Our Year In Pictures
From Mexico, to Istanbul, to Croatia, here are twelve photos that capture Brent's and my 2021.
The year is finally coming to a close, and when I first had the idea for this post, I was going to choose my favorite pictures of the last twelve months.
But when you've taken over twelve thousand photos, trying to pick your favorite is easier said than done — like a salmon trying to pick the favorite of her 12,000 eggs.
So instead, I decided to pick one picture from each month that tells a bit about what Brent’s and my life was like that particular month.
JANUARY: PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO
These are indigenous performers on Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon (boardwalk) who regularly perform a ceremony known as Danza de los Voladores, or the Dance of the Flyers.
The ceremony involves climbing to the top of a very tall pole, tying their feet to ropes attached to the pole, then spiraling downward, their arms outspread.
For me, the image captured the sense I was feeling of how almost a year into the pandemic we were all still hurtling through the air with no idea where we were going or how we were going to get back on the ground.
FEBRUARY: PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO
Brent and I spent the first part of this year in Mexico, waiting out Covid. As we entered the fourth month in our own self-imposed lockdown, I was incredibly grateful to have the ocean to keep me sane. It was just a twenty minute walk from where we lived, and I spent countless hours exploring the rock pools, snapping pictures, listening to the waves, and watching sunsets.
And, yeah, I know how incredibly lucky I was to have this as my backyard.
MARCH: PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO
During the pandemic, you heard lots of stories about couples discovering they didn’t really like their significant other. I think for a lot of folks it was partly having to adjust to having their partner around so much more than they were used to. Hopefully, they worked things out.
Fortunately, Brent and I not only like each other a great deal, we were already used to spending a ton of time together. So while the pandemic wasn’t ideal, we were glad to have each other around.
Well, almost always!
APRIL: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
Technically, we were still living in Puerto Vallarta for this month, but we became eligible for vaccines back in America, so we flew home for a couple of days to get poked. It was such a quick visit, we didn’t even have time to see friends and family, which only added to the sense of dislocation created by Covid.
Yes, we were incredibly privileged to be able to do this, and we feel bad about our increased carbon footprint. But our safety was important too.
MAY: ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Once we were fully vaccinated, we decided it was time to head out once more. Going from the relatively sleepy Puerto Vallarta to the vibrant intensity of one the largest cities in the world was total culture shock — but mostly in a good way.
Istanbul pulsed with life, from the locals thronging the streets in Eminönü, to the reflective worshipers at Hagia Sophia, to the tourists strolling along İstiklal Avenue in the Beyoglu neighborhood where we lived.
Sure, it could get a bit overwhelming at times, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
JUNE: ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Istanbul was also very much about the people we met there, including the young LGBTQ folks fighting for their rights; various expats from around the world; the young gay Indian man trying to avoid an arranged marriage; Duman the Turkish atheist who waxed philosophical about life; Resul, the gentle baker next door; and even Farouk, the one carpet merchant truly more interested in getting to know us instead of selling us a rug.
JULY: ISTANBUL, TURKEY
I must have taken thousands and thousands of pictures of Istanbul. That's because I've never seen a city with so many interesting sights: from the streets cats, to the endless history, to the street art, to the crowds in the markets, to the elegant decay of the buildings.
Even though my feelings about Istanbul remain very complicated six months later, I can honestly say the city gave me some kind of visual gift almost every single day — gifts I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.
AUGUST: BRAŞOV AND SIBIU, ROMANIA
After Istanbul’s urban intensity, the small towns of Brașov and Sibiu, Romania, tucked up in the Carpathian Mountains, provided us with exactly what we wanted: green forests, fresh air, and narrow cobblestone streets you could wander without a crush of humanity.
Sure, there were brown bears, but they just kept us on our toes.
SEPTEMBER: BUDAPEST, HUNGARY
Most of our time in Budapest was grey and overcast, which I found fitting for the mood the city left me in. It wasn’t that I disliked it exactly, but for me Budapest was a city to admire, not to love.
I think that’s because so much of it was about living in the past through the statues everywhere venerating great Hungarians (all men, natch), to the imposing buildings that shouted “WE WERE ONCE A MIGHTY EMPIRE!”
I’m glad we’ve been there, but I don’t think we’ll be going back.
OCTOBER: KESZTHELY, HUNGARY
Our time in sleepy Keszthely, along the shores of Lake Balaton, was much like our time in Romania — very chill and tranquil.
Almost every morning, I got up before dawn, rode my bike somewhere along the lake, and watched the sun come up with the swans of Lake Balaton.
Being able to watch the sun come up here and in Thailand and Switzerland and everywhere else we’ve lived around the world just might be the best part of being a digital nomad.
NOVEMBER: PRAGUE, CZECHIA
Now here is a city a person can fall in love with! I pretty much adored everything about Prague, from the gorgeous parks, to the charming streets of Old Town, to the mist-covered Charles Bridge on freezing mornings.
Unlike Budapest, and frankly Vienna, Prague felt to me like a city built for people, not for past grandeur. I never tired of wandering in the parks that seemed to be everywhere or exploring the city’s fascinating cemeteries, especially Olšany Cemetery, which felt more like a forest than a graveyard.
DECEMBER: SPLIT, CROATIA
We arrived in Split, Croatia, on a bright sunny Saturday. The next day we popped into a local stadium doing mass vaccinations and got our Covid boosters.
Life was good!
Then the weather turned stormy with lightning, torrential rains, and winds that pushed the harbor up onto the city waterfront. So it seemed fitting when news of the Omicron variant broke a few days later.
And so the year ends much like it began — our feeling uncertain about what the future holds next and where we’ll end up next. But we’re also determined to stay positive and try to carry on with our lives as much as possible under very weird circumstances.
Here’s hoping 2022 will finally see an end to this madness.
Goodbye until our next hello!
Michael (and Brent)
Beautiful pictures and insightful commentary.
Thank you for allowing me to live vicariously through your pictures and writings. Happy New Year!