2017 was a whirl wind of trains, planes and automobiles. From teaching in Korea, to studying yoga in India, to visiting my family in Canada, to planting trees in British Columbia, to my best friend’s wedding in Portugal, back to Canada and finally to teaching in Vietnam… staying in one place for two months feels something like settling down to me. My travels have brought me to some very beautiful places and to some interesting situations. Here are 17 of my favorite photographs and their stories that I have taken this year.
#1. Hongdae (홍대) Night Adventure (Hongdae, Seoul, Korea)
Hongdae (홍대) is a neighborhood of Seoul famous for its underground culture, romantic ambiance, street art and infinite selection of street food. One night, while out on the town, I ventured into a doorway that led down a winding staircase and opened up into what I now call “LP Bar”. The wood paneled floors and vinyl lined walls gave the sense of walking into the past. Each Saturday night, dozens of ajummas and ajusshis (terms used to formally address older women and men in Korea) would flood into this small room to enjoy some drinks and get their groove on. Each time I visited this bar, I left with a full heart from a night of non-stop dance. Of all the bars that I went to in Korea (admittedly this is a high number), this one was my favorite. Visiting this bar was a singular experience, even by Korean standards.
#2. Temple Stay (Seonunsa Temple, Gochang, Korea)
A lot of people don’t think of Korea as a place to travel to, but this country actually has so much opportunity for unique experiences, one of the most interesting being a temple stay. For a very reasonable price that includes food, accommodation, a tour around the temple and joining the monks in their daily rituals, you can catch a glimpse into the mysterious lives of monks. My stay at Seonunsa Temple (선운사 (고창)) was fascinating! This is a photograph of the exterior of one of the temples. Such meticulous work was put into the craft of these buildings. They are pieces of art in themselves.
#3. An Afternoon in Rishikesh (Rishikesh, India)
A chance encounter with Kasza certainly left an impression on me… literally. Meet the designer of my first tattoo. On an afternoon stroll through Rishikesh, Kasza offered to design for me a sketch of Mount Robson, the first trek that I ever undertook, that I had tattooed later that month onto my rib cage (a painful ordeal, believe me). I am extremely grateful to her for having taken the time to design this for me.
#4. Happy Holi (Rishikesh, India)
This photograph was taken the day before Holi in Rishikesh, India. Originally I had been trying to photograph the street in the background when suddenly, this woman came up to me and smeared pink Gulal (गुलाल) (the coloured powder used during the Holi festival) on to my forehead and cried out “Happy Holi”! She was enthusiastic to have her photograph taken. I absolutely loved her smile and how warmly she welcomed me, a foreigner to her country, into the festivities of Holi.
#5. Malanian Beauty (Malana, Himachel Pradesh, India)
On a spontaneous excursion to Malana, India, a remote Himalayan village, I had the opportunity to meet some of the local residents. At the time, I had an interpreter with me that was able to ask these young women in their native language, Kanashi, a language unique to this specific village, if I could take a photograph of them. The girl on the left is dressed in vibrant traditional clothing. I was amazed to find such beautiful and virant colors in such a remote place.
#6. Race You There (Malana, Himachel Pradesh, India)
While sitting at vendor hut along a dirt road of Malana, India, I suddenly turned to see a large group of girls running down the path. Their air became filled with the sound of laughter and chatter as the stampede rushed past me. Blurs of reds and fuchsias zoomed across my vision leaving me filled with childlike curiosity and wonder. I wanted to drop what I was doing and join them, but unfortunately as an outsider to Malana I was restricted from interacting too closely with the locals.
#7. It’s the Small Things that Count (Malana, Himachel Pradesh, India)
My stay in Malana, India was short but the impact that it had on my outlook of the world was huge. With so little influence from the outside world, it was like taking a step back in time, to a place where time moved at a slower pace and daily life was simple. Community and taking care of your neighbors seemed to be a central theme of the village. I was fascinated by the culture and enjoyed simply sitting and watching people go about their daily lives, in hope of taking a piece of this lifestyle with me wherever I go.
#8. On the Road Again (Close to Bear Glacier, British Columbia, Canada)
After 3 months of being separated with my other half, we celebrated our reunion by going on a short road trip to Stewart, British Columbia, Canada. Here is my love, in his element, looking out into the mountains of his home province, somewhere along Highway 37A.
#9. Now You Must Choose (Lisbon, Portugal)
Portugal was the first city country that I visited in Europe and it did not disappoint. Perhaps it was something in the air, or maybe it was the large abundance of wine that I consumed, but regardless of the source, I was completely and helplessly seduced by Lisbon. I could practically taste the romance in the air and I left this city wanting another glass.
#10. Sitting, Watching, Waiting (Lisbon, Portugal)
There was no need to plan my days in Lisbon. A step in any direction brought me to some other spectacular neighborhood. The beauty of the city seems to inspire a certain lifestyle in its residents, where it is okay to simply sit and enjoy life’s sweet nectar. Every corner I turned seemed offer another display this philosophy. I took this photograph on a day that I spent aimlessly roaming the city, taking the occasional shot of Ginjinha, a sour cherry liqueur, that was sold to me by elderly Portuguese woman along the streets. Getting lost wasn’t a problem because after all, you can’t get lost if you have no direction!
# Just Another Day (Lisbon, Portugal)
As I have already mentioned, it seems as though stopping to relax and enjoy the moment is something that is encouraged in Portugal. While out on a walk in Lisbon, every door and window seemed to offer another glimpse into a life.
#11. Somewhere in Lisboa (Lisbon, Portugal)
I find it interesting how the time of day can have such a large effect on a photograph. I loved how the sun caste a shadow on the clothes line and of the cracks of the building.
#12. Tranquility (Ninh Binh, Vietnam)
It was a perfect moment in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. The sun sank below the mountains and painted the sky a pale blue and yellow, a scene that filled me with awe of nature’s beauty. Far from any busy road, the only sounds I could hear were the soft ripples hitting the shore line. I absorbed the peace and tranquility of the moment.
#13. It’s Not All Pretty (Hanoi, Vietnam)
I knew when I moved to Hanoi, Vietnam, a city of 7.588 million people (2015), that I would be experiencing first hand what it was like to live in an extremely polluted city. This was not my first time visiting this city and I had traveled to other places in the world with even more pollution than this. Nonetheless, every day, I would walk out onto my patio, which had a panoramic view of the city, and feel my heart sink as I looked out and saw the condition of the air and water. To be clear, I do not blame any one country. I realize that I come from Canada, a country that ranks extremely high in carbon footprint per capita, so pointing a finger at any other country would be extremely hypocritical.
#14. A Natural Wonder (Ha Giang Province, Vietnam)
The mountains of Ha Giang came in all shapes and sizes and because of this, a day on a motorbike was a day of switchbacks after switchbacks. This particular shot was taken a few kilometers from Lung Cu, Vietnam’s most northern point. The haze in the air gave depth to the scene, revealing just how unique each of these peaks are.
#16. The Face of Innocence (Ha Giang Province, Vietnam)
A chance encounter with these sweet little angels along the road in Ha Giang warmed my heart. What was originally supposed to be a quick stop to take a photograph of the landscape turned into a short time spent talking to these little girls. They were as curious with us as we were with them.
#17. A Master of Weaving (Ha Giang, Vietnam)
While riding through Ha Giang Province, we decided to divert from the main highway to visit the small village of Lùng Tám. Here, we learned about the traditional weaving of the Hmong hill tribes. The meticulous work that is put into the creation of their vibrant textiles was inspiring. This woman had me in a trance as she skillfully spun the hemp string.
While I am happy with where 2017 has brought me, I am excited for the new opportunities and adventures of 2018. Every year that I get older I feel the lens through which I see the world evolving. Who knows what new experiences are on the horizon. I have been asked whether I plan on “settling down” anytime soon, and the truthful answer is: no.