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Where in the world…

grandfather (1 of 1)

I am currently in Lake Havasu City, AZ where my dad and grandfather currently reside. My grandfather has lived here for almost 20 years and was married to my grandmother for almost 60 years before she passed away 3 years ago. He is 86 years old now and while I feel like his spirit is strong I want to make sure I can soak up as much of his company as possible in case anything happens. *This photo was taken with my Fuji XT-1, I burned in the background a bit but in reality the contrast is mostly due to nicely placed Arizona sunset light.

It has been a while since I’ve made an update because I have been very busy with weddings in Austin. I spent a month there at 3 different friend’s places. It was amazing to be back after 3 months of being away, I missed my friends and family and being back reminded me of how amazing they really are. Alas, I am back on the road indefinitely. As soon as I boarded my flight to Phoenix I felt at home and in my comfort zone, back to where I belong! I have been pursuing purchasing property in Denver, Colorado heavily but have had no luck thus far. This will mostly be an investment property/storage unit. Thank goodness for the ability to stash the most important things I own at my brother’s home in Houston for the moment. I will still be shooting plenty of weddings in Austin next year but am also currently finding myself from Kalamazoo, MI to St. Lucia for weddings. I will always come back to Austin for weddings! It is still my favorite city in the U.S. but having lived in Texas all of my life, I’d like to try something new for a while. My prerequisites include, good weather, decent size city, outdoor centric, with a good airport hub! Denver also doesn’t feel that far from Texas so I feel more comfortable committing to a place away from my friends and family. Not to mention I have a few friends located there already and many of them stop by often.

To give a general update on my travel plans from now, November 5th 2015, to April 2016 I will be visiting — Phoenix, Washington D.C., Austin, Yucatan MX, Denver, London, Amsterdam, Antigua Guatemala, Caye Caulker Belize, Antigua Guatemala, Tucson, Las Vegas, Austin, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Vancouver, San Antonio, & St. Lucia. Sounds crazier now that it’s all written out!

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Photo by René van Weel

8 week travel musings

I was oddly comforted by arriving into Guatemala, listening to Spanish and watching locals gather their belongings from the carousel having stocked up on goods from the U.S. Maybe I was comforted due to the champagne the flight attendant was pouring nonstop, the fact that I just spent a month in Peru, or that I had been here before. *side note: I find it fascinating which flights always have the first class open and which do not, Guatemala City first class was desolate. I grabbed my bags and walked outside to find my transportation waiting for me with my name on a board among a slew of other people. He tells me to wait while he gets the van, in Spanish. I wait there, comfortable, maybe too comfortable considering I was alone in one of the most dangerous cities in the world with around $20,000 worth of photography gear. None the less, these are not things I think about, I believe in the potential safety of every country, if you do it right. I could smell exhaust and what I could only describe as empanadas and looked around to see advertisements for Samsung and Hooters. When you’re from America there are always signs of home wherever you go.

It has been 8 weeks since I have been on the road and I cannot say that I am tired of it yet. I still work plenty when I am gone, always blogging, emailing, paying taxes, etc. Soon I will begin wedding season again and I will be reading less and editing more. I have occasional bouts of missing my friends & family but the small trips back home fill the void, luckily my friends travel often making them easy to track down and meet up with.

I travel with my gut feeling. Being alone means that I am putting myself at risk at times but I am always aware. The more you travel the stronger your gut gets (unfortunately not true in the literal sense). I accept that I get sick more often, I take cold showers, and sometimes I am forced to wear socks one time past their wash due date. I make friends everywhere I go. As an outgoing introvert this can be exhausting as I find myself having to perk myself up when I feel like turning inward. I know when I have had too much though and need a day alone to read and walk the streets trying new desserts. Today is one of those days.

I genuinely wonder if the wanderlust ever subsides, maybe one day I’ll feel like going home and staying. Occassionaly I dream of a life that doesn’t constantly need to be filled with activities and excitement, a life that is content staying in one place. The thought makes me itch mentally as this is not something I could ever imagine for myself. The world keeps moving and I want to move with it. I didn’t start to think I was wired differently until later in life. My mother never understood why I always wanted to keep on the move; I would get restless quickly and since moving out of my parent’s home I have now moved 12 times. I never thought I was different until I moved out of my place in Austin and left for the road and found it to be far more comfortable than it would be for most.

When people ask me where I am from I generally say ‘Houston’ or ‘Austin’ depending on who I am talking to but my roots lie nowhere. I have stayed in Texas mainly to stay with my family, they have kept me grounded more than anyone and without them I know I would be more adrift and potentially lost.

It seems I couldn’t possibly get this restlessness from my mother’s side since she has been in the same home for 26 years now and my brother has not left the country more than 3 or 4 times. My lineage from my father’s side however dates back to the days of Jamestown, the Robert family (originally from France) was of the first to settle on the once foreign land. They were willing to take the risk to find something new and potentially better. The years in between the original Roberts and I, I can only assume, were  spent wandering the rest of the States as my father happens to be from the opposite coast. I often find myself during long layovers wandering the endless hallways of airports knowing I am not headed towards my destined departure gate. Even in between travels I am exploring looking for new things and experiences. My mother seems to think that I am looking for something in particular but I do not have any particular goal or destination in mind. I am just looking for a journey & a good story to tell when I’m ready to stop moving.

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Photo of me by Tatton, taken in Panama City.

 

Volunteer English Teacher – IVHQ – Maximo Nivel

I have been wanting to volunteer over the last few years. I have been wanting to teach English since I graduated from college (I was interviewed to teach in South Korea but became busy with weddings). And I always want to travel. On this trip I was able to combine 3 goals and passions. I went through IVHQ because a friend of mine had also used them – they connect local volunteer organizations with people like me looking to volunteer. Maximo Nivel is the local volunteer organization that I went through, they organize a variety of volunteer programs from teaching English, Andean immersion, jungle conservation, child care, & stray animal care in 4 different countries. Everyone goes through a short application process & background check and they place you based on your skills and what you are interested in helping with.

I was assigned to teach English to adults at an evening school called Qosqo Maki. After 2 orientations we were told to create lesson plans for 3 levels, beginner, intermediate, & advanced , for a 3 hour class because we were not sure which class we would be assigned to. Another new volunteer and I were daunted at the idea of this difficult task but it ended up being easier in upon arrival. I ended up co-teaching the advanced class with another new volunteer though, I left after the first 1.5 hour class due to altitude sickness. After the first day I taught the intermediate class for the duration of my time in Cusco, teaching things like modal verbs and conditional, having to relearn rules I learned almost 15 years ago. I am sad that I will not be able to see my students advance as I grew attached to them in a short period of time, I feel inspired by their passion to learn.

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Cuzco, Peru

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My first time to South America. I arrived in Lima at 1am on a Saturday night delirious from travel albeit excited about future adventures. I did not stay in a great part of town but for a private room and bathroom for $15 a night where I only needed to rest my head for 12 hours, it was plenty suitable. My time in Lima was brief but impactful as I was definitely the only ‘gringo’ walking around these parts. The next afternoon I made my way to Cusco the city with a population of 500,000 and an elevation of 11,150ft. Having recently visited Crested Butte, with an elevation of almost 9,000ft, I assumed that I would not have much of a problem adjusting. I drank plenty of water but still found myself feeling horribly sick the second night. I had started my volunteer program this day so it was a full day of orientation and learning how to teach a class of locals how to speak English. I got half way through the class before I needed to go to bed, luckily I was co-teaching at this point and no one was depending on me. Altitude sickness, for me, I can only describe as a general terrible feeling, everything hurts and feels awful. My best piece of advice is to drink a ton of water, sleep a lot, and give yourself a few days before planning anything.

The people here are kind and small and the city itself is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. With churches dating back to the 1600s, plazas filled with flowers, more alpaca than anyone could ever need in a lifetime, & all of it surrounded by mountains covered in little homes that twinkle at night.

I took my two weeks here fairly easy, focusing most of my efforts on teaching and enjoying what Cusco has to offer. I went up to Cristo Blanco twice, explored caves, ate a lot of really good food, and drank some really delicious meracuya (passion fruit) sours made with local pisco. One Saturday was spent doing an ATV tour around the sacred valley to the salinas de maras and the other was the day of celebration for my birthday before I headed to the jungle the following Monday. I was invited to bungee jump with six others from my homestay and I couldn’t help but think ‘what better way to bring in a birthday?’ Bungee jumping was not exactly on my to do list but I do like to try almost everything at least once. It ended up causing me a lot of pain in the end due to almost flipping as I fell but I’m glad to say I have done it and will likely not do it again :) On Sunday my new friend from Belgium bought me cake and they sang me ‘Happy Birthday’ in 3 different languages. My birthday week was off to an amazing start then I left for the jungle…

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