The Best Thing About Traveling Is . . .

unnamed-1Everyone has their own reasons for enjoying travel. Whether it’s visiting family, trying new foods, enjoying and experiencing nature, shopping, sightseeing or just having time to relax, we all find our reasons to anticipate and enjoy the places we visit.

In no particular order, here are the main reasons I love to travel:

Kaki gori - Japanese shave ice
Fluffy, cool and refreshing kaki gori – Japanese-syle shaved ice with fresh fruit sauce
  • Eating: While it’s not always the top reason I get excited about visiting someplace, I always enjoy trying new foods, and being able to try authentic foods and recipes. I love being able to eat things that I can’t fix or find at home, like Navajo tacos in the southwest, steamed crab in San Francisco, dumplings in China, lobster rolls in New England or conch fritters in Key West. If possible, before we go somewhere I like to check out restaurants in the area we’re visiting, read reviews, and peruse menus if possible. The absolute best part about eating when we travel? I don’t have to plan, prepare, or clean up after any of our meals!

    A walk through a different neighborhood can reveal beautiful sights!
    Simple beauty in a residential neighborhood
  • Sightseeing: Depending on where we’re going, this can either be a high priority, or fall very far down the list of things to do. I’ve never maintained a bucket list or such of places or things I “have to see before I die” but I have been fortunate to see many sights that no picture can ever do justice, like the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Great Wall of China, and just about every place in Kyoto to name a few. While I enjoy sightseeing and visiting famous, historic or scenic places and museums, I’m also very happy wandering through local neighborhoods and checking out houses, markets or other aspects of daily life. These areas might not be well-known, but there is a lot to discover and observe, and memories to be made.

    Sightseeing, Japan-style (photo by Linda, my wonderful S-I-L)
    Visiting Kyoto,  Japan-style (photo by Linda, my wonderful S-I-L)
  • People watching: This may be the thing I love most about travel. I am an inveterate people watcher and can happily sit for long stretches to observe what’s going on around me. It doesn’t matter where I am, but I love seeing how people interact, how business is conducted, and how the routines of daily life play out, whether I’m in a foreign country or home in the United States. For example, I still consider myself a neophyte when it comes to understanding Japanese culture, but I enjoy watching two people interact with each other to figure out who has the higher status (based on how they bow to each other). Every trip is a cultural adventure, and I always learn something new each time I travel, something I can tuck away and remember for the future or that furthers my understanding of the local culture.

    Sharing a crepe with my grandson at Harajuku
    Sharing a crepe with my grandson at Harajuku
  • Spending time with family: Whether it’s visiting family in Japan, or traveling with Brett and the girls, or with our son when he was young, I love, love, love making memories with my family. There’s nothing as wonderful as experiencing some place through the eyes of your children or grandchildren, no matter their age, and hearing their reactions and thoughts about what they’re seeing and doing.

    I love coming home to Kaua'i!
    I love coming home to Kaua’i!
  • Coming home: This aspect of traveling has taken on a whole new dimension since we moved to Hawai’i :). Arriving home on Kaua’i is like finishing up one vacation with another.

What don’t I enjoy about travel? I’m not a big fan of air travel, but accept it’s a necessary part of any travel experience for us these days. Car travel is still, for the most part, an enjoyable experience, maybe even more so now since we don’t often get the opportunity. Souvenir shopping has also lost most of its thrill for me, but my daughters still enjoy it so it’s still a part of our travels wherever we go.

So, what about traveling do you love?

Let’s Talk Travel Plans!

I can guarantee that WenYu's desk will not look like this . . . it's too organized!
I can guarantee that WenYu’s desk will not look like this . . . it’s too organized!

I almost can’t believe (or maybe I don’t want to) that in just a few weeks it will be time to escort WenYu back to Massachusetts to begin her college career at Wellesley. I am both extremely excited for her, and so proud that I could burst, but I’m also growing increasing sad about her upcoming departure. We are all going to miss her calm, steady, and easygoing presence in our home.

I'm looking forward to getting to explore the Wellesley campus while I'm there.
I’m looking forward to seeing all of the beautiful Wellesley campus while I’m there.

The trip will be a bittersweet one. I am already dreading the day I have to say good-bye to WenYu and let her go, but I am also looking forward to reunions with good friends (during our San Diego layover) and former childhood neighbors who now live very close to Wellesley in Massachusetts. On the way home I will spend a couple of days with my mom before heading home to Kaua’i. I’ll only be away from home for eight days, but there’s a lot packed into that short period of time.

SO excited about getting to spend time with this little guy, and meeting our new granddaughter!
I’m already SO excited about getting to spend some time with this little guy next year, and meeting our new granddaughter!

We’re currently in a holding pattern on our Spring 2017 trip to Japan. We’ve got our hotel reservations, but airfares are still not down to where we’re ready to buy. It really is too early anyway right now, but we should see lower airfares starting to appear in September and October. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Hawaiian Airlines offers some good fares this fall as we’d love to add to our mileage accounts, but we’ll go with whomever offers the best deal. Brett and I have been talking about what we want to see and do there with YaYu when we’re not spending time with our son, daughter-in-law, grandson and new granddaughter!

The path around the Imperial Palace is 3.3 miles - last year our son walked 12 laps!
The path around the Imperial Palace is 3.3 miles – last year our son walked 12 laps!

However . . . a second trip to Japan has been added for 2017! Meiling, WenYu and I, along with some of my friends, are planning a June trip to Tokyo. WenYu has wanted to go back ever since she went last year, and Meiling has always wanted to go but hasn’t had the chance, so I came up with the idea of forming a team to walk with our son in his “Imperial Challenge” next year (walking as many laps as possible around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to raise funds for charity). Currently I’m waiting to hear from him with the date for next year’s Challenge, but once I have that planning can begin in earnest. I’m shooting for a week’s stay for our group, using AirBNB for lodging. The girls and I will be responsible for setting up breakfast for everyone in the morning, as well as ‘happy hour’ in the evening, and I will be taking our little group out for sightseeing and shopping excursions in the Tokyo area as well as coordinating a couple of celebratory group dinners (and of course getting together with our son and family whenever possible). Some expenses will be paid by participants upfront, but the rest they will be responsible for covering on their own, including airfare, meals other than those provided, and all in-country transportation. WenYu has already almost saved enough from her work this summer to cover her expenses, and Meiling is also on her way to meeting her saving goal. I’ll post more details as they develop.

dreamstime_m_31478558-e1446053993687Finally, I have come up with a fabulous plan for another Mystery Vacation™ in 2017!! Hawai’i public schools take a week-long Fall Break every October, and it’s the perfect time to visit the destination I have in mind. I’ve done a bit of research into costs and it’s very doable and affordable. Brett told me after last spring’s trip to the Grand Canyon that I wasn’t allowed to plan another Mystery Vacation™, but both he and YaYu are once again on board and looking forward to being surprised. I’ll leave you all to start guessing where we might be going!

Rotorua, New Zealand - one of the places we hope to visit in the fall of 2018
Rotorua – we plan to visit New Zealand in the fall of 2018

Although 2017 looks to be a big year for travel, after we’re home from next year’s Mystery Vacation™ we will be taking nearly a year off from going anywhere. In the fall of 2018 it will be time to get YaYu off to college, and then Brett and I hope to visit New Zealand for a couple of weeks. We will not be able to go to Japan at all in 2018 as the first of our annual three-month visits will begin in 2019 (mid-February through mid-May), and Japan only allows visitors to be in country for 90 days in any 365-day period (unless you can get a special long-term visa, which is very difficult to obtain). We’re hoping though that our son and family will be able to make it over here sometime during the year. And of course, in between our travels we will be saving, saving, and saving so we can get up and go again!

Why I Love People Photography

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http://www.bartnikowski.com

The truth is, if you go back to your childhood days you’ll discover what you loved.

I was given my first camera at age 7 by my grandfather from Poland. It was a plastic Diana brand camera and I was smitten. I immediately started taking secret shots of my family. They frequently wouldn’t know I was photographing them.

I felt powerful catching them so candidly, their faces remarkably real.

And it was ultra fun! And to magically get the photographs returned in prints holding each one in my hot little hands to see and study was a miracle.

And now 5 decades later I’m still at it.

I started shooting professionally in 1981 in Palo Alto, California. It was a heady time to be in the center of Silicon Valley.

Apple Computer was exploding, Facebook was not even an idea, and Google was just getting financed by my next door neighbor.

Steve Job’s girlfriend lived across the street. He’d pick her up in a convertible and one time I got a picture of them kissing with my telephoto lens. One day I’ll publish it. He later married her.

When I think of Steve Jobs I see him kissing his future wife, not selling computers. 🙂

So yesterday I shot a family portrait at the ocean here on Kauai and it was so much fun that they had to remind me about getting paid.

I’m so grateful to do what I love. And this is after 29 years of being paid to take photographs. I’m still jazzed about it.

All 13 people yesterday were at ease with me immediately and ready to try my ideas and express their ideas too.

The thing is when I’m asked to take a milestone photograph of a family, I absolutely know that this is a historically magic moment in their lives. We won’t pass this way again, not quite like this. It’s bordering on the mystical as it makes me see how temporary our lives are.

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http://www.bartnikowski.com

It took me many years to learn how to photograph a child. I’ll save you the learning curve, here is the secret.

You wait until they relax into the moment and then you pounce and capture it fast. That’s how I got the first photograph of the girl in the tree above. I waited. 

I’m not all that patient but photographing people educates me on how to be patient. Perfect timing has to do with waiting and pouncing. You have to be fast to get that magical second when she won’t look that way again, this is her moment in the tree, and she’s happy.

No one told her to smile or pretend to be happy to get some ice cream, this was real.

You might only have one chance so you have to go for the gusto at the same time you’re waiting patiently.

It takes practice.

I remember the moment I realized that my finger snapped the photograph before my brain suggested it.

I was photographing a wedding at Stanford University and I was waiting for that perfect photo of the bride being walked down the aisle by her father.

I discovered that the magic moment is quite often before they take the first step down the aisle not while they are walking.

Dad and daughter looked at each other for a fleeting second. Boom, I got it.

They didn’t even know I took the photo they were so caught up in the moment before Dad would give her away. Love poured out of them and I was crying too. But crying doesn’t keep me from getting the shot, it only adds to it.

So my family wanted a fun ocean shot before going back to the mainland. I loved that the grown-ups were even more excited than the kids about it.

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http://www.bartnikowski.com

See more family photography here.

One thing I’m grateful for is the amazing people I’ve met from doing photography all these decades.

I’m still friends with many of the people I’ve photographed. Most of the 722 weddings I shot in Palo Alto, those couples are incredibly still together.

Shooting weddings renewed my faith in humanity. True love does happen.

And if you’re ever unsure of what you love to do, go back to your early days of childhood and remember what put a smile on your face.

Mary Bartnikowski, award-winning photographer, and author for 29 years has led programs at Apple, Intel, Stanford University and worldwide. She daily has her toes in sand, swims in the ocean, and laughs often. Join Mary for a private luxury retreat to learn photography and yoga on Kauai, details here.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

imagesAlthough I’m excited about starting a new year, I’m also feeling bittersweet about saying good-bye to 2015. It was a very good year for our family. Highlights include:

  • Meiling landing on her feet in Oregon, finding a job and saving enough to pay her college expenses.
  • fabulous trip to Japan in March with WenYu and YaYu, and getting to spend time with our son and family as well as Brett’s sister.
  • Celebrating our first year on Kaua’i in June!
  • WenYu and YaYu’s successful year at their new school. They made friends, lettered in three sports, and did exceptionally well in all their classes.
  • Brett’s great trip back to the mainland in September, getting Meiling settled at college and then continuing on a fun road trip with his sister before heading back to Kaua’i.
  • Successfully retiring from the state of Oregon in November, and getting my Social Security set up to begin in January.
  • Meeting and making friends with three readers (and their spouses) from the blog!
  • Finding a wonderful new house to rent in a great location.
  • WenYu’s selection as a national Questbridge Finalist in November, followed by her acceptance to Colorado College with a full scholarship during their Early Action round in December.
  • Our whole family being together on the island for a wonderful and memorable Christmas!

We have lots to look forward to in the upcoming new year: three trips (the Mystery Vacation™ in March, Oahu in June, and getting WenYu off to college in August), as well as other milestones, such as WenYu’s graduation from high school in May. Mostly though we’re hoping for continuing good health, a calm year, great weather and as many trips to the beach as possible!