Looking back at the cities I visited, it was strange and ironic to realize that the travelers I met reflected and shed light onto the tendencies and characteristics that the city contained. In Barcelona, arguable a party city, I met people who were just looking to have a good time. In Athens, and in Greece in general I met individuals who seemed thoughtful and unpretentiously discussed literature and Western Civilization. In Cambodia I met truly humble people with a kindness and generosity I have never before encountered. And in my final stop of Tokyo, I met some of the most outlandish, high energy personalities of my entire trip. An average night included hanging out with a food and tech blogger while exploring a Dario Argento themed bar or robot themed restaurant in one of the many vibrant neighborhoods of this wondrous city.
Having been on the road for 6 months, the feelings that I was repeating the same experiences in each city I visited began to creep in. Not to mention that many of the cities I visited seemed to contain the same chains, this led to an expensive deja vu experience as I pushed the limits of how long I could continue on the road.
By the time I reached Taipei, Taiwan I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I were to continue for much longer I would be delving into the “escape” form of travel and not the honorable “exploring” part. I started to understand the mentality of the people I met who didn’t have plans to go back home but were rather settling into the responsibility-free lifestyle of bouncing from city to city, neglecting the call of their work-life back home. It was a scary idea to behold and one that could easily entice as living in hostels and cheap flights allowed for extended affordable living on the road. Scrappy travelers were exploring ways to make livings abroad and create sustainable financial situations, far from the harsh realities of the worlds they originally fled.
After getting ripped off by one too many tuk-tuk drivers, I decided to head north to the more secluded, honest, and docile town of Chiang Mai. It was there I met a group of travelers and we embarked on a trek through the jungles in search of an elephant sanctuary where we were going to ride and wash these giant creatures.
Led by a native Chiang Mai resident, we hiked and hiked, a journey that may have been the hottest trek I’ve ever experienced. Our local guide made more than a few jokes about his Western followers as we were sweating and struggling to keep up with his quick pace. Somehow he managed to stay completely perspire-free throughout the entirety of the 5-mile hike to a small village, complete with 7-11 convenience store (Wooden sign with 7-11 scratched into it’s surface) serving Chiang beer, a favorite of the Irish travelers I met.
We spent the night at this small village as our tour guide entertained us, joined by another local with a guitar, belting out Greenday covers as we rested from the journey, taking in our tropical, jungle surroundings, all feeling very far from home, in a good way.
My first day in Bangkok I had such a severe panic attack I had to spend most of the day in the hostel I was staying at, paralyzed with fear that I was going to be kidnapped off the street. I had a seen a sign that showcased what I deemed to be a tourist being taken off the street by a moving vehicle with the caption, “beware the snatcher.” This sighting along with the outright unbearable heat, intimidating street food situation and extreme culture shock led me to feeling abit safer indoors.
I ventured out later that evening, met a British Expat at a Western coffee shop and we ventured out into the backpacker district of the city deemed the hub of South East Asia. I gathered much fodder for stories and photos on my week in Bangkok and felt pride at lasting longer than the typical tourist does in the city. Most head straight for the islands or go north to the remote and more tranquil towns of Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai once they receive a first hand account of Thailand’s capital city. But not I! I had the misguided and open-minded idea that a week was necessary to fully appreciate the afternoon tropical downpours, crazed tuk-tuk drivers, monkey street food, and exotic temples (See Below)
Looking back at photos from traveling can be a surreal experience. As I perused through photos from South East Asia It sometimes didn’t even feel like I was in the locations where I gathered these shots. Traveling alone must lend itself to the mystique that is exploring 3rd world nations as there is no one to corroborate my stories of the incredibly dreamlike nature of these less-often traversed lands. But the moments were different, not lessened, from exploring on my own and had I been with a travel companion, I may not have explored as openly and widely as I did.
This photo is from a small town in Cambodia called Siem Reap and was perhaps the most humble of locales that I visited in the South-East Asian area. No paved roads or food chains lined these streets but rather contained modest housing and crowded restaurants serving primarily locals. I gathered more than a few stares as I walked casually down the roads, bright tennis shoes, American clothing, and wide-eyed traveler countenance.
Some of the best photos I’ve taken in recent years have been from locations experienced while on the road. Traveling affords some of the best photo ops due to the other-worldly nature of the locations and wonder these places inspire. This photo was taken while bicycling from NYC to Charleston, South Carolina, a 21 day bike journey that allowed for some great shots in the picturesque US of A. Biking down the East Coast resulted in traversing some back roads and off beaten paths that would not have been the norm had one driven, hitchhiked, or trained down this route. It was an exciting, breathtaking cycle through farmland, beaches, suburban townships, cities, and highways
I saw something online recently about the best drone footage of the year and how this type of photography allows us to see the world alittle differently than we’re used to. I think that’s why I’m so enamored with the idea of drones. It creates visuals that are so arresting because we’re not used to seeing things that are familiar from such vantage points as drones allow. Until recently you were only able to capture these shots with a helicopter which was costly and time-consuming. The range of possibilities with shots was not, no pun intended, as wide, as you were subject to the helicopter, camera rig, and operator limitations.
I was flying my DJI Phantom 1 the other day and although it’s far from production-ready, the possibilities are very exciting. Armed with an FPV system, better drone, latest Go-Pro, the possibilities are limitless.