I treat the camera like a person – I gaze into it. Photos are a flat thing, and you need to put life into them.” – Cara Delevingne
Sometimes travel is dangerous. I know it as well as anyone. From being jumped on a cobblestone street in France to battling altitude sickness while crossing a pass between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, I’ve had my fair share of close calls. Sometimes, though, those calls are more than close. Sometimes, they come at great cost. Sometimes, they lead to you saying goodbye to an old friend.
I’m referring to my trusty Panasonic Lumix GX1, who’s been with me for almost 3 years and has traveled with me through 10 countries. She survived changing lenses on a dune while being shielded from the whipping sands of the Gobi desert. She stuck with me on an arduous journey through Central Asia, over mountains, through storms, and in sketchy taxis. She survived all that and more, but Thailand has proved her undoing, and will be the last country she experiences with me.
To commemorate our time together, I wanted to look back at ten of my favorite memories captured with my GX1. So, without further adieu:
- A Break During the Motorcycle Ride from Tsetserleg to Tariat
- Capturing the Sunset from the Top of the Khongoryn Els in the Gobi
- At the End of My First Motorcycle Ride with Friends
- Snapping a Selfie During a Chance Meeting with a Geisha
- Taking a Break while Rambling the Nakasendo with Brandon
- A Photo with our Korean Family while Hitchhiking to the Goseong DMZ with Cody
- The End of Our Chuseok Trip to Auraji
- A Beautiful Moment while Crossing the Border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
- Getting a Chance to Photograph some of the Wonderful People in Iran
- A Landscape Shot from just before We almost got Struck by Lightning
- Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend
A Break During the Motorcycle Ride from Tsetserleg to Tariat
Just about a month after buying my camera, I rode a motorcycle for the first time. For my training course, I decided to do the 160 km stretch of Mongolian steppe from Tsetserleg to Tariat. Mid-way along that route, there is a sublime stretch of tarmac as straight as an arrow. Surrounded by plains and ringed by mountain ranges, it was one of the most beautiful moments of the trip.
Capturing the Sunset from the Top of the Khongoryn Els in the Gobi
Near the end of my time in Mongolia, I finally managed to make it to the Gobi desert. I’d dreamed of visiting Mongolia since I was a kid, and the Gobi had always stood out as one of the coolest (ha) sights to see. So when our battered Russian military van trundled up to the Khongoryn Els, I was ecstatic. Here, at last, was the Gobi desert I’d dreamed of! We set off up the face of the dune to catch the sunset, an endeavor which soon became a race as the sun plummeted lower and lower. For every step we took upward, we seemed to slide back two. Finally, gasping and literally crawling from exhaustion, I crested the dune and saw… this:
At the End of My First Motorcycle Ride with Friends
After my exciting ride across the Mongolian steppes on an antiquated Chinese motorcycle, I had no desire to get a scooter my second time around in Korea. So, I moved up to a cruiser-style motorcycle — a 125cc Daelim Daystar. Within days of buying it, my friends and I took our bikes into the mountains around Pohang, heading towards a little town called Cheongsong. It was a beautiful ride, with an even more beautiful lake at the end.
Snapping a Selfie During a Chance Meeting with a Geisha
When I went to Kyoto, one of my goals was to see a geisha. I walked around the Gion district, where they’re usually spotted, but didn’t have any luck. I’d all but written it off when I saw a maiko (an apprentice) crossing the bridge ahead of me. An elderly Japanese couple were asking her for a photo and, when she obliged, I figured I’d do the same. She nodded graciously, but when I turned to ask the Japanese couple to take the picture, they’d carried on their way. Not wanting to lose my chance at a photo, I did the only thing I could think of: I took a selfie.
Taking a Break while Rambling the Nakasendo with Brandon
One of the highlights of my Japan trip was a trek my friend Brandon and I planned along the ancient Japanese postal road, the Nakasendo. We started in Magome, then hiked along a cobblestone path through forests, villages, and over a mountain pass to the next town of Tsumago. It was a magical hike, seeming to transport us back in time. This was a particularly photogenic portion of the trail, where a stream rushed past and added its gurgling to the medley of woodland sounds.
A Photo with our Korean Family while Hitchhiking to the Goseong DMZ with Cody
Shortly after Brandon visited Asia, my other good friend Cody came to Korea. We packed a lot into his visit, but one of the most memorable experiences was hitchhiking to the Goseong demilitarized zone. A generous Korean family took us under their wing for the day, giving us a ride there and back and THEN buying us lunch. We snagged a picture with their two boys, the beautiful coast of North Korea in the background.
The End of Our Chuseok Trip to Auraji
For two years, I spent my Chuseok (Korean thanksgiving) in the company of some amazing friends. For our getaway, we drove up into the mountains of Gangwon-do to a little town called Auraji. A farming community, it was notable for its clean air, huge insects, and laid-back way of life. We absolutely loved it. I had some of my best times in Korea in that town. This is a photo from the last day I spent there.
A Beautiful Moment while Crossing the Border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
My second post-Korea trip involved a challenging circuit through Central Asia. By far the scariest experience was when I tried to hitch from Kyrgyzstan into Tajikistan. Not accounting for the sparsity of traffic, I ended up hiking 15 km from one border post to another — at over 4000 meters elevation. By the end of the experience, I could barely walk and was having trouble breathing. Luckily, I survived, and I have memories of this gorgeous scenery to show for it!
Getting a Chance to Photograph some of the Wonderful People in Iran
My trip to Iran was one filled with amazing experiences and stunning photos, but perhaps my favorite shot of the trip came from meeting two men in Yazd. “Take a picture!” one of them encouraged as he embraced his companion. Their smiles are a reminder of the hospitality and warm sense of welcome I experienced during my time there.
A Landscape Shot from just before We almost got Struck by Lightning
The road trip I did with Brandon through the Western US was full of memorable hikes, hilarious moments, and epic views, but perhaps the most striking experience (that I enjoy thinking about) was when we got surprised by a thunderstorm while exploring Canyonlands. We were at a crowded viewpoint when thick, angry clouds rolled up. The other tourists scattered, giving us a few minutes of solace before the sky grew even more menacing. I snapped this shot before heading back to the car, and before we almost got zapped by lightning.
Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend
And now, before I bid farewell to my GX1, here is a special bonus… the last picture she ever took. Before my kayak got stuck on a rock at the end of an intense series of rapids, before it began to tip, before my backpack was swept out of the kayak by the current, and before I took out my dry-sack to discover it had a hole in it… before all of that, it was a lovely day.
So long, and thanks for all the memories, GX1!
How about you? Have you ever lost a cherished piece of gear while traveling? What happened? Share your stories in the comments below!