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For this wanderlusting Californian for whom photography and travel are a perfect fit, a picture says…

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Writer, world traveler and photography enthusiast James King is back with his latest interview subject.

Jenny in Ireland

Jenny Schulte in front of an old church window ruin near Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland.

Hello again, readers! My May guest is 38-year-old Jenny Schulte. who never had any thoughts of leaving her Northern California home until she travelled to Ireland in 1999 to explore her Irish roots. Now she is an ardent traveler who combines her love of photography with her travel experiences in her captivating blog Bulldog Travels, subtitled “Everything and Nothing Plus Some Pretty Photos.” Jenny is wrong to call it “nothing”: her blog is her her outlet for sharing her travel adventures along with the kinds of “photographs my friends have always enjoyed,” as she puts it.

On her About page, she says:

[Those] two wonderful hobbies of travel and photography fit perfectly together.

A woman after my own heart!

* * *

Hi, Jenny, and welcome to the Displaced Nation. Thank you for getting in touch and offering to share your photo-travels with us. Can you tell us where you were born and when you spread your wings to start travelling?
I was born and raised in Sacramento, California, and consider myself fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the world. San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, the gorgeous California Coast, Redwoods, Yosemite, Napa Wine Country—all are on my doorstep. But while I have always loved to travel within the United States, when I was twenty I decided I really wanted to delve into my Irish heritage and see Ireland first hand. I had a very romantic vision of the country and figured I would be disappointed if I never went. Well…the moment my tennies hit the ground, a restlessness took over and I have been globetrotting ever since. I made a good friend in Ireland who is from Germany. and together we have seen much of western Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France, Monaco, Spain, Andorra, England and Scotland). In more recent years I have been fulfilling an archaeological interest of mine exploring Mexico and Central American sites and ruins.

If you’re lucky enough to be Irish…you’re lucky enough!

So once you finally got the travel bug, you were up and running in those tennies of yours. I have only managed the UK and France from your entire list. I’m envious. Can you share with us some of the highlights of your travel adventures?
I really enjoy history and from Ireland I went to my first European countries: Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, where I could not only delve into history but also enjoy great food, culture, and scenery. From there I went on to other destinations such as France, Scandinavia and the UK. My search for ancient ruins took me to the Yucatán, Belize, and Guatemala. The animals and the raw nature of Costa Rica stole my heart. At home, where I have travelled California and the entire west on shorter trips, I really love Joshua Tree National Park, Portland, Southern Utah, San Francisco and Mendocino.

Now that you have gained so much real travel experience, I would love to hear more about what inspired you to travel originally and sustains you on your many trips.
No one in my family has ever travelled very far, with the exception of a few who travelled for Uncle Sam’s benefit. They tend to stick close to home preferring to take a drive rather than fly somewhere exotic. My family built a cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and we still enjoy it whenever we can. But my grandmother had told me stories of Ireland since I was a child, and I always dreamed of seeing it one day. After that initial Irish adventure, every trip has left me wanting more. I have averaged one or two main trips per year and as many small trips as I can fit in. As a photographer I tend to focus on areas I know will be wonderful to capture. But I am always surprised and pleased when I get great photos I never expected.

So tell us about where you have travelled most recently.
I recently returned from a trip to Belize and Guatemala. I tend to spend my home time in Sacramento, San Francisco, California Coast, the Lake Tahoe area, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I will probably stay in California until I retire and then I plan to be more nomadic, visiting places that are difficult to visit on a two-week trip. Then I hope to live in areas longer, to fully appreciate the culture and the environment.

Don’t leave it too late like I did. You need a lot of energy for the expat life.

“Laughter is the brightest where food is best.”

Now let’s move on to a few of your shots that capture favourite memories. Thank you for sharing and for describing the story behind each one and what makes them so special.  
Of course! For my first photo, I present you with a little boy cleaning a fish out front of his grandmother’s restaurant, Maggie’s Sunset Diner, in Caye Caulker, Belize. His family’s BBQ was fired up just out of the frame. The boy so badly wanted to be like his grandmother. He was begging to BBQ his own fish like an adult. My husband and I observed this charming scene while having dinner. I believe that good, inexpensive food in a place full of local ambiance is better than a five-star restaurant anywhere in the world. The photo was taken only with my iPhone but I think it captures the mood and the vibe of this small island off the coast of Belize.

Q9.1 Boy cleaning fish

Boy in Belize cleaning a fish. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

The second photo is of some donuts my husband I consumed in Maui, Hawaii. I was driving around the rural part of the island looking for something to eat for breakfast when I stumbled upon a locally owned and run donut shop. The donuts were glorious and became a highlight of our visit. We have actually contemplated going back to Maui just for the donuts! Then again, you wouldn’t have to twist my arm very hard to go back to Maui. The older I get the more food tends to be an important part of my travels.

Maui donuts

Donut feast in Maui. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

The last photo is of a two-headed jaguar you can see in the ancient Mayan city of Uxmal, which is located in Yucatán, Mexico. Something about Uxmal really spoke to me. I think what makes it so special is that the architects for these structures were so clearly artists. They went beyond function and focused on form in a way not seen elsewhere in the Yucatán. Their work is magnificent and the detail is phenomenal. I never grow tired of looking at photos from this visit, and I offer this one in hopes of transporting readers to these spectacular ruins.

Uxmal

A Mayan jaguar. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

I am really impressed by the picture of the boy cleaning fish. And I agree that the experience of eating wholesome home cooking in basic local surroundings is better than any clinically manufactured setting. I am sure you take a lot of photos but where, so far, are your favourite places to shoot and can you explain why these places inspire you.
Photography is an integral part of travel for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m travelling to a faraway exotic location or hitting a local California beach—taking photographs helps me recall the trip in a way my memory alone doesn’t, and inspires me to be creative in a way I find difficult at home. I have many favourite places to take photographs, including zoos, gardens, and historical sites. In recent years, I have photographed the San Diego Zoo and the Belize Zoo. I am looking forward to a weekend-long photography expedition at Safari West in Santa Rosa in the fall. I enjoy shooting botanical gardens like Mendocino, DuPlooys in Belize, San Diego, Lake Constance (Germany) and the Maui Garden of Eden. One of my favourite architectural structures is the Eiffel Tower at night. I’ve had fun attempting to shoot it from angles not often seen.

Well, Jenny, since you left it up to me to choose three photos that represent your favourite spots, here my selection. My first choice is your photo of a rickety old building in Paris, which houses a gallery of some kind. I think your capture is wonderful because it looks as though the building won’t be standing much longer, and the shop is a relic of a bygone era.

Business in Paris

A rickety Parisian gallery. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

Next I’ve chosen one of your Eiffel Tower shots. This one is not immediately recognizable as most shots of this iconic landmark are. So it asks a question—who am I? And the photo of the lighting on the structure in the night sky is beautiful.

Eiffel Tower

A new angle on a famous angular building. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

Finally, I love this nature shot of yours, taken in Du Plooys Botanical Garden in Belize, with its contrast of the crimson flower, green leaves and shadows. I think it would make fine wall-art.

DuPlooys Botanical Garden Belize

Botanical blossom in Belize. Photo credit: Jenny Schulte

“Better good manners than good looks.”

So do you feel reserved about taking photos of people, particularly when they are conscious that you are doing so?
I definitely do. I try to live my life in a considerate way. I would never feel comfortable embarrassing or offending anyone. I would never be able to look at the photo afterwards with a clear conscience. Sometimes I shoot images of people from an angle where they might not be aware. This is because I prefer candid photos versus asking for permission and taking what I would consider more of a portrait. I admire photographers who do portrait photography, but I suppose it makes me uncomfortable. It can also take the fun out of it.

On occasions where you do ask for permission, how do you get around any problem of language?
Sometimes what I do is show the person the photos I have taken of them. Recently, for example, I photographed a little girl in Belize whose mother owned the dive shop we were visiting. The girl was coloring a picture and smiling at me. I held up my camera and made an O.K. sign with my fingers. She immediately started hamming it up for the camera and then begged to see the image of herself on the camera. The girl and her mother spoke some English, but in this case it was more fun to ask without words. Miming can work pretty well. Holding up a camera or pretending to take a selfie generally gets a smile from a stranger.

Would you say that photography and the ability to be able to capture something unique which will never be seen again is a powerful force for you?
For me, photographing events or moments has the power to capture something that is both crisper and more emotional than if I wrote about the place or just relied on my memory. My photos represent what is in my heart and mind better than any other means of communication. Sometimes I will look back on an old photo and remember a moment or a place that I had completely forgotten about. The memories that come flooding back are what keep me planning for the next trip.

Clearly, a picture says a thousand words for you. When did you realize that, and how has it changed your perspective?
I don’t think there was a particular moment. I have always been that way since I had enough money to buy and develop film—I always took too many photos. But for me, and ultimately for my subjects, it is worthwhile to capture a special moment. That said, I sometimes have to force myself to put the camera down so that I can be in the moment.

“May the blessing of light be on you—/light without and light within.”

Now for the technical stuff. Can you tell me what kind of camera and lenses you use?
I use an iPhone 5s, Nikon D800 and Nikon D700 cameras. Nikon Nikkor DX 18-135mm and Nikon Nikkor AF 70-300mm lenses.

That’s quite a collection. And which software do you use for post-processing?
I just use Lightroom for post processing.

“Your feet will bring you where your heart is.”

Finally, do you have any advice for wannabe photographers who are traveling or living abroad?
Be responsible, show respect, be a good advocate for your home country and for the human race and, if you can, travel while you are young. If you aren’t young anymore travel anyway and it will make you young! Follow your instincts, have fun, stay inspired, take breaks from your art when necessary to keep the spark, try new things, talk to people, eat the food, take the back roads and get lost…the world will all of a sudden become very very wonderful.

That is very good advice, Jenny, and I’d like to thank you for taking the time to tell your story in this interview.

Editor’s note: All subheds are from Irish sayings or blessings.

* * *

Readers, what do you make of Jenny’s experiences and her photography advice? And do you have any questions for her on her photos or travels? Please leave them in the comments!

If you want to get to know Jenny and her creative works better, I suggest you visit her travel site. You can also follow her on Instagram or contact her at PhotosbyJenny@aol.com.

Born in England, James King is now semi-retired in Thailand. He runs his own photography-based blog, Jamoroki. If you are a travel-photographer and would like to be interviewed by James for this series, please send your information to ml@thedisplacednation.com.)

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

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Party big! 5 of the world’s biggest bashes, to end all bashes

“Celebrate we will, because life is short but sweet for certain.”
Dave Matthews Band, lyrics from “Two Step”

Because it’s our birthday here at the Displaced Nation, I’ve been having a think about my favorite parties from around the world. I’ve been to quite a few!

There are some I’ll never forget, some I wish I could forget — and some I’m still hoping to experience…

So today I present my top five picks of parties that I wish could be held every year in my own back yard, as it were, for my immediate attending pleasure.

For my first choice, there is simply no contest:

1) The Full Moon Party (Koh Phangan, Thailand)

This Full Moon Party is the bash to end them all. Upwards of 20,000 crowd the Haad Rin beach, on the southern tip of Koh Phangan, an island in the Gulf of Thailand. The party is so epic it has spawned imitators all around the world (especially in Thailand). There are people twirling fire sticks and jumping through fire hoops. Bars line the beach, and vast amounts of alcohol in plastic buckets fuels frantic dancing right through ‘till dawn — and beyond.

By the morning the survivors, usually the most party-savvy (or those who’ve paced their drinking), head off around the coast to start the after-party!

Everyone else falls into two categories:

  1. Those who made it home before they passed out, in which case they’ll have nothing worse than a hangover and the occasional burn mark as souvenirs.
  2. Those who collapsed on the sand mid-party. These unfortunates most likely will have been robbed of everything — including clothes. They face the unenviable task of getting home with no money, no car/bike keys, a raging headaches and a crippling sunburn. That, and the scorn of local taxi drivers, who tend to frown on naked passengers. (You only make this mistake once!)

And if this Full Moon bash is slightly too hard-core and crowded for your tastes, the enterprising organizers have come up with lesser parties for every week of the year: Black Moon, Half Moon, Blue Moon…along with the occasional Jungle Party scattered between.

Go there. Do it. Your liver will never be the same again!

TONY’S TIP: Don’t do drugs. Plain-clothed cops roam the beach, and have been known to try and sell drugs to unsuspecting tourists — and then arrest them if they agree to buy!

From one that’s free to all to one that’s recently become very hard to get to:

2) Burning Man (Black Rock Desert, Nevada)

Burning Man, a week-long event that pays tribute to radical self-expression, began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice. It is now so popular that it’s running a lottery system to see who gets to go. If you get the chance, it has to be one of the best New-Age festivals around: a mix of art, performance, story-telling, meeting, camping and surviving, all under the relentless desert sun (or the freezing desert night!).

Oh, did I mention? It’s in the desert.

Self-sufficiency is the key. Leave no trace. Meet up with like-minded, free spirited people from all over the world, and burn a gigantic man-shaped bonfire with them. Then cover yourself with body paint and go do something arty.

Sounds like heaven, eh?

Alas, my friends at Technomadia (a pair of technology-enable nomads) couldn’t get tickets this time, despite being an organizational hub for a whole “sect” of attendees over the last few years. As far as I know, the policy of offering tickets via lottery has been universally hated, and is under review.

The festival starts the last week in August, and the namesake (giant burning man) event takes place on the Saturday night before Labor Day.

And now to one that’s still just about doable:

3) Glastonbury! (Glastonbury, Somerset, UK)

Depending on your point of view, the Glastonbury Festival can be seen as one of the most famous music festivals in the world, with five days of top acts for every taste … or a deafening week camping in a muddy field in England!

I had to include it, because (to my shame) I’ve still never been — despite the fact it’s held less than 15 miles from the house where I grew up! Yup — I lived close enough to smell the unwashed hairy hippies! (I’ve been to the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan but not to the Glastonbury Festival — now is that displaced, or what?)

But tickets are very expensive, and you’ve got to be quick. I happened to be home visiting someone in hospital on the day the tix went on sale in 2011. There was a whole ward full of people sitting there on laptops, hitting the refresh button constantly, trying to buy them — only three (out of 14) managed it!

Those lucky few contended with the notoriously poor English weather, which turned last year’s festival into a filthy quagmire — but I expect they were far too stoned to care!

TONY’S TIP: Get in FREE as a volunteer litter picker. It’s getting tougher though — you have to join a festival staff agency and convince them you actually plan to pick up litter, instead of doing what most of the staff end up doing: watching bands and getting high!

Moving right along…is it cheating to have another one from Thailand? Well if it is, I don’t care, as this one is unmissable:

4) Songkran (Thailand)

The Thai New Year festival, known as Songkran, is the most fun you’ll ever have with your clothes on. (Anyone who’s traveling in Southeast Asia, hurry up: it’s held this week, April 13-15.) Just don’t expect your clothes to survive the ordeal! This country-wide water fight comes to a head in the cramped city streets, where tourists and locals stand toe to toe — and try to drown each other! Traffic snarls every road, and from the back of every truck buckets of water are being flung.

The year I attended (I was living in Bangkok), I drove up to a policeman and threw a water balloon right in his face — the only time I’ve done that in my life! You gotta watch out for those cops, though — they’re usually packing…super-soakers! The long squirt of the law should never be underestimated; not least because these guys have more practice at firing!

Drinking is a big part of the fun in the touristy areas of Bangkok, as is the throwing of flour, food coloring, dyes and pastes of many kinds — hence the clothes warning. But even if you ruin your clothes, believe me, it’s worth it!

And then, there is the granddaddy of them all…

5) The celebration to mark the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar (Belize)

This has to be most exclusive event on the planet. Attend this year’s Maya Winter Solstice in Chaa Creek, Belize, and you’ll own ultimate bragging rights — it’s as simple as that.

Brangelina wedding? Pah, there’ll be another one. Maybe two.

Meteorites will strike, popes will die, entire nations will rise in triumphant revolution, and then fall — again and again and again.

But the end of the Mesoamerican/Maya/Mayan Long Count calendar will only ever happen once, because a) the first one has taken 5,200 years, and b) there’s no ancient Mayans left to do another count. So even if you live to be a million, you still won’t get to see this party again!

Not to mention, the world is going to end.

Joke! In fact, no one knows what the end of the long count signified to the Mayans — other than it being time to buy a new calendar. There is NO apocalyptic event prophesied in their culture, and never was. But it does make you think — just why did they pick the winter solstice, 21st December 2012, for the end of their five-millennia-long cycle?

Don’t you want to know? I do!

So that’s where I’ll be. Although I may have to sell my house to afford the ticket. And…I don’t own a house.

D’oh.

So what have I missed out, eh? This is a great big world full or parties and festivals — what are your favorites? And why are they so great?

Let me know in the comments!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s Random Nomad interview with author Wendy Williams (she recently contributed a popular guest post to The Displaced Nation).

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