KOTA TUA | Jakarta, Indonesia

After exploring Petak 9 Market and chowing down on some street noodles, we headed to Kota Tua, also known as Old Jakarta. You can surely see the Dutch influence in the architecture in the area. The artist that she is, Fransisca brought me to the local post office where there is an art gallery upstairs. She tells me that art galleries are not so prominent in the area and Kota Tua is rapidly changing and pioneering the resurgence of the art community.

KOTATUA_1 KOTATUA_2 All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved After seeing the “new” Kota Tua, it was time to stroll around and see remnants of history. The area is full of old buildings. Some in disrepair, some in the middle of reconstruction, and all really photographically interesting. Upon seeing a building that is literally falling apart and noticing that four families share the space, Fransisca asks if we can enter to take pictures. The families welcome us in and I am again reminded of the openness and kindness of Indonesian people.

All Rights Reserved KOTATUA_8 KOTATUA_9 KOTATUA_10 All Rights Reserved KOTATUA_12 KOTATUA_13 KOTATUA_14 After snapping a few photos of these beautiful people, we headed to another abandoned building that had tones of Angkor Wat. Since I am obsessed with beauty and decay, this was right up my alley.

KOTATUA_15 KOTATUA_16 KOTATUA_17 KOTATUA_18 Across the way was another building that was just as impressive. Abandoned and beautiful.

All Rights Reserved KOTATUA_20 All Rights Reserved KOTATUA_22 All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved KOTATUA_25 KOTATUA_26 All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved After Kota Tua, we headed to another shopping strip called Pasar Baru where we hit up a thrift store where I scored a dress, a skirt, and a top! Yes!

When I ask Fransisca where people go to hang out, she tells me everyone goes to the mall. Apparently malls are THE place to go. I couldn’t help myself. We ended the day at Grand Indonesia Mall where we ate ice cream at the Magnum Cafe that boasted a view of the city.

All Rights Reserved Upon reflecting on the day, I am so grateful for the randomness of the internet. It’s only through the web that Fransisca found me and I am reminded how being open to people will grant you amazing experiences. Fransisca is a twenty-one year old wise beyond her years. I especially loved asking her cultural questions and exchanging world views. I’m leaving you with a recording where I ask her about the challenges of being a woman in Indonesia as well as what it means to be Indonesian. Take a listen. Thanks Fransisca, you are amazing!

Jakarta – Petak 9 Market

All Rights Reserved The morning I was leaving for Jakarta I woke to an email from Fransisca Angela. She had stumbled across my interview on Need Supply and saw that I was coming to Indonesia. As a freelance photographer, she offered up her tour guide services to show me around Jakarta. I happily obliged. After viewing her website and portfolio, I knew I was in good hands. Jakarta has always been a city in passing when I’ve previously visited Indonesia and I really felt like I didn’t know Jakarta. I was eager for the grand tour.

She picks me up at 7:30am and we end up spending the entire day together. I’m splitting up the adventure into two posts because there are just too many amazing photos from the day. She said after reviewing my blog, she thought I’d love Petak 9 Market which is sort of like the Chinatown. of Jakarta. Upon arriving, I knew this was a girl after my own heart. My camera was in pure bliss. The narrow alleys were ripe with photo opportunities and lovely, lovely people.

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Photo below by Fransisca Angela.

fransisca_mari Boy it feels good to be back on the road!

Worrier to Warrior

Today I’m heading back into the world to embrace my nomadic habit! I am finishing off the trip I had started back in 2013. The last few months have been a personal journey of transformation and I’m excited to get back on the road with my new found strength. When I came home in April I had stumbled upon an old poem that I wrote a few years ago called Worrier To Warrior. It was an evolution that I had craved but not yet tasted. Upon reading it I realized I had finally made the transformation. I was inhabiting the poem. I was no longer the worrier, I had become the warrior. I had to personify the poem, I had to be the poem. And so, I did just that.

This is a self portrait series of self transformation. Poetry personified.


Worrier To Warrior

I wish it so.
I wish it a go.
I wish it would flow.

Feathers in my hair, bare,
Stare.

Passive persona buried in desert dunes,
Like a phoenix rising,
Wing span of the moon.

Mud upon my feet, my face— this place.
Oh this glorious space to feel, to be,
With everything I am
With everything I see.

I am covered in earth.

Like a cactus in the rain,
Parched but oh so quenched,

Drenched.


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Shot on location in Joshua Tree

Warrior outfit and jewelry provided by Fuggiamo

And so, I’m heading out into the world feeling like I can conquer it.

I am standing tall.

First stop? Indonesia.

 

Where We Sleep

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you’ve seen the amazing places I’ve been so fortunate to visit. I get a lot of people asking, how did you travel for so long? How could you afford it? The places I’ve visited have been pretty unreal. I’ve snapped some incredible photos. Long term travel can easily be romanticized by way of wanderlust worthy photos. They key to afford long term travel (for me anyways) is prioritizing budget over luxury and putting experience over comfort. Upon realizing that world experience is a luxury, budget travel becomes second nature. Except when you are just dying for a hot shower or a comfortable bed.

The following is a series of portraits of beds that I took while traveling. I find sleeping spaces to be so intimate and there were quite a few that left an impression on me while I’d leave my impression on the ‘mattress,’ (or wooden board).  As you can see, there were varying degrees of comfort when it came to lodging. Rooms averaged around $25-35 USD/night dependent on the country.

I’d also like to point out that while some of these images look like decent rooms, looks can be deceiving. Probably about half of these either did not have a bathroom or shower (thanks Mongolia) or did not have hot water or water pressure (thanks India + Thailand). I guess you get what you pay for.

 

 

NYC

I said adieu to NYC last May of 2013 when I ventured off on my international year long journey around the world. It was my home for seven years and I wasn’t sure how our reunion would feel having not stepped, smelled, or tasted the big apple in over a year. When I left, I was more than ready to say goodbye. The city does that whole wear you down thing and I was near skeletal remains. But just like any good abusive relationship, it felt so good to be back in the arms of the great seductress. I love you. I hate you. I love you. I hate you. I love to hate you and hate to love you.

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What did I learn in this relapse? New York has a way of welcoming you back as if it knew of your return. Some things never change, like the women who is still handing out pamphlets with a smile at the same subway entrance in the morning. Or the street performers that you recognize and love. Everything felt as if I had never left and New York pulled at my heart strings and the bagels at my stomach strings.

To make matters even better, I had the opportunity to finally meet my co-founder of El Camino Travel. Yes, we had never met and started a business together via google hangouts and yes we both showed up in hats for our first official co-founding date. #soulmates.

While in NYC, we had the opportunity to scheme with the incredibly creative travel minds of Fathom and Mosey and couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come!

One week felt like a New York minute. Where did the time go??? Check out NYC via my iPhone.

I also learned that Citi Bike is amazing, Über is way cheaper than a taxi, and Mister Sunday in Brooklyn is just about the best dance party I’ve ever been to.

Until next time NYC!

 

Mexico

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I was lucky enough to head down to Mexico just outside of Cancun for some work and BorrowLenses hooked it up! I rented two lenses (1 & 2)and this underwater housing for all my photography needs. It was my first time using BorrowLenses and found the process and pick up/drop off super easy!

Work had me running around but here are a few favorites…

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Equipment provided by BorrowLenses.com – The premiere online rental house where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

BOAT MAGAZINE ISSUE NO. 8 / LA

When I got to LA I had reached out to Boat Magazine because I fell in love with their aesthetic, nomadic nature, and content. Each issue is dedicated to a different city around the world and as the universe would have it, their next issue was to be an LA issue. Enter happenstance. I didn’t want to miss the boat so to speak. I’m currently working on two stories due out in September and I couldn’t be more excited to be among such amazing collaborators within the pages of the most ridiculously beautiful designed magazine. PRE-ORDER NOW!! Available here.

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And in case you missed it, Boat had previously featured me on their website a few months ago.

Check it.

 

JOSHUA TREE, CALIFORNIA

JOSHUA_TREE_1 Since being back in California, I had to visit my beloved Joshua Tree National Park.

The landscape is unreal and the stars are glorious.

This camping trip was featured on Ardent Magazine in a two part series. Here is Part I and Part II.

Stay at Hidden Valley Campground if you want to be nestled among amazing boulders.

Below are some images that you might not see in the Ardent feature. Watch out for coyotes!

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EL CAMINO TRAVEL

After leaving Vietnam in April and feeling like my life was in disarray (the jist) I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had just left a major trip, a relationship, and was coming back to my hometown to take care of a sick parent. The transition was bumpy. Everything felt foreign coming from foreign lands and I wasn’t sure where life would take me. As time passed the bumps started to smooth out, I started regaining my footing, and the stars started to align. I mean really align. So much so that I’ve become co-founder of an amazing travel company.

After an exchange of serendipitous emails between DC and LA, a few google hangouts, a shared love of socially responsible travel, and an appreciation for creativity and innovation, El CAMINO was born.

I am so excited to officially announce the launch of EL CAMINO alongside my amazing co-founder Katalina Mayorga.

two_nom What is EL CAMINO?

+ Authentic and well curated travel experiences for groups of 10-12 people to unique locations.

+ Travel experience includes a professional and creative photographer that accompanies the group the whole time. You can live in the moment and not worry about capturing the moment. (I will be the resident photographer for the first few trips!)

+ 10% of profits goes towards the efforts of a local social entrepreneur who is radically changing their country and who will also lead a dinner one night so you get that unique and intimate perspective into the country.

Where are we going?

We are currently planning a sold out trip to Nicaragua in November, but have no fear, 2015 will bring 3 more trips to Nicaragua and trips to Colombia and Guatemala. We are just getting started!

But we can’t wait to get the party started so Katalina is planning a midweek pop up vacay in the DC area to a nearby swimming hole. Yes, please! Details below on where to rock your oversized inflatables.

POPUP_NH What is a Pop Up Vacay? It is an excuse to take a vacation, relax, and #yolo the hell out of life in the middle of the week. It keeps with the spontaneous and adventurous vibe of El Camino and is a preview of the atmosphere that El Camino is committed to providing on all of its trips, in whatever part of the world we may be.

Where: A quarry turned swimming hole on the outskirts of Baltimore aka Beaver Dam Swim Club. This includes a rope swing, diving board, and several floating docks. This place is magical.

When: August 6th from 10AM to 5PM

Price: $85 if you sign up before 7/28 and $95 thereafter.

Includes: Oversized inflatable swans and inflatable half eaten donuts, the sweet sweet sounds of DJ Ayescold (our official El Camino Music Curator), creative photographer extraordinare Emma McAlary (you will get access to these photos soon after the event), delicious food, table settings that you might freak out about, transportation there and back, a copy of the beautifully designed and wanderlust filled Boat Mag, and a special appearance by #yolo and #vacay.

Sign up here!

shop_nh El Camino has launched ‘LA TIENDA’ a store filled with eclectic and beautiful items from our trips abroad. We are currently selling a limited amount of hand picked and brightly colored frazadas (blankets or rugs) from the markets of Cochabamba, Bolivia. You will fall in frazada love. Guaranteed.


So there you have it.

Life is nuts, crazy, amazing, and everything in between.

Come along for the ride.

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instagram + facebook + pinterest

BE A TRAVELER, NOT A TOURIST.

#elcaminotravel


Trans-Siberian Railway meets Artillery Lane

Back in December of 2013, photographer Valentina Eleanora Costa of Halo Communication got in touch with me about using some of my Trans-Siberian Railway images as backdrops to her latest project.

The result? An amazing scarf campaign for Artillery Lane with projected Siberian images.

I’m thrilled to finally share the final product! See the whole campaign here.

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BACKPACKING 101

BACKPACKING 101

So you are ready to take on the world. You’ve quit that soul sucking job where you wanderlusted on your company computer. You’ve pinterested in between meetings and instagramed during meetings and now it’s time to pack your bags.

What are you taking? What do you really need? Here are a few of my fav’s.

BACKPACK // How hard is it to find a front loading backpack? Really hard. Top loading packs make it hard to reach those items you’ve stuffed at the bottom. I loved this backpack because it made everything in my pack accessible without all the bells & whistles.

SHOES // Remember my post before I left about how hiking boots are not sexy? Guess what? They are still not sexy. Not much has changed in the women’s hiking boot world in the past year. Since I bought these boots and traded out the laces for some bold red ones, they’ve seen the Arctic Circle, Trans-Siberian Railway, and Gobi Desert to name a few. They are still in great condition a year later and currently use them for California hikes.

RAIN COVER // Oh hey downpour. Caught in monsoon season? Don’t get caught without a backpack cover. This one saved my pack from several downpours and from all that ferry sludge in Thailand.

UMBRELLA // So you have your rain cover and your pack is safe but what about you? I am so glad I brought an umbrella because I can’t tell you how many times the clouds unexpectedly opened up.

TOWEL // Budget travel doesn’t allow for those plush 5 star towels. Take your own. They double as pillows.

FIRST AID KIT // Blisters, cuts, gashes, etc. You will get them all. Be prepared.

ELECTRICAL TAPE  // Saved me in a pinch for a lot of random needs. Also used this to tape my shampoo and conditioner tops down when in transit.

NYLON CORD // Remember that bunk rail on the Trans-Siberian Train that was broken? Rigging it with nylon cord was the perfect solution. Also, all those times I was hand washing my laundry in the shower, I used this to hang my undies to dry!

SUNSCREEN // You will burn. It will hurt.

WET WIPES // Clutch for that 8 day trip to the Gobi Desert.

BUG REPELLANT // I’m allergic to mosquito bites. Enough said.

FLASHLIGHT // I’m not afraid of the dark, but I’m afraid of the dark when I have no idea where I am.

SCARF // Style, warmth, and that perfect thing to tie around your waste if you need to squat in the middle of Mongolia with a little discretion.

Women + Solo Traveling

GOSOLO Traveling hardly seems like an option to me anymore. It’s such an integral part of me that it has become a lifestyle. I live to travel and I travel to live.

Before my year long trip I was a timid traveler. I hadn’t faced the world alone and feared traveling solo as a woman would be both dangerous and intimidating.

As the trip progressed I thought, ‘I can do this.’ All the things I feared slowly started melting away. Could I handle all the logistics? The physicality? The complications? Yes, yes, and yes. I grew more confident and ‘I can do this’ evolved into ‘I will do this.’

I’m currently gearing up to embark on my first solo trip to Indonesia and Australia in August. I am anxious to dive into the experience.

As I was doing my research on Yahoo Travel, it turns out many women are boarding planes alone. As I perused the site, I found THIS fantastic article about the rise of women who travel solo. According to the article, 72% of American women will travel solo this year. Go women! The article also tells of inspiring women who have done bold things like climb Mt. Kilimanjaro alone as a 40th birthday celebration. There are so many courageous woman who are willing to take a chance on the world.

I challenge all you women out there to be brave and make the leap into the world. Even if it’s just a short trip. For all the women who have done solo trips, what were the challenges? What was the beauty of it? Lastly, any tips?

Find more travel tips and articles at Yahoo Travel.

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FRAZADA HEAVEN!

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Love these?

They are Frazadas from Bolivia and can be used as rugs or heavy blankets.

I am launching a new business with cofounder @theyoufinder (more on that to come soon, but expect travel with an unexpected twist) and will be selling these to help kickstart the effort.

We will be posting product shots of each blanket individually so you can see all the colors and designs.

Please email katamayorga(at)gmail.com if your interested in purchasing and receiving the link once they are ready.

 

Happy Father’s Day

dad Happy Father’s Day to the man who sparked my need to see and document the world!

Above he is stylish on his scooter and playing in the forest with his siblings in the Indonesian forests.

This post is dedicated to him and his photography.

Remember this post?

It explains when I discovered my dad was a total closet photographer with a treasure trove of slides tucked away in that closet.

Here are some of my favorite slides shot by my dad.

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Happy Father’s Day Dad!

Black Star Canyon Road | OC, California

When most people think of Orange County, better known (or worse known?) as ‘The O.C.’ they probably think of either Disneyland, or reality T.V. (Housewives of Orange County, The O.C., Laguna Beach). Truth be told there is beautifully wild side to Orange County absent of the cliché. Enter Black Star Canyon. There are urban legends and tales of the supernatural associated with this area which make it an even more interesting destination. Look out for ghosts. The images below were taken on Black Star Canyon Road in Santiago Canyon. To get to Black Star Canyon, walk Black Star Canyon Road about a mile past the gate and turn right. Happy trails.

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Maibe Maroccolo – ARTIST SPOTLIGHT

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 9.30.17 AM Maibe Maroccolo reached out to me when she stumbled upon my block printing workshop in India but I was quickly consumed by her artistry. She is gorgeous and so is her work. If you loved my block printing story, you must check out Maibe Maroccolo who hails from Brazil.

WHO

I’m a textile artist, maker and dyer that works with organic dyes and fabrics, focusing on the creative reuse of natural materials. I gained my inspiration from nature and ecological principles found in permaculture. The theory of permaculture living is simply that if we accept man as an animal we will always have needs and demands from the land and environment, then, through education, inspiration and a dedicated view towards the future, man must put back what he has taken for any chance of the cycle to continue and prosper.

In 2012 I founded my own consultancy and fashion brand “Mattricaria”. Mattricaria grew out of the idea of producing honest products and making beautiful garments that are a living blueprint for my values: people and the planet are central to everything we do. Our products are handmade and dyed in organic cotton and sustainable materials, using traditional dying skills and Brazilian raw material. We seek to encourage thoughtful buying by giving our customers a personal connection to their purchases. We give customers an alternative to fast fashion that has a devastating impact from sweatshops, child labor to pollution, and global warming. I support healthy integration between nature, culture, and preservation of traditional textile methods. Mattricaria is the scientific name of chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla), which refers to calm, slow and lightness, so that’s my inspiration!

WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO TRAVEL?

I’m very curious when comes to traveling. I love going to different and exotic places, but my heart is where the nature is, so my sacred escape is Chapada do veadeiros in Goiás. It is 3 hours from home (Brasília, capital). It’s a gorgeous landscape full of exotic flora and fauna, lots of spectacular waterfalls, bizarre rock formations, caves, and grottoes. According to NASA, when observed from outer space, the Chapada’s high plateaus are the most luminous point visible on Earth; this bright glowing is caused by the reflection between the sun and the abundance of quartz crystal in the region.

WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH?

I always take my family pictures with me! They always make me smile and they remind myself of who I am and it keeps me going in order to achieve my purpose in life, spread love, and be kind to others.

THANK YOU MAIBE

 

Tiny Atlas Quarterly | Block Printing Workshop

I am thrilled to be part of Tiny Atlas Quarterly’s AIR issue!

One of the highlights of India was taking a workshop to learn the ancient practice of block printing. It’s a stunning process.

Check out the entire feature here.

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THANK YOU TINY ATLAS!

Don’t forget to check out the entire issue. It is brimming with beauty.

Road Trip With Dad

Now that I am in LA, I’ve been able to spend some quality time with the folks. I’ve also been able to appreciate the natural beauty of California as well as indulge in delicious Mexican food. My dad and I took a short road trip down south so he could hit the jackpot at the casinos and I could lounge by the pool. These photos are all off Highway 76 where we stopped off at the amazing Jilberto’s Taco Shop.

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He didn’t hit the jackpot, but we did enjoy the view.

Authenticity

AUTHENTICITY

Whether it is in my day to day or in my travels, I often find myself yearning for an authentic experience. What exactly is an authentic experience, and why do I keep digging for these moments? In an age where everything feels saturated and commercialized, I wonder if authenticity is still alive.

So what is an authentic experience? I had this fantasy before my trip that the lands would be laced with true and authentic experiences devoid of tourism and commercialism. I imagined I would feel connected to people and places in ways that felt absolutely true. I thought that if truth lived in moments, that I would find them, feel them, and share them. But as a tourist and as a stranger to distant lands, I wondered if it would be that much harder to find the scraps of truth.

I think back to a moment that comes to mind when I think about authentic experience. The first time I rode a horse was in Mongolia as I helped a nomad herd his sheep in a landscape that was straight out of The Land Before Time. Needless to say, all other horse rides in my lifetime will pale in comparison. Thank you Mongolia for single-handedly ruining all future horse rides and giving me one of the best experiences of my life.

_MG_0504 The nomad rode the horse as if they were connected. They were one symbiotic, beautiful beast, and while I was holding on for dear life, he casually smoked a cigarette while navigating the land and his livestock. We didn’t share language, but we shared this moment. It was so beautiful I could cry at the memory of it. It was beautiful not only because it was an objectively impressive scene, but the physical memory and the emotional impression is engraved into me, onto me, and all over me. I argued with myself over the authenticity of it. Mari, you are only having this experience because you paid for it and this tour was set up for tourists to make money. I previously had such strict authentic experience guidelines… anything commercialized and driven by tourism and money could not be authentic I would argue. But I cannot deny the truths I felt in those moments. Yes, I had paid for a tour which I knew included horseback riding. What I didn’t know was that I would actually be herding sheep with a nomad. It felt more like he needed to get his sheep back to base and also provide a horse ride and that he was killing two birds with one stone. I was happy to be a bird because then I was flying in his authentic air space. He wasn’t simply taking me for a ride, I was riding in his world, and I actually did feel as free as a bird. I was soaring.

_MG_0593 I realized that authentic experiences cannot be achieved by checking off a near impossible list of rules. There’s actually nothing authentic about boxing in moments with a checklist. An authentic experience comes from within. If you experience truth in a moment, whether it’s on a tour or on a solo wander, it IS an authentic experience.

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While my extravagant fantasy of living in continuous authentic moments while traveling was not achieved, the reality was that I found pockets of authenticity that live inside me in brilliant ways. When I think back on other such moments, I realize the common denominator is shared human experience. When we connect with other people, it’s magic.

Abracadabra. Authenticity.

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SCOTT HAWAII GIVEAWAY

SCOTT_HAWAII_1 I cannot tell you how difficult it is to find a solid pair of flip flops to travel with that are equally as stylish. I’ve been through blisters, strap snaps, and ugly but comfortable pairs. Oh the flip flop woes. Finally, I found a pair that I’m flipping for that won’t flop thanks to Scott Hawaii.

Nomadic-Habit has partnered with Scott Hawaii for a ‘slippah’ giveaway! Here I’m sporting the LOKU style in black and I’m loving the suede insole and soft leather braided straps. Bye bye blisters. These retail for $42, but you can get them free, or you can choose from their other styles if you are the winner. While I’m showing off one of the women’s styles, this giveaway is open to men as well as there are plenty of men’s styles to choose from.

How do I win?

If you are already subscribed to the Nomadic-Habit mailing list then you are already automatically entered. Thank you loyal readers! If you are not subscribed, click here to subscribe and enter for a chance to win. A subscriber will be selected at random when the giveaway closes.

What do I win?

A free pair of really comfortable, quality ‘slippahs’ that will be sent to you once you choose your preferred style and size.

When will I be notified if I win?

The giveaway will close on June 1st and the winner will be notified by email on June 2nd.


My favorite part about this pair is that you can sport them with just about anything.

Here I am rocking two looks with one pair. SCOTT_HAWAII_2 SCOTT_HAWAII_3 SCOTT_HAWAII_4 SCOTT_HAWAII_5 SCOTT_HAWAII_6 SCOTT_HAWAII_7 SCOTT_HAWAII_8 SCOTT_HAWAII_9 GOOD LUCK! Don’t forget to sign up by June 1, 2014 !

One Year Anniversary

start I left the United States one year ago today to embark on an epic trip.

This picture above is the very first picture I snapped. It was in Barcelona. The sky was beautiful. I remember it well. Since this photo was taken, I have edited down my trip collection to just under 9,000 images which means I probably actually took triple that if you include all the images I have deleted since. Wow.

A year has gone by and I have seen so much, felt so much, and so much has changed. The world was my oyster and I was illuminated. Then life stepped in.

While we were in the Thai Islands I got word that my mother would be going through chemotherapy for lung cancer. I made the decision to go back to LA to be with her during the duration of the treatment. I left from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and consequently Rick and I decided to part ways. I thank you in advance for your understanding in this private matter as both of these decisions were made with a heavy heart.

So what does this mean?

I am currently in LA plotting my next nomadic adventure and hope to be back on the road in a few months when I take on Indonesia and Australia on my own. I will still maintain this blog with plenty of travel content so have no fear, I have a lot up my sleeve. Nomadic-Habit is entering a new phase and I am so excited for what’s to come!

And hey, if you are in LA, reach out. I’m available for photo work (and coffee).

Check out my photography site here and don’t forget to follow me on instagram.

What a difference a year makes.

Life. You can’t even escape it when you are off escaping it.

I started this post with the first picture of the trip, and now for my last.

end-1 I guess it’s lights out.

To everyone that has supported me through this tough time, your love is invaluable. Thank you so very much.

 

Independence Palace | Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Independence Palace (Dinh Độc Lập), also known as Reunification Palace (Vietnamese: Dinh Thống Nhất), built on the site of the former Norodom Palace, is a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was designed by architect Ngô Viết Thụ and was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.

Above text taken from Wikipedia

This isn’t your typical palace. Some rooms are fancy, some are stark, some look like they are straight out of the 1960′s, and the bunker is downright sparse. It’s a hodgepodge of styles all mixed into one ominous building. It’s much less opulent than the Thai Grand Palace. From the outside it appears less palatial and more generic. IndependencePalace_1 IndependencePalace_2 IndependencePalace_3 IndependencePalace_4 IndependencePalace_5 IndependencePalace_6 IndependencePalace_7 IndependencePalace_8 And now to the cavernous bunker…

IndependencePalace_9 IndependencePalace_10 IndependencePalace_11 IndependencePalace_12 IndependencePalace_13 IndependencePalace_14 IndependencePalace_15 IndependencePalace_16 And I guess a palace isn’t a palace without a shooting gallery?

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

HoChiMinh_1 So Cambodia was equally amazing and emotionally exhausting. It was time to move on to Vietnam. We took another bus adventure from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. It was another one of those trips that took way longer than what they estimate for you. The border crossing is easy (as long as you have your visa) and you make a stop for lunch along the way.

We stayed in the backpacker area—Pham Ngu Lao, located in District 1 where you’ll find plenty of lodging and restaurants.

The area is dripping with color and life.

And the food… well, it’s delicious. Pho real. HoChiMinh_2 HoChiMinh_3 HoChiMinh_4 HoChiMinh_5 HoChiMinh_6 HoChiMinh_7 HoChiMinh_8 HoChiMinh_9 HoChiMinh_10 HoChiMinh_11

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cambodia

genocidemusem1.1 The Killing Fields were brutal, but the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum made me ill. Literally. While it was once a school, it was transformed into security Office 21 under the orders of Pol Pot on April 17, 1975.  Office 21, or S-21 for short was designed for detention, interrogation, torture and killing.

The prisoner records of S-21 counts up to 10,519 prisoners from the years 1975-1978.

It is quite eerie to walk the halls of a once primary and high school knowing it housed over 10,000 prisoners in abhorrent conditions. The energy is rooted in the walls and it had my stomach turning.

genocidemuseum_2 genocidemuseum_4 genocidemuseum_3 Bodies of fourteen victims were discovered by the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea (UFNSK) on January 7, 1979. The corpses were unidentifiable due to decomposition and were buried in front of the building. These were the last people to be tortured and killed by personal before they fled.

Below are a few of the rooms where the fourteen victims were found. Each room has a photo of what was initially discovered by the UFNSK. The images are graphic can be really tough to look at. This isn’t your typical museum where replicas are in place to show you the conditions. You are in the actual room where these bodies were found and their beds and other objects are right there with you.

genocidemuseum_6 genocidemuseum_7 genocidemuseum_8 genocidemuseum_9 genocidemuseum_10 genocidemuseum_11 The first building is what made me feel ill. Absorbing all that took place in the actual place is exhausting to your soul. We move on to another building where classrooms were converted into several small brick cells. Stepping into one is claustrophobic and you wonder just who and how many people were crowded into these walls that were once full of children with educational aspirations.

genocidemuseum_12 genocidemuseum_13 genocidemuseum_14 genocidemuseum_15 genocidemuseum_16 genocidemuseum_17 genocidemuseum_18 genocidemuseum_19 genocidemuseum_20 Other rooms are filled with faces, faces, faces. Everyone is photographed and documented. A picture is worth a thousand words and these faces say it all. As a photographer I am feeling at odds. Some of these images are actually beautiful portraits, but for the ugliest of reasons and so I can’t call these pictures art and yet I can’t stop starring at them. What were they thinking? What are their stories? The sheer number of faces is overwhelming.

_MG_6632

Click on the images below to view them larger…

The woman below I was particularly mesmerized by because her eyes evoked such desperation.

If the eyes are the window to the soul, her soul is certainly screaming for help.

_MG_6552 I cannot tell you how deeply impactful this experience was and how desperately sad it made me.

How and why as humans do we kill our own fellow man? And why is it still happening?

For more images of the prison, go here.

Killing Fields, Cambodia

KillingFields_1.1 Readers beware, the next two posts are going to be heavy as we dig into the genocidal history of Cambodia. While in Angkor Wat I saw Cambodia as this magical place with a rich and beautiful past. I wondered what the grounds must have looked like at its peak. While that was the rise of Cambodia, we are now delving into the fall of Cambodia, and the magic turns into terror.

If you are not familiar with the Khmer Rouge or the genocide that took place in 1975-1979 led by Pol Pot that killed up to 3 million Cambodians, then here is a quick overview.

As a result, the country was filled with mass graves called killing fields. We visited the most well known one called Choeung Ek just outside of Phnom Penh. It’s horrifying, unfathomable, and absolutely terrifying.

What troubled me most was the “killing tree” (seen below), where children were smashed and beaten against the tree to death. The other troubling aspect is that this took place in the 70′s. It is not ancient history and the world did nothing. This is nothing short of infuriating.

The grounds include a memorial that house skulls that have been unearthed. Their violent deaths are visible on their skulls as many were killed in vicious, barbaric ways.

The earth is visibly scarred from the atrocities.

The land now with large dips where bodies were once piled also has not recovered.

Could it ever?

KillingFields_1 KillingFields_2 KillingFields_3 KillingFields_4 KillingFields_5 KillingFields_6 KillingFields_6.1 KillingFields_7 KillingFields_8 Then you ask yourself…

How did this happen?