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Let’s face it.  In today’s world, we love instant gratification.  How many times do you see someone take a photo, then immediately look at their LCD screen, or phone, to see how the photo turned out?  I am just as guilty as anyone.  The ease, and accessibility, of digital photography, has turned the photography world upside down several times over. 

It is easier to carry a few memory cards, than lugging around multiple rolls of film.  Then, there is the cost of developing the film, then scanning it for a digital file.  I must admit to having more digital cameras than necessary from point and shoot cameras to a medium format digital, and everything in between.

As much as I love digital, and its ease, there is a definite difference in quality.  When I use the word quality, I am referring to depth, richness in colours, and tone.  Even with my Hasselblad H5D-50,  these qualities just aren’t there.  This is not to say the H5D is not an amazing camera.  It is, but it simply can not produce what film can.

So, I asked myself – “What if … what if I would also carry a film camera in addition to my digital with me wherever I travel in the world?  So, this is exactly what I have been doing.  Film photography and travel go hand in hand.

I have learned using film makes me a more thoughtful photographer.  Why?  Because I do not want to waste a shot.  If this makes me a better photographer, I don’t know and will allow others to judge this.  All I know is I put more thought into focusing and composition.  More than this, I take the time to visualise a photograph before clicking the shutter.

As a gentleman, give film photography a go if you haven’t already.  Contemporary images show us a gentleman carries a Hasselblad or Leica, but does the man in the photo know how to use analogue?  Film cameras are more than an accessory; they are well-made works of art that will help you create quality images.photo of mark paulda's cameras

In the photo above you can see some of the film cameras I use Wista RF 4×5 (which I am about to use a lot more!), Hasselblad 500cm, Hasselblad SWC, Hasselblad XPan, Mamiya 7, Mamiya 7II, Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, and the Leica M7.  Not shown is an original Rolleiflex, Yashica-A medium format, Yashica 35mm, and an array of plastic Lomo cameras.  I’m a guy.  If you’re a guy and reading this, you’ll understand the love for gadgets in almost any form.

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Travel (should) bring the unexpected to your senses, your perspectives and everything you know about life and what you know.  Sometimes travel experiences and the people you meet along the way can turn your world upside down. 

You might see a sacrifice at a Bali Temple or during End al-Adha in Muslim countries.  It’s also possible to be invited to dinner in someone’s home and be served unidentifiable treats.  There is also a possibility you’ll be in a place with no running water or indoor plumbing; perhaps there is no toilet in the restroom.  Your mind might be challenged well beyond what you consider “normal.”

All of the above and more have happened while I’ve travelled around the world.  In the western world, it’s doubtful you’ll experience anything but what you are accustomed to at home.  When you step into developing countries, be ready for almost anything.

Travel with me will always lead you to expect the unexpected.  I love change, challenging what I know, testing my limits and being amongst the unfamiliar.  The parts I love about travel are often uncomfortable for others.  Go with the flow, whatever happens, happens.  There is a general timetable yet no strict itinerary or agenda.  

Experience.  Simply experience where you are and who you’re with.  Love every bit of life while you are doing whatever it is you’re doing. Scare yourself and learn you are braver than you ever thought you could be.  Put your trust in someone you don’t know and rely upon the kindness of strangers.

Learn to love yourself, by yourself.  If you can be by yourself and have the time of your life, you can do anything.  Turn your world upside down then find the right side up.  Has your world changed or have you changed?  

Travel is more than a mere destination.  It touches your soul beyond measure.

What is your most memorable travel experience?

Destination:  Bali Indonesia

For most of my travel years, I’ve been a Europhile and a Londonphile. Travel meant hopping on a train for a day trip outside London, the Eurostar for Paris or a short plane ride to Venice. Then one day I ventured further as I hopped on a plane to Istanbul, then Morocco and my idea of travel changed. There was more than cathedrals, castles and people who looked like me. My curious mind went into overdrive and I loved every minute of the places I was experiencing. I looked at the world differently and wondered what have I been missing?

One more step took me to The Maldives and an island so remote I felt as if I had entered another world. I’m not sure I loved the Maldives, though I liked the idea of being far far away from the world I knew. The Maldives were my first taste of Asia. The experience intrigued me enough to explore more.

A year later I flew LAX to Tokyo and I was transported into a land and culture I immediately fell in love with. My next stop was Bangkok and my affinity grew stronger. Bhutan melted my heart and touched my soul, then I began a love affair with Bali that I’m sure will ever end.

I set this story up now because there are many Asia adventures ahead for this blog. Travel is a progression of sorts. You first go see the sights, then you find there is genuine life away from home and a huge family waiting to welcome you. This is true in all parts of the world. Travel is an education unlike anything found in a textbook.

Everyone learns something different from travelling. When I say travelling, I mean anywhere away from your hometown; any place where no one knows your name.

There are three important factors for me when I travel. One, I mostly travel solo. I learn the most and I have the most interesting experiences when I’m on my own. Two, I leave behind my American and Western way of thinking when I travel; otherwise, I’d be shocked in most places I visit. Three, I travel slow and deep rather than furiously collect passport stamps. I want to touch the souls of the cultures I visit and I want to fully understand them.

When I meet my own criteria for travel, I undoubtedly am in for a travel experience of a lifetime.

How do you approach your own travel adventures?
When did you realize travel is more than a destination?

Destination: Thailand, Tokyo, Bhutan and Bali

The Meaning of Travel

Travel has a different meaning for everyone.  We all seek something different when we get away from our daily routine.  For me, travel began many years ago merely being a tourist running around seeing all of the sights the guidebooks told me I simply should not miss.  “Hello Eiffel Tower”; take the obligatory photo.  “Here I am riding a vaporetto on the Grand Canal”; take the obligatory photo.  This is a thrill for many and this is ok.  I remember hosting a couple in London not too long ago.  One of the visitors barely lifted her nose away from her guidebook.  I couldn’t help but say, “Look up!  Look up!  You’re missing London.”

I am a gentleman traveller and a curious one at that.  I seek experiences and moments that have meaning.  I want to know the people of the place where I am visiting.  What do they think?  What are their customs and will they share them with me?   What can they teach me about life?  What can they teach me about my home country? And, I’m always curious about people’s level of happiness.  I don’t know why.  It’s simply a curious pursuit of mine.

Perhaps at this point in my life peeling away the superficial bits that separate cultures are what I find more appealing.  Quite frankly, I think deep down we are all the same.  The father and leader of the nomadic Berber tribe worry how his children will fare in the changing world.  The twenty-three-year-old kid in Bali wonders what truly interests him and what he will do with his life.  The examples go further, yet the stories are the same that we know in the western world.

Our experiences from our own cultures are what separate us only in the way we try to solve problems.  We are all trying to “make it” in this world and I’ve seen this over and over wherever I go.

This is the purpose of this blog.  I want to inspire you to travel as far, and wide, as is possible for you.  I want you to have experiences you never thought possible.  I want you to learn that you’re braver and stronger than you know.   Travel for your own reasons and not where a magazine tells you to go.  Go off the beaten path and scare yourself.  Challenge what you know and think how you can become a better person because you travelled.

I have flown well over a million miles.  Does this make me special?  Quite frankly the answer is no.  In the literal sense, I received two luggage tags from American Airlines for that milestone.  There is no meaning in that.  I overheard someone once say I jet across the world because I am trying to find myself.  To that I say, I did not know I was lost.  I have even heard I am having a wild love affair in London.  Aside from the shallow notion of that statement, I can only say – “Yes, I am having an affair; an affair with London.”

There is meaning in a journey.  A journey is not just A to B, it is also the in between.  A journey is the moments, and the memories, and glimpses of a time gone by.  What I feel, the colours of the world, the taste of the air, and the lives touched along the way – including mine.  A journey is making new connections to a place, and to cultures foreign to my own.  It is a change of perception.  A journey is finding myself on the path less travelled.  It is cautious steps and giant leaps of faith.

A journey is taking time, taking a breath, charting my own course, and being a part of a story worth telling.

A journey is reaching the end, and then discovering I am only half way there…  For a free spirit like myself, this is of the utmost importance.

Why do you travel?

That said, you might like Extending Boundaries, a travel video showing how travel can lead to personal growth.

If there is one place there should be a hanging disk with two revolving arms and twelve numbers, it’s an airport.  Have you noticed?  Isn’t it peculiar there are no clocks in airport terminals?  I’ve flown over a million miles and have been in many airport terminals – small to large.  And, no clocks!

One must arrive at the airport on time.  Arriving at the departure gate is imperative, so why the lack of prominently displayed clocks?

“Look at your phone,” you say?  My phone is in my pocket and my hands are full. What’s more is when I left my 9 to 5 job years ago, I gave up wearing a watch.  Yes, I thought time didn’t matter so much – except when you’re at an airport.

Right now I am sitting in the Miami International Airport.  A regular fitness routine and ample time are required to walk through the terminal.  No joke.  And, no clocks to guarantee timeliness.

To my recollection London, Dallas, LA – no clocks!  Kudos to New York’s JFK Airport, Terminal 8, however.  Directly after passing through security, there is a row of clocks showing time around the world.  Want to know the time in Tokyo?  JFK’s Terminal 8 has you covered.  Perhaps JFK received all the clock shipments intended for other airports. Perhaps not knowing the time isn’t terribly important.  After all, late is my middle name.

You might enjoy the Meaning of Travel.

The beauty of travel is it allows you to leave yourself behind.  You can be anonymous in a place you’ve never been.  By anonymous, I mean your reputation, beliefs, habits, friends, family – anything that makes you “you” where you live is behind you.  You can begin anew even if temporarily.  It is safe to say, however, the more you travel and leave yourself behind, the more you will change.  And, the more you will seek a life different than you’re accustomed to.  I, for one, love change – this is the curious gentleman in me.
The moment I walk through the security checkpoint at my home airport, I know this is the signal I’m leaving everything behind.  And no, I’m not running or hiding from anything despite what others say.  Leaving home is always an opportunity to grow more than before.  It is absolutely true my aim is to grow as it helps me become a better person.
Travel also provides the opportunity to grow your circle of friends and family.  Of course, I have blood relatives (aka family) though I can’t say I’m particularly close to any of them.  It’s safe to say I stay far away from a good number of them.  And friends?  I love my small close-knit group of friends.  Everyday life happens at home, though, and friends are busy with their own families or endlessly working to make ends meet in our uncertain times.  I don’t fault them for that.  This brings me to what I consider my real family – the ones I meet while travelling. These are the people of foreign cultures who unselfishly welcome me, share their lives, their homes, respect, talent, smiles, laughs and general goodwill.  I’ve experienced this over and over again all over the world.
Now, when I say the people whom I meet while travelling become my friends or family, I don’t mean short-term while I am at a particular place.  Contact continues and is closer than those who live less than a mile from me at home.  Strange how this works, but it does, and I’m grateful.
During my second visit to Bali, I decided to venture away from the glorious beach resort in a quest to discover true Balinese culture.  Little did I know when I arrived at the small village of Penempaham I would meet Arya Danu Palguna, more commonly known as Gede.  Gede welcomed me into his village’s Temple during a full moon ceremony.  His initial concern was the first thing I saw was the sacrificing of pigs, which I must admit was entirely unexpected.  We talked a lot and I listened a lot to Gede’s story.  His compassion drew me to him immediately.  More than this, I was fascinated to learn at twenty-two his main goal in life was to tell the real story of Bali and help preserve Balinese culture.  Seriously, I don’t know a twenty-two year old with such a lofty goal existed in any country much less a small village in Bali.
Gede impressed me so much I gave him my camera that day and asked him to email photos and video to me after I returned home.  Of course, he was speechless and surprised to receive a camera from me – a stranger he had just met a few hours before.  I thought to myself as I left the village either I hear from him or I don’t.   Months went by after I left Bali.  I hadn’t heard from Gede, and quite frankly, I put the episode out of my head.
Then one day an email arrived, then another email and another – all filled with hundreds of photos and videos Gede had captured Bali as he sees it.  He also sent nearly a hundred pages of text he had written to explain his goal.  No wonder I hadn’t heard from him in months.  He took the gesture seriously and compiled such an impressive collection there was no doubt what he wanted to do and the story he wanted to tell.
How could I not further help Gede achieve his goal?  I returned to Bali to teach him how to properly take a photo, though Gede is so talented I am more of a mentor or supporter for him than a teacher.  I’m convinced I learn more from him than he learns from me.  And, the truth is my vast education of Balinese culture comes directly from Gede.
Photography and video have been the main focus as I help this young man, though he also writes music and songs to tell the story of Bali. One day on our way to a Temple he sheepishly asked if I wanted to listen to a song his band had recorded.  “A little song” is how I remember him describing it.  I first heard “Colon Arang” as a very rough mp3 mix on a car radio. The members of the band, Hinduisme, comprise of his cousins from his small village, Penempaham.
When I listened I heard a love song.  My Indonesian is on the non-existent side so I relied on the melody and what I know as a westerner. Long story short,  I asked for a copy of the song to take to my good friend, songwriter and partner, Richard, in America.  I did just that. Richard listened to the song, fell in love with it and six months later we were back in Bali with the band in a music studio.  Richard’s account of the making of “Calon Arong” can be found on his blog at Cardo and Friends.
It turns out Calon Arang is not at all a love song but a story of black magic incantations, revenge, anger and deceit in Bali folklore.  The music and voices are stunningly beautiful.  Please take a moment to listen.
I’ve never met a young person like Gede whose goals are as big as the “Island of Gods,”  Each time I am with him my admiration and respect grows.  I could not be more proud of him.  He indeed is my brother and part of my family.   It is my goal to help make his dream come true.  Giving back.  It’s the right thing to do.  And yes, at first Bali was simply a destination but it has become so much more.
Travel Blog
Live Like A Gentleman

Travel is understandably a luxury for some. You simply get away leaving behind home’s routine and responsibilities.  This slice of time take you to an abstraction of reality.  Maybe you relax with an umbrella drink on a beach.  Possibly, you scurry to visit “must see” sights guide books insist you shouldn’t miss.  I always find it curious that so many travellers are content keeping arm’s distance from their hosts or they simply eye the top ten attractions from a tour bus in their chosen destination.  There is nothing at all wrong with any of the above I suppose. However, the truth is when you isolate yourself from the cultures you visit, you miss on an opportunity to learn about about foreign places.  You also miss huge opportunities to learn about yourself.  

After all, travel is the best eduction you can give yourself and you can grow well beyond your imagination. What if the boundaries of your comfort zone tumbled?  What if the fall of your boundaries occurred in a place where your bearings are upended because everything you know to be right is challenged?  Would you tremble from uncertainty?  Would you reach higher to an unknown and perhaps uncomfortable place?  There is surely only one way to find out.  

Just go and test yourself.  Step away from the beach resorts and immerse yourself in genuine Balinese culture.  I promise, the people in Bali will welcome you to their village Temple during a ceremony.  Take a camel ride through the Sahara Desert in Morocco, yes.  Stay overnight in a desert camp, yes.  But, ask to meet a nomadic Berber tribe.  They will make you feel like you’re a part of their family.  The Berber’s are just as curious about you as you are about them. And, if you want a true Buddhist education, consider a private guided tour of Bhutan.  Being the curious Gentleman that I am, I learned more about Buddhism than I ever thought possible from my guide, Kuenga.  Bhutanese culture is fascinating.  The calm, quiet and peacefulness of Bhutan will touch deep within your soul.  You’ll be changed forever even if you don’t adopt Buddhist beliefs.  The video included in this post shows you just what I’ve described above. 

If I can offer words of wisdom with regard to travel, it would be this: Sometimes travel is a leap of faith as you put your trust in completely foreign cultures and mindsets.  Always go with an open mind, an open heart and open arms.  After a few steps, you’ll soon realise you are braver, stronger, more accepting and full of more love than you ever knew possible.  Challenging what you know your own reality to be is one of the best gifts and best educations you could give yourself. 

Go far.  Travel Deep.  Go places you never thought you’d go.  Travel to a place where you’ll grow and be a better person for it.  In the end, you will have a once in a lifetime experience and brilliant stories to share. 

You might also enjoy A Gentleman’s Meaning of Travel

Travel Destinations in The Video:                                                         

Bali Indonesia   Sri Lanka   Thailand    Sahara Desert                                                         

Morocco   Bhutan