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In traveling the world in search of adventure and self-discovery, photographer Christopher Michel’s lens on the world has changed, with each new experience fitting into life’s greater puzzle. In a recent post to his blog, Christopher writes, “For the past 5 years, I’ve been on the road more often than not. To places and experiences remote in both distance and familiarity. I’ve spent sweltering afternoons in monasteries, sheltered in the high Himalayas, zodiacked around Antarctic Icebergs, cruised at the edge of Space, wandered among remote South Pacific tribes, ridden through endless tea plantations, worked the fishing lines in Indonesia, and cried at more than one sunrise.” While his journeys did not lead him to what he calls a “spiritual awakening,” they have become signposts, beckoning him further and hinting at the bigger picture. “I may not have found myself, but I think I now know where to look.”
You can see a portfolio of Christopher’s work on his personal website, ChristopherMichel.com, check out his beautiful Highlight, “Sunrise at the End of the Earth,” from Torres del Paine, Patagonia here on AFAR.com, and get to know him better via his answers to our questionnaire below!
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Right now I’m in San Francisco.
Though I would much prefer to be in the Lemaire Passage (Antarctica) at sunset—heck, anytime!
My next trip is to Egypt.
My last trip took me to the Antarctic Penninsula.
First international trip—when and where? I was 3 months old and I went to visit my family in Athens, Greece!
My most treasured souvenir is a red string bracelet given to me by a Monk in Cambodia. He said it was a reminder to slow down and consider the Buddha’s teachings about compassion, desire and happiness.
Favorite hotel: Singita Lebombo in South Africa.
Favorite restaurant: Locanda Cipriani on Torcello Island in Venice. Imagine a forever afternoon on a remote island in the Venetian lagoon.
Favorite shopping destination: The art galleries in Havana.
Favorite local style/most stylish place: Sirocco & Sky Bar at State Street Towers in Bangkok. Dining al fresco atop a 600 foot high tower in the heart of Bangkok is an unforgettable experience.
iPhone or DSLR? Why choose? Well, DSLR, Leica M or Micro 4/3rds of course. Currently, I’m shooting the D800E and Leica M9.
Backpack, wheelie, or trunk? Backpack for camera & gear and wheelie for the rest of it (unless backpacking of course).
Plugged-in or unplugged? Either has its advantages.
Public transportation, cab, or bike? I’ve biked all around Asia—it’s really a fabulous way to see a place. I’d highly recommend Backroads or Butterfield & Robinson.
If you’re headed to the ancient city of Bagan, do book an early morning balloon flight. It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience. Book early.
Preparation: guidebook, online research, or seat of your pants? Rough outline before heading off, checking with friends, and then having the flexibility to explore when on the ground.
A camera is the best way/place to connect with locals. Asking to take someone’s photo is the perfect excuse to say hello and build a relationship.
Five things you can’t travel without: Shure headphones, Mac Book Pro, Nikon D800, an iPhone, and an ATM card.
Jet lag: Nap, power through, pills, or herbal remedies? Nap and melatonin.
Favorite airport and why? Changi Airport in Singapore. Butterfly park!
Three travel apps you can’t live without: Google Maps, Google Maps, Google Maps!
What’s the one hometown place you miss most while traveling? Blue Bottle Coffee.
First thing you do when you get home: After sleeping—I’m often found in a coffee shop processing photos.
Where do you always take out-of-town friends? Flour & Water—best Pizza in San Francisco.
Favorite travel book: The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthieson.
Fly solo or travel with family/friends/tour group? Generally solo but occasionally with a friend!
Best memory of a trip with kids—either from your own childhood or with your own kids: Hmmm…that’s why I travel solo!
Most out-of-character travel experience? Something that you would never have done at home: Eat guinea pig. Cuy: it’s a delicacy in Peru. I’ll never do that again.
Biggest travel mistake? While heading to Antarctica, I packed my camera charger in my checked luggage. My luggage never arrived and the camera was nearly useless. Never, ever check anything you need.
If I had a whole month to travel, I would go to Namibia.
If I had a whole year to travel, I would go to the Arctic—up the fjords of Norway, across Northern Russia, into Alaska and finally and Greenland. I’d start with this.
Favorite foreign word or phrase: Mai pen rai—pronounced “My pin rye”—a famous Thai expression meaning “no worries.”
Favorite foreign tradition: The tradition of Yerba Mate—a non-caffeinated, herbal tea (that’s not really tea). It’s absolutely pervasive in rural Chile and Argentina—and if consumed in the company of others is shared from the same cup (gourd).
Travel has taught me that you have to work actively at noticing the very real wonders of your home town. It’s incredibly easy for the familiar to go unnoticed. Returning home from abroad always brings back that feeling of freshness and novelty to my day to day life in San Francisco.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Michel
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