On the Northern Shores of Lake Huron

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“So, how are we related again?”

Family reunions always begin a bit awkwardly. A car will throttle through the campground driveway, churning up clouds of dirt, and out will spill 4-5-6 smiling mid-western aunts and uncles who all immediately hug and slap the backs of older relatives running to them with extended arms. A couple of seconds later, the youngins will clamber out of the car, futilely kicking back empty bags of Doritos and other debris from the long road trip before being bombarded with hugs, cookies and questions about college and majors that they don’t know the answers to. All the while, you’re genuinely smiling and laughing, but you’re also scraping the back of your memory for clues. Hopefully they’ll drop hints on how you’re related before you must attempt to recall their name and whose kids they are (or what kids they have) or else it gets even more awkward. Who goes with which Facebook profile picture again? And who’s the aunt that tends to over share on Facebook and where’s second cousin that leaves the most bewildering comments on all of your photos?

When utterly lost, I just keep smiling and waving.

It seems to work.

We aren’t a small family. With my dad’s 6 brothers and 1 sister, I have a total of 19 first cousins. Overall with all of the extended family, there were at least 35+ of us streaming through the camp park. With so many of us, everyone openly jokes how it’s near to impossible to remember all of our family ties. I suggested creating a Games of Thrones inspired family tree that we could refer to. Another relative suggested flashcards that would include summaries and pictures from the past several years of each family member that would be sent out in batch emails for pre-reunion required reading. But perhaps that’s overkill. Next reunion?

It’s noon and everyone’s gathered for lunch. (It took a total of 10 minutes for the ice to be broken and for everyone to remember who everyone is again). Glancing around our campsite that’s dotted with tents, lunch tables and haphazardly parked cars, our set up looks similar to the middle school camping trips I used to take around Thailand’s national parks with my eco club (minus the mosquitoes, elephants and tigers). Everyone’s mingling and chowing down on all-Americana food, either lounging out on foldable lawn chairs or perching on small logs around the campfire. A pile of volleyballs and Frisbees has been casted off to the side for later on. Like all families do, we have our quirks. For one, the coffee stand was the first thing to be unpacked out of the van and set up on the first day and the last piece to be packed away on our final day. Secondly, we all share a common sweet tooth – originating from my grumps, or grandpa, who properly stocks his freezer with 4 gallons of ice cream at a time, puts butter on everything – by everything, I mean EVERYTHING, and is capable of eating up to 3 bags of popcorn on a nightly basis – with butter of course. Lastly, when packing up the early morning of our final day, my aunt nonchalantly brought out and played her bagpipes to entertain us while we broke down our tents. But rather then upset our camping neighbors, she actually attracted a small following who gathered to take videos and began to protest when she had paused to rest.

During the summertime in Michigan, everyone goes ‘up north’. It’s a Michigander concept that you probably won’t grasp but one that everyone in my family relates to. Basically, it didn’t truly feel like summer until two weeks ago when I was standing out on the front porch of my grandparents’ cabin, basking in the cool breeze coming fresh off the lake. The past 18 summers of my life were all spent with the rest of my 20+ family on the Northern shores of lake Huron and this summer was the first I had ever been away. So when I was able to snag 4 days away from my job in Washington State for our family reunion, I leapt at the opportunity despite having to travel half that time. My golden childhood summers were painted memories of dipping in the lake at sunset, roasting s’mores by the fire, catching minnows and fireflies at dusk, swimming out to ‘Fiji’ or ‘Milan Island’, sailing on sunny days, and happily licking ice cream on the docks. Our time together came and went just as expectedly as the seasons did – we always knew what to expect and never thought past them. But inevitably, time flies by, loved ones pass away, we grow up, and suddenly – holy cow I need to make money, find internships, travel the world and stake my own flag of independence! With a bittersweet realization, I eventually acknowledged, just like all my older cousins did before me, that our flags couldn’t always flutter on the shores of lake Huron where the winds have already been tried and tested. It’s become time to venture out and challenge stronger winds. And however bittersweet it is to already refer to our time in the Upper Peninsula more as memories than present reality, our heartstrings innately pull towards the North and I know that we’ll all reunite again – sooner than later. 

If you’re with your family tonight, hug them tighter for me. If you’re only your pets, still do the same. I really miss my dog. 

– JM

ALSO MORE REASON TO CELEBRATE – THE CONVICTION OF NEIL AND FERDI HAS BEEN OVERTURNED AND THEY’RE NOW REUNITED WITH THEIR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS! Finally.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/14/jakarta-international-school-teachers-to-go-free-after-conviction-overturned

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Photo Essay – The Last of Michilimackinac

In this photo essay, the photos are supposed to do the majority of the talking… however I do have some super crazy news to share.

About a month and a half ago, I had applied for an internship hosted by some of my favorite fine art and landscape photographers by the names: Sarah Ann Loreth, Shane Black, Joel Robinsonand Rob Woodcox (check out their stuff!) Every summer, they go on an EPIC road trip around Canada and the US, and stop in cities all along the way to host hands-on photography workshops. And not only do their talents come together to create smashing art pieces, but they’ve also inspired thousands of their followers through their work.

Now, I had to submit a video of myself telling them “Why do [I] want to be a Wild Ones intern”… and wait painfully until the results were released… and honestly, I didn’t think I had much of a shot, but still gave 200% of my effort making the video. And in the end, I’m so so so honored and humbled to say that I have been chosen to be their US intern!
After my job finishes here and I spend about two weeks in PDX, I’ll be flown out to NYC to join them for a week!

There are many many exciting things about this:
1 – I get to spend a week with some of the most talented photographers I know
2 – In New York City
3 – I have never been to NYC (too bad HONY isn’t there)
4 – I could go on for a VERY LONG TIME about this, but then TLDR

All in all, I’m touched by this opportunity and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

My submission video
Results released & Tour page
More flickr info

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“Towering Giants” – The first of the Wanderlust series!
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I’ve never experienced fall before. So, the fact that the leaves are CHANGING COLORS is REALLY EXCITING.
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Round Island Lighthouse
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maybe not the smartest place for me to stand…?
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Mackinac Island Bucketlist


Among my “Places to Visit”, “Flavors of Ice Cream to Make One Day” (olive oil & vinegar anyone?), and “Books to Read” lists, my Bucketlist is one of my favorites to look at. It’s a good reminder that there’s a lot of fun to be had before I kick any kind of bucket.

So I decided to make a short Mackinac Island Bucketlist for my last days here! It’s a good way to encourage myself to visit various spots on the island I haven’t been to yet and while they’re not all included here… you understand the general gist 🙂

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Mackinac Island Art Gallery ☑
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Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor ☑
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“Cave in the Woods” ☑
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Winding down at Fort Holmes after a long day (and attempt to find it) ☑
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Fort Holmes
Hope you all have a wonderful day!

– JM

P.S. Mom stop it… this is just cruel.

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Khao Soi – Northern style Thai curry
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Tropical fruits… how I miss you all
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Favorite of mine: Laab Moo Tod – minced, spiced and deep fried pork

Changing Seasons & Kind Strangers

In Thailand, we have four seasons. They are: the hot, hotter, damn hot and rainy season.

And sometimes, when we’re lucky, it’ll cool down to the 20s ° C in the “winter” months! (And yes, us tropical folk do consider that cold enough to bring out our winter scarves) (but actually).

So, there was never any need to check the weather forecast because it would always just read: “incredibly hot and humid”(or during the monsoon season, we’d all know that it was going to POUR around 5 pm every night).

And where might I be going with this? Well… let’s just say that the seasons in the Mid-west are a little more… intense than in Bangkok. While I did expect for the seasonal change to eventually arrive, I hadn’t expect it to hit two mornings ago when I woke up incredibly confused as to why I was shivering in bed. In Asia, August was still considered summer… here, not so much. Since then, I have truly learned the importance of heaters #thehardway.

Right now, I’m lounging on one of the dangerously comfy, vintage love sofas in the main lobby of the Grand Hotel. Initially, I had come to treat myself to an ice cream cone after a long day, but since it was closed and I was terribly heartbroken, I’ve decided to eat my feelings by indulging on the free goodies, music and Wi-Fi readily available.

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Vintage decor (Y)
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Events of the day
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The world’s longest porch
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The second portion of today’s post is about strangers, or more so, about kind strangers! As a photographer, I’m quite comfortable with approaching people and starting a conversation. However, I don’t think I’ve ever met as many approachable people as I have here on the island. Everyone here is just… very approachable and open. I’ve learned this summer, that if you’re willing to start and hold a conversation with a stranger, you’ll begin to approach and understand people better.

For one, you’ll realize that people are much more interesting than you had previously believed. You’ll learn that the old mid western man to your right is not some old fishermen (no offense to fishermen or the fishing industry), but is actually an economics university professor at Michigan, and that the dainty little man to your left has visited Mongolia 6 times.

Secondly, you learn that people are willing to share their stories with those equally willing to listen.

Lastly, because of all of the above, you begin to judge less based off appearances (except for crocs. You still always judge the crocs.) and wait to hear their stories before you make any predisposed judgements.

Here’s a list of wonderful strangers-turned friends (kept anonymous) that I’ve met:

1.     The Bookstore Guy. I met the bookstore guy at Lucky bean (surprise surprise) when the coffee shop was packed and he had generously made space for me to sit across from him. He was reading. And since I myself like reading, I struck up a conversation with him about books. Eventually I asked him if he could fix earphones as mine had just broken and while he too had no clue… he offered to give me HIS earphones. For free. And we had just met! Apparently, he was going to buy new ones anyways, but it wasn’t even like he was hitting on me! (Don’t worry mom and dad) I was just struck by how genuinely NICE he was.

2.     The Adopted-Grandparents. * Cheese alert * One day, when I was hostessing, a couple (whose age was probably around that of my grandparents) was curious about my nametag “Jayna – Bangkok, Thailand”. We quickly got talking about our travels and I soon found out that the husband had volunteered in MONGOLIA 6 times (a place I’ve always dream of going!) and currently had a granddaughter teaching English there. (We easily had a conversation in length about that). The next day, I saw them three more times when they dined with us. But what struck me, was that before their last dinner with us, they both approached me with wide smiles and handed me two presents along with two bear hugs.

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The inscription in the book says, “Jayna, I pray you get your dream of Mongolia”, signed by the two of them.

And yes… at first glance, you might think that they were trying to convert me. But I truly believe that I just reminded them of their granddaughter and that perhaps, they genuinely hope to see another person on this earth live a life of adventure.

3.    The Grand-Hotel-Writer-in-Residence guy. Another time at Lucky Bean (a common trend is developing here) I met the Grand Hotel’s writer in residence by chance. Once we got talking, I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to his last summer poetry session at the Grand the next day. At the session, I was able to meet many other interesting island residents, whom of which I continued to run into the next couple of weeks at my two workplaces!

All in all, give strangers a chance. 

T-10 days till Portland!

– JM

P.S. My mom keeps sending me photos of amazing Thai food and I cry every time

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Tom Yum soup
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Soft shell crab with GARLIC

The Art of Publishing

I’m going to be late for work.

Having spent the past 10 minutes with my mouse hovered over the ‘PUBLISH‘ button, scrutinizing the immense differences between Times New Roman and Cambria, I’ve finally decided that:

1.)  Times New Roman’s slight upturn on the a’s will not scare readers away
2.)  I should stop avoiding the publish button.

(Btw, I did end up choosing Times New Roman)

Since I discovered the Legal Nomads travel blog in middle school, I’ve always been inspired to begin my own blog. But like many other things in life… things get postponed. Pushed back due to school work, sports, or simply from the fear of beginning something new. #FullIB #3seasonsports #ISB

So cheers to publishing (I’m celebrating with a hot cocoa, but drinks are optional).
It’s a small victory for me. And why, you may ask?

Well, since I’ve  decided to take a gap year, I’ve been wondering about how we all have far off distant dreams, but how often do we turn these ideas to reality?

We all craft dreams and visions of what our future might look like. In fact, we’ll spend countless hours rewriting and altering drafts to publish our perfect storyline, but more often than not, we’ll wind up frustrated. We’ll crumple and throw out these novel ideas that were scribbled down in coffee shops and far too late into summer nights – tucked away in journals and jotted on sticky pads – leaving our wastebaskets higher than ever. Whenever the sharp edges of our intangible fantasies leave paper cuts on our fingers, we become convinced that taking even greater risks will only leave deeper cuts to scar.

So yes, the art of publishing is a tough one.

Before my dad had ever even proposed the idea of a gap year to me, I was on a set track from going straight from high school to college. In the environment I had grown up in, that’s whateveryone did. Doing anything else wasn’t looked down upon, it was just… different. And after thinking about it for a while, I could see how perfectly a gap year would suit me. For the first time in my life, I would have the opportunity to decide what to do with myself for a WHOLE YEAR. And it’s completely up to me to make it as great as I can.

moooving on… What will this blog be about, you may ask. WELL among other things, this blog will be dedicated to photography, food, and more photography, and a wee bit of more food. In the grand scheme of everything, I’ll be detailing my adventures (and misadventures) of this gap year as I move across country and the globe.

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Rough rough rough outline of the year to come:
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Aug 27th – Begin second job on Mac. Island at JL Beanery Coffee shop

Now Until Sept 26th Working on Mackinac Island, strategically dodging piles of horse poo on a daily basis, sneaking into the Grand Hotel, and photographing pretty beaches and trees, etc.

Sept 27th – Leave for Portland, move into house with Kat, my sister (Sept 27 – AKA Official Milan-takeover- Portland day)

Sept 29th – Portland State University classes begin (I’ll only be taking two courses)

  • Personal Finance
  • Psychology as a social science

Until December (at least)Stay in Portland, possibly become a photography intern at Portland art Magazine and/or Willamette Weekly, work at a local Portland coffee shop, and continue to take classes

Sometime this year: “Drive down to Cali and visit my bestest friend in the world at USC.” – Leeann

December Break – Back to Bangkok, eat real food, and visit 7-11 on an unhealthy basis

Spring time – Eurotrip with Kat/possibly travel to Spain to volunteer in a WWOOF program (homestays with local Spaniard families where you work for them and they provide room and board).

SummerBack to Thailand (?), focus on my Thai language skills, volunteer in Northern Thailand, seek out an internship with the UN or some other sort of organization
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And lastly, why the name, “The Traveling Beanie”?

Well. I was really struggling to come up with a witty and incredibly ROFLCOPTER (I swear I’ve never used that word before) name, but that didn’t work.  So I decided to pick an object that I always have with me, which has now become my beanie, and since I’ll be documenting my travels… voila! The Traveling Beanie! If you have any suggestions or other actual names that’ll make one ROFL (in a copter manner?), I’d love to hear them!