Lonely Planet Writer

See Rome, draw Rome: the power of perception

Aerial of Rome

This may be an oldie, but we were blown away by it.

The other day, we stumbled across this video that shows Stephen Wiltshire of the UK taking a brief helicopter flight over Rome, then drawing nearly the entire city centre from memory alone.


Diagnosed with autism at a young age, Stephen has made a career of his incredible visual memory. His website details the impressive list of landscapes he's created and re-created.

Stephen's incredible observational skills and acute memory got us thinking about the way we travel. For many people, travel is a way to escape our everyday surroundings. This can be isolating, especially if we use our journeys to 'get away from it all'. We forget that we are getting 'to' something as well as 'away' from something else.

How much more fulfilling could our trips be if we kept our eyes open the whole time? What if we used our powers of perception to connect profoundly with places and people on our travels rather than trying to turn off our brain and disengaging?