For the past four months I’ve been traveling around the U.S. and a bit in Europe — almost non-stop. In April I quit my job and June 1 I traded my awesome San Francisco apartment for a borrowed car and couches around the world. This post and the next one chronicle my adventures.
I returned home to San Francisco a few weeks ago and have fallen in love with the city all over again. I’m still processing what exactly this time away has meant to me on a personal/professional level, but I think if I get a few of the basics down on (digital) paper, it will free up space in my brain for bigger questions.
New Orleans, LA: April 23-27
NOLA really is a magical place. It feels like another world — and century. I never saw it pre-Katrina, but aside from the Ninth Ward, which I saw during my day tour with Taylor Davidson, scars from the storm didn’t exactly jump out at me. I saw spraypaint marks on many houses, but they usually seemed to simply add another layer of patina to a city that has long been known for its beautiful dilapidation. I was specifically lured to NOLA to experience Jazz Fest and see Paul Simon (and Garfunkel) live for the first time. (Amazing.) Ultimately the festival was a little exhausting; I preferred listening to local bands at bars that felt like back yards, riding bikes through moss canopied streets, and eating steaming crayfish under paper lanterns and stars.
Death Valley, CA: May 13-16
A friend suggested I join him and a small group for an annual outing, this year to Death Valley. For me, being in nature is about removing myself from many things that bother me about “civilization”: too many people, constant noise, electronics addictions. I was reminded by this trip that not everyone sees it that way. After driving 10 hours overnight, getting lost for three hours on an ATV trail, getting smirked at by a local gas station owner for driving into Death Valley with only one spare tire and no radio, then being misled by numerous purposefully misleading markers, we finally arrived at our mid-desert warm springs rendezvous point — where we found 40 other people, playing house music and getting intoxicated under Christmas-light strung palm trees. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is stunning, but I don’t understand the point of going someplace so remote and unwelcoming just to do the same thing you could do in the city any Saturday night. After several hours of slow caravaning and numerous blown tires the next day, the group stopped in Big Pine — and Peter and I bailed out to stay in a motel. After dinner at a diner we walked about three blocks off the main street and found ourselves in a beautiful, silent, dusky mountain pass. Finally, nature the way I wanted it.
Seattle, WA: May 25-31
I hadn’t been to Seattle since I was very young, but I remembered loving it. I was there primarily for an annual Memorial Day Weekend reunion with my friends from college. We pick a different place every year and we ended up in a beautiful cabin near Mt. Rainier for 2010. I was surprised by just how lush and green Seattle is, with lots of stunning views from almost as many hills as San Francisco. I also stayed a few extra days with a friend who lives in an inspiring co-op house that shares/reuses almost everything and is populated by artists and bakers and musicians. Trip Highlight: visited the aquarium and embarrassed my friends by sitting on the floor with the kids to watch the giant octopus feeding from up close.
Athens, OH: June 3-7
I was home briefly seeing my family and picking up my grandfather’s old car, which my parents kindly donated for my travels. Not too many epiphanies here, I just have to give props to the town, which I still may move back to some day; Ohio University’s photojournalism program, which I dream about teaching for some day; and my parents, who made this trip possible through their selfless, constant support.
Charlottesville, VA: June 8-14
I feel so lucky to have been able to help Andrew Owen and Jenna Pirog plan LOOKbetween. During the off-year for LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, they decided to organize a weekend event that deconstructed the usual hierarchies of photo festivals and focused instead on emerging photographers. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can reconceive the usual photo fest structure to make it more helpful and dynamic, so I was excited to try out a few things during the Saturday discussion sessions. Our invited guests included 90 top emerging photographers plus dozens of top editors, curators, and thought leaders. All discussions took place outside at the beautiful farm where the event was held (and most guests camped). Most importantly, there were no “experts,” no “panelists,” no “moderators.” We divided people into 8 groups, gave them very general topics, and asked them to talk amongst themselves for 90 minutes. Then we brought everyone together again and recapped each topic for 20 minutes, asking only the emerging photographers to speak. I can think of lots of ways to make it better in the future, but as an experiment, I was really happy with the results. Everyone, even the “masters,” learned a lot and many people said it was the best discussion they’d heard at a photo event 🙂
NYC: June 15-18
It’s always great to be back in the city where I lived for three years and still have many friends. I have to say, though, that summer in NYC is a special kind of hell sometimes — like any time you have to wait on a subway platform.
Istanbul, Turkey: June 19-26
My first trip to Istanbul and the furthest east I’ve traveled. I was in Istanbul for the week-long Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, helping document the event and hanging out with an amazing group of renowned photojournalists. The historical parts of the city are really beautiful and there’s a vibrancy that makes for great street photography, but being stared at constantly and the wide cultural lines drawn between men and women eventually began to wear on me.
Berlin, Germany: June 27-July 6
One of my best friends from high school has lived outside the U.S. for years, and I’m glad I finally caught up with her in Berlin. It’s a true bohemian city, cheap enough that you can get by working 20 hours a week with plenty of time left over to develop your art/music/poetry — like NYC in the 70s, but way safer. If I had to leave SF tomorrow, I’d go to Berlin…but really the best part of being there was seeing my friend in her natural habitat, not for a few hours one night of the year when we’re both distracted by family/holiday stress.
London, England: July 7-10
I’ve been to London before so this trip included no sightseeing — instead, I finally met in person with several people I have known for years online: Adam Westbrook, Paul Lowe, Jonathan Worth, and Simon Roberts (who I’d actually met, but many years ago). Several of us got together at the Frontline Club one night, which, packed with memorabilia from former Frontline correspondents, was the best kind of sightseeing a journalism geek like me could do.
Portland, ME: July 14-21
After meeting up in NYC, Peter and I drove to Portland and took a ferry over to Peaks Island, where my family has an old, uninsulated, telephone-free cottage, which I’ve been visiting every summer since I was born. It was a much-needed week of rest: bike riding, sea-glass gathering, rock sitting, and raiding the local library book sale for lots of great collage materials.
Read about the rest of my road trip here!