I've been thinking lately how in the last decade, the first of my adult life, I've gone to some amazing places and experienced the great blessings and horrible woes of international travel. And I also thought how rarely I go back to look at any of my photos, besides a few I post to Facebook or if I happened to do a series on this blog or elsewhere on the internet. We don't really print things anymore, and the travel photos I do print are the ones that I end up remembering my trip by, when the far more interesting ones are the outtakes, or the moments I captured not because they were particularly artistic or beautiful in an aesthetic sense, but because they were real, because I was capturing a moment or specific experience of that place, in that time. So, in a little online travel series, I'm going to take a look at some of my meaningful outtakes. Ten years ago this October was my first plane ride across an ocean, my first use of that esteemed little passport of mine. Last year I renewed it; I remember being seventeen and thinking how impossibly far into the future 2015 felt.
I was headed to France in 2005, mere weeks after my eighteenth birthday, and I wrote long entries in my journal about the thrill of being on a sidewalk in a foreign city entirely alone, barely able to speak the language; open windows with no screens in my hosts' charming village cottage; French children. Yes, it never occurred to me all the little children that were running around speaking other languages. Just like it didn't occur to me until I was in China two years later that history depends on who's telling it; that wound up being the entirely basis for earning a bachelor's in history when I returned home to America and peanut butter.
I'll start with one of the best things I've visited, and one of the only photo series I didn't take myself. As life would have it. I spent 16 days traversing the island of Cuba in 2011, just after some of the education restrictions were slightly loosened, with a group of two dozen grad students and faculty from Georgia State. Being in developing countries has several very specific characteristics for the tourist, and paying extra for permission to bring your camera to historic sites you're already paying entry to is one of them. I was fatigued from all the touring and all the paying extra to take photos, and the extra charge for the Hemingway house was $5 Cuban Convertible Pesos, or exactly $5. That's the price of five Cuba libres or four mojitos, and I was in grad school, so I declined to pay the extra. Fortunately, the director of our program (for whom I was the graduate assistant) had the same camera as me and had paid the fee...
Because I absolutely loved the Hemingway house.
I've since also visited the one in Key West, Florida. It's very charming, but it doesn't hold a candle. I literally want to live in this house, all white-washed walls and tile floors and dark, wooden furniture, dear friend Picasso's personal gift to me hanging on the wall and the fares of so many hunts hanging delightedly on the walls, my quiet companions. Tired Cuban women stand at all the doors because you can't actually go inside; it's kept perfectly preserved as if he stepped out for an afternoon on a terrace in Havana and will be back before dusk. I don't even want to think about the sustainability of all this, since all of those items are exposed to the full humidity, moisture, and weather that is indicative of open air, island homes, so instead I'll just ponder these images again (courtesy of Richard Laub, thanks Richard!).