Here's the thing about travel... I've seen many cracks, crevices, water ways, sandstone, mountain ranges and faces on American soil. It's been a luxury, I am aware, to have traveled the States so wildly as a young person in my early 20s. I also rode around Iceland, in a van, in the dead of winter for fifteen days with the man I love. These experiences, though not wholy unique to my generation, are precious memories. They are the delicious nectar I carry with me always and for them I am thankful.
This is all to say that I am not well traveled. Not really. Not in the slightest. Matt spent his high school years skating around Europe, running around countries like a hooligan, enjoying cuisines, monuments, religions, and museums. He often reflects on these memories, especially as he's gotten older. Though he didn't appreciate his exposure to travel at 13, he is hyper aware of the shaping it played in every aspect of his life.
Before November 2016, I had not seen another culture (omit Iceland) in its native land. I had not enjoyed gelatin pigs blood, flown over 6 hours or better yet flow over an ocean at all. I had not slept on local busses or faked Vietnamese just to get by, or stood on hole-in-the-groud commodes. I hadn't set foot on soil so ancient, so rich with history and war and love lost and folklore and looked at buildings older than my country until, ironically, the day after Trump was elected.
I note all of this because I think it's crucial in understanding the tone of our five week trip to Southeast Asia. We were en route to LAX and we were a walking dichotomy. How could I synthesize deep-belly joy and devastation? How could I be so thrilled for this trip of a lifetime - yes a lifetime because Eddie Bauer was sending us to work and to be alive in spirit and adventure and had given us an open ended stay and free movement through countries and place and the freedom to create and share our imagery in its truest form... I mean, the dream - I'm not familiar with another brand that is pushing for this kind of work - the opportunity was unique by all definitions. So while we were overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement we were also paralyzed by the steamroller of threats heading towards many of our values. We were in a weird emotional place.
We travel, like all, to see. To understand. To learn. To remember. To feel vulnerable, so vulnerable. To dream. To not repeat mistakes. To make new mistakes. To push our comfort. To share. To revere. To gain religion. To lose faith. To forget and create and appreciate the undeniable beauty of the human spirit and nature. Always nature.
Southeast Asia was a mirror. It pushed me to take inventory of my bones, my marrow, my most unflattering quirks and personality flaws. My insecurities were on full display, sometimes for an entire boat to witness, and no matter how embarrassing, I'm thankful. Because if we don't have that mirror, if we refuse to look at the person staring back we might never understand our neighbor, or their work or our opposition or our purpose in it all.
We travel to be but a stitch on the handwoven fabric that is the human experience.