An Inside Look at Shooting In Iceland

Posted by Michael Coen

Usually, you want as much time as possible to plan for a video shoot. Pre-production is often the most important phase, as it sets the tone for how a project will go. In this case Chris, the founder of Matador, called me up with about 5 days notice and asked if I wanted to go to Iceland to document the process of getting photography for the launch of their new product line. All notions of pre-production went out the window and off to Iceland we went.

 Photo by Adam Swartz

Photo by Adam Swartz

Alongside Chris and photographers Matt Brodeur and Adam Swartz, it was not only one of the most fun shoots I’ve experienced to date, but also one of the most challenging. Since a main goal was to test adventure products in “real-world” conditions, we were essentially seeking out bad weather. That coupled with trying to cram as many photo opportunities into one short trip, my hands were full as the sole videographer on the project. My approach was to capture as much footage as possible and bank on Tabitha and I being able to bring it all together in the edit later on.

Here’s an inside look at how I approached a last minute shoot in Iceland.

 Photo by Matt Brodeur

Photo by Matt Brodeur

Goals

There’s always a goal in mind when it comes to your production and the footage you need to capture. For this video it was pretty straightforward.

  1. Show the bags being put to the test.

  2. Incorporate the purpose of the trip which was to get photo assets for their launch.

  3. Make it visually fun to watch.

Gear List

  • Sony A7SII Camera

  • Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens

  • Glidecam HD-2000 Handheld Gimbal

  • Edelkrone Motion Control Medium Slider Pro

  • Mavic Pro Drone

  • Sony RX100V (Back-Up Pocket Camera)

  • Rode Video Mic Pro

 Photo by Matt Brodeur

Photo by Matt Brodeur

Capture methods

Glidecam - I didn’t get to use this as much as I wanted. It came in handy to get some smooth shots here and there but because of the windy conditions, it was usually impossible to keep stable. If I had to do this same shoot again, I would bring something like a Ronin-S (strong motors and single-person operation) for floaty, buttery, landscape footage.

 Photo by Matt Brodeur

Photo by Matt Brodeur

Slider - Had we been backpacking or traveling in anything other than a Land Rover Defender, I would have left this behind. For how small it is, it’s a pretty great way to get well-produced shots on a budget. But it’s still heavy and can be cumbersome, taking time away from getting other shots you could be getting. It was a bonus and probably accounts for 1 or 2 shots in the entire video.

 Photo by Matt Brodeur

Photo by Matt Brodeur

Drone - You can’t go to Iceland and not get aerial footage right? Even if it’s on a dinky Mavic Pro, I still needed to get something up in the air and capture those insane Icelandic landscapes. Midway through, the drone malfunctioned in a dust storm and was useless for the rest of the trip. I’m still glad I brought it though and would probably spring for a nicer drone package if I ever go back.

 Photo by Matt Brodeur

Photo by Matt Brodeur

Handheld - Good ol’ trusty handheld footage. Most of this video was shot handheld, using the neck strap for stabilization. My go-to method was shooting in 120 frames per second and slowly swaying from side to side to get a slight tracking or wrapping shot. I looked like a dancing fool in real life but it gets the job done and adds subtle motion to an otherwise static shot. It would have been nice to have a bigger production camera like a Sony FS7, but shooting on a small A7SII allowed me to be really versatile as a solo-camera operator in some less-than-desirable conditions. The on-camera monitor did fail on me during an ice storm and has never quite been the same since, but other than that the A7SII really held its own.

 Photo by Matt Brodeur

Photo by Matt Brodeur

My biggest takeaway from the whole thing is that ‘less is more.’ I think you can create some pretty fun content with a “prosumer” camera, one lens and a packable drone. Would I like to have shot this on a Red Weapon and DJI Matrice 600 Pro Drone? Of course! But there’s no way I would have been able to capture everything we were exposed to without being as nimble and unrestricted as I was. There will always be bigger and better gear. Just go shoot!

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Special thanks to Matador for always pushing their brand and continuously creating opportunities for content creators like me.

 Photo by Matt Brodeur

Photo by Matt Brodeur

Watch the video here: https://vimeo.com/295827390

Written by Michael Coen and Tabitha Yeasley


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Burn the Boxes

Posted by Tabitha Yeasley

When you’re little, you learn to identify people by the role they play, most of the time, by their profession. So we show little kids these photos and we say “Who is that?” The answer: “A fireman. A doctor. A teacher.” Yes, that might be what they are dressed as in that children’s book, and since it’s not Halloween anymore it might even be their current profession, but is that really WHO they are? No one tells you what they do when they’re not at work, their interests or hobbies, or other skills. Maybe that fireman likes to do interior design. Maybe that doctor prefers animals to people. Maybe that teacher is actually a retired MMA fighter. And maybe they all met at a KISS concert. But so much focus from the world around us when we’re growing up is on the one thing we want to be when we finally get there. The one thing. Like that’s all you get. And some people come out red faced and screaming and know that one day they will be a writer or a therapist or an athlete. And some people come out knowing that they will be all of these things. Too many things to hold sometimes. 

And people inevitably will try to put you in this box that looks like who they want you to be but the truth is: you don’t live there and you don’t have to stay there. The world will look at you and try to define you. In reality, some people are fairly easy to figure out. And then there are some of us that the world just doesn’t understand. They look at you and they see one thing, and then you open your mouth and they realize you’re other things too. But they still can’t quite place it. Maybe there isn’t a word or a label for it. For you. So they put you in the closest box that makes any sense and walk away. And if you’ve ever struggled with this, if people can’t figure you out right away, you’ve probably felt misunderstood, and less of a connection because of it. And maybe you’ve felt a little lost and have no idea which direction you should take at times. Maybe you’ve had to try to figure this out for yourself, all on your own, and maybe you’re still figuring it out. But remember this: You are not what your boss tells you you’re good at. You are not what your partner or your parents or your friends from college think of you. You are not your 9-5 or your Saturdays or your Sunday night. You are so much more. 

Yet the world still tells you to choose one thing. But I will let you in on a little secret I learned the hard way: you do not have to choose. You can be many things, or all the things. You can be a singer and an actress and a businesswoman and a producer and a mom. You don’t have to choose. And for some of us, how do you possibly choose when you have so many interests, passions, and skills? For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why I wanted to be and do so many different things. Why am I good at a lot of different things, but not really amazing at one specific thing like some people are? 

For a while, I wished hard that I could excel at just one thing, so the decision could be clear. And I tried to put myself in this box, and give myself one direction to follow, and in ways I’m still headed there, although it looks a bit different now. A bit bigger. But I’m learning that every little path that you veer off onto still gets you where you’re meant to go. Detours still get you home. I’m giving myself permission to take them because I will see more, and learn more, along the way.  

And if you’ve ever bounced around from job to job unhappy, or tried hobby after hobby until you get bored each time, and thought “Maybe there is something wrong with me and I’ll never be happy anywhere. Maybe I’ll never be satisfied.” Reality check: Maybe just not in the box that the world puts you in. So I say, screw the boxes! Put them in a pile and burn them! Stop putting yourself and each other into boxes that are too tight for us to fit in. You can’t grow inside a box. You can’t shine there either. 

So what if you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? I used to cry to Michael, “I want to do it all!” And the stone-hard truth he will always tell me is: you can. And when you learn that truth, it will set you free, let me tell you. When you decide for yourself that you can be exactly what you want and if that’s a lot of things or a few things or one thing, and if that changes and evolves over time, that’s quite alright. It’s all quite alright. 

And not that there needs to be a box, or a label, to make it official. But being a multipotentialite sounds pretty cool to me. 

 

Freelancing: 7 Rules to Live By

Freelancing is on the rise. Studies suggest that Freelancers account for over 30% of the United States workforce, and that number is rapidly growing as younger, more technology-oriented generations are entering the workforce. There are obvious benefits like time-flexibility, being your own boss, and my personal favorite come tax season - writing off expenses that both benefit your business and your personal life (especially travel). After countless conversations with friends about pursuing passions and how to turn a hobby into a profession, I came up with these 7 rules to live by as a freelancer.

Rule #1: Love what you do.

Or better said, don’t try to create a business out of something you don’t love. Freelancing is hard work and unless you have incredible discipline, working on a business that you don’t instinctively want to work on all the time, you’ll either burn out or it won’t be a successful venture. There are too many people out there to compete with who wake up every day fully devoted to their freelance business. Not possessing that same insatiable appetite for what you do will make life very difficult. There is nothing wrong with doing a job that you’re not obsessed with but there are easier ways to earn a paycheck than self-employment.

Rule #2: Do what you love.

This is important for people in the beginning stages of freelancing and I can’t stress this enough. Do, do, do. I talk to loads of people who love the idea of turning an interest into a career but what I see is a huge gap between people with dreams and those who are actually taking actionable steps to achieve them. Easier said than done, I know… You’re hosting game night this week. Your kids have basketball practice. Your friends and family will think you’re weird. Netflix is crack. There will always be excuses to not practice your craft, but making your hobby a profession won’t happen unless you make time for it. Allow yourself to be obsessed. If you don’t scratch the itch that is the thing you think about when you wake up, when you daydream, when you go to bed, your dream will remain just that, a dream. For those who always make excuses to not scratch this itch, I worry about the regret you will have later on in life. Make time.

Rule #3: Say yes… at first.

This should come in the same breath as Rule #2. Say yes to any and all opportunities that give you a reason to practice your craft. I don’t care if you’re not being paid enough, if it’s pro-bono or even if you’re losing money at first. This will unquestionably lead to bigger and better gigs. You may look back on these initial projects and laugh at how bad you performed or how little you knew. That doesn’t matter. Make a fool of yourself and reap the benefits of where it takes you.

Rule #4: Then say no.

Once you’ve committed to enough yes’s, you need to start saying no. I’ve listened to enough Tim Ferris podcasts to know how dangerous the busy trap is. It’s inevitable that if you say yes enough, those yes’s will dominate your life and keep you from progressing. Don’t let fear of not landing your next project keep you from waiting for projects that improve your business. The hard part is exercising the discipline to wait for a better opportunity. If you feel like your freelance business has plateaued, talk to friends about where you are and where you want to be. Ask for advice. Better yet, find a mentor and ask about critical junctions in their history that brought them success. 

Rule #5: Don’t be afraid to self-promote.

This one is probably the hardest for me in practice. In a world of unrestrained narcissism and self-promotion, I often question why the world needs another person tooting their own horn. To be brutally honest, it doesn’t. The world doesn’t need another photographer, hat designer, lifestyle brand, or swimsuit model. But you know what the world also doesn’t need? Another 9 to 5 financial analyst working for a large corporation. Don’t assume that you have to be Banksy to be successful as a self-employed hustler. Let your passion drive you and don’t over-concern yourself with how to differentiate yourself. If you’re good at what you do, there are plenty of clients to go around. Social media platforms own the attention of just about everyone. Utilize them, show your work and enjoy interacting with your community, no matter how big or small. If you think your business wouldn’t benefit from promotion on these platforms, you are in denial. Relentlessly follow your passion and ignore the haters. There’s plenty to go around.

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Rule #6: Be a leader of people.

As your business grows, you’ll inevitably need help. Run your freelance business like a leader of a bigger company with multiple employees. As you hire contractors, treat them like your employees. Ensure that they are benefiting from the project just as much as you. Consider paying them a little more than they ask for. Create a nice atmosphere for them to work in. Don’t make them feel like you are using them for a means to an end. After all, they are representing you and your brand. If you treat them right, they’ll treat your clients right. They’ll also be more eager to work with you the next time you ask for help. This also allows you to be more confident when you go after bigger clients, knowing you have a trustworthy team to rely on.

Rule #7: Exceed client expectations.

This should be a given for any business but it’s especially important for freelancers. Whether you’re doing a project for Nike or your aunt’s Essential Oils business, always deliver a better product/service than what they expect. Not only is this the right thing to do, it will create returning customers and valuable referrals. Repeat business and referred customers will reduce your need to spend time on sales, marketing, business development and self-promotion. Don’t get me wrong, all those things are important. But having satisfied clients vouch for you and essentially play these roles for you will undoubtedly save you from constantly worrying about where your next project comes from. Short of creating a business model with recurring revenue, exceeding client expectations is the best way to ensure consistent success. 

No matter what industry you work in, freelancing is tough. You have to put in the hours, wear many hats and be able to stomach some serious risk. But with a little perseverance and patience, it gets easier to find success and ultimately live a very fulfilled life. Hopefully these rules to live by help a little bit too. 

Written by Michael Coen, Edited by Tabitha Yeasley.

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How We Ended Up Here


Posted by Tabitha Yeasley

A song came on the radio the other day, “Maybe I’m better off alone.” It was just background noise, but I couldn’t help but think that I don’t believe that, that anyone is really better off alone. I think maybe if you feel that, maybe you just haven’t found the right person. That person who believes in you more than you do. That person who makes you happier than you’ve ever been to be alive, and more scared of not being so than you ever thought you would. 

We met at a happy hour in the Fall of 2015. Not long after, we were at his favorite Portland bar, sitting under a map of the world on the wall, when Michael told me he wanted to spend a year traveling abroad. In those early days of our relationship, I convinced him that we should travel together. I lived alone in a somewhat expensive neighborhood and I knew I needed to save money if that was going to happen. That was one of the biggest reasons why after only six months of knowing each other, we made the decision to move into an apartment together. What was practical to us may have seemed a little crazy to others, but we spent the next six months of our short term lease saving and confirming that we really liked being around each other. In May 2016, my dad got sick. And he nearly died. And we came home from the hospital and realized it was time to stop talking about the life we wanted, and to start living it.  

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If you’ve followed along on our story you’ve heard some of this before. But what you may not know is that finding Matador was one of the happiest accidents of my life. Of our life. I can’t really call it just my own anymore. 

We wanted sponsors for our first long term international travel adventure. Michael was just starting his career in film, and he had the idea of making videos while we traveled to help fund our trip. I told my friends at my job about what our plans were, and one of my coworkers suggested we look up something called Matador Networks, a site with a lot of travel videography. I googled “Matador” and clicked on Matadorup.com. Not the Matador Networks she was talking about, but as I scrolled through the page I thought, “No, this is even better.” So I sent an email. The first of several of its kind to potential sponsors, but for some reason, this one stuck. 

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Now I know first-hand that they get a ton of emails like this. Maybe it was perfect timing, but I guess we just got lucky that we actually sparked their attention. So the conversation began and we agreed: we would take Matador’s gear with us to Europe and produce their product videos while we traveled, in exchange for some monetary support. We became some of the first Matador Brand Ambassadors. We had no idea how small the brand was at the time. We had no idea how fast they were growing.

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And we had no idea that that would be the email that eventually led us here, to Boulder. When we got back from Europe in January 2017, we kept the relationship going and continued to make videos for Matador. We loved their products, and we loved making videos together. Cut to that summer, late July. Michael took a road trip, and visiting Matador at the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah was a priority stop. This happens to be the same trade show that they were attending when they received my email a year earlier. Michael mentioned my operations background, that we weren’t necessarily tied to Portland, and that Boulder seemed like a great place. They mentioned they were looking for another person to add to their team. 

The next week, it was my turn to receive an email. I asked my questions via phone and email and the next thing I knew we were flying out to Boulder to visit. I went through the interview process. We explored the town and the mountains nearby. We went back to Portland. I got the job offer. I accepted. We moved. And here we are. Now I’m answering those emails. And we’re slowly but surely making new friends, and finding our place here. And the truth is, it’s not always easy, there are still growing pains, but we’re not doing it alone. Because at the end of the day, as long as we’re together, I’m always home.

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It still blows me away that sending an email can change the course of your life this much. And then I look at Michael and think, hell, it blows me away that a happy hour can change the course of your life this much. But you just never know. 

Because you make all these plans, and you have all these dreams, but you’re never really quite prepared for what life throws your way. So if you’re wondering if you should, you probably should. Talk to that stranger. Make that call. Accept the invitation. Actually go. Write the words, build the new thing, stand up and do what you’ve always wanted even though it scares the hell out of you. Send that email. Share it with someone, anyone, because none of us were meant to be alone. 

I promise you’ll be better off. 


Kilimanjaro

Posted by Michael Coen

Day 0: Village

 Innocent gave me a ride into Moshi in the afternoon. What a beautiful name, I thought. 

“I know what the word means but not why my parents give me this,” he said in rough English.

I wanted to do something instead of sit around all day at the Stella Maris, prolonging my jet lag. So I went on a mission to buy some gum for the big trek. I like chewing gum as a distraction when I cover long distances and since I had shit else to do, it would give me a reason to see what Moshi was like. Innocent dropped me off as we made a plan to rendezvous later on. My first impression of Moshi was nothing special. It’s not a large town but it seemed busy and fast-paced. It was nice to walk around but I wasn’t overstimulated. I bought some gum from a tiny store and as I was about to chalk it up as an uneventful day, a local kid approached me. 

“Ziggy” he said his name was. He looked about 15 even though he said he was 20. We talked about art and how he liked to paint. He kept mentioning a space where he does his work with friends. “Like a creative studio,” I said trying to aid his attempt in broken english to describe this place. The more we talked the more interested I became, so I finally just asked him to take me there. 

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We walked a few blocks away to meet Simoni. He looked about my age (28) and had an older brother vibe. He was very hospitable and immediately arranged for some of his buddies to take the lot of us to the ‘studio’ via motorcycles. After a truly terrifying ride to the outskirts of town, I was in a small village of dirt roads and mud houses. The living conditions weren’t ideal but it didn’t keep them from making their own paint from scratch and creating some captivating pieces of Tanzanian art.

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It was here that I met who seemed to be their leader; this master artist introduced himself as “Ziggy.” 

“Wait, I thought he was Ziggy,” I said perplexed as I pointed to little Ziggy. “Ah, yes we all go by Ziggy because we make art together and sell under one name.” Interesting. Older Ziggy seemed to be not just a brilliant artist but also somewhat of an entrepreneur, whether he knew it or not. We all had a laugh as they passed around a joint and some fermented alcohol drink they made from fruit. I bought a small painting and let the lead Ziggy paint my white vans.

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Simoni then showed me around the village. He explained that they all grew up on the streets of Moshi. Now they use their art to teach kids through a makeshift after-school program. They show them how to make their own paint, and turn plastic into earrings and other jewelry. He wasn’t asking for money, just genuinely wanted to share what they were up to. I wanted to stay longer but told them that I would be going up the mountain the next day and needed to get back to the hotel.

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As I made my way back to the meeting spot, I thought about how lame it was that I was headed back to a hotel with hot water, refrigeration, and functioning wifi, completely insulated from the real world happenings around Moshi. 

I was late getting back to Innocent. He said he was worried about me. I apologized, and all was well.

Day 1: Jungle

It was good to see the guys. Kyle, who has been my friend since we were toddlers, had just gotten in from Zanzibar with Justin. Justin, who I became friends with through Kyle, put the whole trip together. Those two have travelled a lot as a duo and I was excited to join them on this expedition. The fourth person in our group was Todd. He was about 10 years older than me and had worked with Justin in a past lifetime. I thought it was cool they had stayed in touch. Todd didn’t make it to breakfast though. He flew into Tanzania the latest out of all of us and his luggage had been lost along the way. He was not in good spirits and that worried Kyle because we hadn’t seen him eat much.

The hour between breakfast and when the van picked us up felt like three hours. We had to weigh our duffel bags to make sure they weren’t too heavy. I remember worrying that I had forgotten something because I had the lightest pack in the group. Instead of looking at what I might be missing, I just made conversation and pretended that I wasn’t nervous.

After arriving at the Marangu entrance and waiting for Aaron, a Tanzanian local and our lead guide, to complete the rigmarole of getting us through the gate, we were finally moving up the mountain. Starting at 6,102’ (1,860m) elevation, we hiked through a dense jungle full of colobus monkeys and other critters.

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I couldn’t believe how slow we moved. We were warned about ‘pole-pole,’ or ‘slowly-slowly,’ as the mantra for ascending but I didn’t think we would be inching along this slowly on day one. I began questioning whether Mt. Kilimanjaro was all it was cracked up to be. Could this guided tour be another tourist trap? Or was what lied ahead so difficult that you actually had to crawl at a snail’s pace to avoid the dreaded altitude sickness?

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When we arrived to Mandara Hut at 8,907’ (2,715m), I had to pee really badly so I sprinted over to the bathroom. That was a dumb thing to do. Not only did I look stupid running across camp but I would spend the next half hour breathing earnestly to bring my heart rate back down. This led to some questioning, “If I’m struggling down here, how the hell am I going to make it to the top?” After calming down, it became apparent that I needed to be careful with how much energy I exerted at once. My heart rate went back to normal and my nerves went away. Relax. Bring on a new day.

Day 2: Cloud Forest

Our morning began with some Indian guy speaking at full volume 3 hours before we had to be on the trail. On everyone’s behalf, Kyle yelled at him from our bunk, which entertained me. Sleep was a precious commodity and one to be guarded vigilantly. 

 Justin looking for bars.

Justin looking for bars.

Acetazolomide, commonly referred to as Diamox, is a drug that is recommended to prevent altitude sickness - and an intense drug it is. Justin was losing feeling in his fingertips and our guide told him to take half as much. Then the symptoms hit me. Numb fingers, toes, and heels, and generally feeling off. I decided to lessen my dose from 500mg to 125mg and I quickly felt like myself again. Another side effect is an increased amount of urine. Note to self: drink water throughout the day instead of chugging it all at camp. Holy shit, getting out of your sleeping bag to pee multiple times throughout the night is no fun. Bring a pee container next time! It's amazing how bodily functions that are ordinary in the normal world are a pain in the ass on the mountain.

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As the day advanced, everyone was in love with the scenery. We were finally getting up into some real elevation and with that came a different climate with giant groundsels endemic to Kilimanjaro. The cool, misty cloud forest was a welcomed change from the hot jungle. 

 Giant Groundsels.

Giant Groundsels.

I was beginning to find my groove on this new planet, chewing my minty gum and covering long distances with ease. Everyone except for Todd was feeling pretty good and even he was doing fine despite not eating much.

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Now at Horombo Hut at 12,155’ (3,705m), we discussed an idea that I knew had a growing possibility. The idea was to skip our acclimatization day on day 3 and push to Kibo Hut instead of hiking up a few thousand feet and then back down again. Justin, Kyle and myself all felt good so we definitely liked the idea since the weather and momentum seemed to be on our side. Todd also capitulated because reducing our hiking expenditure by a whole day outweighed the potential benefits of the extra acclimation. So, the decision was unanimous. Tomorrow we would push for Kibo Hut, the last camp before summit day.

 From left to right; Me, Kyle, Todd & Justin near Zebra Rock.

From left to right; Me, Kyle, Todd & Justin near Zebra Rock.

Day 3: Desert

I woke up feeling great after getting more sleep than expected above 12,000’. Kyle didn’t sleep much and said that at one point all three of us were snoring. Justin seemed like he was feeling well but it was hard to tell because he doesn’t really complain. Todd felt horrible and once again didn’t eat much throughout the day. He was getting harassed by our guide and I felt bad for him. Nevertheless we were all up and moving.

The clouds had cleared and I got my first glimpse of the Uhuru Peak. Now it was real. Now I could see it and because of that, my fight mode kicked in. In my mind the chance of making it to the top was 100%. 

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Slowly, we moved through a bone-dry, high desert. It was like walking across the moon only instead of floating along with each stride, we slogged with one foot in front of the other. We crossed the saddle, passed the majestic Mawenzi Peak, and finally up to Kibo Hut at 15,518’ (4,730m). 

The camp vibe at Kibo Hut was different. I felt a stark contrast between this place and the latter camp. Horombo was a friendly place to be. The energy was a mix of excitement and celebration. But at Kibo, people were cranky. Everyone had a sort of don’t fuck with me kind of attitude, like they were hungover. Nobody was welcoming and it was obvious that low oxygen levels made even the most routine tasks an annoying chore. 

I happened to go to the squatty potties at the same time as Kyle.

“Did you see that one?” He asked. 

“No, is it gross?” I replied, not fully in the mood to look at a poopy bathroom.

He pointed down at the hole. There were fresh blood spatters in and around the hole. Someone had a bad day.

It was time to rest before dinner as the image kept popping into my head of the poor soul who was dealing with something like blood out their ass at 15,000+ feet. I couldn't shake the sense that something was looming as I finally drifted off into a restless sleep. 

Somebody woke me up to eat dinner and I felt like I had been hit by a train. So this is what altitude sickness feels like, huh? I made it to the dinner table only to feel my world crashing in on me. This feeling was so sudden I couldn’t prepare for what was about to happen. I grabbed a dinner bowl and vomited into it until it overflowed, spilling into my hands and onto the floor. There were two other climbing groups in the room which made for a synchronized gasp among all. I stared down at what had just come out of me. In perfect timing, Kyle remarked, “About time we had a little adversity.” I was handed a bigger bowl to deal with my puke. I then made my way back out to the squatty potties. On the way I stopped every 10 feet to forcibly puke off to the side of the trail until I could only hurl stomach bile. I made it to the squatters to find that I had shat myself. Fuck. Not only did I feel like I had the worst hangover I’ve ever had (which is saying a lot) but now I had to deal with cleaning myself, all while being careful not to expend too much energy and make my heart race at a dangerous pace.

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I got a hold of myself and realized that the most beautiful sunset was happening. I wasn’t enjoying it but the photographer in me couldn’t let those colors go to waste. I grabbed Kyle as my subject and took the last photograph I would take during my entire time in Tanzania. 

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Day 4: Mountain

This day arrived too quickly. I thought I would magically heal during the night. Instead, I was worse. My unstable stomach was now accompanied by the chills, a headache and a fever that was getting more concerning by the hour. It was the first time that I had considered that what was happening to me wasn’t caused by the altitude. Certainly, breathing unsatisfactory oxygen didn’t help but why would I have a fever? I wished my girlfriend, Tabitha was with me. She always knows what to do. I had printed a picture of her and kept it in my wallet so I could look at it if I ever got into trouble. I stared at the sassy expression on her face and like a catholic holding a rosary, that photo was what I needed to carry on.

Getting out of my bunk for our 2:00 am wakeup call was like trying to disconnect a bomb. Nothing makes sense. All my clothes look the same. Where do all these zippers lead? Fuck my chewing gum. I remember sitting up whispering to myself “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.” I wasn’t even talking about the summit. I was just hoping to make it out of the hut. I thought if I could just take it one step at a time, I would be at the top with Kyle, Justin and Todd by sunrise. That image kept replaying in my head and it drove me to desperately swallow a deluge of drugs as a Hail Mary attempt to fix myself. 

  • 500mg of Acetazolamide to prevent further altitude sickness
  • 8mg of Dexamethasone to mitigate the symptoms of altitude sickness
  • 4mg of Ondansetron, a high powered anti-nausea pill used for treating people undergoing chemotherapy
  • 1000mg of Tylenol for my fever
  • Imodium for the diarrhea
  • Pepto Bismol to help relieve my stomach

On we marched through the cold, dark morning. The stomach pains were so intense that I began to hunch over. Kyle handed me a pole and I used it for what had to be the weirdest hiking technique. I was so nauseous that I used it to hold my forehead up as I scooted up the hill like a living tripod. Without any water or food in my system, a fever was starting to take its toll on my mind. I was moving too slow and it was obvious that I was holding our group back.

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Like a good guide, Aaron stayed back with me while the guys continued on. With frozen tears on my face, I couldn’t even look them in the eyes as they passed. Why can’t I feel better?

I told Aaron that I was going to make it no matter what - that if we just went slow I could do it. He said he liked my determination. I made it to about 16,000’ (4,877m) before I finally collapsed and laid on the ground. At this point, the fever had nearly taken over as delirium set in. Aaron looked down over me with his headlamp shining in my eyes. “Mike! Don’t go to sleep, Mike! Don’t go to sleep!” As obvious as it is to not go to sleep on a rocky path in freezing temperatures, I sure fucking wanted to. I hated accepting that I couldn’t go any further with every bone in my body. Combined with how terrible I felt from whatever was making me sick, the despondence was rampant. 

Aaron had managed to get me up and was now holding my arm, helping me get back down the mountain. I knew my body was not supposed to be upright as every inch of movement was excruciating. As we got closer to camp, I pulled over and violently vomited until I was heaving bile out of my stomach again. If I could just get to Kibo, I could sleep this off and try again the next morning. I still couldn’t accept reality. It just happened so damn fast I didn’t have time to admit defeat. Despite believing through all of day 4 that I still had a chance to summit Kilimanjaro, I would not make another attempt.

I passed out at Kibo Hut and a few hours later, Aaron woke me up. “Mike, how are you feeling?” “Like shit, Aaron. I can’t move,” I mumbled. “Ok, then we go back down.” 

At that point, I put my disappointment on hold because getting off the mountain was a new goal that would require a great deal of effort in itself. Aaron’s plan was to hike with me back to Horombo Hut and have a van drive me down the backside service road where another driver would pick me up from the Marangu Gate and take me back to the Stella Maris Lodge. With diarrhea plaguing me every hour and extreme nausea making every move difficult, I agreed with whatever meant getting me to a place where I could pass out again. 

Hiking down to Horombo was miserable. I had to stop and puke so often that I felt Aaron getting annoyed. He could not grasp the fact that my conditions weren’t improving. He was so used to dealing with people inflicted by Acute Mountain Sickness that he just assumed that’s what was happening to me too. But it felt more like the flu or maybe food poisoning.

Hike, puke, drink water, repeat. I must have vomited 10 times between Kibo and Horombo. The further down we went, the more bullshit was dealt by the mountain gods. The van was late. When it arrived, it was full of other sick people and workers hitching a ride. My duffel didn’t make it into the vehicle, which added another few hours to the ordeal. Two of the worst van rides of my life later, I was finally at the Stella Maris. It was fully booked so I was annexed to an overflow building with no phone, no wifi, and no mirror so I couldn’t see what I looked like. I didn’t want to. 

Day 5: Sleep

Innocent made sure I had the basics and sent food and water to my room, none of which I could keep down, but it was nice to know that he was there, looking out for me.  I surrendered into a deep sleep and effectively hibernated for about 36 hours. I was on my way back to feeling like a human again. 

After getting everything out of my system, I was on the road to recovery. The last couple of days had been a blur. What the fuck just happened? Did I really not make it up? It could have been a dream if I didn’t have the shit stained hiking pants to legitimize it. I google/self-diagnosed myself with gastroenteritis a.k.a. the god damned stomach flu in concert with severe dehydration. I will never know exactly what caused it whether it was the bathroom conditions or something I ate. Regardless, it was the most poorly timed stomach bug of my entire life and one that not only kept me from achieving something I had worked hard for but one that could have killed me, given where I was. I weighed myself using a scale in the lobby and calculated that I lost 15 lbs during the ordeal. At 6’3” (183cm) I went from an already slender 182 lbs (82.5kg), and was now a skinny 167 lbs (75.7kg).

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Day 6: Resurrection

Fortunately, I was getting my appetite back and mustered up some good spirit in time for the return of the guys. They didn’t look great and I had learned that Todd didn’t make it to Uhuru Peak with Kyle and Justin. After a brief chat in the lobby, looking like he had seen better days, he peeled off and walked up to his room. Justin looked like a shell of himself and almost immediately went to bed. Kyle was annoyed with the end-of-the-hike ceremonial bullshit and what sounded like an awkward tipping fiasco but was otherwise fine. 

As Kyle and I made our way to our respective rooms, he told me how worried he had been and that he had a cry on the way up the mountain without me. He knew I was struggling and he consoled me like we had gone to war together, acknowledging that I put up a fight. 

Back in my room, alone with my thoughts, I was looking to draw any lesson from this experience. I thought about how fast things can change. Just 5 days ago I was exploring Moshi, fascinated by the Ziggys. I was full of hope and wonder about this spectacular place. Not shortly after, I was holding onto life, wishing more than anything to be back in Colorado with Tabs. Instead of holding Tanzania in high regard in my mental book of travels, it’s now tainted to me. I have to explain to my friends and family that I didn’t make it up Mt. Kilimanjaro. I set out to accomplish something and the truth is, I failed. While that’s not easy to accept, my challenge becomes finding beauty in that failure. For now, I know the limit of my body. I know the feeling of having nothing left in the tank. I reached the end of my humanness and deeply knowing this limit is a very powerful tool. All I can do is learn to wield it carefully and confidently, using it to find successes in my life that are far more complex than summiting a mountain. 

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Written by Michael Coen. Edited by Tabitha Yeasley.

Finding Providence: The Real Hidden Treasure of the Caribbean

Posted by Tabitha Yeasley

January 14th, 2018

If you use Google to help you find your next travel destination, like we sometimes do, you can google “best beaches in Colombia” and you might find Isla de Providencia among the many search results that come up on your screen. While skimming through your options you might also see that Providencia - 90 kilometers north of San Andres, already a flight away from the mainland - is hard to get to, and move on. But we didn’t move on. We zeroed in and read a couple of reviews, and thought “This is it.” This is our paradise. And we were right.

Colombia, in a word, is beautiful. One of the most biodiverse countries and simultaneously infamous as a tourist destination, we ignored the shock and dismay from others at our destination of choice, and spent six weeks falling in love. We were whisked away into a whole new world that started with the chaos of riding in taxis in Bogota and breathing in the Andes mountains. We felt like we were at home in cozy Salento, complete with a horse-back tour of the coffee region, where the Cocora Valley and the tallest wax palms in the world tower above the clouds like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. We were entranced by the busy-ness of Medellín and the epitome of what it means to rebuild a community, and found solace in the colorful town of Guatapé. And after all the wild thunderstorms the country had to offer, we soaked up all the sunshine and patacones of the Caribbean coast in beautiful, Spanish-influenced Cartagena.

And while all of that would have been enough, we got lucky. Because we found Providence.

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San Andres Island is a tourist destination off the coast of Nicaragua, but belongs to Colombia. Michael refers to it as the “Jersey Shore of Colombia.” The resort-and-vendor-ridden beaches are crowded and dirty, and consumerism seemed to be the main dry land activity. And while it retains some hint of the wonder of vacationing on a tropical island, it wasn’t for us. The smaller, more mountainous Providencia, just to the north and home to just over 5,000, was a night and day difference. You might see these islands on the map as “San Andres Y Providencia” but we would not lump them together if it were up to us.

There are two ways to get to Providencia from San Andres. One is a quick 20-minute flight in a small plane. The other is a bumpy, 3-hour catamaran ride. They give you sea sickness pills upon boarding. We opted for the more expensive but totally worth it, flight.

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There is one commercial airline that goes to and from Providencia. At check-in, they weighed our baggage, and then they weighed us. We could pick our seats, and with child-like wonder we of course sat right behind the pilots so we could see the cockpit. There were about 8 other people on board, all tourists, all of whom we recognized around the island during our stay as there were so few non-locals. The tiny plane seemed to be buzzing with excitement. As we flew over the Caribbean and the first views of Old Providence came into view, we knew visiting an island we knew so little about had been a risk worth taking.

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We booked an Airbnb, as it was a better deal than the poorly rated hostels on the island. Our host picked us up from the tiny airport, and helped us get acquainted with the island. Kildren and his girlfriend, Sumaya, were the most welcoming hosts all week long. We felt like we were staying with friends at Rocky Point. On our last night, they took us out to experience local night life, going from the famous Roland’s Bar on Manchaneel beach, to a couple of disco techs inside houses that we would have otherwise never known existed. (It’s safe to say we had a little too much borrowed happiness, and our departing flight back to San Andres wasn’t quite as fun...)

Technically part of Colombia, the islanders are taught Spanish in school, but they speak English Creole to each other. With a large Rastafarian influence, the island feels much more like a tiny Jamaica, where music and dreadlocks abound. Half the fun of the island is renting a scooter, or “moto” to get around like the locals do. There isn’t a single helmet on the island, and we spent most of our days hopping from beach to beach barefoot and in our swimsuits (sorry mom). You can drive the 17 km around the entire island in less than an hour.

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We spent a day on Santa Catalina Island, a tiny, pedestrian-only island connected to Providencia by a foot bridge, known as “Lovers Bridge.” Here, there is a rock formation called Captain Morgan’s Head, which resembles the face of the pirate that used these islands as a base in the 1700s. You can use this as a jumping off point into the clear blue below, and the snorkeling around the island is beautiful. Providencia is a popular dive site as it’s near one of the largest reefs, and the best snorkeling is at Crab Caye. We took a speedboat there on our last day, and had the place to ourselves for a while.

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By week’s end we had explored every beach on Providencia, even finding a secret beach our host told us about. We filled up on fresh fried fish, plantains, and coconut rice, and caught every stunning sunset at South West Bay. We danced around bon fires with locals. We trudged through mud on the hike up to the Peak, the tallest point on the island. We snorkeled and swam and got caught in tropical rainstorms more than once. But the water was always warm, the days were always long, and our hearts were always full.

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It’s rumored that there is still some of Captain Morgan’s buried treasure somewhere on the island. And now, as our tans are fading and we’re settling into this next chapter of our lives, I can’t help but think that it’s Old Providence itself, that is the real hidden treasure of the Caribbean. Finding the island is like finding a beautiful piece of yourself you didn’t know existed. As the locals would say, “You have to know it.” And now that we know it, we know ourselves a little better too.

We pretty much stayed on what everyone refers to as the “gringo trail” while we roamed around Colombia. Other travelers spoke of Medellín, Bogota, Cartagena, all good places to talk about. But not a single soul told us about Providencia. And it turns out that it may just be Colombia’s best kept secret. And we would keep it to ourselves as well, if it wasn’t just too good not to share.

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The Human Interview

Posted by Michael Coen

October 29, 2017

There’s something about interviewing another person that is an experience in itself. Sure, the interviewee is in the hot seat - they have to deliver. But it’s up to you, the interviewer, to draw it out of them. More than simply asking questions, interviewing is a craft that can improve not only the stories you’re trying to tell, but the connections you make with other human beings.  

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How people will react to being in that chair can be rather unpredictable. Think about it - unless they’re an actor or a professional personality, when else are they mic’d up, blasted by lights with multiple cameras angled at them, usually with a crew of people watching? This vulnerability elicits behavior of all sorts. Here are some tips that I have acquired over time to evoke quality responses, deepen my connection with my subjects and win the interview experience.

 

1. Prioritizing the subject. 

Make sure your interviewee is seen as a human, not just a means to an end. It’s easy to get caught up in the day, adhering to a production schedule, interfacing with the client, leading a crew and managing equipment, especially on smaller shoots where you’re wearing many hats. Remember that above all else, the person in front of the camera is priority #1. Give them a sense for how these things usually go, give them a chance to ask questions they have, be confident so they know they’re in good hands. Remember, this is most likely a very abnormal day for them. The more you can gain their trust up front, the more comfortable they will feel and the better the interview will be. 

2. Becoming vulnerable.

As you’re getting to know the interviewee, offer something personal about yourself. If it’s embarrassing and makes them laugh, all the better. Anything to humanize yourself and become vulnerable with them will let the subject know that you’re in it together.

3. Avoiding the freeze.

Everyone will have different capabilities of delivering a solid answer, much of which can depend on how the question is asked. Asking too lofty of a question or putting too much pressure on getting a perfect soundbite can really throw off your interviewee. They become painfully aware of themselves and it results in a really choppy interview. As a rule of thumb, keep your questions simple, yet thoughtful. If I really want to push for something specific, I’ll save those questions for the end, after they have offered their more natural answers. Then you’ll have a foundation of quality soundbites that will have built their confidence in front of the camera, before leading into more challenging content. 

4. Leading or following.

After you’re exposed to many interview situations, you’ll begin to realize that no two interviews are alike. A good interviewer will know when to lead and when to follow. For example, you may have someone who is timid or doesn’t quite ‘get it.’ It’s up to you to equip them with everything they need to deliver quality soundbites. This could mean talking a little more and giving examples of how they might answer your question. In another situation, you may be interviewing a pro. They seem to have a never ending open spigot of juicy soundbites. It’s then your job to get out of their way and at the very most, simply stoking their fire and slightly guiding the conversation. Match their energy and don’t try to script them into a corner. Remaining flexible and being adaptive to the answers you are or aren’t getting is key. 

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These are just a few pointers that I’ve learned along the way. Most importantly, have fun with it! The best interviews happen when both the interviewee and interviewer are in the moment, relaxed, and enjoying the process.

Colorado to Colombia


...and all the changes in between.

Posted by Tabitha Yeasley

October 19, 2017

I first fell in love with Oregon because it gave me my first taste of autumn. Changing colors and rainy weather meant a vibrant new season, something I didn't get growing up in the San Joaquin Valley. I remember riding along the bike trail amidst the falling, colorful leaves and smiling through the warm layers I'd never needed before, watching the leaves hit the river one at a time. Fall always seems to be the time for change. Now that I'm older it means more than the shift in weather or the end of long summer days. It seems to always give way to a new chapter in life. And this autumn is no different. 

This time, we're packing things up, moving away from what we've always known. For me, Oregon has been home for 9 years. For Michael, it's been home his whole life. I quit my job, again, and we're heading off to new adventures, again. This time though, it starts with a move to a new city in a new state. And it's like Michael said; we'll have two homes now, instead of one. Because no matter where we go, Oregon will always be home, too.

On Sunday, we load up a UHaul and drive across a few states to Colorado. We'll stay for a few days before we fly off for more international travel. We'll take an opportunity like this when we can, and this time, we're headed South. Colombia is calling, and we'll finish out the season highly caffeinated in the capital of coffee and Salsa dancing.

My grandmother recently passed away, and I remember her telling me years ago, "Life tells you: process this, or else! And you either die trying or you change." Change has always been difficult for me, but it's also a strange sort of familiarity at the same time. I am no stranger to it, and I’ve learned that resistance is futile. And I find that it's essential; it's how you grow. But they don't call it growing pains for nothing. It seems like everything about the last couple of weeks is making me nostalgic. The Portland skyline, the Pacific Northwest hikes, the bar across the street (our Cheers), family, and the friends we’ve made over the last couple of years.  But change is more than how you avoid becoming complacent. It's how you become the best version of who you are. 

The places we’ve been and the people we’ve known will always be a part of us. They’ve shaped us, and they’ve sent us off into the world with love and light. And so you move on, but you carry the things and the people that matter with you.

And we are lucky that together, we'll fall in love with a new city, a new state, a new country, and embrace all the changes in between. Next year we'll start working with awesome new companies. We'll make new friends, together. And we'll settle into a new home, together. And I guess that together is the key to really being home - no matter where we are, we're already there. 

Taking Time

Posted by Tabitha Yeasley

December 23rd, 2016

We spent almost a month traveling through Croatia, from the Southern coast of tourism-ridden Dubrovnik, through beautiful, welcoming Split, and up to the capital city of Zagreb. While the rest of Europe that lies within the Schengen Zone can feel like a ticking clock until we have to leave, Croatia afforded us the time to slow down.

Back in Lyon, we met a man named Gabriel at a bar called “La Paz.” When we told him what we were doing in Europe, he went on a 5-beers-in-at-3pm rant about how important it is to “take time.” He said, “Take time for what matters. Jobs don't matter. Money doesn't matter. Happiness matters. Take time for happiness. Take time.” Michael and I smiled at each other because that’s exactly what we were doing, taking time for what matters, for experiences, for life. The trivial things in life have a way of sneaking up on you and demanding your attention, but you have to be deliberate about how you use the time you’ve been given. Find what you love to struggle for, and live it. Someone very wise once lamented to me that it’s sad, so sad, how temporary this all is, and how many people just don’t get it. I think we will always carry with us that reminder from La Paz as we move forward – together, and intentionally. 

Croatia granted us the ability to rest and recharge after two months of continuous travel. It gave us beauty, and experiences. And it gave us amazing content and opportunity to produce. We made hotel videos for two beautiful hotels that gave us complimentary stays in return. We provided content for our Sponsors. And we took some awesome photos to share with the folks back home. We sailed around the Adriatic Sea. We wined and dined in the Dalmatian vineyards. We explored very old Fortresses. We discovered more waterfalls than I can count in National Parks KRKA and Plitivice Lakes. And Zagreb’s spirited Advent celebrations let us catch Michael’s audition for the Ice Capades on film. 

Last but not least, consider this our Christmas card from us to you. The world is a scary place these days, but we hope that a little more light and love reaches you this season from our corner of the earth. And we hope you take time for what matters to you. 

This trip has taught us nothing if not to be intentional. With our lives, and in the way we see and love, both ourselves and others. Our belief that there is so much world left to see and explore has only been confirmed. We’ve still got a few more weeks until our Visa expires, which we're spending here in Spain. But we’re not done. Now that the travel bug has taken hold, it looks like we’re stuck with the wanderlust for life. After this we’ll go home, we’ll settle down for a while. But we’ll be planning, and dreaming, of what’s next. 

Winter is Coming

Posted by Tabitha Yeasley

November 16, 2016

We've come a long way since Adelboden. We've each had our fair share of break downs and inspired moments, small personal triumphs and failures, and covered miles and miles (or kilometers) in between. Traveling like this is a series of losing yourself, remembering who you want to be, who you're not, and finding yourself again - in the mountains, in a cityscape, or more often than not, in each other. 

And boy, have we grown. We have covered a lot of ground in our little Peugeot and on our tired feet. But we're not done yet. In some ways, it feels like we're just getting started. Little renewals like that are so neccessary. Daily reminders to treat each day and each other with respect and acknowledgment. To live and to love intently. Waking up in a better mood than yesterday, coming back together again after time apart, getting a workout or a nap in and realizing that everything is going to be just fine. No, better than fine.

 Sunset over Tatabanya, Hungary

Sunset over Tatabanya, Hungary

We traveled from Switzerland to Germany. We toured some castles on our way to The Netherlands. We visited an old friend of mine in Eindhoven, then spent some time eating our way through Amsterdam and meeting with one of our sponsors, Hi-Tec. Then we drove eternally east to Berlin. We realized hostels can be hard, especially with a bad attitude. But Berlin bike rides are beautiful, and the history of the city is fascinating. We headed down to Prague, a city with beer and food as delicious and cheap as the people are harsh. And Budapest. Oh, how we loved Budapest. We stayed there a full week and fell a little more in love. With the city, and with each other. 

 Overlooking Pest and Parliament from Buda

Overlooking Pest and Parliament from Buda

 Wrapping a long, successful day of production in Budapest.

Wrapping a long, successful day of production in Budapest.

And this last leg of our trip has been so intriguing. While social media told us that America had gone crazy, one magical day in snowy Sarajevo taught us a lot about Bosnian culture, and that we could probably live on Cevapi if we had to. Montenegro is a beautiful gem of natural wonder that you're rewarded with after surviving the dodgy roads leading you down south into the Balkans. Kotor Bay stole another piece of our hearts, and the sunset over the Adriatic Sea in Dubrovnik is currently #winning. 

 Kotor Bay from the Fotress.

Kotor Bay from the Fotress.

We're stalling here, biding our time out of the cold and the Schengen Zone so we can hit the last half of our Visa in the EU with full force. We have more videos and memories to make, and more to learn about ourselves, and each other. At the end of the day, it's all been a lesson in letting go of who the world tried to make us into and becoming who we want to be. We are dreamers, believers that the best is yet to come. Winter is coming, but only for a while. Besides, you can always head South.  

Adelbode

Posted by Tabitha Yeasley

October 14th, 2016

Before I get to the main point of this entry, let me quickly recap our travels so far. From London we took the Eurostar to Paris, where we spent a few days filming and seeing the sites.  I didn't expect much from Paris, I always thought it was overrated. But I was wrong. We completed our first video for Hi-Tec, and I fell a little in love with the City of Love at the same time. A brightly lit Eiffel Tower under the warm Autumn night sky is truly a site to see. The people were friendly. The metro was easy. Oh, and there was cheap wine, bread and cheese for days. Need I say more? 

From Paris we took another train to Lyon, France, where we stayed in an AirBnB that had terrible wifi, so we spent our time working at a bakery (mmm more bread). We also picked up our Peugeot and have loved the freedom of traveling by car. Lyon had an adorable old town and a beautiful basilica, but was just as challenging as it was charming for us. Michael had the idea to look for resorts in the Alps, our next stop, that might want to exchange video content for a free stay. I emailed a few that afternoon, and much to my disbelief, the first one I reached out to said yes! So we packed up and headed to Adelboden, Switzerland. 

Which brings me to my main point of this. The Swiss Alps. Mountain air. Fondue. Beautiful views. Cowbells. And The Cambrian. 

 The view from The Cambrian's heated pool is like no other. 

The view from The Cambrian's heated pool is like no other. 

I think The Cambrian will always have a special place in our hearts after the week we spent exploring the village that holds it and the trails that surround it, and taking in our little corner of Switzerland. They wanted us to convey our first impressions of Adelboden and the hotel, and this was easy to do. We just explored, camera at the ready, Hi-Tec jackets/shoes on and Matador gear in tow. 

 The view above Adelboden from Tschentenalp. In the background is Engstligenalp. 

The view above Adelboden from Tschentenalp. In the background is Engstligenalp. 

Adelboden is in a beautiful Bernese-Oberland valley, southwest of the popular Interlaken and Grindelwald. There are gondolas that take you to the higher elevations surrounding it, including the Engstligenalp and the top of the beautiful waterfall at the edge of the valley. Michael is a videographer. A creator. This means when he creates, he sometimes forgets I'm a small human. So two days in a row, when we find a beautiful alp to explore, we miss the last Gondola ride of the day back down. Since we're waiting for perfect light, because the day we spent hiking around the alp was too bright, by the time we start our hikes down these mountainsides, it's well on it's way to dark. And it gets cold, fast. But the footage and shots we took made the treks downhill chasing the last bit of daylight worth it. And we didn't feel obligated to find a gym like we do at our other stops.

 Hiking down Engstligenalp.

Hiking down Engstligenalp.

 

 

Decision

Posted by Michael Coen

From seat 31H of a 747 en route to Gatwick, England

September 22, 2016

You know those click-baity articles that pop up in your social media with headliners like 10 Ways to Make Money While Traveling the World? I hate those things. I don't know if it’s skepticism or jealousy but each time I read an article like that, I always finish it thinking, “Well, that’s not realistic.” Or maybe even worse, “I don't have enough time to make that happen.”

It was 6 years ago when I caught the travel bug. I studied abroad in Seville, Spain, bounced around Western Europe, and then returned to Portland, Oregon after 6 months of absolute childlike freedom. As if travel was a new drug I had discovered, the return home led to a period of deep introspection. You might even call it depression, although it was probably just reverse culture shock. Either way, it was very real.  

I remember acknowledging how much I had changed in such a short amount of time, only to find life back home exactly the way I left it; as if I had pressed ‘pause’ in Portland, went to Europe for 6 months, then came back and hit ‘resume’. I underwent the most drastic transformation of my life since puberty and yet, everyone in my home town seemed exactly the same. This scared the shit out of me, so I swore to my naive self that I would leave the country at least once a year. But then life happened.

 Tabs and I exploring the Pacific Northwest this past summer.

Tabs and I exploring the Pacific Northwest this past summer.

A career took over, routines set in, complacency grew and before I knew it, the 26-year-old Michael was now a major disappointment to that 21-year-old vagabonding dreamer. This little epiphany led to quitting my job, pursuing a hobby as a career, booking a one way ticket to Europe with my girlfriend, Tabs and eventually procuring two sponsors to help pay for our travels.

 The decision to travel is just that; a decision. And depending on your state in life, it can be a difficult one. Of course, a lot happened during the time leading up to my abandonment of the corporate life to pursue travel videography. (i.e. a couple trips to Burning Man (emphasis on the word ‘trip’), some heavy therapy sessions, and meeting the love of my life were all instrumental to this little quarter-life crisis.)

 Burning Man 2015

Burning Man 2015

But the most important point of this entire entry is that doing what you love starts with a decision. There’s always a reason to put it off, whether it’s travel, photography, music, cooking, teaching or whatever the hell floats your boat. It’s never a good time! It’s so easy to talk about doing it but never get around to doing it. Even after we booked our one way ticket, the extrinsic pressures relentlessly tried to give us reasons why we should delay our journey. But in our minds, the decision was already made.

For at least 3 months, Tabitha and I will road trip throughout Europe, laughing, fighting, growing creatively, challenging ourselves, and hopefully producing great content for our awesome sponsors along the way. When it’s all said and done, I might even end up writing an article titled How I Made Money While Traveling the World.

Jet Lag Shmet Lag

Posted by Tabitha Yeasley

September 24, 2016

We purchased one way tickets at the end of May. The sixth month lease we signed in March, with the intent of saving money and hitting the road at the end of it, was up at the end of August, so we used Google's flight search and looked for the cheapest flights in September. We landed on September 21st, a Wednesday, when ticket prices from summer travel dropped significantly. It was cheapest to fly into London, so we received a confirmation email that night and went to bed knowing that all we had between us and the adventure of a lifetime was one crazy summer. 

Mid-May, my dad was in the hospital in California for a couple of weeks. Michael sat through some of the hardest days of my life at my side, and when we got home to Portland, the desire to be alive was pulsing through us both. Michael had been talking about long term travel, especially in Europe, since the day we met, and we decided months back that it was something we should do together. You stop thinking in "What Ifs" when the "What If" of losing life becomes all too real. 

This summer much of our time was occupied with family vacations, film projects, working music festivals, and exploring the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest we are so lucky to call home. Michael was the line producer on a short film, and so much of his energy went into that while I finished up my time at an event company downtown. We got lucky with our landlord too, extending our lease by half a month free of charge if we helped find new, reliable tenants. We were able to do so easily as a great couple we knew happened to fall in love with our place as much as we did. The rest of our efforts went into planning.

I'm a planner by trade, Michael is not. So we spent our spare time doing our own versions of planning for something that we knew was impossible to actually plan for. 3 months abroad wouldn't even sink in until we landed on foreign soil. I bought a Rick Steve's book "Europe through the Back Door", Michael looked into Music Festivals. I spent hours online, comparing hostels and AirBnB's, forced Michael to renew his passport and help me secure travel insurance, and I bought packing cubes and a new toiletry kit, while he insisted he was fine with the backpack he had. I spent more hours comparing prices of purchasing a Eurail Pass vs. single train tickets, but when he made the point that we would have the most flexibility renting a car, I agreed. I then spent two full days being throughly disappointed by the prices and limitations on rental car sites, until I found the most incredible deal from Peugeot through France's Buy Back leasing program. We purchased our International Driving Permit's days before we left, an easy process at AAA. 

Seeking sponsorship was Michael's idea. We were going regardless, and I was saving like a mad woman because I knew those student loan payments don't go on vacation. So wouldn't it be easier if we put our skills to use and generated video content for companies while we travel, having some sort of an income along the way? Michael drafted a well thought-out email, and I made blind introductions of us until we gained the attention of some great companies whose values aligned with ours. We were certain that we could promote the lifestyle of their brands and products with the great footage we would already be obtaining throughout our travels. In Michael's words, "I'm a videographer traveling through Europe with my beautiful girlfriend, who wouldn't want to take advantage of that?"

So in August, a great company called Matador, based out of Boulder, CO, signed up to be our first sponsor, sending us with their awesome, packable travel gear. Soon after, amidst me quitting my job, us packing up our apartment, putting our stuff in storage, and moving into his parent's house for a few days, Hi-Tec equipped us with some sturdy new shoes, jackets, and deemed us their newest brand ambassadors just as we set off across the pond. 

Thursday, September 22nd, 22 hours after we started our day the morning before, we landed in Gatwick Airport, an hour south of London. We arrived at our AirBnB in a northern borough of London called Stoke Newington, about two hours and a delirious taxi ride later. I told Michael we needed to stay awake until that night, but around 4pm, he thought he could just "take a quick nap," and after some futile resistance, I joined him. Jet lag, shmet lag. Rookiest move in the book. I woke up at 10:45pm. I woke up Michael and he thought, it's early morning right? Wrong. It's 11pm. We were up, and we were starving. We ate toast and jam we found in the kitchen, and laughed at our classic mistake for a few more hours before we could fall asleep again at almost 3am. Somehow, we were up with the rest of humanity Friday morning, to enjoy a day around sunny London Town. 

   Us in front of our AirBnB in London. Next stop: Paris!

Us in front of our AirBnB in London. Next stop: Paris!