Introspection: Year in Review Photo Journal - Part 1

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Introspection: Year in Review Photo Journal - Part 1

This last year was probably the most unique of my life thus far. I decided to move to Korea to teach English and begin my journey towards becoming a travel filmmaker. It's been an intense ride marked by confusion, joy, loneliness, friendship, self-doubt and discovery. There has been no shortage of adventure, that's for sure. The new year is here, and 2016 will soon feel like a distant dream. This photographic journal is my attempt at capturing memories and moments of introspection over the past year. 

Throwing it back to my trip to California. Shortly after arriving in L.A., I met Jess in a hostel at Venice Beach. We only hung out for three days, but we had similar interests and made a strong connection.

I briefly met her in the hostel kitchen one morning, and that afternoon I was wandering around on the beach bike path snapping photos. I remember briefly thinking that I should have got her number, because she seemed like a rad chick. No more than 10 minutes after thinking this, I almost got ran over by a girl riding a skateboard while I strolled along the path. That girl was Jess. We started chatting, and we decided to go take some photos on the beach. The next day we rented skateboards and partied with new friends at the hostel. Those few days were awesome. 

There is nothing quite like those fleeting connections on the road. When we have these experiences, we wake up to the fact that there are so many wonderful people out there to meet and meaningful conversations to have.

Last year, I decided to head into Boston with my camera as my only companion. I remember my sisters questioning why I would go into the city by myself. I just wanted to explore my birthplace and take some awesome photos. I stumbled upon a unique skatepark—the perfect spot to photograph the local skate talent.

I recall feeling a bit uncomfortable on the train and walking around the city alone, but I'm glad I decided to do it. I wandered around the whole day, snapping photos and just taking in all the unfamiliar surroundings. Doing this solo day trip led to me going to California by myself for two weeks and then on to Korea for a year. 

Sometimes to really grow you need to take baby steps, and if you follow your intuition, those steps become massive leaps.

Snapped this photo of my friend Lexi this past summer on a hike in Deogyusan National Park. As you can tell, the view was fantastic, and our spirits were soaring on this beautiful summer day.

Looking at this photo reminds me of all that has been accomplished since coming to Korea. From leaving the comfort and familiarity of home to making friends from all over the world to succeeding as an English teacher to diving headfirst into a new culture to hiking big ass mountains, it has been one hell of an adventure.

Although it hasn't been a walk in the park, I've realized that this experience fits in perfectly with what I want my life to be like when I look back on it before I die—memorable and worthwhile.

Shout-out to this dude from San Jose, California. I had a pretty interesting exchange with this guy just after arriving to the west coast during my trip last January.

I was just wandering around the streets taking photos when this guy approached and started chatting with me. In hindsight, I probably should have asked to take his photograph, but I decided to do it anyway. A few minutes later, I was sitting down in the city center when he started accusing me of being a "narc". I'm not sure if he was paranoid because of my camera or what. I assured him I was just taking photos as a hobby, and then I got on out of there. 

It's funny to think how quickly our conclusions are formed about people from our first impressions or interactions. Admittedly, I was a bit frightened by this dude, especially when he started accusing me of working with the cops, but who knows, maybe he's a cool guy.

This photo was taken at sunrise during a two-day hiking trip this past summer.

At first, I was a bit angry after being woken up by the buzz of a drone, but then I realized we were out of bed just in time to see the golden rays of the morning sun illuminate the mountains that stood before us. It was a glorious way to start the day.

In life, something that seems unpleasant, like being abruptly woken up at the crack of dawn, can turn out to be something spectacular.

Took this a few weeks ago at a local park here in Daegu, South Korea. As I rode my skateboard in the chilly December air, I was compelled to stop and admire the sunset on this little pond.

To get in the right position, I had to shimmy underneath barbed wire that was hastily wrapped around a tree on the edge of the pond. I then had to balance myself on a narrow concrete barrier to avoid falling into the frigid water. I'd say it was worth the effort. 

Sometimes, in life, you have to get a little dirty or break a few rules to get where you want to be. By choosing this option, you will witness things that most people simply won't see.

Stay tuned for Part 2...

For more photos, head over to the BYB Instagram page 

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Lessons Learned Living Abroad: Part 2

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Here's the second part of all the lessons learned since moving abroad to live and teach English in Korea. If you haven't seen the first installment, check it out here

6. You are your own best friend. 

As I've mentioned in the past, the people you surround yourself with is an integral part of your future success and happiness. Take a second to ponder this question: who is the person you spend the most time with? Everyone's answer should be the same: yourself. This might not be the first answer that comes to mind, but regardless, it's an accurate statement. 

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Learning how to accept yourself and become more in tune with who you are is particularly difficult, at least it has been for me. While living on my own here in Korea, I've had ample time to grapple with my own insecurities and self-doubt. By no means has it been easy, but it has been a valuable lesson. Even though I still have a long way to go, I feel that I'm trending in the right direction. There are many people out there who haven't taken much time to figure themselves out. This is a vital aspect of self-development and growth. It's a bit ironic that spending more time discovering and listening to yourself ultimately helps you have better relationships with others. 

7. Don't trust your expectations. 

Expectations. As humans, it's part of our thought process to think about or plan for the future. This can create many issues in our daily lives. Attempting to turn off or at least ignore our expectations can often feel like an uphill battle. 

As I got everything in order to move to Korea, of course I began envisioning what day-to-day life would be like. This simultaneously excited and worried me. The fact of the matter is the reality was completely different from my expectations. Nothing could have prepared me for the actual experience, especially not my expectations. 

What we imagine happening in our minds is often vastly different from what actually takes place. One way to combat our expectations is attempting to stay in the present moment. Our expectations or future plans become less apparent in our current state. As many of us know, putting too much focus on the future causes anxiety. Even if our expectations are still in the forefront of our thoughts, we can learn to distrust what these thoughts are attempting to tell us. It's funny to realize that what sets us (humans) apart from other organisms (consciousness/ability to predict the future) can also become a major hindrance. 

8. We are so &$!%ing lucky. 

After being away from home, somewhere I was dying to get away from, I realized how lucky and fortunate I am. Living in a foreign country does that to you. Think about it. If you were born in a middle-class family in America (or another western nation), you essentially already won the life lottery. Just being born in a place like this automatically gives you vastly more opportunities than most people in the world. 

Since being in Korea, I now understand just how global the English language has become. If English wasn't my native language, I would have been completely out of contention to apply for the teaching program that assisted me in getting hired here in Korea. The fact that I was born in this place at this time is completely by chance. When you start thinking like this, your mind is opened to just how many opportunities are out there to be seized.

                             Young Indonesian girl selling jewelry  

                             Young Indonesian girl selling jewelry  

In addition, I'd like to also point out that America, as a whole, is much more progressive on social issues and injustices. South Korea is a nation that has, in recent years, seen rapid growth in infrastructure and technology, which has stimulated the economy to be one of the most productive in the world. It's astounding to see 50 million people living in this tiny country that has completely rebuilt itself after being decimated by The Korean War. This growth, however, has its costs. Korean society imposes enormous pressure on students, who attend school for up to 12 hours a day between regular classes and after-school "academies". An extreme importance is placed on exams, especially the Korean version of the SAT, which students are conditioned be believe will decide their entire future. Korean society also places a major emphasis on physical beauty, causing many Koreans to feel insecure about their appearance. This has resulted in a huge industry for cosmetics and plastic surgery (see my friend's blog post about plastic surgery in Korea). Moreover, much of the elderly population of Korea live at or below the poverty line. It's not uncommon to see an old Korean man or woman with a hunched back collecting cans and bottles for money. All these factors contribute to a sky-high suicide rate here in the land of the morning calm (see my friend's blog post about suicide in Korea). Seeing the dark side of Korea really puts things in perspective. 

Indonesia is another place that has shown me just how lucky I am. I traveled here back in July during my summer vacation from teaching. While there, I was struck by both the beauty and the widespread poverty. Every day we encountered young Indonesian children trying to sell us bracelets or other inexpensive items. It was difficult to to turn these cute kids away. Something that was even sadder was the fact that they were reciting specific lines that someone was obviously teaching them with the goal of selling to foreigners. The nine months in Korea and the short time in Indonesia opened my eyes to how truly lucky I am. My level of gratitude and appreciation has grown like never before. 

9. No one will do it for you

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This a valuable lesson, and I suppose it's one that I've been slowly learning over the past few years. This is related to #6, but I think this deserved its own part. With all the big steps in my life, I received help or assistance in some way or another, but the most important part has been the willingness to take action and fully commit. 

This idea was certainly applied to my decision of moving to Korea for one year following college. This was the biggest risk that I've taken thus far in my life. I knew virtually nothing about Korea. I'd never even been to Asia. While applying for employment over here, I wasn't 100 percent certain I was even coming. Of all the decisions, ideas and paths I've taken, this was one that was completely on my own accord. I made it happen, and that was an empowering feeling. Sure, someone can persuade or guide you in a certain direction, but sooner or later you have to take the reigns. If you want to be a better person, you have to pursue it. It's on you. 

10. We're too afraid of the future. 

You hear it all the time. Someone sacrificing the here and now for some undetermined time in the future. We're all guilty of this. I know I am. It's a sad place to be. Now, I'm not saying that we should ignore our future plans or goals. I'm just saying that we should realize that putting too much faith into something that doesn't even exist yet is just madness. 

One of my favorite quotes is at the end of the movie Blow (2001). Johnny Depp's character, George Jung, is reflecting on his turbulent life of crime and drugs, as he finds himself old, alone and in prison when he says:

"Life passes most people by while they're making grand plans for it."

This quote does a good job of summing up my thoughts on this topic. This is why, while being in Korea, I've really tried to use meditation as a way to appreciate and value the situation and life that I'm living right now. Essentially, I'm attempting to teach or condition myself to put less stake in the future. To me, it seems like the only rational decision. Ironically, thinking about death or the end of your life puts everything into clearer focus. What a shame it would be to realize at the moment of your death that you had fretted or worried about things that never happened or that didn't matter. 

All of these lessons have culminated into one main takeaway: As long as I'm alive and breathing, my thirst for knowledge about myself and the world around me will never be quenched. 

Break Your Boundaries. 

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Lessons Learned Living Abroad: Part I

Deciding to movie halfway across the world was the easy part. I soon confronted the reality as the 747 touched down in Korea after an excruciating 15-hour flight. That was nine months ago. 

Here's what I've learned: 

1. It's much easier to reject a new place than to embrace it. 

When you first arrive in a new place, it's obvious that you will encounter a series of seemingly strange realities. One that immediately struck me was the toilet paper waste baskets. That probably sounds weird, but hear me out. When going #2 here in Korea, it's not uncommon to find a small plastic basket in the bathroom stall that is meant for used toilet paper. A bit gross? I know. In the states, it's standard procedure for the toilet paper (along with other unwanted materials) to go in the toilet. It turns out the plumbing systems over here are not as sophisticated, so toilet paper could cause quite a backup.

Another glaring difference is the attention paid to foreigners. As I often find myself as the only waygookin (Korean: 외국인) on the entire subway car, it's normal to be stared at by curious passengers. I've also had total strangers strike up a conversation with me just because I'm the only white guy around. In fact, one day I was on the subway when an older Korean man motioned for me to take the empty seat next him. Reluctantly, I walked towards him and sat down, completely unaware of the ridiculous scenario that would ensue. As soon as the man opened his mouth, I could smell booze on his breath. Here we go. I also noticed a can of some type of peach soft drink that he had in his hand. He begins chatting with me in broken English, and he tells me he's on his way drink wine with his friends downtown. Looks like you're off to a solid headstart, I think to myself. I politely engage in conversation, and then he asks for my phone number. WHY, WHY, WHY? At this point, some of the other passengers take notice of this strange interaction. As he is fumbling with his phone, he proceeds to spill his peach drink all over my lap. The onlookers react with surprised gasps and what appeared to be sympathy. To make matters worse, the man pulls out a handkerchief and begins drying my soaked pants. Looking back, this has to be the awkwardest moment in Korea to date. 

At first, these strange occurrences bothered me, but now I try to accept the fact that I'm in a new place instead of immediately rejecting it. Currently, doing my duty in Korean toilets and constant attention don't bother me—as long as they don't happen at the same time! 

2. We are all alike. 

Although all countries, cultures and people differ in their own unique ways, there is no denying the fact that at the end of the day we're quite similar. We're all humans with basic needs. We're all interested in activities that bring us joy, and we want to spend our time doing these things with other people. We're social creatures after all. These friends are important to us, because we discuss our daily battles, struggles, worries and successes with them. While living abroad, your friends become even more important since you're away from the familiarity of friends and family back home. 

There are countless ways that we can become divided. The obvious ones being race, gender, nationality or political views, but at our essence, we are exceedingly more alike than we are different.  

3. A year is a long time. 

When I first applied to teach in Korea, I thought little about that fact that one year is a significant chunk of time.  At a glance, the weeks seem to fly by, but overall, I feel like time has gone quite slow for me here. I think this is combination of missing my friends and family from back home and my current anticipation to travel Southeast Asia when my contract ends in late February. 

Previous to this, my longest time living away from home was four months in Australia. While this felt like a solid amount of time, it seemed to fly by. Of course a year is three times as long, and it has certainly felt that way. Usually we associate time going by slowly with something that is not fun or enjoyable. In this case, I wouldn't necessarily say that this is true. I've had a ton of fun, but spending a lot time alone and going to work every day tends to make time creep by.

Even though a year can feel like quite a long time, in no way do I regret my decision. Teaching isn't quite my thing, and I miss home a bit more than I anticipated. The important thing is that I've learned this by choosing to embark on this adventure. Also, I've been able to place a lot of my focus into what I want do with my life. This has been invaluable.

This 5-minute film, recapping my experience in Korea, was entered into the EPIK (English Progam in Korea) Life video contest. Results will be announced in early December.

To see more of my videos, head over to my YouTube channel.  

4. Conversations are key. 

In my humble opinion, one of the most underrated things is a good conversation. I'm not talking about small talk or some heated political debate— I'm talking about deep conversations where you connect with someone and attempt to truly understand them. This type of conversation is quite rare, and that's why they should be cherished when they do happen. Topics typically include future goals, philosophical thoughts, fears, anxieties and worries. As social creatures, we all know that internalizing these things is detrimental to our health.

While I knew that I highly valued conversation before living abroad, it has revealed itself even more as something that I seek and hold dear. The best way to increase the likelihood of having meaningful conversations is to constantly reassess the quality of the people that you're choosing to spend your time with. 

5. Time is our most valuable asset.

Forget about money. Forget about anything material. Time is always against us, which is why it's so valuable. Every passing hour, minute or second is a reminder that our expiration is getting closer. I'm not going to sit here and spew some cliche bullshit about "enjoying every second of your life." That's not real. The fact is you will not enjoy every moment of your life. We find true clarity and understanding through our struggles and hardships. Those hard days make good days a possibility. Avoiding the temptation to focus too much of our energy on the past or future is the recipe for making the best use of our time. 

If we learn to appreciate the present moment, then we hold on to the precious time that could otherwise be lost to regret or worry. Ironically, we must take the time to discover how to do this in our own way so that we can savor all the days that we have left. 

Break Your Boundaries. 

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Our Addiction to Technology

Technology is such a broad term holding so many meanings and connotations. The technological advances in the last fifty years are downright staggering. Not only can we instantaneously chat with someone 10,000 miles away, but we can send them ugly photos of ourselves, pointless videos and whatever the hell else our little hearts desire. If that's not enough, we can fly high-quality cameras to specific coordinate locations with drones. It's truly astounding. With social media and news services, the information we have at our fingertips seems infinite. In addition to all of  this, robotics and automation are rapidly gaining ground. As my friend recently alluded to, it's likely that everyone will own self-driving cars in the near future. Imagine that. 

The benefits of technology are undeniable. Communication and information have virtually no geographical limitations. Our technology is a bridge for people all over the world to connect to others. The tiny computers in our hands can do just about anything imaginable and frankly, it's amazing how affordable and easy they are to access for those of us fortunate enough to live in first-world nations. I'm currently living in a country that is identified as being at the forefront of cell phone technology...even if the Samsung Galaxy Note 7s are exploding! The omnipresence of cell phones quickly becomes apparent after strolling down what I call a "smartphone street" in all of the urban centers here in Korea. 

The Internet is probably the most useful and democratic thing that has ever existed. It's crazy to think it was originally designed for military communications. Personally, I LOVE being able to access anything I could digitally desire by swiping unlock on my phone and typing into the Google search bar. I can easily share my writing or videos with the entire world. That's an empowering feeling. Even with all these positives of technology, it certainly has its drawbacks. One of the most glaring issues with technology is the fact that communication with devices is replacing authentic human conversation and connection. We're spending so much time on social media and our devices that we're slowly losing our social skills in real conversations. Connecting with friends online is great, but it should be a supplement, not a replacement. 

For me, I've noticed physical and mental changes from overusing technology. I feel fatigued and completely out of it from being on a my laptop for too long. I also get dry eyes from computer use, which has become quite an annoyance. I've read multiple studies that people generally blink 66% less often when using a computer. After spending a significant amount of time on my laptop, my eyes become uncomfortable and bloodshot. If that's not a sign to reduce my use, I don't know what is. This can be frustrating to me since my passion (filmmaking) requires hours of video editing. Nowadays, it seems that the majority of activities and professions require constant computer use. It's quite difficult to get away from. 

"A generation of idiots, smartphones and dumb people."

 

From a mental standpoint, I feel that too much technology can have a negative effect on my mind. Let's say it's Sunday afternoon, and I realize that I just spent half the day mindlessly staring at my phone. I was most likely connecting with friends or family is some way or another, but it quickly becomes obvious that the majority of that time was unnecessarily wasted. In Gary Turk's spoken word video, 'Look Up', he says "A generation of idiots, smartphones and dumb people." Honestly, I'd have to agree with this. We've become so tethered to our devices that it's fundamentally changing our brains. If you haven't seen that video, I encourage you to click the link and check it out. 

Many of us millennials probably couldn't imagine a world without Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or YouTube. I know I couldn't. Likes and comments are the trendy form of reassurance and self-validation. I recall a specific instance where our addiction to technology was ostentatiously displayed. This was a few years back during college. I was at a bar close to my university, and I was feeling pretty good after downing a few beers with some friends. We scoped the bar— for what else— attractive college females. Standing by the bar, I couldn't help but notice that about 80% of the girls that were not currently interacting with someone were interacting with their iPhone. I thought to myself: It's bad enough that everyone is glued to their device on public transportation or in coffee shops, but this really got to me. Bars are specifically meant for social interactions. It's even encouraged to drink alcoholic beverages to make it even easier to meet and talk to new people. This is just one example of the many scenarios like this that I've come across in recent years. 

Not to sound like an old geezer, but I think we should carefully pay attention to how we use technology going forward. These technological advances have improved our lives immeasurably, but we NEED to monitor our usage. It should not define us, just refine us. Be mindful. 

Check out the video below, where I discuss this topic: 

Break Your Boundaries

 

 

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"Why I Deserve to Win" Essay


This short essay was originally intended to be submitted into the 2016 World Nomads Travel Film Scholarship contest along with my short film, "Discovering the Voice Within". The essay prompt was as follows:

Tell us what winning this scholarship would mean to you and why we should choose you. (max 1500 characters)*

Since I didn't realize there was an essay portion of the contest, I panicked a bit. I had nothing written, and the deadline was fast approaching. In my haste, I misread it, thinking it said max 1,500 words— not max 1,500 characters. BIG DIFFERENCE. i was quite proud of what I churned out in such a short time, until I realized I had written WAY too many characters. Obviously I had to cut this essay down significantly to adhere to the limit. I figured I could still share the unabridged version of why I deserve a chance: 

Being chosen for the 2016 World Nomads Travel Film Scholarship would be a massive leap forward in my journey of becoming a travel filmmaker. Since studying abroad in Australia in 2014, I have been enraptured with the idea of infusing travel, adventure and filmmaking into my life. Currently, I am teaching English in South Korea, using this time to immerse myself into a new culture while saving money for future travels and improving my storytelling/filmmaking skills. Thus far, it has been a wild ride.

Upon graduation from university in May 2015, I traveled to the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador with a few professors from my alma mater to spend time with an indigenous tribe, known as the Sarayaku. The trip was part of an initiative to create a partnership between the university and the tribe. I was asked by the one of the professors to come along to film and document the journey and the relationship between us and the tribe. This left a deep impression on me, and once again, I was itching for more life-changing experiences. I was captivated by the raw feelings, emotions and energy that traveling provided.

Then, I reluctantly found myself back home in Massachusetts. I took a summer job at a local country club, and during those humid days tending to the “elite businessmen” with their flashy cars and swanky golf attire, I was constantly fighting the inner-dialogue telling me to get out there and continue exploring. On my off days, I began researching opportunities that would allow me to live and work abroad. As the summer winded down and the leaves began to take on their reddish and golden-brown hues, I decided to apply to teach English in South Korea. It took a great deal of planning and action, but that was now a year ago, and here I am writing this essay in my very own English classroom in Daegu, South Korea. It is crazy where a bit of ambition and risk-taking can bring you.

Picking up everything and living in a foreign country is certainly not an easy task, and there have been significant challenges  and roadblocks on this new path. Since moving to Korea back in February, I have learned a great deal about who I am. My focus is to embrace the challenges and uncertainties that come along with this lifestyle. With this mindset, I created a website and a YouTube channel called ‘Break Your Boundaries’, a movement centered around traveling and filmmaking. My goal with Break Your Boundaries is to display my story of pursuing my passions with the intent of inspiring others to break free from their own personal restraints.

Maintaining a consistent vision in mind when creating my films keeps me motivated to push my creativity to new heights. Relating my craft to my outlook on life helps me in this process. I believe filmmaking is a metaphor for lifewe’re all walking along this path, and we don’t know where it’s leading, but it is important to capture and share the best or most precious moments along the way. Recently, I have been attempting to infuse my films with honesty, authenticity and originality. Filmmaking, like life, requires careful attention to detail and constant adjustment.

One of the most important factors in personal success is adaptability, something that travel has taught me well. Having the ability to quickly and seamlessly adapt to a new environment is a skill that will surely help me in all my future endeavors.

At the moment, I’m in the planning stages of an extended backpacking trip throughout Southeast Asia upon the completion of my one-year teaching contract. I plan to create adventure films throughout my journey, and I hope to connect with fellow travelers and creatives in an effort to collaborate on meaningful and inspiring projects. Additionally, I’m part of an online community called Location Indie, which assists individuals like myself, who want to pursue a location-independent lifestyle.

The subject of my film is Rocio Cadena, a Mexican immigrant and aspiring writer, who shares the same values as me relating to travel and human connection. She embodies the notion of chasing after whatever is important to you and following that inner-voice. It was inspiring to hear her story, as she discovers that personal voice within herself.

Like all good travelers, I am also seeking discovery and self-growth. At its essence, travel is education about the world and our place in it. Since I decided to relentlessly pursue my dream of becoming a travel filmmaker, I feel that I have learned immensely, but I realize I have much more to learn. This scholarship would be an incredible stepping stone for me, as I am beyond eager to improve my storytelling and filmmaking skills. I hope you enjoy my film, and please consider selecting me for this remarkable and life-changing opportunity.


Check out the film below: 

 

Please let me know what you think...I would love to hear your feedback!

Check out more videos on the BYB YouTube channel or by looking at the Video section of this site.

To find out more about Rocio, check out her writing on her website:

Break Your Boundaries

 

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Introspection in Indonesia

After a recent trip to Indonesia, I had a jumble of thoughts whirling around in my head. Thoughts that needed to come out in one way or another. During the last few months, I have changed my method of sharing photographs on Instagram by doing some serious self-reflection. Instead of haplessly posting a photo with a stale quote and some hashtags (my previous method), I take the extra time to think introspectively about what the image means to me and how I can extrapolate a philosophical or meaningful message from it. 

I have already experimented with turning these Instagram posts into blog format with last month's Finding the Story. This post is a similar style, but with some different topics and a bit more focused, as all of them are from my Indonesia trip. I have put the photos and captions in chronological order in an attempt to create some cohesion. Enjoy!  

Throwin' it back to my last trip since coming over here to Korea. I captured this photo of an awesome new friend that I met on my solo trip to California back in January. 

In three days, I'll be heading to Bali for my summer vacation from teaching English. Looking at this image from a previous trip brings back some unforgettable memories, feelings and emotions. I'm also recalling how I felt on the days leading up to departure time. Right now, I have that same nervous excitement churning through my body. I'd have to say it stems from the uncertainty, unknown circumstances, people and places that I will inevitably come across during my travels. It's difficult to describe it, but I know I live for that feeling. 

It's always important to look upon our past adventures with a healthy sense of pride and gratefulness as we look forward towards new landscapes and horizons.

 

View from our first flight of the trip to Indonesia that began two weeks ago. This crazy day involved taking buses, trains, multiple planes, taxis and sleeping in airports before finally reaching our destination in Bali after over thirty hours of travel.

The start of a journey always has a special magic to it. Although it requires a great deal of patience to endure the endless travel time, unexpected delays and unforeseen issues that inevitably arise, it holds an array of possibilities. There’s no way to predict what may happen or what you will encounter during your time in this foreign land.

 

Each trip can be taken as a lesson in life and growth, but the challenges and moments of fear, joy or exhaustion have yet to be determined. The only option is to take everything in stride and become familiar with these new surroundings. Adaptation is an integral characteristic that we all must possess throughout our journey through life. Change. Grow. ADAPT.

 

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Featuring pineapple shrimp fried rice made in Ubud, Indonesia—a quaint town on the island of Bali. I was fortunate enough to help out in the filming of a cooking video with a talented woman, who I previously worked for in Korea. Coincidentally, she was traveling in Bali at the same exact time as me, and she asked if I would be willing to set aside one day of my vacation to assist her in creating her exotic foods video series. Of course, I had to jump at this opportunity to gain more experience and to eat loads of delicious food like this amazing dish!

Filming videos as I travel has been a dream of mine for the past three years, and I’ve dedicated countless hours sharpening my skills and trying to create opportunities. Now, it finally feels like it’s paying off, and it’s an incredible feeling to see the fruits of my labor. During a short break from filming, I took a moment in the tropical paradise that is Bali to reflect on my progress— I realized that I’m steering my life in the direction that I chose for myself.

Although the road may be a winding and uncertain one, we can appreciate the beauty in the struggle to maintain on the path towards our hopes and ambitions. At times, it may feel like we’ve lost our sense of direction on this road we call life, but then again, where’s the fun in always being in control?

Took a shot of this little Indonesian girl at a rice terrace in Bali. She was holding a basket of postcards, trying to sell them to me just before I snapped this photograph. This girl was certainly not the only young child doing this that I came across during my time in Indonesia— there were countless others selling bracelets and many other items.

It’s strange and unsettling seeing young children selling merchandise. It’s even more disconcerting when you hear the lines that these seven-year-olds have memorized. You quickly become aware that someone is teaching them how to effectively sell to foreigners. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows when traveling, especially in less-developed nations. It’s a reality check seeing poverty and injustice up close and personal. It often leads to thinking deeply about how much different your life is from some of the people that you come across.

It’s truly humbling to be in the midst of lives that contrast so starkly with our own. Being exposed to these situations changes us forever, and just maybe from these experiences, we'll become more compassionate and open-minded individuals.

 

Snapped this on the bus during my travels in Bali. As my friend zoned out, I took a handful of shots, attempting to capture the sunlight coming through the window and reflecting on his face at the correct moment.

During the span of our two-week trip, we took every means of transportation imaginable to get to our destination. As you can see in this photo, all this travel time gives you an opportunity to rest a bit, but it also can be a time to reflect on your current adventure or on other aspects of your life. I try to think of this as a therapeutic exercise.

Instead of looking at this as dead time, we can use all these hours to reset our minds as we prepare to adapt to a new place or environment. Sometimes we get too consumed with our lives, and we just need to take a moment to breathe as we prepare for whatever happens to come next.

Shot taken by my friend and travel buddy (@tobyandrews) at the base camp after day 1 of our hike of Mount Rinjani (3,726 meters/12,224 feet) in Lombok, Indonesia. At the time, I didn't know what awaited us that next morning. The actual climb hadn't even begun... 
 

We awoke at 2 am, and we were greeted with chilly air and an amazing panoramic view of the stars, brilliantly shining and dancing across the early-morning sky. As I tried to wake up my aching body and groggy mind, I tried my hand at a few long-exposure photographs of the star-filled sky...to no avail—the photo just didn't do it justice. It was at that moment, minutes before setting off on the most strenuous and mentally draining hike of my life, when I was reminded that experiencing something beautifully raw and majestic in real life will always outshadow the digital version. 
 

During our current age of information overload—to the point of digital delirium—it can be easy to forget about being present in our real lives. We can try to recreate our thoughts/feelings online, and there's no denying the benefits of the incredible technology available to us every day, but let's not forget that those authentic, introspective moments in the non-virtual world hold more weight than we can even begin to measure with a computer or a smartphone.

 

A couple of GoPro photos from the top of Mount Rinjani (3,736 meters/12,224 feet) in Lombok, Indonesia. I wanted to snap some more on my DSLR, but the cold and wind at the top of this massive mountain made that quite difficult.

This was hands-down the most challenging hike I’ve done in my life thus far. Shortly after the ascent began at 2 am, my hands and face were aching in the 2 degrees Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit) air that greeted us on this extremely steep incline. There were narrow areas along the way where, if you stumbled off the edge, you would probably never be heard from again. Additionally, the pitches that we were climbing on were nothing but small rocks and dirt, illuminated only by the headlamps strapped to our heads. This terrain resulted in an extremely loose hiking surface. Essentially, you would go two steps forward and slide back one full step.

To make matters worse, the biting wind was howling, launching dirt and debris into my eyes the entire way up. There were several moments where I collapsed in exhaustion, resorting to playing mental games with myself to push on for the peak. I think everyone who climbed that dark morning will agree that it was an excruciating three hours.

Although it was agonizing, we had made it to the top! As always, the sense of accomplishment and beauty were well worth the climb. We had conquered this beast of a mountain, and we lived to tell the tale. The struggle is just part of the process. In hiking and in life, sometimes the only way to get where you want to be is to move forward with each step, even if you slide backwards.

For more photographs, check out my Instagram page

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