Who am I?
Throughout my youth, my parents had always encouraged me to get out and expand my horizons while carrying three values top of mind; always withhold judgement, maintain an open-mind, and think creatively in all pursuits. This upbringing was contrary to the childhood that many first generation children of two Chinese immigrant parents were exposed to. For that, I am grateful. When I was twelve years old my parents introduced me to mainland China where I was exposed to different cultures and ways of life during my formative years. The experience that sticks out in my mind the most was the village my father grew up in. A property that held 15 of my extended family members in a courtyard surrounded by high stone walls. The area housed a small communal dining area and a tiny kitchen with a stove made of stone fire pits. It had small shared rooms in the peripheral containing hard straw beds my family shared, no real plumbing or toiletry, and no running water for that matter other than a well in the center of the courtyard – the shower. Fast forward fifteen years later, I still carry those memories combined with the gratitude I have for what my parents have achieved for my younger sister and I; from the perspective of an adult and a young professional. However, I have increasingly found that balancing a passion of seeking life experiences becomes more and more difficult as you age and progress through your career. Time becomes the most valuable commodity for which you have zero control over aside from what you decide to spend it on.
Who am I?
Rewind to graduation day. Graduating from university and landing that first post-grad job is a huge step into the next stage of life for many. Priorities at that age were superficial to me; get compensated for your work, acquire awesome toys, create a presentable wardrobe, impressing women on dates. Everyone is different, but this was very much my experience. Unfortunately for myself, within a couple years I had lost sight of my core values. I became judgmental, closed-minded, and had lost my ability to think and express myself creatively - lost myself. Comfortable, some would likely say. Westernized, others would say. For years, I knew it was more than a lifestyle and cultural dissonance. I was distant with friends and family, had lost enjoyment in hobbies, realized the image of success and materialism that society pushed was not one worth obtaining if it meant losing the things I loved, nor my sanity.
Who am I?
Plot twist. I began backpacking - with my little sister, solo, with friends. Directly clashing with the lifestyle that is typical of corporate professionals. When you travel more and more often, you frequently find yourself in bizarre places, facing unfamiliar cultures, at strange times likely with the inability to communicate properly. Uncertainty and fear of leaving the safety of your comfort zone can be crippling, but pushing through it provides so many intangible rewards. This has undoubtedly been one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned, and aspire to continue to develop.
December 2014 - Innsbruck, Austria
Solo. Christmas day. My plan since leaving the states was to snowboard at Stubaier Gletscher with a day pass I had booked months before. By mistake, I hopped on the wrong bus that morning from the hotel which dropped me off at the wrong location after an hour and a half ride...Hell, I was stranded at the wrong mountain peak, Axamer Lizum! With no recourse, I ended up spending the day hiking and shooting photos of the area and heading back to my hostel. Defeated.
That same night, through telling my story to patrons at the hostel I met someone whom happened to have similar plans the next day. We made plans to tackle the mountain together and met up the next morning. Fortunately, a snowstorm picked up and dumped fresh snow all-day! As the light wound down, sore and content, I was invited come out again the next day. Turns out, she had friends of friends in the area whom had plans to go up to their favorite winter-sport spot, Kühtai. The plan had been to depart to Salzburg that night, but I canceled my plans and train ticket out of town, booked another night at the hostel, and the next morning she had her local contacts pick us up in their van. Instantly and unexpectedly, I was welcomed into a group of complete strangers to snowboard and spend the day with. So much fun!
The next morning, my newfound travel friend also happened to be heading to Salzburg. We decided to catch a train and provide company to one another on the way to our next destination, developing a rare bond that I've learned is difficult to re-produce. We still keep in touch.
As for those photos I took the day I made my initial mistake of riding the wrong bus? One of them eventually became the cover photo for this website.
Over the years, numerous, similarly adventurous stories have re-defined the plot of my life. Not having a plan sometimes turns out better than we can ever fathom. This is in direct contrast to when society tells you what you need to accomplish your whole life; go to school, get good grades, obtain a career, manage your finances, find a spouse, change the world....all before you can even legally drink (in the United States). Absolutely shocking, I know.
Who am I?
With these experiences tucked safely under my belt and more to come. Highly diminished are the feelings of anxiety over the next material purchase, test scores, deadlines at work, and the performance of the retirement account. In that newly created space, a calm, peaceful, and reassuring confidence in embracing what the future holds and what the next travel experience will bring. This site marks the beginning of a slightly different path. One where the new uncertainty lies in challenging myself to uncover the unlimited wealth of experiences that the world holds and sharing those memories through photography and writing.
I am Alex