Shaka Brah: take it easy

If I didn’t take it easy back in Australia, if I didn’t choose for myself at that moment, then Traveling Sketchbook probably wasn’t this big at this moment. I’d like to share how important ‘Shaka brah’ became to me.

It was little more than one year ago when I first went scuba diving. This activity was on my bucket list for a loooong time and it finally was time! I had a blast in Koh Tao, at the Davy Jones Locker Diving school. Under water I felt like a fish in the ocean, so free. I think because of the years of swimming (including synchronized swimming) I did, I had no problem breathing. I was so relaxed.


A hand sign in diving is the thumbs up. Doing this means that you want to go back up, back to the surface. So I definitely didn’t want to do that sign. But when I was so enthusiast about the beauty of the sea. I did use the thumbs up. Ooops, there I lost a bet to my diving teacher. The sign I had to make was shaka brah. This is a sign from Hawaï which means ‘hang loose, relax’. They use it in diving for showing that you like something.

How gorgeous is he?? Source: my diving video by Davey Jones Locker Diving


People do know me, unfortunately, as someone who can be stressed and worried about things. Sometimes unnecessarily. Back in Thailand, traveling on my own, I learned to relax. To not worry to much and just enjoy the view, the moment and the freedom. In Indonesia I got myself a self-designed henna tattoo. This time I wanted to create one myself. This little tattoo I was drawing on my arm, sitting in the tattoo shop, meant more than the real permanent tattoo and English tourist was getting on his butt. I convinced him to get a fake one, so he wouldn’t regret it. I think he was glad I did.

This tattoo stayed with me for more than a week. Which was good because I needed A LOT of shaka brah. Planning to go back to Bangkok, to fly to Australia to start my semester at uni, my visa turned out to be not approved. So I was stuck. In Bangkok. Alone. First trip on my own, at the other side of the world. ‘When could I go?’ -‘Can be one day, or one month.’ Yes, you could hear me thinking. Keep it together Carmen, shaka brah. I did cry my eyes out, though. The bottom line of this awful period (which was pretty cool with stays in hostels, painting a mural, visiting tourist spots and waterfalls..) was that it all turned out okay. I missed my introduction week in Melbourne, but I survived and learned so much.


Now we go forward in time, to January 2017. Half a year later I showed myself that I learned things from the shaka brah. Where I found out I wanted to go to the Great Barrier Reef, the East Coast and go surfing, in about two/ three weeks, I realized this would all be in a hurry. And this was more because I wanted to be able to say: ‘Yes I’ve been there.’ Although I really wanted to go THE Reef. I chose to go back to Melbourne and stay at a beautiful apartment where I could sit on a couch, read, watch a movie and ‘hang loose’. I gave myself the opportunity to let this whole roller coaster of a semester sink in. I gave myself time to create art and explore the city.


This was also the period where I met the lovely Kelly, who showed me a big bookstore. I got introduced to Shaun Tan (well his books, not him in person) and other great illustrators. I just sat down and read/ searched and looked at all these pearls of books. I made friends with a little girl, listening to the story her mom was reading out loud in the book store. This period is when I also met the great group of artists: Hannah, Sophie, Laura who participated in the project too. That art night, with a bunch of artists (with Daemion, who didn’t join the project) was just so special to me, that it seems to be more important at that moment than the whole trip I planned to do.


Couch potato, spending a day at the beach, spreading free bookmarks and making art.

This is when I got myself to the point that I just dared to invite ‘bigger’ artists for the project. -artists that are harder to get in touch with- Looking at a book in a store, and just emailing the illustrator. I emailed Shaun Tan, Anna Walker and others. It all happened just there and in my own time. Not in a hurry, I just went with the flow. Too bad I had to catch the plane back to the Netherlands, otherwise I would have met the one and only Shaun Tan.

I am glad I went for the Shaka Brah. Do you often choose for the Shaka Brah, or do you want to do too much and do you try to combine it all?

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