“The whole world is still an open book for me.
I’m fascinated by people and cultures, and how
each culture relates to their rituals, to their family,
to their land”
Erika Larsen, National Geographic Photographer
This quote sums up why I travel. Why I keep going and why I am always impatient to leave and explore more. That and my Portuguese heritage of great explorers and conquerors who always looked beyond the horizon and were never afraid of sailing in pursuit of far away lands.
The first time I saw this quote was last year at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. I almost missed it. It was the day before we were supposed to leave back to Mexico, after 10 days of exploring the south of the USA. It had been a wonderful trip so far but that morning started badly for me. I woke up in the hotel room and not to wake up my husband and daughter, I decided to walk in the dark. I didn’t see that the heavy desk chair was blocking my way and bumped violently into it. When I felt the pain I knew my small toe could only be broken.
I was really upset as I still wanted to profit from our last day so I told my husband I could bear the pain and walk a bit. It was very painful but I insisted there were still things to see. When we arrived at the Mint Museum, a very nice lady explained what types of ticket we could purchase depending on whether we wanted to include the temporary exhibitions or not.
And there it was, advertised the “Women of Vision, National Geographic Photographers on assignment”. As you may have noticed, I love photography and I wanted to see it of course. My husband hesitated and we started a discussion. He was against it, he said we had enough to see already and with my foot in that state, it would just get worse. I kept saying I could take it. We went back and forth for a few moments. And then this wonderful Mint employee interrupted us and turning to me asked me if I really wanted to see it. I told her I really, really wanted to see it! Then she asked me what was wrong with my foot. I showed her a very bruised toe and she was impressed how I was still standing. She asked me why I didn’t go to hospital. I explained that we were living in Mexico and that we were going back the following day so I would go to hospital there.
What she said next I did not expect. She told us, the exhibition would be on her. She wanted me to see it and then she said she would provide for a wheel chair so I could be comfortable. She would also arrange for the audio guide so I could get the full experience. I almost cried. There are such kind people in this world and she was just an angel. I could not have thanked her enough!
It was a wonderful exhibition, I even forgot my pain. The photos were really inspiring and it was interesting to see the different style and approach of each woman photographer. Their vision is a result of their experiences, emotions but also the fact that they are women. Male and female photographers tend to see the world differently. Maybe I am wrong but I get the impression women tend to care more and get closer into the lives of their subjects. The subjects can move you, shock you, make you happy or sad but you just can’t stay indifferent. In some cases I wished I knew more, could follow the story, be there. In others I wished this world could be different.
What this exhibition did also was to remind me why I love to photograph and how grateful I am for all the trips I did so far and the different people I encountered on the way. Like my years in Saudi Arabia getting to know the people and witnessing some of their traditions.
Or walking in Sanaa in Yemen and just observing the day to day life.
Or going through ancient cities like Petra in Jordan and encountering the Bedouins.
And what to say about beautiful Mexico where we lived 5 years?
People are genuine, welcoming and generous. Each state is proud of its diverse culture and traditions.
But it is also wonderful to observe closely and be a part of their daily lives even if for brief moments.
Also now that I have returned to Europe to live in Austria, my husband’s homeland, it has been great to get to know the people and their traditions.
Travelling sharpens your senses, you learn to really observe, you identify smells and tastes and to listen to your instincts. You also become more patient, tolerant and open to new experiences. I regret there are certain places I can no longer safely return but at the same time I am grateful I had the chance of visiting them once in my life.
Fear cannot take over our lives. I hope it doesn’t. I hope the will to meet and explore more cultures and destinations will always be a part of my and your lives. That is still the reason why I travel.
If you are going to be in Atlanta, Georgia in the coming months, you will be able to see the wonderful exhibition I mentioned “Women of Vision” at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. It will be from September 26, 2015 to January 3, 2016. There is also a book by the same name that accompanies the exhibition and that I bought and consult often as a source of inspiration.
Here is the link to the upcoming exhibition: