I was laying in the bed of my aunt’s guest room in Fremont. I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about the trip to Rome I hadn’t booked. All my friends were getting ready to reconvene for the Way Up North Conference in the eternal city and I hadn’t verbalized this plan to anyone except for them, but it was a plan of mine since I returned home from La Graciosa in November. I had an engagement shoot in San Francisco the next morning so I needed to rest.
I booked it that night. A round trip to Copenhagen from Los Angeles and a one-way flight to Rome. I’ll figure out the rest later. The rest being the remainder of my flights to other cities, accommodations, and oh, telling my mom. On April 9th I’d have a wedding to shoot, and on April 30th, another one. With a few days at the end of the month for wiggle room in case TSA decides I’m cray or planes are missed or delayed, I deemed myself unavailable for two and half weeks to see my friends, rest, and explore a random calling that lay in Copenhagen before today, the day where I’d be back at a job and have rigid responsibilities for the rest of the year.
I finished the wedding in Anaheim on Saturday and got home at 10PM and tried to finish packing. Sunday, I drove to LA so my mom could take me to the airport (I finally told her about the trip) and I got on a flight to Toronto. I tried to meet with a friend, but the layover was too short and ended up being like a 10 minute layover. I bought an overpriced airport sandwich and got on the plane to Copenhagen. Keep in mind that this entry is a much more civilized rendition of the chicken scratch and unadulterated version in my journal where I give nicknames for people and sometimes bullet point-it because I’m too lazy.
I wasn’t particularly pleased on that leg of the race. I was sitting between this lady and her friend and I politely asked her if I could switch with her so they could be next to each other and so I could have the aisle. Nope. She said no. It’s fine she liked the aisle, but she basically blocked my access the entire flight because as soon as we took off she set up her own ipad entertainment system on the tray table and proceeded to fall asleep. However, it ended up being a really cool start to the trip. I listened to some Erwin McManus podcasts, a bit of Undiscovered, and fell asleep to my Discover Weekly. I remember getting up during sunrise. The flight info said that the land mass to the left was Iceland. I wanted to take a photo so I asked the guy on the window seat if he could snap a photo for me. This dude was on my previous flight to Toronto and I recalled him conversing with strangers about his experience at the Azusa Conference in LA. People were healed, people accepted Jesus, and he was fired up about this event and didn’t even care who was around him listening. This conversation about faith really inspired me in such a simple way, number one, because I still have those moments where I am afraid of speaking too loud or speaking about religion in a world where people get offended easily and are quick to judge. But why? What is there to even lose? It reminded me that as a Christian, we are always at war and the cost is high. There is suffering, but also sweetness. We talked a little about those who inspires us and also about what our views on religion in the US and Europe are. I also talked a little about how as a wedding photographer, it is sometimes disheartening to see others in the same line of work who don’t believe in what they photograph and just do it for the prestige or money. He prayed for me and encouraged me and told me that this upcoming trip would be so good. He even gave me contact info for his cousin at Hillsong Copenhagen which I would later check out in two weeks.With this, I was excited for the adventure to come. I arrived in Copenhagen at 11 AM local and found a juice/coffee joint that I will later be mentioning more about in this post. This begins my lethal mistake. Since the Danish dress so chic, I wanted to join the fun and switched from my Nikes to my leather boots that I wore at the wedding. Have your feet ever bloated up on a plane? Yeah, well I put these boots on and they didn’t fit anymore. I walked around the airport and finally boarded a cheap flight to Rome. The pain didn’t set in right away, but there was definitely something up. I arrived in the Ciampino Airport (a smaller airport) and changed my shoes right away. I planned to take the bus and metro to Rome, but I was already delayed and didn’t want my friend waiting too long so I caved and took a taxi.
I was warned many times about the taxi drivers in Rome, so I made sure to confirm the price of the trip and the destination before leaving. I really enjoyed my drive with Sergio. I tried to explain that I needed to get to Teatro Ambra Jovinelli and he new exactly where it was. I’ve experienced crazy drivers before, namely in the Philippines, but this taxi ride was definitely up there. I felt like a few pedestrians could have died. I remembering paying Sergio and I got out of the taxi, seeing all the photographers who had just barely finished hearing Ryan Muirhead speak, and I saw Martijn right away who waved at me and then saw Chris and Rafal. Amazing photographers these guys.
We walked to the hotel and I hurried to freshen up since the sun was setting and I needed to get in a bit of sightseeing before dark. Within 10 minutes, I saw the Colosseum and the Forum. The best part for me is walking the old streets and seeing these structures, thinking about how many centuries of history lies there. Incredible. It was really sweet at night because the crowds diminished and all that remained were a few vendors selling selfie sticks. At night, the feeling reminded me of going to a local beach, Newport pier maybe to grab some croissants at seaside while that guy tries to get you to pay him for taking a photo with his giant anaconda.
Once dark, we made our way to get some lasagna and aperitifs at Fariuché in the Monti area. I’m sorry, but I just wasn’t a fan. The first real deal meal of the trip is a hit or miss. Either the jetlag or travel fatigue can make anything taste good or bad. Later we met up with Maciej and Rafal at Analemma, met some new friends, and the Junebug wedding girls, and played Foosball before walking home and getting ready for the morning of speakers ahead.
Okay, first morning in a new city I’ve never been to. Italy was never on my top places to go and I remember the only chance I almost had was when I was in high school. However, the Rome portion was cancelled and we went to Madrid instead and that’s obviously when I fell in love with it and didn’t really prioritize any other destination. But here I was, a golden opportunity to be with creative friends to learn and explore a new place together. I love the first morning. You wake up a bit confused, maybe forget where you are, but also forget how tired you are because you’re way too excited it’s daylight and you get to see what everything really looks like. First up, the California chick chimed in and ran (really, ran because we were late) at the first opportunity to grab sustenance at a juice bar because last night’s meal already had our guts clogged. Martijn agreed… the guy grows his own food in Holland for goodness sakes. A fifteen minute walked led to getting a chocolate pastry instead and disappointment. Juicebar closed. Aromaticus killin’ us. In order to not get to the conference late, we just had to convenience store it. Banana, and a large water.
Arrived at the teatro with a minute to spare. I got my badge, found a seat, and took it all in. Countless photographers from all over the world and the anticipation of seeing more of all the right faces. I remember they were late. Of course. In walks Carmela, Dani, Hugo, Pablo. Five months isn’t a long time (especially since Pablo was just in California in February), however it always feels good to see old faces. We sat together and listened to the speakers of the day. I’m really happy I was able to snatch a ticket. Right away, I learned a ton and hope to apply what I learned to my work. Everyone’s presentation was so unique. The perspectives each had about the idea of being a storyteller, the importance of the moment vs. the shot, all valuable. It was really cool to see photographers and other artists whose work didn’t mimic one another, but is specifically crafted to their personality, place, and values.
During break time we all grabbed lunch. I found cheap gnocci after attempting to eat that old soggy overpriced sandwich from Toronto that I found in my purse. Big mistake. I’m gross. After all the speakers ended that day, it was a blur of taking photos in the street, grabbing espresso, and trying to get in a few more sights in before sundown. We eventually met up with Carmela’s friend Sergio who is a great artist as well and has a big beard and an even bigger heart.
The night ended with dinner at the same place I got the gnocci and a journey home to hotel where the fatal mistake happened. Painfully ripping off the bandage covering my blister, taking more skin with it and leaving, I don’t know…just blood cells? Still had to go to the goodbye get-together anyway which ended up being too crowded, everyone just stood outside of LYO. It was a fun/sad night of saying bye to everyone and a lot of gif making.
See Part Two soon, which mostly took place in Trastevere.