Its very purpose is to be disposed of.

You use it once, to keep your coffee hot and steamy as you sip. But once it’s empty, you throw it out — or recycle it, if you’re responsible.

But however you get rid of it, if you use a paper cup once, you’re done with it.

Unless, of course, you’re Berk Armağan. If you’re Berk Armağan, then after the liquid is gone you turn that paper cup into something magical.

Berk, who runs the @seyyahart Instagram account, is an artist. But he doesn’t draw on canvas. He doesn’t even use an easel. His medium is paper cups.

It all started two years ago when, needing a present for a friend’s birthday, he picked up a used Starbucks cup and saw it as a blank canvas on which to create an artsy birthday message. His friends started showing off his work and asking for more, and before he knew it, Berk had garnered a following.

Around this time, Berk started embarking on world travels. He grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, where he enjoyed exploring the quaint forest near his house. But, in April 2016, he took his first journey away from home, hitchhiking to Izmir, Turkey, about 290 miles (470 kilometers) southwest. Needless to say, the travel bug latched on.

“What drives me to travel is that I don’t want to limit myself to a tiny spot on this huge planet called Earth,” he said.

He wanted to see more of the world, but he needed a way to fund his travels. Humbled by the outpouring of positive feedback he had received on his cup art, he recognized a profitable demand. By building his audience online and selling the cups to his followers, he could supplement his income enough to keep jet-setting around the globe.

Today, he continues drawing and traveling, and his paper cup art has become an integral part of his journeys.

Before he sets off, he always does some research on the place he’s visiting, but most of his subject matter actually comes from exploring his new location and drawing whatever inspires him the most. It could be a striking piece of architecture, a famous painting, or maybe a beautiful landscape. He’s drawn the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Dancing House of Prague, the Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto, and, his personal favorite, Munch’s “The Scream,” which he saw on display at the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway.

In the future, he hopes to travel to Africa and the Americas. But, for now, what matters most is the message he sends with every cup he turns into a work of art.

“I want people to understand that dreams can come true,” he said, “Even with something you use every day and just throw away.”

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Devon Shuman
Devon Shuman is a creator, a storyteller, and a traveler from Boston, Massachusetts. He caught the travel bug at a young age when his family would take camping trips in southern Maine and New York’s Adirondack region. Since then, his adventures have taken him all across the globe. His favorite journeys include island hopping in the Galápagos, thru-hiking Vermont’s Long Trail, and summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. He currently works as an editorial consultant for Passion Passport, helping explorers from around the world tell their stories.