Monday, April 2, 2018

My Packing Philosophy

For our 1st year anniversary my beau and I decided to celebrate with a three week trip across Costa Rica. As he was planning the travel logistics I was planning my outfits. Colorful summer dresses paired with the perfect sandals and accessories, bathing suits with perfectly coordinated tunic cover ups not to mention the bags of beauty and hair products. When my beau discovered my lavishing packing dreams he quickly put a stop to it; refusing to travel with me unless I can pack all my materialistic dreams in a carry-on. My reaction, "What?! Three weeks of clothes, shoes, toiletries, makeup and I-can't-even-name-it-all in a carry-on?" I was upset! No one is going to tell me what I can or cannot pack (although he really didn't say that did he? Who cares I was mad!). I eventually came back to being the adult that I am supposed to be and listened to his reasons. They were all reasonable and practical and so I decided to give it a try. I shoved everything I possibly could into a carry-on and I never looked back.

Seven years, 18 countries and countless flights later I am completely on board with the concept of minimalism, simplicity and that less is more. My whole life has changed to reflect this as well. The practicality initially got me on board: to be able to pick up my bags and climb a set of stairs with ease at a train station or roll through immigration with my bags instead of having to go out of the secured area to grab them during a connecting flight. Over time I started to find that with the limited space of a carry-on everything I decided to pack I had to absolutely love and can use repeatedly. I used to feel so overwhelm with packing but now I've created travel staples-things I always bring with me and I just switch up my clothes depending on the climate. This has created organization and planning ahead of time instead of last minute frenzies and chaos. I see myself as a curator of the items in my suitcase and in my home; only bringing in things I love that brings me joy.

Here I share what I packed on a recent trip to LA. These photographs were shot at The Line Hotel in Koreatown.

What to Wear // It starts with a choosing a color palette: I love black, blue and white. From there I can mix and match the articles of clothing and guarantee it will look cohesive.

Pictured above: A blue pinstripe sundress by Kate Spade. A blue cotton scarf I bought it Italy to throw over my sundress just in case it gets cold. A sun hat. Sunglasses. Espadrilles by Armani Exchange. A black bathing suit I bought in Italy.

My Beauty Essentials // I've always been into skincare but more so now that I'm seeing signs of aging. Because I'm limited on my liquids I will try to find everything in powder form and leave the liquids to my skincare items. What I've found to be just as effective when it comes to a skincare routine while traveling is using a cleanser, vitamin c serum and a moisturizer that has SPF 35+ in the morning and in the evening after cleansing, applying a retinal and a good moisturizing. Aside from a moisturizing mask and an exfoliator I really didn't need much else.

Pictured above from right to left: A good SPF by EltaMD, under eye cream that helps with all the problems under the sun by Ole Henriksen, Bumble and bumble dry shampoo for days I don't want to wash my hair, La Mer moisturizing cream, SK-II Essence and Biologique Recherche P50 toner.

My Photography Gear // Ah, my love: photography! My favorite camera to carry around is my Pentax. It's an old school 35mm manual film camera that does not have the bells and whistles of a digital camera but I really don't mind it. I love its simplicity. I first picked up this camera because of my girl crush photographer: Jamie Beck. She shoots amazing black and white photographs of travel that really inspired me. When I first started shooting I was obsessed with black and white film. It wasn't until after visiting Paris that I decided black and white photos really captured the memory of a place, a nostalgic feeling but color gave it life and energy. I've been playing more with color in the recent years.

Pictured above: Pentax K1000, Kodak Porta 400 film and a Sekonic lightmeter.

Other favorite things I pack: My iPad filled with books and loaded with Podcasts I love, my journal a L!fe Symphony Notebook I picked up in Japan, Bose Noise Canceling Headphones is a must and hand sanitizer because I'm OCD about cleanliness.

My packing philosophy comes down to simplicity. Because I only purchase things I really love it makes it easy for me to pull from the curated items I own. I have a list of travel staples I always bring with me when it comes to toiletries, photography gear, etc. and in general I only pack what I need and will use multiple times. I keep it simple so I can flow and move with ease from one country to the next or from one city to another.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Streets Of Hanoi

Two flights and 20+ hours of travel later we found ourselves standing outside of baggage claim at Hanoi International Airport looking for our driver. We spot him with a 8x10 sheet of paper with Ian’s last name scribbled on it. We quickly exchange greetings, verbal passcodes and were on our way to Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

From the airport we drove on a quiet highway passing fields of rice paddies, going over bridges and weaving through traffic. I could tell we were getting closer to the city as more and more motorbikes appeared out of nowhere joining us in the weaving game. I was so nervous my stomach felt queasy. I tried telling myself this is normal, they drive this way everyday and then BAM! a motorbike hits our car. Our driver pulls over to check on the biker, they get into what seems like a squabble, the biker gets back on his motorbike while our driver returns to the car. He casually apologies for the delay as he puts on his seatbelt and off we went. Ian and I looked at each other with a, ‘What the hell just happened?' expression.

The car pulls up to the opposite side of the road in front of our hotel. The doorman sees us and quickly crosses the street to our rescue, grabbing our bags and ushering us through traffic. I scream while crossing the street completely embarrassing myself and Ian. While we settled in the lobby over a welcome drink and wet hand towels the concierge hands us some reading materials on Traveling Advice. My attention goes straight to the section, 'How to Cross the Road’. Step 1: Be relaxed and self-confident. Step 2: Look two ways or keep your eyes on the drivers. Step 3: Keep the speed and walk slowly. Step 4: Never step back.

We checked into your room, refreshen up and went searching for Pho. I tried to put into practice what I had just learned about crossing the road. Ian was an instant pro, me not so much. I continued my screaming while dodging motorbikes. After enjoying a bowl of Pho we stumbled upon Hoan Kiem Lake and happily learned the streets were closed off to traffic. I was able to let down my guard, relax and enjoy myself. It was Christmas Eve. Christmas music was playing all around us. Parents were watching their children (dressed up as Santa) ride battery powered Toy ATVs, Quads and Motorcycles. It was so cute! I even saw a bad Santa in tears being consoled by his dad. Teenagers gathered with their friends on the open streets. We joined the lovers walking by hand in hand on a romantic stroll. It was a perfect Christmas Eve.

As the days went by I eventually got used to walking the streets of Hanoi. It started to feel more comfortable and I shifted my focus and energy towards my photographs. Here they are: the streets of Hanoi.

Hanoi | December 2017

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Smith Tower

I was about to lose it with the short daylight, rain and gray and then the sun broke through the clouds and saved me. Seattle had the most beautiful weather this past Saturday. I had a day out with my nephews planned and the sun made it all the better. We had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, spent a few hours at Gameworks and then went for ice cream at The Smith Tower. Ian was a sweetheart and tagged along. He even joined in on our occasional shenanigans.

My nephews are pretty much my own babies. I was there hours after they were born through all the milestones up to this point in their lives. I cannot believe how quickly they’ve grown. Time is going by so fast reminding me to savor moments like these.

Since they were little I would pack them in my car and take them out for what we’ve coined, 'a fun day'. We’d go get lunch, catch a movie or go the arcade.  No fun day was complete without a stop at Toys "R" Us. I’d return them happy, exhausted and asleep. 

Visiting The Smith Tower is worth it. The 35th floor of The Smith Tower was under renovations and closed for what felt like a long time. It reopened in 2016 and is one of our favorite spots to grab a drink and watch the sunset. The observation deck has a gorgeous 360 view of Seattle. If you stand at the corner facing the Great Wheel there's a sweet spot you can see the Space Needle. That is my favorite spot to see my three favorites: the water, the Great Wheel and the Space Needle.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Quiet Morning on HaLong Bay

I stir awake drifting out of a dream. My eyelids feels heavy as I attempt to bounce them open. I see a streak of light pouring into the room. It must be morning. I reach out to the night stand blindly searching for my phone - 6:30am. It was morning and much earlier than I thought. I put my phone down and return under the warm sheets. As I lie in bed listening to the silence, memories of the previous day starting flowing: the four hour drive from Hanoi to HaLong Bay, checking into our room, visiting the floating village, the delicious five course dinner and squid fishing in the dark. I remember seeing other cruise ships anchored around us and asked our guide about it. She mentioned in the evenings all the cruise ships are required to anchor in this specific location. Remembering this, I slid out of bed to find out if we’ve moved.

I quickly freshen up, collected my photography gear and tiptoed to our balcony. I was greeted with scattered limestone islands, cruise ships and fishing boats. In the distance, the limestone islands were covered in fog but it was surprisingly warm and so quiet. All I could hear was the humming of the engine. I discovered we were no longer anchored and cruising at a very slow speed. I sat there appreciating the moment, the silence, the view and all that was passing by before picking up my camera.

Here are my photos taken on my Hasselblad on that very first morning I woke up on HaLong Bay.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Time & Imperfection

I wanted to shoot a still life that reflected time. I went gathering around the house for miscellaneous items that represented it. The watch I often glance at while at work running from one meeting to the next. The two hourglasses on my desk, one measuring a five minute break and the other measuring thirty minutes of focus. The Chanel face cream I apply in the evening in hopes to delay the evidence of passed time on my forehead and underneath my eyes. A camera pencil sharpener representing the cameras I've used to capture a moment in time.

On my first attempt I used a soft box with a white background. It turned out pretty awful but that didn't discourage me. Instead I appreciated how terrible it was. In my mind I had envisioned: dark mood with hard shadows and bright highlights. Instead I got something that looked like direct flash on some office supplies. It was bad but it gave me so much joy to know that I have so much growth and learning ahead of me.

I’m starting to understand and appreciate the process more so than ever before. And the relationship between time and growth, vision and execution. I considered this my creative rock bottom and from rock bottom there’s only one way to go. Instead of packing it all up and never bring my idea to fruition I slept on it and waited for daylight.

When the morning came, I jumped out of bed and gathered all my things. I sat on the living room floor studying the light before deciding where I would set up. After playing around with the lighting and rearranging some of my props I got much closer to what I had envisioned.

My goal for 2018 is to create. That’s it. To trust that I will grow and become better over time. Every time I pick up my camera I’m learning something new. It’s not perfect but it’s progress and that’s what I’m striving for in 2018.