I’ve set up a webpage for some early photographs and updates during my time in Iraq. I will update the site over the next month or two with other stories, photographs and video that I’m working on. www.RecoveringIraq.com
Aside from the contents of my gear bag, the only other object that will be as important to me over the next month will be my shoes. I thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you why.
I’ve spent the better part of my life getting lost or wandering around, and I’ve become somewhat at home in doing so. There are pros and cons to this, some that I’ve talked about openly and some that I haven’t yet had the courage to.
In following my natural curiosity and sense of adventure, and a longing for human connection and love, it could be argued that my approach has sometimes been foolish, brave or even selfish. That seems about right to me, though along the way I unexpectedly discovered the potential for affecting or inspiring others at the same time.
It was a road trip during the Arab Spring and hike along the Pacific Crest Trail that led me here. Tomorrow I will board a plane to a place I’ve known only through the lens of the news media, from an insulated bubble on the other side of the planet. Most of what I know about Iraq seems scary and bloody, but I also think I’m wrong about that. Many of us are. I think it will be very hot too.
What does it mean to be human, and what does real suffering and resilience look and feel like? Who are the real victims of ISIS and war, and what are their personal stories? How are people coping (functionally, emotionally and spiritually)? What is the need and how (and why) do people care to help? What is being retained or lost of Iraqi culture? And why do the warm and generous people of this region of the world, also seem so casually willing to kill each other? Those are some of the questions I have.
I will spend three weeks visiting camps and homes in northern Iraq, around places like Erbil, Kirkuk, Sinjar and Mosul. I will learn new stuff, meet strange new people, and make lots of recordings and photographs. Though I may have cobbled together something vaguely resembling a good idea and a little money to do it, without Sue O’Connor and her Medair team, this doesn’t happen. (I mean that in a good way.) We will collaborate closely on areas of shared interest, and I will work to tell a few good stories that people may enjoy and benefit from.
Since leaving Austin in March, the last few months living here in Budapest have been at times melancholy, frustrating and restful, all for very different reasons. What I’m feeling today though is mostly nervous, but not for the reasons you might think. I just want to do a good job at something that’s kinda new. I expect getting there will provide some relief.
I’ll do my best and I hope you’ll come along with me.
Back in January, during a long road trip to Washington DC to cover the Inauguration and Women’s March, I arrived at an idea. It’s a business concept and experience design program, and I’ve been working on it ever since. Like many people, I’ve been disheartened by the current state of our political discourse. I was inspired to learn and get more personally and positively engaged in ways I haven’t before—maybe contribute in some way to the conversation and solutions so many smart people and organizations are now focused. I’ve reached a tipping point with what I’m likely to accomplish on my own with the project and thought I’d open it up to whoever may find it useful. The PDF presentation is a truncated work in progress you can download here.
I’m driving from Austin, Texas to Washington D.C. this week to cover and participate in the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st, the day after the Presidential inauguration. As a white male, I enjoy a privilege that I did not earn—one that is not shared equally by women and all. I believe that our continued progress in the pursuit of equal opportunity and eliminating racial and gender bias will come under greater threat with the new administration. I’m going to the WMW to demonstrate my solidarity with all women, to help document and add a little more volume to women’s rights and this historic event. Stay tuned for a written account of my experience and a series of photographs from the events and environment there.
After going through many thousands of images, I’ve compiled a couple different photo journals about my life with Wesley. Check out the new webpage with links to a few nice stories and movies, and the larger “Best of Wesley” and “Travels with Wesley” photo albums on Flickr.
I spent about six weeks traveling around Europe, hanging out in Budapest with family and friends, and taking the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. I returned to the States via New York in order to visit my dad and pick up my car for the long road trip back to Austin, Texas.
I spent the month of August hiking 515 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Oregon/Washington border on the Columbia River to Manning Park, British Columbia. When I thru-hiked the PCT in 2013, Washington was my favorite section and I wanted to revisit it. Not only is it the most difficult, in my opinion, it is also the most intimately beautiful in so many ways and it feels very much like home to me.