Tag: ‘travel photographer’

Spicy Joe Bungalows | First Night

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Last year, I met Samart (AKA spicy Joe) through couchsurfing, and he invited me to his bungalows a few hours from Chiang Mai.
Little did I know before I arrived, it was an entire operation of volunteering, eco lodges, farming, cooking, and culture exchange.
Click here to read about last year’s experience.

You can stay at Spicy Joe’s Ecolodge either as a guest or volunteer (volunteer is cooler, you eat and stay free in exchange for working 6 hours a day). Either way, you can do treks, hikes, rafting at an extremely affordable rate. And you won’t find a more authentic Thai experience. You can also learn to cook for much cheaper than the cooking classes offered in Chiang Mai.

As I remembered from last year, the closer we got, the more adventurous the journey became. At one point, we had to unload a bunch of salt bags from the truck to reduce weight to make it up a stretch of road. We also had to back up to the edge of a cliff in order to get a running start. I looked over at Erica and she was praying (maybe for the first time in her life) with her hands clenched looking up at the sky. I just laughed and didn’t look back.

We arrived past sundown, and because a water pipe had broken at the bungalows, the group was staying at a nearby waterfall. We navigated our way on foot with our stuff for about 10 minutes before we got to the huts. When we stepped in we were greeted by Samart and a small group of travelers, freshly rolled local tobacco (with turmeric for a sour kick) and of course food and puppies! (not served together). It was an extremely cold night of sleeping, but the sound of the rushing waterfall was amazing white noise for dozing off.

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And in the morning, we woke up to this.


photos by travel photographer erica camille. follow me on facebook.

Bangkok (Again)

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

My 2013 adventure is underway without a hitch. Well, ok there was a small hitch of missing my flight from NYC to Bangkok, but with a little bit of charm and only a $150 change fee, I arrived one day later than planned.

There’s no feeling in the world like stepping off a plane in another country. It’s a rush, and it’s inspiring. This is how I felt after my 15 hour flight to Hong Kong. Though I was jsut passing through, it was my first stop on my journey, and despite the long flight, I felt invigorated, grateful, and in-tune with my aliveness.

It was wonderful to be able to say in Thai where I was going, how much it cost, and to literally just walk through the door into a familiar apartment. It felt like coming home. Here are some photos from around the neighborhood from last year’s and a little background story.

Our first week was admittedly lazy, sunny days spent by the pool, eating, napping, and a little bit of wondering. I didn’t do a ton of shooting, but here are some frames from our first days.
























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Photos by adventure travel photographer / nyc wedding photographer Erica Camille. Follow me on Facebook.

Sunsets and Infinity Pools | Lombok | Indonesia

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

After Bali, mom and I decided to head to Lombok, Indoneisa. Unfortunately, by this point, she had missed a step walking down the stairs and badly sprained her ankle, or so we thought. We found out later it was actually cracked. So it was a good thing that we had already done most of our adventures (biking, rafting), though we still went snorkeling. After doing some research I found a great deal on a beautiful resort… it seemed almost too good to be true, but it wasn’t! For $67 a night we had a nice little cottage/bungalow at Puri Mas resort with an infinity pool overlooking the ocean and active volcano in the distance. All of this was a big treat for me, since I had been traveling on about $20 a day up until this point, often sleeping on paper thin mattresses.

Admittedly, this was our favorite part of the trip together… we swam during the afternoon and then had dinner watching the sunset while we drank cold beers and played five crowns (best card game ever). All of it would have been incredibly romantic… if I hadn’t, you know, been with my MOM, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It’s just one of those things we’ll both never forget. I recently gave her a coffee table book of all these pictures, and she said “I’ll be bringing this to the retirement home with me,” which as far as I know isn’t happening anytime soon, thus making it a sweet sentiment. Love you mom!!

Koh Samui | Thailand | Couchsurfing with Alex

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

I ONLY PLANNED TO SPEND A FEW DAYS on Koh Samui to a shoot a wedding, but a few days turned into a week, and it became one of those experiences that left me saying, “this is why I travel.”

I’ve couchsurfed all over the world, but couchsurfing in Europe in 2005 will always stand out, because it was my first big trip. It’s like falling in love for the first time. Though I am still in awe of each place I go, there’s nothing like one’s first taste of the road, and for me, couchsurfing was a big part of that. In Lusanne Switzerland, my host Jerome greeted me with swiss chocolate, pizza, and hookah, and my own room overlooking Lake Geneva. I met my friend Sophie in Lyon, France when I surfed her couch, and had a magical weekend in the countryside with her and her friends. (We’ve since seen each other two more times). I had a free boat tour and private scuba diving excursion while couchsurfing in Australia with Meg. I met Alison, who took me on a road trip along the Great Ocean Road. The list goes on. Couchsurfing is not only a way to experience culture and meet new people, it is, for many people, a way of life, a philosophy, a value system.

Every once in a while (actually more often than not), I meet hosts that go above and beyond, and Alex was just one of those guys. I was immediately comfortable in his home and his presence; it was as though we had met before. Alex moved to Koh Saumi from Russia after a friend encouraged him to pack up his bags and live on the beach. He works as a translator, and since he works mostly from home, we had a lot of time to explore the island on his motorbike and widdle away hours at his favorite beach spots. We spent our evenings down the street at a new pool bar called lucky lips (haha) where we got to know the local ladies (oh yea), and I frequently kicked Alex’s ass in pool.

Our mornings were lazy, but eventually, we’d cruise into town to find the best coffee on the island. We also put away a lot of pad thai and Tom Kha Gai soup at Alex’s favorite food joints. “This is the best soup I’ve found on the island, and I’ve had a lot of soup.” Tom Kai Gai is a traditional soup that I’d had many times but not like this.This was, as Alex affectionately called it, magic soup. It was a freaking pimped out party for your tastebuds. Where does one find this soup? A German sports bar of all places, owned by a German/Thai couple whose daughter prepares the soup. It doesn’t have an online presence yet, so you’re just going to have to ask around for directions to Baden Sports Bar.

During one of our post-swim motorbike adventures into the hills, Alex and I stumbled upon this hidden cafe with spectacular views. We enjoyed a coconut shake while we talked about life and looked down into the valley. It was at that point Alex said, “Yep, life here is pretty sweet, Erica.” And that’s all he really needed to say. “I’m coming back,” I told him.

I went to Koh Samui expecting something similar to the over-developed touristy, (but beautiful) Phuket. But I was lucky, thanks to Alex, I got to experience an underbelly of Koh Samui that few travelers do. Thank you Alex! See you next year…

alex + the magic soup

view from the hidden cafe…

post-coconut shake bliss

alex putty lips at lucky lips

the beach

morning coffee

my attempt at this didn’t go as well, so i’m not including the pictures!

and so begins one of the most epic sunsets i’ve witnessed…

from darkness to light.

Wat Phou Festival | Campasak | Laos

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

After my lovely experience with Samart in Chiang Mai, I flew to Phuket for my first destination wedding, with Philippines-based photographer Julian Abram Wainwright. Stay tuned for the photos on my wedding blog. I will be returning to Phuket later next month to shoot two more weddings, so I will save my Phuket post until then. After a few days of  chilling out, I flew to Ubon where I prepared to cross the Thai border to Laos and meet Jim, my travel partner for the next few weeks.

From Ubon airport, I took a taxi to the bus station, where I waited for a few hours to catch a bus to the Chong Mek border crossing. On the bus, I met a young novice monk, and we chatted for quite some time, as he enjoyed practicing his English. From the drop off point, I made my way on a motorbike taxi to the border where I got my passport stamped and received my visa ($35 if you pay in USD $42 if you pay in Thai Baht). Apart from the poorly marked paths and a little confusion, it was a fairly simple crossing that took about 30 minutes. From there, I grabbed a minibus to the guesthouse where Jim and I had planned to rendezvous. Jim and I met on couchsurfing.org in the South East Asia forums while we were planning our trips. We decided, despite never meeting or talking on the phone, that we would travel together for almost three weeks in Laos. Jim is a young older guy (51 but passes for 40), and we proved to get on well…most of the time (a brother-sister dynamic ensued!)

I was eager to explore Laos, and see how it differed from Thailand. Laos is the first communist country I have visited, and I was curious to see how, if any, the communist state influenced the culture. I will talk more about this in later posts. Jim and I spent our first few nights in Pakse, which is mostly a border crossing town, but we found it quite nice. We had a delicious dinner (Tom Yom soup—decided to skip the “pork bowels”) on the Mekong as the sun went down at a lively spot where many locals were gathered drinking beers. Before bed, we enjoyed some traditional Lao herbal massages, which are quite divine (and cost $4-6/hour!). Unfortunately, by this time, I had become quite sick due to an air conditioner in Phuket, but with a few days rest, I was back to normal.

The (usually) sleepy town of Champasak was our first official destination in Laos. Along with thousands of Lao locals, we were headed to the full moon festival at Wat Phou, one of the oldest archeological sites in Laos. Constructed in the 9th century, it was a holy site for Hindus and later Buddhists. Once annually, during the full moon on the third lunar month, there is a religious festival held at the site, and it just so happened to coincide with our travel plans. Unfortunately, today the ruins are just that—in ruin—and in danger of crumbling, even as organizations in France and Japan work to restore them (Wat Phou is a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

After spending our first day wondering the festival’s huge market in the incredible midday heat, we decided to take a break on following day, by hiring a boat to take us to the tiny fishing island across the river, Don Daeng. We had planned to spend most of the day on along the shore under the sun. But before settling in, we ventured off for a little walk. Fast forward four hours later; we were lost, exhausted, and burdened by aching feet (with only our flimsy flip-flops shielding them from the ground). We gravely underestimated the width of the island, and thus ended up walking 25K over the course of five hours in brutal mid day Laos heat. This was an immense challenge for me physically and mentally, and I had to prevent myself from stopping for breaks, because I knew we needed to keep going. We considered backtracking multiple times, (and should have) but we just kept going. Though strenuous, we saw some beautiful sites along the way; children riding bikes in front of a temple, kids playing with push carts, and families making sticky rice over fire in tubes of bamboo. When we finally arrived in familiar territory, we enjoyed a half hour of swimming in the murky Mekong before the boat returned to pick us up. We also noticed that had we walked right instead of left, there was a beautiful eco-resort with a swimming pool and bar, where we could’ve spent the day relaxing!

On the last day of the festival, we climbed to the top of Wat Phou ruins. The temple was lit by hundreds of candles that the monks had set ablaze at dawn as part of an extensive alms blessing. Walking up these glowing ruins at dusk was a spiritual experience for me. Incense burned strongly from all directions, monks and nuns stationed at various places offered blessings, and near the top, I watched children and families collect water from a fresh water spring that trickled through the cracks of the ruins. It has been flowing for thousands of years, and the water is believed to be holy. And just as the festival began winding down, dozens of lanterns began floating into the sky…between the moon, the candles, and the lanterns, it was like sitting atop a spiritual dreamland.

Other than Wat Phou, there isn’t much to see or do in Champasak. It’s a small village that runs by nature’s clock, and like many cities and towns, is sustained by and dependent upon the Mekong. Even as there were hoards of people coming and going for the festival, the vibe was still completely relaxing. It contains only one dusty “main street,” which has a fair number guesthouses (we had no problem getting a room without booking in advance). Unlike many other travelers we ran into, Jim and I were traveling south to north in Laos, which enabled us to exchange useful information with our fellow travelers. From Champasak, we headed even further south to the fabled “4000 islands,” which many call paradise. Stay tuned.

you thought finding your car at target was hard….

i am starting a long-term photo project about children with toy guns….this picture was not posed.

loved this little boy with bright pink fingernail polish…perhaps another gender themed photo project is in store

the traffic to the festival was amazing

don daeng finishing island…the trek begins

officially lost… we contemplated stealing a boat….

wat phou festival, eveningtime

jim and our Portuguese friend…. who we ran into in four different cities Laos

not sure how much the fan is helping…

full moon at wat phou

more children with toy guns…

collecting water

it’s a long day for local vendors…

next year they will do it all over again… without a doubt, it’s the most exciting thing that happens in the town each year.

The Secret Valley of Phrao

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

I was determined to visit the hidden valley of Phrao. Or was it Phayao? Or Phrae. Shit. Where was I trying to go? The chicken scratches in my journal became my enemy as I tried to make my way to this tiny off-the-grid town. From Chiang Rai, I took a bus to Phayao only to realize Phayao is not Pharo and Phrao is where I wanted to be. After taking a look around, I decided to continue on to Mae Salong.

After my adventure with Gilles in Mae Salong, I made my way back to Chiang Rai to try to catch a bus to Phrao…again. As it turns out, I’m not the only one who confuses Phayao with Phrao, and I almost ended up on a bus BACK to Phayao (I was literally about to get on and then my gut told me to get out my map and point to Phrao). Eventually, someone at the bus station informed me that I had missed the last bus and I would have to get one tomorrow.

Funny enough, I ran into the Gilles at the bus station, and he was nice enough to take me to the secret $5 a night guesthouse he had stayed at the week before (getting there on his motorbike was a balancing act since both of us had our backpacks). I spent the day wandering along the bar-lined streets of Chiang Rai, had a couple beers at a Rasta bar, and treated myself to surprisingly good Italian food.

The next morning, I made my way back to the bus station, only to be told once again that there were NO BUSES to Phrao. My patience dwindling, I literally dragged the woman at the information “desk” to talk to the bus drivers, (who were all telling me different things), and after an extended conversation, they determined that I could get a bus to the town of Wiang Pa Pao, spend the night there, and get a bus the next morning to Phrao. It became clear through all this chaos that not many people go Phrao, which amplified my curiosity…

My night in Wiang Pa Pao ended up being a blessing. After arriving, I set out on a bicycle ride (when I asked for a a motorbike, the guesthouse owner proudly presented me with an actual bike, and I decided a little exercise wouldn’t kill me…). While biking, I came across a group of rice field workers eating and drinking on a platform near their rice field. I waved to them and they waved me over, insisting I join them. They had just finished their long workday and were happily taking shots of Thai Rice Whiskey (and insisted I do so, too). I knocked back a couple, spoke the 10 Thai words I knew (I counted to ten twice and they all counted with me), and continued biking. On my way back, I met one of the same guys I met earlier, this time with his wife and daughter. I took a couple more shots of Thai Rice Whiskey, as they (drunkingly) talked my ear off, not seeming to care that I didn’t understand a word they were saying.

When I finally arrived in Phrao, I was immediately struck by its tranquility. I was the only traveler in sight; and I didn’t see any the whole time I was there, even at my guesthouse. The German owner of my guesthouse, Doi Farang Bungalows, explained that the place was empty tonight, but tomorrow I would have to leave because a team from Google Earth was coming for the weekend. They come every weekend, he said, working to put Phrao, quite literally on the map.

The scenery was absolutely stunning as I slowly puttered along on my motorbike. Beautiful, bizarrely shaped mountains surrounded me on all sides. Glowing green rice fields went on for miles. I passed through the small village of Ban Haui Sai, or “Sandy Stream.” It is a peaceful settlement rarely visited by outsiders, where locals make their living farming tobacco and rice in the valley’s fertile ground.

Later in the evening, I found a high hilltop to watch the sunset, and I barely have words to tell you how dazzling it was against the mountain range. It changed colors from minute to minute, and I just stood there alone watching it creep behind the landscape. I’ve been to many countries and watched many sunsets, but this has to be one of the most stunning I can recall. I sang out loud, and did a little “I love life dance,” and thought of family and friends as the sun took its final breathe before disappearing into slumber.

Phrao offered me a look into the unspoiled Thailand that I longed to see. Pristine and free of tourism, it is by far one of the most traditional, rural regions in Thailand at the end of the 20th century. Until recently, the only way to reach this village was by longtail boat (the road, though it doesn’t seem new, is new, and perhaps that’s why it was so hard to get there). As I went to bed in utter quietness, I couldn’t help but wonder what changes Phrao would see in the next decade. Part of me didn’t even want to make this entry (there are barely any blogs or online information about Phrao) because I’d like to go back one day and have it be the same…

The next morning I rose early and made my way to Chiang Dao where I visited the Chiang Dao caves. I didn’t take too many pictures because I didn’t want to bring my flash, and I wanted to experience the cave more than photograph it. I did a 500 stair walking meditation to the top of a temple where I did another meditation and a bit of yoga as the sun set. This was a beautiful part of my trip, during which I spent all my days alone. I think part of why people are afraid to travel alone is the inner thinking that it sparks; being alone without family, friends, and significant others, navigating unfamiliar cultures and languages, flips your thinking inward. As I’ve made this journey, I have asked many questions about myself, the state of the word, our shared future in these tumultuous times, but I’m also learning to shut down my mind, which has always been a challenge for me, and especially when it’s just “my thoughts and i.” I feel so strongly we are in a time of great transformation, both in our personal paths, as well as our collective journey as communities, nations, an earth, and a universe. This manifests in a multitude of ways, but as my dear friend Emily eloquently wrote to me a few weeks ago “It’s as though I can barely breath one minute, and yet in the next, I find my deepest breath ever.”

I can’t explain to you what I’m experiencing and I don’t know what you are experiencing as I write this, (I don’t even know who reads this) but we are experiencing something together, and that might be our most important experience of all.

got a little too close before i realized they were beehives…

this is one of my favorite pictures right now, and has inspired an idea about a photoseries….

did i mention i got lost? ended up on some fairly rocky, steep terrain


the sunset from the hilltop

my bungalow

i’m doing a photo series on mothers and daughters

chiang dao caves

i started my 500 stair walking meditation here.

Island Adventure | Koh Chang

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

I wasn’t planning to go to Koh Chang, but I’m so glad the opportunity arose. Priya’s friend Phon invited us to his music gig on the island….one night turned into two, and the whole experience was quite special, mostly because I saw a side of Koh Chang not many people do. We left Bangkok before sunrise, and arrived via a minibus and ferry ride six hours later. Upon arrival, we headed to the Djembe House, a drummer’s fantasyland. So many friends came to mind when I stepped afoot in this place (shout out to Duncan). It feels like it’s out of a dream. The kept schedule at the Djembe House is as follows: wake up at dawn (or whenever), watch the sunrise while swimming in the Gulf of Thailand, read or go back to sleep, wake up and turn on some music, drum for a couple of hours, take a nap, chat with some tourists as they walk along the beach, eat delicious homemade food, go out, play music, and party. Wake up, do it all over again.

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After a lazy day with the boys, and an amazing family cooked meal, (by the way did you know it’s rude to leave rice on your plate? If you’re full, you must give it to your neighbor), we headed down the beach for the music gig. It took some work to get the van out from where it had been parked…and let’s just say driving in Koh Chang at night is an adventure in itself. The band played an awesome, lively gig at a tourist spot. We shot some pool, smoked some shisha, and let the didgeridoo and drums seep into our brain into the wee hours of the morning. Priya and I were extremely tired by the end of the gig, but the boys were ready to party. We spent the next five hours driving from bar party to bar party around the island…that is, the boys did…Priya and I slept in the van because we were just too tired. Keep in mind it was 3 am at this point (and we had awoken before dawn). We arrived back at the Djembe house just before sunrise.

I woke up to some serious activity in my stomach. An earthquake, really. I shot up and ran to the bathroom. Did.Not.Quite.Make.It. Go ahead, laugh. Of course, as with many places in Thailand, there’s no toilet paper and no handle to flush, so I just had buckets of water to wash myself and “flush” out the dirty water. Although fairly effective, at this point I just wanted a fluffy white roll of Cottenelle and a toilet handle! Because it was nearly dawn when we got back, the sun was  already up, which was my saving grace, otherwise I would have been operating in darkness. I’ve already shared too many details… but let’s just say this continued for a couple days. We decided the culprit was the raw crab from a papaya salad earlier in the day, but there’s no way to know for sure.

the bathroom…
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Until very recently (the early 1990’s),  Koh Chang was just a simple place where Thai fisherman and fruit farmers lived. Lonely Beach was discovered by backpackers around the 1970’s and continued to be a “secret getaway” until it became more commercialized in the 90s. Like any remote place that becomes commercialized, it hasn’t come without it consequences. There is a lot of construction happening on the island now, and huts are being torn down to create resorts. It still mostly guesthouses and bungalows, but I imagine this will no longer be the case in 5 years.  Priya also mentioned that a lot of farmers have stopped farming fruit and have turned to rubber, a more lucrative product, and indeed, everywhere we went there were rubber trees.

We decided to stay a second night, but Priya and I left Phon with the band and headed to the east side the island to her friend’s guesthouse, Judo. (Judo in Thai by the way means little kid’s boner… but tourists don’t know that so it’s funny…and it also implies having a good time). I hitched a ride on a moterbike with a cute Finnish guy, Priya found a taxi, and we went the rest of the way together. Her friend Peo, the manager, is adorable and so sweet, and the guesthouse was lovely. Because it’s on the eastern side of the island, far from the port where the tourist ferry comes in, it’s quiet and tucked away. We set out for a kayak adventure to the virtually inhabited island across from us. It was silent on the water except for Priya and I singing “We’re cruising together” and Raffi songs like Baby Bulga. We saw a couple of dolphins, though Priya made me laugh when she said, “I think they might be baby whales!” I humored her and said, “Yea, maybe!” We swam around for a bit, took some pictures and then headed back to Judo. After an eventful dinner of me not eating and going to the bathroom every 10 minutes, we settled in for the night, and Priya’s from Peo brought me some delicious to settle my stomach.

The next morning we set out again for the island, went snorkeling, and then kayaked around the whole island. We rowed hard for five minutes, then stopped, leaned back in the kayak, took in the panoramic view, chatted about a memory, then continued gliding through the water. We saw schools of jumping silver fish, which were so cute! It just felt magical out there. It was just us and the island, just us and the water. Silence. Echoes. Laughing. Singing, like we were in our own little surreal world. I was truly reminded of the sheer awe that nature brings forth. This will be one of my most special memories from this trip.

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the path to the djembe house

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welcome to the djembe house

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sleeping quarters… where i awoke to an earthquake in my stomach

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meet chong… i’m kinda in love with him so they’ll be a lot of pictures of him

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judo guesthouse…

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Priya and her friend Peo

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we set out again in the morning…

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coconut tree…

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Stay tuned to find out what happened after I lost my train ticket…Did you reach this post by chance? Keep track of me on my Facebook Page.

Letting Go of Expectations | Chiang Rai

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

After stripping my room in Bangkok, I could not find my train ticket anywhere. So, I scrambled around the city to get a bus ticket, and after getting the run around “there are no buses, everything booked,” I finally got a ticket for the same night. I was happy to be only $30 down instead of minus a passport or ATM card. So I counted my blessings and opted for 12 hours sitting on the bus instead of laying down on a sleeper train. In the end, the bus was pretty radical. The seats did this weird pulsating thing that massaged your back. It seemed to fizzle out after the first hour, and I can’t really explain it, but I was impressed. And, they gave me little chocolate crackers! American Airlines doesn’t even do that….

So begins my adventure in Northern Thailand. I landed in Chiang Rai where I was wavering between couchsurfing at this guy’s bungalow or continuing north. I continued north so I wouldn’t get lured into Chiang Mai’s magic for days on end. I made my way to Phayao, which I had wanted to see, but as it turns out, I was confusing it with another town, Pharo. (clearly, planning isn’t high on the priority list). So, I continued on to Chiang Rai to a resort called Naga Hill, which I had read about in a travel blog. I had a wonderful stay, and I highly recommend it. It is there that I began writing the following written journal entry, which was initially going to remain in written form in my personal diary, (yes, I still write with a pen) but I’ve decided to share it with you all.

A Thai man asked me the other day, “what do you wish to do here, take pictures or learn?” My answer, of course, was “both.” Yet this simple question was a reminder as to why I’m here and why I travel. Of course I want to learn and take pictures, but beyond that, the experience of personal growth is one of the primary reasons I’m drawn to travel. In the past couple of years, my spiritual interest and practice, particularly of Buddhism has became a focal point of my life. But I am not here to sit on a long meditation retreat in a foreign country or understand in detail the rituals and differences of a certain sect of Buddhism (side note, I practice Tibetan Buddhism, not Thai Buddhism). At this point in my spiritual journey, I’m more interested in integrating my practice consistently in my everyday life, like for example, mediating 5-20 minutes a day, doing a few sun salutations, and not flipping out when I lose my bus ticket.

Right now, I’m learning to let go of expectations. After 15 hours of bus riding, I checked into this beautiful guesthouse for a few days to write, catch up on my blog, eat, drink, sleep, and swim rather than treck into a more remote part of Thailand. Part of me said, Erica, you should be going into villages and documenting rural culture, not sitting in a guesthouse. These kinds of expectations put on ourselves and our plans come in many forms. I came here with high ambitions and plots for personal photo projects. But I’m not a National Geographic or Time Magazine photographer specializing in remote caves or a particular kind of jungle monkey, I am just me, on my journey. There are at least a couple of people covering remote caves and jungle monkeys, but there is only one person covering my journey, my adventure, and my growth. In the large scheme of things, I will most likely never be a National Geographic photographer, and that’s okay with me, and in fact, I think I prefer it. I’m currently reading “A River’s Tale, A Year on The Mekong” (a gift from my brother) by former New York Times correspondent Edward A. Gargan, and he expressed a similar sentiment, stating:

“As a correspondent for Times, I found myself in cushy hotels, unworried about costs, cosseted in the certainties of an institutional structure that worried about my well being, and available to yank me out in emergency situations. Now it’s different. It’s just me and the river. I wanted to be able to get drunk, or lie at the bottom of a boat, my belly stuffed with boat-cooked chicken without having to scamper back to some hotel room to frantically file yet another newstory. Finally, intent on following my own muse, my own sense of the important, the riveting, the bizarre, the hysterically funny, the tragic, the romantic, I set out to understand Asia in a way I never had before.”

Though I am making no where near the journey Gargan makes in his book, I related to this. My work doesn’t necessarily have the breadth and depth of many photojournalists, or say, documentary photographers who photograph one subject over the course of decades, nor does it shed light on the state of international politics. It is just a taste of a moment, a place, an experience, an interaction, and that is how I want it to be. It is my experience that when I let go of my expectations to create meaningful work, meaningful work emerges at its ripest.

Many people long to travel. They rightfully look on with envy at those able and ambitious to do so. But traveling, when stripped of its romanticism is, to put quite simply, a journey of the heart. There is a genuine emotional and physical rush that comes with it, the whole “wind in the hair feeling,” that lugging a backpack around into unknown territory creates. But for many people, the lack of structure can feel chaotic. When you ask someone who has made experienced such adventures, “how was it?” they will often say “amazing,” and surely it is; the sum of all the parts is quite incredible. But the other side of the coin is: it is challenging to enjoy each moment and be fully present and engaged with whom you cross paths, because paradoxical to that “wind in the hair feeling,” is a feeling of being immersed in nothing but your own reality, simply trying to survive your day. Where am I going to eat? Wait, this is raw chicken? When does the last bus leave? How do I say toilet again? WHERE AM I? In many ways, it is much more challenging to stay present while traveling, even though when many travelers’ retell their tales, they will say “I was just like, totally in the moment man….” Because that’s how we would like to remember our journeys regardless of where they take us or how far we venture out of our hometown…the trick is really being there, and living out that truth.

I said to someone the other day, I love my family, I love my friends, I love my lovers… but I love traveling alone. It’s true, there’s nothing like it. But every once in a while, when you wake up to a beautiful sunrise in the mountains with no one next to you to enjoy it, you have to give yourself a little push, to once again let go of expectations and fantasies and just be… just be your own witness and relish the experience that you, and you alone are having.

This trip will definitely not always go as I imagine, and I won’t complete all I set out to do, and I’m ok with that. Peace finds us when we let go of our expectations.

my bungalow

i love to wake up to ponys outside my bungalow


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