It is incredibly easy to get stuck in our own rut, or own routine and start to believe that how we do things is the best way, or the only way. And maybe it is. But when we travel we get exposed to new ways of being, doing and seeing. It is often not until we step out of our own culture that these other ways of life engulf us, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Either way, that culture tends to become a part of us, even in a small way. Perhaps it's simply a memory, perhaps it's a confirmation of how great your own culture actually is in comparison, but often I find that it's an awakening to ways in which you and your culture can be better as a whole. For this reason, I believe travel to be an incredibly enriching and educational experience. One of great importance for personal and societal growth. And it happens to be unbelievably fun as well.
"Leave home, leave the country, leave the familiar. Only then can routine experience—buying bread, eating vegetables, even saying hello—become new all over again."
I'm going to take a short break from nature and landscapes this week and share with you a really neat part of Hanoi, Vietnam: Train Street. My brother and I were wandering around the city, slightly turned around but heading generally in the direction of our hotel. And although we knew it existed, we didn't know where Train Street was until we just happened to pass it on our way back to the room. We arrived completely on accident, and I'm really glad we did. Admittedly, it's touristy, but still really fun. As you can see from the photo, it's a neighborhood in which a train track runs right through the middle, and throughout the day, trains actually use the tracks. To make this experience even more enjoyable, entrepreneurial-minded residents have converted parts of their property into little bars and restaurants so visitors can eat delicious food, drink cold beer and relax while waiting for the next train to roll through. Definitely a fun stop in Hanoi.
"Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else."
While I always make sure to keep up with my Photo of the Week, it can be extremely daunting editing the rest of the photos after an extended trip like I just had. All-in-all I took probably three thousand photos and have selected probably 700 that I consider worth editing and sharing. The sorting of the photos is a big enough project by itself, but from there I go through and edit every single one that I deem worthy. It's a chore! But, the good news is that I've made big progress... the bad news is that I still have probably 600 photos to go. But I will succeed!
"Take the first step, and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid. But the first essential is that you begin. Once the battle is started, all that is within and without you will come to your assistance."
I'm officially home safe after nearly a month in Asia. It was such a wonderful trip that it has honestly felt a little weird coming home. In all my travels I have never been to a country where the people were as warm, welcoming and respectful as I experienced in both Thailand and Vietnam. I'm still mentally processing everything, and I imagine I will be doing so for a while, but what I know for sure is that after spending even a short amount of time in such gentle, patient cultures, I immediately recognized that I can be much better on a personal level, and I believe we all can be much better on a societal level. I'll share more in the future, but for now, I challenge you to be extra kind today. To others and to yourself. I have a feeling it will feel amazing. And if it does feel amazing, I challenge you to continue the kindness. There's really nothing to lose.
"Just imagine how different the world could be if we all spoke to everyone with respect and kindness."
I am blessed to say that I have seen, and photographed, some beautiful places in my life, however Tam Cốc, in northern Vietnam, is among the best of them, in my opinion. The entire region is covered with jagged limestone cliffs, under which are flooded rice paddies, offering a majestic mirror image everywhere you look - a photographer's playground. I took literally hundreds of photos during my time in Tam Cốc, and I cannot wait to share more of them.
"I would rather own a little and see the world than own the world and see a little of it."
About 2 hours from Chiang Mai is a beautiful National Park, Doi Inthanon, which also happens to be the tallest mountain in Thailand. We were enjoying the city but were craving some time in nature, so we rented a driver for the day and were chauffeured from beautiful place to beautiful place within the park. We started with this amazing sunrise hike, the Kew Mae Pan trail, which gave us an elevated view of the other mountains in the region. From there we explored some incredible waterfalls the 2nd part of the day. Prepare yourself for many more photos.
"It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit."
-Robert Louis Stevenson
My trip to Thailand has been wonderful so far, and there's so much to share, but I figured I'd start with a photo from the earliest part of my trip - Bangkok. While I am typically not a big fan of massive cities, with all the noise, cars and chaos, I found Bangkok to be a lovely exception; unbelievably friendly people, exceptionally clean, tons of restaurants and bars, and as you can see, a gorgeous skyline. While I imagine I will always prefer nature, this city has been a very pleasant surprise.
"Travel is very subjective. What one person loves, another loathes. I would say a private paradise in the Caribbean. If you want culture and class, I would say Tuscany. If you want exotic, I would say Bangkok, Thailand."
By the time you see this I am either on my way to, or already in, Thailand. I am insanely excited to explore a new country, culture and cuisine and, of course, will be snapping as many photos as possible. While this will obviously be a completely new experience for me, as I've never been to Thailand, nor anywhere in Asia, I am completely open to experiencing and learning whatever I can during my time there. I am honestly most excited by the prospect of being exposed to new perspectives on the world and hope to learn more about myself and life in general; the types of perspectives one can only learn by spending time away from their own comforts and culture.
“Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbor is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.”
Although these past couple years have been, and continue to be, challenging in many ways, I'm finding extra comfort in the little things. Going for walks, reading books, going on a fun local adventure, or watching a great movie with some delicious comfort food. It's always fascinated me that when I stop checking the news and turn off notifications on my phone, life seems to instantly become more simple and more rich. My goal is to continue living life this way; to turn down the noise, avoid the things that do not enhance my life, and focus more on the things that bring me happiness.
"There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will."
In a couple weeks I will be catching a plane to visit my brother and sister-in-law at their new home in Thailand. If I'm not mistaken, I haven't seen them since 2019 when we explored parts of Europe together. I am beyond excited to spend some time with them again and adventure through new places; Thailand and Vietnam, specifically. Looking forward to new scenery, new perspectives, new memories and lots of new photos.
"Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime."