Liu Wen on Barcelona

The supermodel remembers the journey that changed her life

Despite working in fashion as a model, a job that entails putting yourself out there and expressing your many sides before the camera, I am a surprisingly shy person. I prefer to stay home and enjoy a quiet evening rather than go out to parties or events. And even after all these years of traveling the globe for work, I tend to feel ill at ease when I’m in an unfamiliar foreign city. Consequently, I often just end up staying in my hotel room, drinking tea and reading books, and preparing for the next leg of my journey. Simplicity defines my usual lifestyle, even if my schedule is complicated. 

My trip to Barcelona in 2013 was for a job with a regular client of mine. It was originally supposed to be just another quick stop on my busy itinerary, but somehow it worked out that I had an extra day before I needed to depart for my next destination. 

I’m not sure what it was—perhaps the splendid blue skies—but on that last day I had a strong urge to put on a backpack and play tourist. Soon enough, I found myself meandering through small streets and large plazas, without an actual plan of ending up anywhere in particular. Around mid-day, I had a sudden revelation: I finally realized that even the most unfamiliar of locales can bring me pleasant surprises, whether it was the random little shop in a side alley or a majestic tree in the middle of a street that was probably a hundred years old. Best of all, I was met with so many warm, welcoming smiles from the locals.

After almost five years of modeling and more location shoots than I can count, I finally understood that even amidst the most hectic of schedules, I can actually slow down, find tranquility, and experience the different places I end up in week after week. My footsteps slowed down drastically after this trip, because my mind and body finally tasted the beauty of deceleration. Thinking back, I probably should have paid more attention to the hidden corners of London or went seashell hunting on the beaches of the Caribbean. But at least now I can look forward to my next opportunity to work in one of these wonderful places. I’ll no longer regard it as “just another trip.” 

Photography Harry Griffin

Photography Harry Griffin

It was also then and there in Barcelona that I became encouraged to share my lifestyle with the rest of the world in a more elaborate way—after all, not everyone has the opportunity to experience what I do, so why not let others see the world through my eyes? In 2014, I started to work on a personal video series in China called “Wen Li,” which means “The Philosophy of Tree Rings,” while also being a play on my name. The project now serves as my own unique way of storytelling. It’s where I can showcase beautiful locations, extraordinary cuisine, and fantastic experiences, all while expressing my own personal style. These are not just documentaries, but sincere, fun narratives, and I hope that they will open the eyes of many others, just as traveling has done for me. After all, nothing is more precious than time itself, and thus I will continue to cherish every place at every moment, whether a camera is on me or not.

 The first season of "Wen Li" can be viewed in Chinese here:

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