We All Have Stories
Stories are what makes the world go around. It’s what makes us who we are, each having a library of their own and everyday we write a new one.
Every now and then we thumb through our dusty shelves. Those frail experiences filed away for when we desperately need strength. Reread those moments of happiness when we are looking for a smile. Glance over a memorable string of words we highlighted because they meant just a little bit more to us and when we are done, we crease over the ear of the page of the seconds before to remind us of where we left off.
But the most important thing we do, is we share our stories. Some in lessons, others as entertainment, a few in a flash of vulnerability, regret or fear but there is always someone wanting to read them even the ones of how your day was. Someone wanted to learn. Someone looking for a different perspective. Someone who’s fascinated in what you have done and who you are. It’s how we are connected and if you are reading this then you are a part of mine and I am a part of yours.
Keep on writing, keep on reading and keep on sharing because stories are what makes the world go around.
Traveling in Indonesia for 2 Weeks
And just like that, with one click of the mouse, I’m traveling to Indonesia for 2 weeks. The first question is most likely, why Indonesia? Honestly, there was not one thing that I could say that would truthfully answer that question. Of course Bali, with it’s endless beaches and countless waterfalls could be a suitable reason. Or Nusa Penida with it’s turquoise water and rugged landscape could be another. And I mean who would not want to visit Komodo Island and look into the eyes of the largest lizards in the world, the Komodo dragons. All viable explanations of why Indonesia. But I would be lying to say that these were the reasons I clicked ‘book it’.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a little bit about my experience traveling to the world’s largest island country that is Indonesia.[/tatsu_text]
Yogyakarta the Soul of Java
Our journey started Yogyakarta. A traditional city located on the Indonesian island of Java. It was the first day and that was all it took for me to realize that I will not dare to try and drive here. It was hypnotizing seeing scooters dodge and weave their way through traffic like they were swimming through the sea. We were dropped off at our airbnb, which was a beautiful guest house that was hidden in an oasis of trees and water. Our time was limited but our priorities were straight. First indulge in street food, second explore the soul of Yogyakarta.
Sunset at Prambanan Temple
We only had one day in Yogyakarta and we were eager to make the best of it. Our first evening of soul searching was spent watching the sunset at Prambanan Temple. It was a immense field of ancient ruins. Watching each step, I carefully made my way through the stone remains. I tried to imagine what it would have been like in the 9th century. Walking up the steps, and overlooking the 244 Hindu temples scattered throughout the landscape as the day slowly fades away. I snapped back to reality as child screamed with laughter, running through the most beautiful architectural grave site I’ve stepped foot in.
Sunrise at Borobudur Temple
It was 4:30 am and I was rubbing the last bit of yesterday from my eyes. I gathered my things, opened the bedroom door and walked into the darkness of the morning to meet our Grab driver. He drove us through winding roads showing us the plethora of markets that were already full of life. The car started to slow and we came to a stop at Manohara hotel. This is the only ‘official’ way to enter the world’s largest Buddhist temple Borobudur and since I did not feel like getting arrested this trip, I thought this would be our safest bet.
We walked through the entrance, paid our fee and they handed us our flashlights. We turned them on and started walking towards the soft chatters of our fellow sunrise chasers. We found the stairs and started the trek up. It was still picth black but with the faint light of the flashlights I quickly felt the immensity of this sacred site.
I waited patiently, feeling like the lights just dimmed in the theatre and you knew instantly that the show was about to begin. The rays of light broke through the horizon first as the sun quickly followed. The scene turned from pitch black to the warm colors of the morning, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I really wish that my photography did justice to this wonder of the world that is Bororbudur Temple but below is my attempt.
Bali seems to be forefront when speaking about Indonesia. It has become a consistent tourist destination for good reason. It honestly has everything for everyone. From walking along white sand beaches to swinging over a stretch of rice fields to drinking a cup of koi luwak coffee in the middle of a forest after hiking to a waterfall, it was more of a playground for me.
Truth to be told, I could have spent a month here and still have much more to explore. With 99% less than a month in our schedule, we booked an Airbnb Tour to see as much as we could. It was worth it. Walking up to the Gate of Heaven in person, overlooking Agung, the biggest volcano in Bali, was an image I’ve seen all over instagram and blogs and now I know why. Experience. The air you soak up at Tegalalang terrace, feeling the water hitting against your face under the Tukad Cepung waterfall, or smelling the mixture of scents filling the air at a coffee plantation, makes these places you see behind a screen real. Visit Bali just once and you’ll understand this.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
I woke up to unfamiliar sounds on my balcony. I rolled over to see the source and to my surprise, a monkey was making itself comfortable. Then another and another joined and the next thing I knew, my friends shoe was over the edge. This was going to be a good day.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, also known as the Ubud Monkey Forest, is home to over 600 Balinese long-tailed monkeys. You are the visitor as you walk through this forest sanctuary that is their home. From a mother feeding their child to a group sitting watching as children performed a balinese dance, there was a humanist quality to them. It was quite captivating in a mysterious way. Although one of the warnings were not to look at them in their eye, I caught a few glances. Here are a few photographs from a stroll in their habitat.
Nusa Penida is the largest of the Nusa Islands sitting just south east of Bali. If there was an image that influenced my choice to going to Indonesia it was this island. Kelingking, also known as the t-rex arm, fittingly appeared like it was preserved from the Cretaceous Period. It was lush, rugged and like a scene from a movie, enclosed a beautiful secluded beach. The hike down was somewhat challenging and some places a little sketchy, but once your feet hits the sand, surrounded by cliffs, and seeing the crystal blue water, those thoughts are quickly washed away.
Wild and free. This was how the whole island felt. Exploring through rough terrain, sitting along endless cliffs and unwinding in the warm tropical water, all to fall asleep under a blanket of stars, that is what Nusa Penida was for me. Diamonds scattered throughout this pebble in the world, just waiting to be found.
Traveling to Komodo
Komodo Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the Lesser Sunda chain of Islands in East Nusa Tenggara. It’s also known for, drumroll please, Komodo Dragons. Yes I know shocker! But these islands are the only place in the world to see them so as they say, when in Indonesia! So we hopped on a plane from Bali and headed straight to the closest town which is Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores.
Like Bali, we were extremely limited on time and so we booked an all day excursion with Bintang Komodo Tours to experience as much as we could. It did not disappoint. Starting in the early morning, a few of us set sail as the sun began to rise and arrived at the first stop which was Padar Island. The view from the top of this hike was worth everything and more. A panorama view of the landscape that looked like it was crawling out to sea. We then stopped by the famous pink sand beach (pink due to it’s Corals) and an small banana shaped island/ sand bar to snorkel and finally made our way to see the legendary lizards.
Komodo National Park
There has been a lot of talk about Komodo National Park. Mainly about tourism. It was said that they would close off the park to tourist in 2020 and just recently rumored that it will be open but at a premium cost of $1000. We were fortunate enough to make it before any drastic changes were made. Upon arriving, we were given a tour guide, explained to us the risks, and ended on a somber note of the good possibility of not seeing any dragons at all. Optimistic though, we set out and within 5 minutes, stumbled upon 6 Dragons, 3 adults and 3 babies, all in one communal area! It was a surreal moment for sure, that I will not take with a grain of salt. Encountering the worlds largest and quite deadly lizards, with saliva and remnants of blood on their face is a memory I will hold onto.
Snorkeling in Indonesia
With over 17,000 islands comprising of Indonesia, snorkeling is a rights of passage when visiting. I have never snorkeled in my life, like really snorkeled. There may have been a few incidents when I’ve placed a snorkel mask on my face and swam around the pool looking for pennies at the bottom. But trust me nothing like this.
I still can’t quite comprehend what I saw. One day we hopped on a boat in Gilli Island and the next I was circling around an underwater sculpture, watching the array of tropical fish swimming along not taking notice or more not caring that a stranger was hovering around their neighborhood. The next time we jumped on a boat in Nusa Penida, I did the Shaka shake for my GoPro as I spilled over the side of the boat and all of a sudden an 11 ft Manta Ray came gliding above me. Lastly, on our excursion in and around Komodo Island, felt more like a grand finale. From beautiful coral, to nibbling tropical fish to sea turtles and chasing down a giant manta ray, it was quite the underwater adventure. I think I did good for my first time, if I say so myself.
Faces from Indonesia
You meet a lot of interesting people when you travel. From literally all ends of the world. Some faces you see for a moment and they pass, others stay with you. This trip was this trip because of people. From my friend Tyler who stuck out every second of this hectic ride, to all of the drivers, tour guides and hosts that did everything they could to make our trip the best it could be to the little girl who tried her best to teach me a little bit of the Indonesian language and laughed at my American pronunciation. this is what traveling is. This is why I love it. These are some of the faces from Indonesia.
The main reason, the true reason that I started traveling was to wander away from my comfort zone. The first time I ventured from North America was to Iceland. That trip opened up my eyes to the beautiful possibilities the world has in stored. I was curious about the unknown but frankly I yearned to know what was beyond that hill, those houses or across that ocean. So I went. Just me. I look at myself a little bit differently after traveling solo to Scotland. You learn quite a lot about yourself when you’re alone.
But being a travel photographer persuaded many of these adventures. I chose places in which the landscapes pulled me in. I already had glimpses of myself stepping at the edge of Trolltunga in Norway or walking up the Seceda Ridge in the Dolomites of Northern Italy. I found myself in an uncharacteristic comfort zone. I got caught up with these photographic pilgrimages and I wanted to step away for one.
I went to Indonesia to see more with my eyes and less from behind the camera. 11 flights, 10 islands and 7 boat rides later. I choose right.
Bouldering Photography at Devil’s Lake State Park
If you mentioned rock climbing at Devil’s Lake State Park a year ago, I would look at you with a blank stare. I have previously ventured up to Wisconsin to photograph this picturesque state park but it was not until about 8 months ago that I would have known the hidden gems embedded in the nature of this park. In early of September of 2018 I got introduced to the world of rock climbing. I’ve always been intrigued in the simplicity of climbing. Watching professional climbers such as Adam Ondra or Sasha DiGiulian naturally scale up the face of a mountain is poetry in motion. Needless to say, I was quickly hooked.[/tatsu_text]
The midwest is not widely known for a mecca of outdoor climbing. In fact, if you are from Chicago and want to climb outdoors, you will most likely find yourself 3 hours away at Devils Lake State Park which is not only the largest state park in Wisconsin but also offers some of the best bouldering and climbing in the midwest. With over 1600 routes, beautiful hiking trails and quartzite rock cliffs overlooking the lake, it only seems natural that I start my exploration of rock climbing and photography here.
Camping at Mirror Lake State Park
The best part of bouldering at Devils Lake, is camping under the stars at Mirror Lake State Park and of course ordering Pizza Pub. We actually found this campsite by mere coincidence. On the first trip to climb, the Devils Lake Camp grounds were completely booked and this was recommended by park ranger. The moment we set up camp, I already knew that this is where I will be falling asleep whenever I come back up here. On a clear night, the stars light up the sky over the lake and at that moment the name Mirror Lake becomes clear. This is the perfect remedy after a hard day of climbing.
A Passion Found in Rock Climbing
Rock climbing is something else. I fell into this world unknowingly. I didn’t ask to be here but here I am and I absolutely love it. I went from not knowing what a rock climbing gym was to joining one and climbing in it 5 times a week. I remember only being able to climb for 30 minutes because the skin on my fingers were shredded to being able to climb for hours with ease. It’s therapeutic in that way. My mind shuts down all of those lingering thoughts in the back of my head and I become fully present. Climbing has shown me that growth only exists when you push yourself out of your comfort zone and welcome the unknown.
It’s a beautiful thing.
A Road Trip Through Italy
Traveling to Italy is simply a dream. I honestly do not even know where to begin. It’s been about a month since getting back from Italy but the winding roads, the running canals, Italian cities lost in history and the picturesque backdrops are still fresh in my mind. Ever since seeing a picture of the slopes of Seceda in the Italian Dolomites, I knew that I would be walking on that very grass to witness it for myself. With no plan in mind except to go, I booked my ticket. There’s no turning back now. This is my road trip through Italy.
The Floating City
Every adventure starts somewhere, and mine began in Venice, Italy. An agglomerate of land carved out by canals running through it like veins in a body. Truly the most romantic city that I have ever seen. Without a single road, you experience every twist and turn right under your feet, seeing fragments of history at every step. From San Marco Square to the Grand Canal to the singing of the gondoliers as the sun touches down, Venice was a masterpiece that surpass every expectation that I ever thought I had about it. A dream city floating on water and this was only the start.
The Pale Mountains
Located a short few hours from Venice, sits one of the most beautiful places on earth. The Dolomites are a mountain range that crowns northern Italy. A place of wild mystery and now a friend & I are about to make our way through it. The very first time seeing just a hint of the jutting rock of the Dolomites my eyes were transfixed. The jagged mountains shooting up into the sky, surrounded by rolling green hills and mirrored lakes, this was a paradise that could have only been dreamt up in fairytales.
Lago Di Braies
This was the first night in the albino rhino (which I secretly called our white Jeep). We just spent the day on the road winding our way through the Dolomites heading north toward Pragser Wildsee for the night. Arriving in a small town well past 9pm, we found the only place that was open for a meal. It was a small Hotel/ Restaurante that I wouldn’t ever have known existed if it wasn’t for our late arrival; it was posted at the end of numerous switchbacks overlooking the small, flickering city below. It was a hidden gem that was home to some of the most welcoming people but also offered one of the best meals on this trip. These are the moments that I will always stay with me.
After eating, we found our way to a small parking lot to call home for the night. Not being a stranger to sleeping in a car I quickly got as comfortable as I could to call it a night. I laid there listening to a few passing cars but my mind was still racing with excitement. Although I could feel my body physically tired, these swimming thoughts of what was in stored for the next day won the battle for the first few hours but eventually faded.
We woke up at first light to the brisk mountain air and made our way to this little lake in the Prags valley. Lago di Braies is one of those places that I have/ you may have seen many pictures of but nothing could have prepared me for seeing this place in person. The water was still and blue, the light was just waking up and slowly finding it’s way through the surrounding mountains. There were few people up, making it beautifully quiet. This was the first time (but not the last) where these far away places that I grew up seeing pictures of weren’t so far away anymore.
Every oversea trip that I have ever been on has been based on one single image. Kirkjufell in Iceland, Trolltunga in Norway, Neist Point in Scotland and for Italy it was the Seceda. These are the places that restore the childlike mentally of how simple life can truly be. These are the places that swim over you like a breath of fresh air, that revives that sense of curiosity and adventure. These are the places, that makes me believe how beautiful the world really is. I really wish I could talk more about it, but I don’t have the words. I mean the Seceda ridge line was the catalyst of this whole trip and when I first laid eyes on it, I just sat, and laughed in disbelief. A place like this actually exists.
The first leg of this trip was the most important part to me since it was the whole reason why I pushed the confirm button at checkout for my flight. I have been fortunate enough to have seen some beautiful places in my life but experiencing the Dolomites was something else. It left me speechless with a feeling that I really can’t explain. You just have to go and experience it for yourself. It’s such a beautiful place that many people do not associate when talking about Italy and maybe that’s one of the beauties of it. With every turn was a moment filled with anticipation as I could never have predicted what I would see next. Northern Italy makes you feel small and unimportant in the best possible way, washing away egos and selfishness and shines light on the world around you. Now off to the next adventure.
If you like this, you will love A Road Trip Through the Cities of Italy
You had me at Colorado.
When you have Chicago in your backyard, you hike through dense city streets, breathing in the heavy air, while the sweet sounds of a car honks and everyday conversations fill your ears. You look up through the shadows and your surround by architectural mountains; while I suppose some refer to them as skyscrapers… nonetheless this is the urban landscape that I am oh so familiar with. On the other hand, it cultivated this allurement to nature, hiking, camping, traveling etc. and I find myself constantly seeking these momentary escapes in the world’s more natural landscapes.
When asked by two friends if I would be interested in shooting their engagement photos, I happily accepted. But when expressed that they would like the backdrop to be Colorado, all I could think of is ‘yes, yes and yes. I have personally never been to Colorado, well of which I could remember (I may have driven through Colorado riding in the backseat as a child at some point, but those years of my life are a little hazy.) however I have seen and heard various anecdotes of just how beautiful it is. The seed was planted and the anticipation grew instantly. Let the adventure begin.
With an average 243 sunny days a year, it’s a sort of unwritten law that you should be outside. From the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater to the copious hiking trails to watching the sunrise above the clouds, Colorado is an outdoor lover’s paradise. I did not quite know what to expect but it was everything and more. It’s a place where you can get lost in yet at that exact moment feel like you were meant to be here. Oh Colorado, you are quite beautiful. Until we meet again.
When I first picked up a camera, I never knew, well how to use it but moreover, what I would do with it or where it would take me. It has allowed me to meet some amazing people, rekindle old friendships, and to see places that I never thought I’d ever step foot in. When I look back at pictures like these, I can’t help but be humble at the remarkable people and opportunities that I was given. I am sure I say this a lot but it is an important notion to recognize. I can not thank enough, these two wonderful people I’m lucky enough to call friends, for not only showing me around but letting me be apart of this special time in their lives.
If you like this, you will love A Road Trip Through Scotland
I feel like I should ramble some more about a trip that I took a some weeks ago. If you haven’t seen my last post, you can read it (or just look at the pictures) here at A Road Trip Through Scotland. But I’ll just give you a brief in-depth summary now. Went to Scotland. Enjoyed Glasgow. Rented a car. Saw pretty things and now I’m here. Ok, I hope I didn’t lose you yet. I’ll start off like I started off last time, the reason why I first wanted to see Scotland was because of Neist Point. The little sea cliff that I loved so much I had to go back the next morning.
The Isles of Skye
The Isles of Skye (from the old Norse sky-a, meaning ‘cloud island’) was filled with remarkable natural sights. The Isles’ rugged sea cliffs, and mountainous scenary sparked with life at every turn. The dark jagged basalt appeared to be breaking through the ground, forming the natural landscape of this island. It’s the home to some of the most beautiful places I have been fortunate enough to experience such as Neist Point, the Quiraing, Fairy Glen, the Old Man of Storr and much more. I spent about two and half days here but could have easily spent a lot longer. Pictures just do not do the Isles of Skye justice, but hey I tried.
A map, a car, a camera and the road
‘Its the not the Destination, It’s the journey.’ Yes, very cliché I know. A phrase that I have heard so many times that I tend to forget it’s true value.
When I began planning for Scotland, I did what most people tend to do. I googled places to see in Scotland. And of course, I find plethora of beautiful photographs of castles, waterfalls, landscapes, cities and honestly thats great. I made it a point to see a lot of these places but some of my most memorable moments and favorite photographs are of those that you can not find on google or Pinterest. I believe it’s because these are my personal experiences. These are the places that I choose to stop at because they incited my curiosity. We all have our own stories and the ones who have experienced these well known places, share the same sort of paragraph in their story (If that makes any sense). But those places in between are what makes everyones story unique and different. And that’s a beautiful thing. Here are a few paragraphs from my story.
From Edinburgh to Glasgow
Other than Scotland’s natural beauty, it is home to a rich history. I felt like everywhere I turned, I was surrounded by stories of the past. From castles to cobble stone roads to cathedrals and cemeteries, exploring these places made me feel like a kid again. Honestly, all I could do was try to soak in as much information that I could, and I am still trying to process everything that I saw. Edinburgh and Glasgow, although somewhat opposite, will remain very close to my heart. These are cities that I saw the sun disappear in and shedding light the next. I felt at home here. This was truly an unbelievable experience, that I would not have changed one moment of. Until next time Scotland and thank you for your hospitality but most importantly, thank you for changing my life for the better.
Food For Thought
I’ve been asked by a few people how traveling alone was so I thought I’d share my experience of it. When I first thought about traveling alone, in all honestly I was terrified of. I mean the very idea of not knowing where you are let alone, anyone you know is quite frightening. I was clouded with ideas of everything that could go wrong but I’ve always dreamed of someday of taking an prolong road trip and just traveling. If I ever wanted to do this I knew at some point that I would have to be comfortable traveling alone. So I took a chance, sucked it up, swallowed my fears and decided to go to Scotland solo.
Preparing for this involved in constant researching on other’s experiences as well and a few solo overnight trips to dip my toes into. I learned a lot from South Dakota and the Upper Peninsula, such as what were my necessities and what I could do without i.e less is more. But most importantly I learned how to be comfortable being by myself (which was a little hard because I could be very talkative to myself).
What I took out of this experience was an indescribable experience. Some may think that it will be lonely, but this was far from that case. Photography and the mystery of being somewhere new, preoccupied my mind to the point that I did not even grasp the idea that I was alone. There are moments where your initial fear resurfaces but it’s quickly put to rest once you recognize where you are, and that the world is not as scary as you imaged. The most exciting part about traveling alone is that your flying first hand outside of your comfort zone, igniting that flame of curiosity and wonder. And you realize how exciting life can be again.
I feel like every trip that I take I always end it by saying that I learned a lot about myself and so on. And Scotland was no different. Everything thing that I have learned in the past, I have applied to the present which only opens another door of lessons to face. Life is a learning experience that everyone is trying to master. But the beauty lies in each person’s pursuit of it.
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