Before beginning my studies in Art History at SAIC, I took the unusual path of embarking on a year of travel after graduation.
I began my year living in Southeast Asia — Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia — for three months, traveling from village to village with nothing but my backpack, respect for where I was, and a warm heart.
I traveled down the Mekong River for three days by boat to arrive at Luang Prabang in Laos. Only staying a few nights in the city at a guesthouse, I began my way into the deep unknown of a mountainous jungle for my week-long trek. It wasn’t easy. We hiked five days, nine hours a day, and with the rainy season brought leech-infested, knee-high mud. Occasionally a wild boar from a nearby mountain village would escape, and I’d have to carefully cling for my life to the broken bamboo trees to dodge it. Then, onwards I’d continue. No “path” except the one that leads up into the clouds. My guide, Cee, grew up in a nearby Hmong village, and was familiar with the mountain and its jungle. At the end of every day, we stopped for rest and a meal. Cee knew the families in the following villages along our trek and they would welcome us with open arms, kind smiles, and bamboo stew.
Beginning the third day of the week’s trek, the sun was out and the day was just about to warm up. After having another bowl of bamboo stew to gain some energy before the next nine hours, I heard the excitement of the children in the village who were awake and playing. Enamored by their energetic youth, I motioned to my camera. I was met with smiles and small giggles. I began to photograph. I’ll never forget them.