Wishes and Regrets

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The Parlor at Plainspoke.

What do you wish?

What do you regret?


These questions were posed by conceptual artist Lauren Gillette to more than 60 people of different ages and stages of life, as she photographed them, mugshot-style.  I happened upon an exhibit of this project on a recent trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

As I sat on the deck of the Old Ferry Landing restaurant enjoying yet another lobster roll (I could not get enough of them on this trip!) I began chatting with my server about things to see and do in town. He offered to lend me his copy of the local entertainment weekly, so that I could look through the listings of art and music events. A photo exhibit entitled “Wish/Regret” caught my eye. After lunch, I wandered through town, stopping at the information kiosk in the main square, operated by the local Chamber of Commerce. Then, armed with a map and directions, I set off to find The Parlor at Plainspoke.

Plainspoke is a graphic design studio, located in a beautifully restored mid-1800s carriage house. When I found it, I realized that I had walked past it before, not knowing what it was. The owners have turned part of the space into a gallery where they host events and display the work of local artists.

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The photos mounted in the silent gallery space.

When I entered The Parlor, it was absolutely silent. I was the only person there, so I could take in the exhibit without any distractions. Two photos each of 45 different people – one displaying their wish, one displaying their regret – were mounted around the room. I was struck by how revealing the statements were, and how willing the subjects were to share such intimate thoughts. These people had not taken the questions lightly; they had clearly engaged in some serious self-reflection. It was incredibly moving.

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Amira’s wish.

As I worked my way around the room, I began to notice something else. A number of statements, both wishes and regrets, related to travel. One young woman wished to visit every country in the world. Another regretted not having traveled more. One woman regretted not taking more risks in her life. Another wished simply to be present.

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Don’t let this be your regret.

There were many other important life issues represented in Wish/Regret, but because I was experiencing this incredible show while traveling solo, these particularly resonated with me. Sometimes the things that I just “stumble across” when I travel turn out to be the most remarkable and memorable parts of a trip. It’s why it is so important to leave time and space to wander, to get lost, to discover.

This exhibit has really stayed with me, and will remain an important part of my memory of my time in Portsmouth. I hope that I learned something from the intensely personal thoughts shared by these brave people. And I hope that you will one day be able to answer the question “What do you regret?” as the artist’s 99 year-old grandmother did: “No regrets. I have had a good life.”


  • http://www.facebook.com/rakshith.chengappa Rakshith Chengappa Mullengada

    Thank You :)

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Oh I know this so well. But the odds weigh in favor of your more “difficult” option. After all, the chance of regret for having tried is zero compared with the chance of regret for not having tried which is super high. And the rewards for success of a difficult goal are really high too. The only downside is that “maybe” of not making it. Meh. I’ve lived that before and it’s no big deal as long as you tried really hard to do what is really important. The knowledge of having tried can be great enough. Not sure that I’ve been clear here. Good luck Kirsten. I look forward to following your massive success.

  • http://www.aviatorsandacamera.com/ Kirsten Alana

    Fabulous, Janice. Thank you for sharing this. On my mind constantly these days has been this exact issue of regrets and wishes.

    Pretty torn about my future and yet there’s a direction I am leaning more towards. The one that, of course, is a lot harder to pursue and make happen.

  • http://www.solotravelerblog.com/ Tracey Nesbitt

    Glad you liked it! You can see more photos from the Wish/Regret project on the artist’s website: http://laurengillette.com/wishregret.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/rakshith.chengappa Rakshith Chengappa Mullengada

    Interesting! Could you please post more pictures from the gallery? 

  • Pennyegan

    Loved the article and have to agree, sometimes the greatest memories or experiences when traveling are those not in the itinerary.

  • http://www.solotravelerblog.com/ Tracey Nesbitt

    Thanks for reading!  :)

  • Marcyromeo

    Great article Tracey thanks for sharing!