Paris: Portraits

One of my favorite quotes is from Francis Bacon. Truthfully, I really fell in love with it after learning that photographer Dorothea Lange took it up as her credo:

“The contemplation on things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitute or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.”

There’s something invigorating to me about capturing people when they least expect it or when they aren’t paying attention. Is it an invasion of privacy? Eh, maybe. But in today’s Instagram-perfected world, I like photographing people when they aren’t posing, putting on the version of themselves that they want the world to see. I’d much rather remember (and see) people for who they are.

Here are some portraits from Paris (Note: Sam took the pictures of me ❤ )

Paris - pompidou artworkParis - pompidou centre overlook

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Photos from Paris: Food

The food. Oh, the food. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of my most distinct memories of Paris were focused on food:

Slathering fresh butter on warm, perfectly crusted bread in an ex-pat bar while the red wine buzz came in strong.

The thick smell of fresh pig fat bubbling over in boiling water to make ramen broth.

Creative and artful delicacies, subtly sweetened, beckoning on every corner—and hardly ever resisting the temptation.

Sharing a cappuccino with Sam at the Musée d’Orsay’s Café Campana, a fluttering rush of joy in my chest from seeing him for the first time in over a week.

Culinary masterpieces artfully arranged in display cases, impossibly bizarre and enticing.

Scarfing a defyingly tasty vegan burger in the spring sunshine en route to the Centre Pompidou.

Cradling a warm, chocolately crepe in my hands after a night boat tour on the Seine, huddled together against the cold with my DePaul classmates on our last evening together.

Unassuming street markets filled with raw meats, aged cheeses, piles of spices, and fresh vegetables, the air buzzing with the soft, romantic loll of French.

Suffice to say, these photos don’t need explanation: they speak for themselves.

DSC_0315Paris - angelina dessert at louvreParis - oranges at the market

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Photos from Paris: An Introduction; Places

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over six months (!!) since I went to Paris. The trip was a study abroad opportunity through my graduate school program. Together with 20 DePaul grad and undergrad students, I visited five different companies and learned about luxury marketing at the heart of this lavish city. After my week of studying abroad, Sam flew over to Paris and we spent another four or five days together.

Not gonna lie, folks: Paris wasn’t perfect. Sam and I were in a tough spot in our marriage. We tried hard to be normal while on this trip and, in the process, realized how drastically wrong everything felt between us. This trip was the peak of a volatile time in our relationship that lasted for months.

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Grand Teton National Park: Hiking Near Jenny Lake and Cascade Canyon

Grand Teton National Park- Jenny Lake and Cascade Canyon

Don’t forget to check out part 1 and part 2 of our westward road trip!

Adrenaline kept me upright for the first few hours the morning after listening to the bear (or whatever it was) battering away at a fellow camper’s food locker. I’ll still never know if it actually was a grizzly bear, but I couldn’t help but think about Paul’s warning that they had a grizzly that visited the campground.

As we inhaled our half-cooked hash browns and overcooked scrambled eggs at breakfast—they were warm and the air was a brisk 35 or 40 degrees—-we pondered our plan for the day. It was only a matter of time before my high-strung bear anxiety dissipated and I entered extreme sleep deprivation auto-pilot. If there’s one thing that I need, for my own sanity and the sanity of those around me, it’s at least six hours of sleep every night. I would be operating far under threshold today, and we were expecting a grueling day of hiking, exploring, and further altitude adjustment.

The thought lingering in the back of my mind was that I would need to do it all over again for at least two more nights. We were debating staying at our campsite two more nights for the eclipse, making it a total of 5 nights in Grand Teton instead of our planned three nights. There was a solid chance this could shape up to be one of the most miserable trips of my life if I had to stick out five nights sleeping in a tent with a grizzly visiting the campsite every night.

Grand Teton - Hiking to Inspiration Point near Jenny Lake

We packed up and headed towards the park. Our plan was to hike String Lake around to Jenny Lake and up towards Cascade Canyon. When we parked the car, applied our sunscreen, loaded our packs with food and water bottles, and were just about to hit the trail at 8:45 am, we noticed a vital element missing. The bear spray. Sam remembered seeing it in the tent since we kept it there last night as a precaution, and it must’ve still been there. After the events last night and all the warnings we’d heard, there was no way we were hiking without a can of bear spray.

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Maui: The South Rim Road to Hana and Pīpīwai Trail at Haleakalā National Park

SOUTH ROAD TO HANA

After taking in the view and monarch tree at Sun Yat-Sen Park, Sam and I continued our drive along the Pilani Highway towards Hana. The seascapes were immaculate as we ascended the south rim of Maui. We were one of the few cars driving the highway (and the only car going east, towards Hana, instead of away from Hana), but there were plenty of horses walking alongside the road. We let the ocean breeze blow through the windows as we tried taking in the scope of this place. This isolation and tropical paradise felt like a dream.

Driving the South Rim of the Road to Hana

We started coming back down from the rolling foothills of the volcano, easing closer to the shoreline. There was a scenic overlook on the edge of the road with an overlook, and we were shocked that no one else was stopped there. A fierce, gusting wind kept us back from the edge, reminding me that the spirit of this place is a living, powerful force still present today. I could have bathed in the colors of this scene for hours and never get sick of it.

Driving the South Rim Road to Hana - Ocean OverlookSouth Road to Hana - Ocean Overlook PanoramicSouth Road to Hana - Ocean Overlook View

We continued eastward. Our goal was to reach the Haleakalā National Park on the south shoreline. It would be the fifth National Park we’d visit in 2016, and we wanted to add it to our list. The Park occupies a massive 33,000 acres on Maui, stretching from the summit of the dormant volcano on the inner part of the island all the way to the south coast.

From our hotel in Kihei, the drive to Halaeakalā’s Visitor Center near Kaupo was estimated to take two hours. There was one rule that kept appearing over and over again as we researched the Road to Hana: make sure you’re off the route before the sun sets. We left Kihei shortly after noon and the sunset was scheduled for 6 pm. Based on the open road and expansive vistas we’d seen from higher up the mountain, we were confident we’d have an hour or two to explore the park once we arrived.

Little did we know what we were in for as we cruised along towards Kaupo.
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Day Trip to the Ocean State: 12 Hours in Rhode Island

Daytrip to Rhode Island - Adventures in the Ocean State-01

For Christmas this past year, my brother gave us a scratch-off map of the United States. The idea is to scratch off all the places we’ve visited together until we clear the entire US map. When we were planning our trip to Massachusetts for Ragnar, Sam pointed out the close proximity of Rhode Island—a state we haven’t visited as individuals or a couple, and also a state we probably wouldn’t plan to visit. I found some decently priced Amtrak tickets during our planning and we planned a day trip to Providence because we didn’t know what else to do.

Some of our Ragnar teammates were from Rhode Island. When they heard we were going to Providence, they shook their heads and told us to cancel those plans and head to Newport, RI instead. They gave us a lot of great pointers for things to do in Newport and really talked it up, so Sam and I shifted our plans. We couldn’t cancel the Amtrak tickets to Providence, but we could rent a car in Providence for the day and drive to Newport instead. Now that we actually had a plan for some things to do, we were excited!

Psst: want the quick synopsis? Check out this 3-minute video of our trip:

We woke up early on Tuesday morning and made our way to South Station to catch our train. In no time at all, we were walking out into a blue-skied day in Providence. The Rhode Island State House, located right outside the train station, drew us in and welcomed us to the smallest state in the USA. There wasn’t a soul around, so we walked right up the State House steps and took in the view. While it helped that it was a gorgeous day outside, we were already pretty psyched about being in Rhode Island (and I’ll be the first to admit that I never thought I’d say that).

DSC_0558DSC_0561DSC_0560

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Exploring Boston: Day One

Boston Exploring - Things to do if you only have one day in Boston

We arrived in Boston mid-morning on Thursday, the day before our Ragnar Cape Cod race. Lucky for us, we scheduled our visit so that we could maximize our time in the city, meaning we had almost a full day to check out Boston before our Ragnar race started.

The T subway system put us in an instant state of confusion, but one of the station workers at the airport helped us get where we needed to be. Our friend from Chicago, John, was running Ragnar with us over the weekend and used to live in Boston. He told us where to meet him downtown and gave us a brief walking tour around the city.

Things to do in Boston - Navigating the T Rail SystemThings to do in Boston - Boston Public Garden Statues

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Truth and Consequences in Portugal

Truth and Consequences in Portugal - Mo Stych Blog

A few weeks back, I entered the World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship contest.

Even though I wasn’t one of the three winners selected from 8,000+ entries, I’m still happy I entered the contest. Of course, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take a free trip to the Balkans (because DUH), but more importantly, I’ve never entered a writing contest like this before. It was a great challenge for me, as it required me to hone my travel story into 2,500 carefully selected words. Plus, I researched the Balkans region a lot before submitting my entry and this part of the world is now high on my list of places to visit someday.

Since I’ve not had the chance to blog in a while, I wanted to share my entry here. You can also find it on the World Nomads site (and read some other submissions, too). I hope you enjoy it! (Note: the photos were not part of the submission, but I like them.)

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We’re standing on (what feels like) the hundredth hairpin curve, halfway to the Pena National Palace in Sintra, and my husband is ignoring me. Gasping for air, sweat soaking through our shirts, the tension between us is as palpable as the sweltering humidity. The shade from the tall trees does little to cool our overheated bodies and tempers. As we silently fume, another air-conditioned bus filled with happy tourists drones past us towards the apex.

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Frank Lloyd Wright Home + Studio Tour

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Mo Stych Blog

Sam’s folks were in town this last weekend, which allowed us to take advantage of doing some of the more tourist-y type things here in Chicago. One of our favorite places we’ve visited since living here is the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio located in Oak Park. There are so many perks to living here in Chicago, but access to historic buildings by so many renowned architects is something we’ve really grown to appreciate. We’ve done two river boat tours and visited FLW’s home twice since moving here. It’s fascinating learning more about the people who shaped and built our city into the space it is today.

Even though this is a short post, I wanted to share some photos from Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio. I tend to take more detail-oriented photographs, but I feel that FLW’s penchant for intimate details lends itself to this kind of visual documentation. I hope you enjoy the pictures and visit this beautiful estate-turned-museum yourself!

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Living Room
Living room
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Living Room Fireplace Nook
Living room nook
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Living RoomF Furniture
Chairs and built-in couch in the living room
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Butler's Pantry
Butler’s pantry
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Chicago Tour - Dining Room and Living Room floors
Floor love

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Maui: The Monarch Tree at Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Park

Monarch Butterflies at Sun Yat-Sen Park on in Maui, Hawaii

After the hardest run of our lives, we spent the next day on Maui pretty much chillin’. Sam and his dad went golfing, so I lounged around the ocean-side condo with Sam’s mom for a few hours. I’m sure I could elaborate on how great it was lying in the hot sunshine for a few hours–save for a few dips in the ocean to cool off–but I can’t bring myself to write a love letter to tropical climates while I’m sitting wrapped up in a blanket in my long-johns as subzero temps creep into our apartment through single-pane windows. But I digress.

To be honest, I’m not a good relaxer. I prefer to be walking or running or biking or checking things off my list or somehow contributing to the glob of good things in the world. Whenever I turn on Netflix, I’m usually doing something else while “watching” my show. I’ve cooked entire meals with my computer propped up on the counter next to me. So you can imagine that, after reading for a few hours in a beach chair, I was pretty much losing my mind despite being in paradise.

When the boys came back from golfing, I let Sam gather his wits for about fifteen minutes before nagging him about what we were going to do in the afternoon. After a little research and Sam politely asking me to chill for another half hour or so, we decided to venture to the south coast of the Road to Hana. 

Driving the south rim on the Road to Hana in Maui

Upcountry of Maui, the south rim of the Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is the biggest attraction on all of Maui, especially after they paved the full 64-mile road a few years ago. If you’re driving in from the north (leaving Paia and heading south into Hana), the road is smooth, pitch black, and in practically pristine condition. However, it also has 620 curves, 59 bridges, and bumper-to-bumper tourist traffic. Despite being only 64 miles, most guides recommend taking 3-6 hours to drive to Hana and back because of the incredible scenery along the way. It’s definitely one of those “journey not the destination” kind of things. I’ll share more about our trip on the entire road soon.

But the part Sam and I were most interested in was the southern rim of the road, which isn’t counted in the 64-mile distance cited on every Maui tourism site. That’s because the south rim–which leads west out of Hana back to the west coast of Maui–is the exact opposite of the newly paved road. There’s eight miles of gravel, one-way roads wrapped around blind cliff-hugging corners, and car death traps plunging down steep hills. Rental car companies on Maui will void your insurance policy if you drive this stretch because it’s so rough on cars.

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