In "An Age of License," Lucy Knisley shares her travel journals during a very dynamic period of her life. Invited to speak at a conference in Norway, Knisley finds herself traveling by herself for the first time as she wrestles with her own self identity and adulthood as she continues her career as a cartoonist. As she sets out, she muses on thoughts of her own luck and privilege, worries about the future, and all the things that are uncertain and that have not yet been accomplished. On the way, she embarks on a relationship with a dreamy young Swede, explores the culture differences between American and Scandinavian attitudes towards life and personal growth, and spends time with her mother and friends in France. Each of these locations are depicted in exquisite detail. In France, she encounters a wine grower who mentions off hand the idea of the "Age of License," a time in which young people are free to experiment and be themselves. This idea, which seems to appear no where else, begins to obsesses Knisley and I too find it both a compelling idea and a disturbing one. Where did this age go, have you squandered it already? How best can you take full advantage? Easy for some wealthy old guy to talk about, I guess.
Knisley's water color work continues to be beautiful and evocative, displaying the places she visits, Bergen, Cophenhagen, Berlin, Paris, and the small French towns she and her mother explore, her thoughts and artwork really kindle in me the desire to travel. In the past, I too have often found myself dividing my life into "periods" separated by a major trip; the trip to the Pacific Northwest to begin my college career, the next one as I begun grad school, backpacking Europe just before stepping into the "real" world, I really echo Knisley's argument that travel puts our own lives in a different context, allowing you to reflect and think. Of course, we are distracted by the delicious food and sites, but every experience changes us. What will my next transition trip be, I wonder? Could any journey, by itself, be an "age of license"?