through it, conveying the essence of my travels.

I make art and contemporary design accessories inspired by places I have travelled to – premium keepsakes that people to take forth in their own lives and adventures. This blog is where I will be sharing my travels, creative process, and inspiration.

Some of my process sketches for the New York and Portugal-inspired collections
The AWOL blog is where creativity and travel meet – I hope to create a community of curious, inspired people who share the love of exploration, art, design and travel. A place that connect and inspires, where no one tells you to colour inside the lines.

I hope you come back to visit often. Follow me to the edges of the map, and beyond. Let’s wander on, together.

With love,




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