Caroline Gregory

Trading Art For Free Accommodation (India)

Caroline Gregory
Trading Art For Free Accommodation (India)

I am traveling across India right now as a painter. Literally I'm writing this post from the top bunk of a train headed 2000 km North. I just ordered dinner and someone will deliver it to me as soon as we reach the next stop. Sharing my reasonably sized bed with me sits a 24x30 inch blank canvas (my next commissioned piece), my phone (portal to offline Netflix), my other "valuables" and a textile blanket that makes life on the road more comfortable and homey. Not to mention, the AC on any of these locomotives is either freezing or broken. India is one of the cheapest and coolest countries I've backpacked thus far. I'm able to fund my way solely with art. Selling paintings online and recently, trading! Trading can be anything. What are you good at that others might find useful? For me, it was a wall mural on the roof of my hostel in exchange for a bed and breakfast.

My food has just arrived. I leave you with this shot of me on the train and will return after I eat an Indian Thali with no utensils. 

Almost two months ago, I arrived in Mysore, India with no intention of staying longer than a night or two. Heading to Auroville was next on my list, but like many of my other travel plans.. this never happened. My hostel, The Mansion 1907, turned out to be a wonderful and uplifting place to stay. I found myself highly inspired here, loving the people and the space to create, meditate and do my own thing when not socializing. After a few days, I asked the owner (Hiren) if he’d be interested in trading artwork at the hostel for a free stay. He was all for it and better yet, said I could paint whatever I wanted.

I roughly sketched out my idea and got to work the next day.  I ended up living for free at the Mansion for 7 weeks, creating something I fell in love with and will forever be thankful for.  

The making of my art can be seen in the photos to follow.  What is not pictured is all the music blasting, dancing, sitting around staring, yoga, meditation, long conversation, sunrises and sunsets, sketching, erasing, ruler measuring, paint mixing, and just about all the other joys that come with creating.  The flow is so fun.  I could never capture it in a photo, but maybe it shines through whatever art is created by the end.

You can see the full piece at the bottom of this post.  

This art experience was very positive for me. I loved not having any boundaries. No canvas edges to limit my creative space and no pressure to finish sooner than later. The process felt natural. 

As a long term resident at the hostel (the first volunteer ever), I met some of the silliest open minded travelers! It has been an ongoing joke for them to periodically message me and see if I’ve left Mysore yet.  The answer is usually no, but today I can finally say yes, I’m on my way to Varanasi to reunite with some of those people.  See you soon, freaks. 

If you are reading this, know that I’m very thankful my art is doing what it is.  I want to live a life of creativity.  If you would like a painting of mine, you probably don’t know where to find me… but shoot me an email and we’ll start there.  

With love,


Finished wall mural. 6ft x 6ft. (Mysore, India)