Archive: April, 2012



Traveling Solo | Living the Dream | Kuang Si Falls | Laos

Monday, April 9th, 2012

As a write this (I’m behind on my entries…), I have less than one month left of my trip. Today, I spent the afternoon on a beach in Vietnam playing volleyball with a group of travelers. Nice, right? For me, this hasn’t just been a trip, but the start and continuation of a life/style that I have dreamed of for many years. In sharing this blog with my friends, family, and the larger world, I hope I can offer inspiration and encouragement to people rather than evoke jealousy and envy. Many avid travelers, including myself, experience friends and acquaintances saying things like, “you’re so lucky,” and “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Well my friends, traveling is not some elusive intangibility, but it does take ambition, and you must want it (it should be noted that many romanticized aspects of traveling get shattered, and you should be emotionally prepared for that). As someone told me before I left, “many have the opportunity, but few take it.”

Fellow female travel blogger, Adventures Kate, sums up my feelings well in her entry “Dear Ladies: This Can Be Your Life, Too.” Kate echos what I’ve said many times.

My life is filled with blessings, privileges, and “luck” in it’s own right, (I’m sooo lucky that the nice people that found my wallet at that gay bar in Cambodia contacted me and returned it!) but, I’ve manifested my reality through creativity, hard work, creating goals, and making traveling my number one priority. My priority isn’t being the busiest, most successful wedding photographer in New York City. Nor is it (currently) to build buy a home and settle into a traditional family life. I have no property. My job doesn’t come with health insurance. I have no partner to come home to. No kids. No predictable monthly paycheck. But the truth is, no matter what kind of lives we are living, “security” never really happens, does it? Security is an illusion. It is one in which we find a great deal of comfort, but in the words of the Buddha, is as transient as autumn clouds. I’ve learned (through relationships, traveling, and various other means) that real security comes from within, from knowing how I can use my time, talent, and love to provide wholly for myself and others.

To those who have dreams of traveling, I say to you, go forth and live the life you’ve imagined. If your dreams have gone unfilled up until this point, be generous with yourself, and forgive yourself for opportunities that may have slipped by. Create new dreams and work systematically towards achieving them. This also goes out to people whose dreams may not include traveling the world. Your dream might be settling down with a partner, raising a family, and teaching part time. But the point is, no matter what you are doing, always have dreams. And for those that do wish to travel the world? Well, as Kate writes, “You can keep waiting for your life to change or you can do something about it.” Instead of waiting for friends or significant others to take that trip, get up and go alone, because they may never be ready. “Instead of a blow out weekend in Vegas, you could be learning to kite surf in Mui Ne, Vietnam…. You can have this life too, if it’s what you want.” (Thanks Kate, great post!).

My life isn’t all waterfalls, sunsets, and rainbows so to speak. Even now, at a time when I can truly say “wow, I’m living my dreams!” I still have my personal struggles just like everyone else. I don’t share them on Facebook like I do all my exciting travel photos, but they exist. I acknowledge that a big part of how I got to where I am is the emotional and financial support of family, friends, and mentors in the pursuit of my dreams. Through traveling, my awareness of privilege (being American, white, from an educated, financially stable family, loving home environment, etc), has magnified exponentially, as has my gratitude. We all have our karma, privileges, and obstacles in life. But, at the end of the day, our lives aren’t handed to us. We build them. All I’m doing right now is building the life I want, and the thing I will say to friends over and over again is simply, “you should, too.”

I have met people from a huge variety of financial backgrounds and personal circumstances who are currently traveling around the world. You don’t need to be rich to travel, but you do need to have savings plan, and you will likely need to simplify your life and curb your spending habits and material lust. For those of you wondering, I averaged about $25-35 dollars a day on this trip, including sleeping, eating, transport, shopping, and massages!

One of my favorite blog entries, Five Regrets of the Dying, originally shared by Bonnie Ware over at Inspiration and Chai, has started going viral on Facebook again (and she’s since released a full length book). I wish I had the courage to be my true self, and the courage to express my feelings. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. I wish I had let myself be happier.

Indeed, as exemplified by this beautiful compilation from those nearing the end of their lives, true security doesn’t come from diamond rings, 9-5′s, and big houses. And I would say that freedom doesn’t necessarily come from being single and traveling the world. Freedom, and the sense of “security,” comes from fulfilling our own needs and pursuing experiences that bring us joy and a sense of purpose. I’ve discovered that for me, this means traveling, capturing photos, sharing my feelings, seeing my family, and building a community of friends that digs deep into life, encourages, and inspires me. Above all, I think the first step to realizing personal dreams of any size or grandeur, is to believe that you deserve to be happy, and live the life you want. It sounds simple, but our culture doesn’t teach us this. It’s a lesson we must teach ourselves.

Thanks for reading…GO BIG…and stay tuned for my next adventure.

kuang si falls is a special place. what’s better than swinging from a tree into a turquoise waterfall? not much. jim and i hiked to the top (kuang si falls is a series of 5 or 6 waterfalls) and worked our way down, so that we could enjoy a swim at the bottom after our hard work. it was a fairly challenging, steep hike. there were many paths, some of which led to dead ends and/or away from the falls, but it was a fun maze and we listened for the falls to find our way back.

even though it’s the dry season, i was still impressed! i’d love to see this place during the wet season!

the top!

what’s up!

oh hi!

keepin’ it classy with the stripes!

it was a bit tricky to get a hold of the rope…

wee!

jim snapped these pics of me, i like the guy in the tree in the background

jim crossin the bridge

played with these kids for a while…

hiked to the top of one temples for sunset

cat!

one of our favorite eating spots… 50 cent beers!

one

peaceĀ  out luang prabang!

 

Epic Sunset Panorama | Koh Samui Preview

Monday, April 9th, 2012

A little preview of what’s to come.
Canon 5d Mark II.
1/200 sec at f 3.5
ISO 400
135 mm

Elephant Festival | Sayaboury | Laos | 2012

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

At the Wat Phou Festival in Champasak, Jim and I met an enegergetic Portuguese guy who told us about the Lao Elephant Festival.

Wait.
Elephant?
Festival?!
Sold!

southeast asia travel blog (165)

From the Kong Lo Cave we headed towards Vientiane via an 8 hour bus ride, where we were destined to get on the most horrible 14 hour night bus journey of our lives. We knew we were in for it the moment we stepped on. There was no air con. The seats were broken and didn’t recline. Our knees were jammed tightly against the seats in front of us. The middle isle was packed (as usual) with locals sitting on little plastic chairs, which made it impossible to stand or stretch our legs. The bus route consisted of dirt roads laced with potholes the entire way, which resulted in a painstakingly slow pace. The windows remained opened at all times, caking us in dust and drying our throats. And then came the vomiting. Just at the night fell upon us, locals next to us started vomiting into plastic bags (which they kept until we stopped hours later). Meanwhile, we had convinced our new friends, Bridget and Zaf, to change their plans and make the journey the day after us!

Beneath the dust and the vomit, there was something about the experience that was beautiful to me. It was a lesson in learning to relax, finding comfort where there is none, and appreciating the fact that this is not part of my daily life. When we finally arrived in the isolated town of Sayaboury, we were exhausted, and we hadn’t yet booked accommodation. Despite the tourist office’s warning that all guesthouses were full, we wandered around with our packs before we finally walked back to the office and asked them to arrange a homestay. The homestay ended up being an amazing experience, and our accommodation was right next to the festival. Our family didn’t speak any English, but we managed to communicate through sign language, laughing, and a few words of language exchange conducted through pointing to objects. Apparently, over 600 local families opened their doors for homestays during the festival.

This was the 6th annual Elephant Festival in Laos, and it is held in partnership with a local elephant conservation center. The festival aims to raise awareness about the critical protection and conservation of elephants in Lao (which is known as “the land of a million elephants”), as well as to celebrate the age-old relationship between human and elephant. It was an incredible experience to be so close to so many elephants. Not quite wild, but not captive, they roamed around, ate, bathed, and gave rides to locals. They were so tame, gentle, and playful…and they often looked as though they were smiling!

Manhout is the term given to those who ride elephants, and it was especially interesting to watch them interact with their animals. In Laos (and other places around the world) manhouts often spend long periods of time away from home, working deep in remote forests with their elephants. The elephants are used for land clearing and logging (no need for labor and machinery when an elephant can just walk up to a tree and pull it out of the ground!), and because they spend most of their lives together, a special relationship between manhout and elephant is forged. This was evident in watching them interact.

I must say, it was a surreal experience to spend three days observing and being among elephants in the middle of Laos. I love animals, and to see such magnificent creatures in this setting was a complete joy. Every night after the elephants went to bed, there were festivities at the main stage. Jim and I, along with thousands of others, sat and watched performances while sipping local beers. We eventually got to meet up with Bridget and Zaf (who also had a miserable bus journey!) and enjoyed our time with them. Everyday we ate a place we called “the cement restaurant,” where we met an English speaking Lao man whose daughter lives in Brooklyn and attends FIT. Small world! (he was so great… he insisted on taking a picture of the two of us and emailing it to her). One afternoon, Jim and I hitchhiked to a reservoir nearby, which although wasn’t as big as we thought, made for an peaceful afternoon adventure. By the end of each day, we were were exhausted; between the heat and the dust and the crowds, we were happy to say hello to our pillows, usually no later than 11.

After saying goodbye to our homestay family at dawn, we headed to the bus station with our packs, our sights set on Luang Prabang… the bity city! Stay tuned.

southeast asia travel blog (190)

the only pictures i took of the bus….

southeast asia travel blog (189)

welcome to the 2012 elephant festival!

southeast asia travel blog (71)

southeast asia travel blog (181)

southeast asia travel blog (179)

southeast asia travel blog (180)

elephant procession

southeast asia travel blog (149)

southeast asia travel blog (148) southeast asia travel blog (147)

southeast asia travel blog (146)

southeast asia travel blog (145)

southeast asia travel blog (144)

southeast asia travel blog (143) southeast asia travel blog (142)

in different parts of asia, they eat duck and chicken embryos…i couldn’t get myself to try it!

southeast asia travel blog (178) southeast asia travel blog (177)

southeast asia travel blog (176) southeast asia travel blog (175)

southeast asia travel blog (174)

no, YOU’RE pizza!

southeast asia travel blog (173)

jim…

southeast asia travel blog (172)

southeast asia travel blog (171)

southeast asia travel blog (170)

southeast asia travel blog (169)

southeast asia travel blog (168)

southeast asia travel blog (167)

southeast asia travel blog (166)

no south east asian festival is complete without laterns

southeast asia travel blog (164)

southeast asia travel blog (163)

southeast asia travel blog (162) southeast asia travel blog (161)

southeast asia travel blog (160)

southeast asia travel blog (159) southeast asia travel blog (158)

southeast asia travel blog (157)

southeast asia travel blog (156) southeast asia travel blog (155)

southeast asia travel blog (154)

southeast asia travel blog (152)

southeast asia travel blog (151)

southeast asia travel blog (141)

elephant of year contest

southeast asia travel blog (140)

southeast asia travel blog (139)

southeast asia travel blog (138)

southeast asia travel blog (137)

southeast asia travel blog (136)

southeast asia travel blog (135)

southeast asia travel blog (134)

southeast asia travel blog (133) southeast asia travel blog (132)

southeast asia travel blog (131)

southeast asia travel blog (130)

southeast asia travel blog (129) southeast asia travel blog (127)

southeast asia travel blog (125)

southeast asia travel blog (124)

southeast asia travel blog (123)

southeast asia travel blog (122)

southeast asia travel blog (121)

southeast asia travel blog (120)

southeast asia travel blog (119)

southeast asia travel blog (118)

southeast asia travel blog (117)

southeast asia travel blog (116)

southeast asia travel blog (115)

southeast asia travel blog (114)

southeast asia travel blog (113)

southeast asia travel blog (111)

southeast asia travel blog (110)

southeast asia travel blog (109)

southeast asia travel blog (108) southeast asia travel blog (107)

southeast asia travel blog (106)

southeast asia travel blog (105)

southeast asia travel blog (104)

southeast asia travel blog (103)

southeast asia travel blog (101)

southeast asia travel blog (100)

southeast asia travel blog (99)

southeast asia travel blog (98)

southeast asia travel blog (97)

southeast asia travel blog (96)

southeast asia travel blog (94)

southeast asia travel blog (95)

southeast asia travel blog (93)

southeast asia travel blog (92)

southeast asia travel blog (91)

southeast asia travel blog (90)

southeast asia travel blog (89)

southeast asia travel blog (88)

southeast asia travel blog (87)

southeast asia travel blog (86)

southeast asia travel blog (85)

southeast asia travel blog (84)

southeast asia travel blog (82)

southeast asia travel blog (81)

southeast asia travel blog (80)

southeast asia travel blog (79)

southeast asia travel blog (77)

southeast asia travel blog (76)

southeast asia travel blog (74)

southeast asia travel blog (73)

southeast asia travel blog (72)

southeast asia travel blog (70)

southeast asia travel blog (69)

southeast asia travel blog (68) southeast asia travel blog (67)

southeast asia travel blog (65)

southeast asia travel blog (66)

southeast asia travel blog (64)

southeast asia travel blog (63)

southeast asia travel blog (62)

southeast asia travel blog (61) southeast asia travel blog (60)

southeast asia travel blog (75)

southeast asia travel blog (59)

southeast asia travel blog (58) southeast asia travel blog (57)

southeast asia travel blog (56)

southeast asia travel blog (55)

southeast asia travel blog (54)

southeast asia travel blog (53)

closing ceremonies…

southeast asia travel blog (52)

southeast asia travel blog (51)

southeast asia travel blog (50)

southeast asia travel blog (49)

southeast asia travel blog (48)

southeast asia travel blog (47)

southeast asia travel blog (46) southeast asia travel blog (45)

southeast asia travel blog (44)

southeast asia travel blog (43)

southeast asia travel blog (42)

southeast asia travel blog (41)

on our way to bed, we met this guy who insisted we come drink with him… so we did!

southeast asia travel blog (39)

southeast asia travel blog (40)

southeast asia travel blog (37)

they didn’t want us to leave! they kept giving us beers to make us stay!

southeast asia travel blog (36)

manhout prepares elephant lunch buffet

southeast asia travel blog (34)

southeast asia travel blog (33) southeast asia travel blog (32)

southeast asia travel blog (31) southeast asia travel blog (30)

southeast asia travel blog (29)

southeast asia travel blog (27)

southeast asia travel blog (26)

southeast asia travel blog (25) southeast asia travel blog (24)

southeast asia travel blog (23)

southeast asia travel blog (22)

southeast asia travel blog (21)

southeast asia travel blog (20)

southeast asia travel blog (19)

southeast asia travel blog (18)

southeast asia travel blog (16)

llunch

southeast asia travel blog (17)

the reservoir

southeast asia travel blog (15)

southeast asia travel blog (14)

southeast asia travel blog (13)

southeast asia travel blog (12)

southeast asia travel blog (11)

southeast asia travel blog (10)

southeast asia travel blog (9)

southeast asia travel blog (8)

hitchhiking back…

southeast asia travel blog (6)

southeast asia travel blog (5)

our homestay family

southeast asia travel blog (4)

southeast asia travel blog (3) southeast asia travel blog (2)

southeast asia travel blog (1)

 

All Images Copyright Erica Camille Productions | Blog Theme Created by LJP & SLR Lounge