Cigars with Missionaries

 "' Uber is not available in your location'?!  They could drop us off here but not take us back?!" Steve said as the realization that we might be walking in 100% humidity for who knows how long. I fumbled around in my pocket for my iPhone, in hopes that I could push a couple more buttons better than Steve could to get us a ride out of nowhere. We were an hour out of Santo Domingo, which was at this time our desired destination, had little cell reception, and the only structures around us were a small market and a stand full of Dominican souvenirs. Oh and the scariest part? We were out of pesos and traveling solely with plastic and way too much camera equipment. I extended the handle from the rolling Pelican case and started to walk alongside the highway. 

"'Uber is not available in your location'?! They could drop us off here but not take us back?!" Steve said as the realization that we might be walking in 100% humidity for who knows how long. I fumbled around in my pocket for my iPhone, in hopes that I could push a couple more buttons better than Steve could to get us a ride out of nowhere. We were an hour out of Santo Domingo, which was at this time our desired destination, had little cell reception, and the only structures around us were a small market and a stand full of Dominican souvenirs. Oh and the scariest part? We were out of pesos and traveling solely with plastic and way too much camera equipment. I extended the handle from the rolling Pelican case and started to walk alongside the highway. 

 At the end of June, I traveled to the Dominican Republic to shoot some video for my home church and meet with non-profits doing good work where it was heavily needed. This particular work trip was different for many reasons, but mainly because I got to travel with a good friend: my girlfriends father, Steve, is the global outreach pastor at a church back in Santa Clarita, ca. After being around him for the past 6 years, I've learned to love his humor, respect his admiration for classic movie gems (mainly starring Chevy Chase), and gain so much wisdom from his stories. For 5 days we ran around Santiago and Santo Domingo visiting friends in villages, worked on our Spanish, and somewhere near the top of my list, smoked my first cigar with missionaries. 

At the end of June, I traveled to the Dominican Republic to shoot some video for my home church and meet with non-profits doing good work where it was heavily needed. This particular work trip was different for many reasons, but mainly because I got to travel with a good friend: my girlfriends father, Steve, is the global outreach pastor at a church back in Santa Clarita, ca. After being around him for the past 6 years, I've learned to love his humor, respect his admiration for classic movie gems (mainly starring Chevy Chase), and gain so much wisdom from his stories. For 5 days we ran around Santiago and Santo Domingo visiting friends in villages, worked on our Spanish, and somewhere near the top of my list, smoked my first cigar with missionaries. 

 Dominican friends. I was as stoked to meet them as they were to play with my camera. 

Dominican friends. I was as stoked to meet them as they were to play with my camera. 

 Our shirts were instantly soaked the moment we started trucking down the highway.   "Maybe if we walk a little ways we'll be back in the zone for Uber or Lyft to pick us back up. Should only be a ways if they could bring us all the way out here." Almost the second I finished my sentence, 2 loud honks coming from behind us made us whip our heads around to see if we were about to be killed or picked up. The extended van pulled up alongside of us as the host jumped out the side door. He said something in Spanish that was too quick for me to translate.   "A donde vas?"   "Santo Domingo," the driver said, as he waved us in the door like you would see on some cheesy commercial inviting you to come to a resort in Cabo. Steve and I looked at each other, shared some gentle laughs, and boarded this God-given van.

Our shirts were instantly soaked the moment we started trucking down the highway. 

"Maybe if we walk a little ways we'll be back in the zone for Uber or Lyft to pick us back up. Should only be a ways if they could bring us all the way out here." Almost the second I finished my sentence, 2 loud honks coming from behind us made us whip our heads around to see if we were about to be killed or picked up. The extended van pulled up alongside of us as the host jumped out the side door. He said something in Spanish that was too quick for me to translate. 

"A donde vas?" 

"Santo Domingo," the driver said, as he waved us in the door like you would see on some cheesy commercial inviting you to come to a resort in Cabo. Steve and I looked at each other, shared some gentle laughs, and boarded this God-given van.

 Local's choice of transportation.

Local's choice of transportation.

 Even though we boarded a van heading exactly where we needed to go, we still had an issue: cero pesos. And we figured this van didn't accept debit. Soon enough, the host came down the aisle collecting peoples money who had recently boarded. Steve and I were in the last row awaiting to see what would happen. Us and the host didn't have much of a conversation, save for us showing him our cards and saying "no pesos, lo siempre." I tried communicating that we could get off at the next stop, but the Dominican host stared at us without a word for several minutes. He wasn't too happy that these two gringos hopped on his cab and expected a free ride. Eventually he went back to his seat up front. We shrugged and looked out the window for the next hour and a half drive to the capital.

Even though we boarded a van heading exactly where we needed to go, we still had an issue: cero pesos. And we figured this van didn't accept debit. Soon enough, the host came down the aisle collecting peoples money who had recently boarded. Steve and I were in the last row awaiting to see what would happen. Us and the host didn't have much of a conversation, save for us showing him our cards and saying "no pesos, lo siempre." I tried communicating that we could get off at the next stop, but the Dominican host stared at us without a word for several minutes. He wasn't too happy that these two gringos hopped on his cab and expected a free ride. Eventually he went back to his seat up front. We shrugged and looked out the window for the next hour and a half drive to the capital.

 Cerveza. 

Cerveza. 

 A family born and raised in this village on the outskirts of Santiago. A church was planted here by a friend of ours named Felix, and has already done some incredible things.

A family born and raised in this village on the outskirts of Santiago. A church was planted here by a friend of ours named Felix, and has already done some incredible things.

 Cigar factory doorman. I was shocked when he told me he was 41 years old. 

Cigar factory doorman. I was shocked when he told me he was 41 years old. 

 I started to get a bit more nervous when we started to approach the last stop. Our plan was to tell him we had no money and try to say we'd go to an ATM and pay him back, with a generous tip. Before we could even take another stab at our humiliating spanish, the host took us off the bus and told us to follow him. The host wasn't a scary looking guy, but we were in an unfamiliar zone and following a guy we were indebted to. We had no idea where we were going. 

I started to get a bit more nervous when we started to approach the last stop. Our plan was to tell him we had no money and try to say we'd go to an ATM and pay him back, with a generous tip. Before we could even take another stab at our humiliating spanish, the host took us off the bus and told us to follow him. The host wasn't a scary looking guy, but we were in an unfamiliar zone and following a guy we were indebted to. We had no idea where we were going. 

 Many cigars were shared this week. Including my first in which I spewed after when I stood up...

Many cigars were shared this week. Including my first in which I spewed after when I stood up...

 After what seemed to me like a never-ending walk through the slums of Santo Domingo, we were relieved to see that he took us to an international bank, yet he still didn't look too happy. After screwing with the ATM machine and holding up the line, we finally got out 3,000 pesos, although we had no idea what we owed. The host was hard to understand and would usually just stare at us. We handed him 2,000 pesos for the 1.5 hour ride (about 40 US dollars). He took it, shook his head, and finally cracked a smile. He said "No, no, no," virtually returned all of the bills, and only kept about 6 US dollars.

After what seemed to me like a never-ending walk through the slums of Santo Domingo, we were relieved to see that he took us to an international bank, yet he still didn't look too happy. After screwing with the ATM machine and holding up the line, we finally got out 3,000 pesos, although we had no idea what we owed. The host was hard to understand and would usually just stare at us. We handed him 2,000 pesos for the 1.5 hour ride (about 40 US dollars). He took it, shook his head, and finally cracked a smile. He said "No, no, no," virtually returned all of the bills, and only kept about 6 US dollars.

 Not only did my first time in a third world country teach me to never travel with just plastic, but this trip was amazing to hang with kids like these. I could teach them how to click a shutter all day long, even if they swarm and fill my lens with finger prints. For more information on how you can help a rad organization in a place like the DR, check out GO Ministries    here.

Not only did my first time in a third world country teach me to never travel with just plastic, but this trip was amazing to hang with kids like these. I could teach them how to click a shutter all day long, even if they swarm and fill my lens with finger prints. For more information on how you can help a rad organization in a place like the DR, check out GO Ministries here.

Winter In The Sierra

 "Man... This wind is pretty heavy. Is your van feeling it as much as mine?" After a bit of static, I heard Beau click on to channel 4 on the walkie: "Yeah... let's just take it slow. We'll be fine." We were heading up the pass from Bishop towards Owens Valley, in hopes to beat the storm and find a spot for the night. The Weather report showed that Mammoth mountain, which is about 15 minutes north from our projected camp spot, was going to get dumped on. The wind was taking its toll and making it hard for us to drive and stay in our own lane. We drove up the pass at approximately 30mph.

"Man... This wind is pretty heavy. Is your van feeling it as much as mine?" After a bit of static, I heard Beau click on to channel 4 on the walkie: "Yeah... let's just take it slow. We'll be fine." We were heading up the pass from Bishop towards Owens Valley, in hopes to beat the storm and find a spot for the night. The Weather report showed that Mammoth mountain, which is about 15 minutes north from our projected camp spot, was going to get dumped on. The wind was taking its toll and making it hard for us to drive and stay in our own lane. We drove up the pass at approximately 30mph.

 We reached the summit, finally, and passed a small town coined Tom's Place. Here, the wind got only worse. Pine trees and aspens were almost getting torn out of the ground and ending up on the highway. Yet we kept trucking. Earlier at a Starbucks in Bishop, we contemplated going back up to Owens for the night due to the approaching storm and just finding a place to sleep at lower elevation. But the thought of waking up to snow on the ground and a few yards from a hot spring made us want to risk it. 

We reached the summit, finally, and passed a small town coined Tom's Place. Here, the wind got only worse. Pine trees and aspens were almost getting torn out of the ground and ending up on the highway. Yet we kept trucking. Earlier at a Starbucks in Bishop, we contemplated going back up to Owens for the night due to the approaching storm and just finding a place to sleep at lower elevation. But the thought of waking up to snow on the ground and a few yards from a hot spring made us want to risk it. 

 First time in a spring with snow on the ground.

First time in a spring with snow on the ground.

 Dear friends.

Dear friends.

 "Wind seems like it's dying off, but those clouds sure look dark." "What?" Beau questioned, in an alarmed voice. "I said the wind is getting better but those clouds look like they're gonna dump. Over" I said, knowing his next response. "Oh, I couldn't hear you because you didn't say 'Over.' Over." I had a few days to kill, and wanted to go on a trip. Originally, I planned to go somewhere I had never been, but I heard the mountains were gonna see a lot of snow, and I had never been up this time of year. It was the tail end of winter, and I hoped to see some snow. Born and raised in So Cal, I've seen little in my days.

"Wind seems like it's dying off, but those clouds sure look dark." "What?" Beau questioned, in an alarmed voice. "I said the wind is getting better but those clouds look like they're gonna dump. Over" I said, knowing his next response. "Oh, I couldn't hear you because you didn't say 'Over.' Over." I had a few days to kill, and wanted to go on a trip. Originally, I planned to go somewhere I had never been, but I heard the mountains were gonna see a lot of snow, and I had never been up this time of year. It was the tail end of winter, and I hoped to see some snow. Born and raised in So Cal, I've seen little in my days.

 Warms you twice.

Warms you twice.

 My favorite kind of road.

My favorite kind of road.

 Cooking dinner.

Cooking dinner.

 "Follow me. I know of a spot right next to a spring that I think I remember is pretty level. Hopefully no one is around." "What?" Beau asked again, trying to keep the humor alive. We pulled up and spent some time backing up and pulling into the gravel, trying to find the most level ground, an essential vanlife skill. We got it good enough, and started cleaning and organizing our vans for the night. Rain started to sprinkle and the shrubs were doing their wind dance. The sun went down, and I invited Beau over for a movie in my van. He surprised me by buying a copy of  The Last of the Mohicans. 

"Follow me. I know of a spot right next to a spring that I think I remember is pretty level. Hopefully no one is around." "What?" Beau asked again, trying to keep the humor alive. We pulled up and spent some time backing up and pulling into the gravel, trying to find the most level ground, an essential vanlife skill. We got it good enough, and started cleaning and organizing our vans for the night. Rain started to sprinkle and the shrubs were doing their wind dance. The sun went down, and I invited Beau over for a movie in my van. He surprised me by buying a copy of The Last of the Mohicans. 

 If you ever have the chance to stop by the Mono Lake Information Center, do it. They play some rad films about Native Americans who occupied the Mono region.

If you ever have the chance to stop by the Mono Lake Information Center, do it. They play some rad films about Native Americans who occupied the Mono region.

 Alabama Hills.

Alabama Hills.

 First light.

First light.

 Bishop Skatepark. 

Bishop Skatepark. 

 Snow flurry on the 395.

Snow flurry on the 395.

 Breaky.

Breaky.

 Spent the first night with the valley to myself.

Spent the first night with the valley to myself.

 I woke up to a loud knock on the window of my camper and opened my eyes to be blinded by a red headlamp. Beau. It was barely light outside, but we wanted to make sure we were the first ones in the tub. All night I wondered if I'd wake up to snow. I quickly remembered, threw on my long johns, and popped open the door. I had to shove it open because the door handles had frozen shut on the van. A few tries and it flew open. I popped out my head out and sure enough: snow. Beau was pretty pumped and had already been walking around checking it out. We gathered gear and headed for the hot spring. This trip made me take a vow that I would never go another winter without camping in the snow.

I woke up to a loud knock on the window of my camper and opened my eyes to be blinded by a red headlamp. Beau. It was barely light outside, but we wanted to make sure we were the first ones in the tub. All night I wondered if I'd wake up to snow. I quickly remembered, threw on my long johns, and popped open the door. I had to shove it open because the door handles had frozen shut on the van. A few tries and it flew open. I popped out my head out and sure enough: snow. Beau was pretty pumped and had already been walking around checking it out. We gathered gear and headed for the hot spring. This trip made me take a vow that I would never go another winter without camping in the snow.

Vanlife Book: Foster Huntington

 If you're a lover of vans or being outside, chances are you have come across the name Foster Huntington. I have, about 5 years ago. When I found his blog,    A Restless Transplant   , I was instantly hooked on his travels, writing, and photography. His Syncro and simple style of photography kinda made me who I am today. Foster's work inspired me to pick up a 35mm film camera I didn't know how to use, and eventually invest in a van as a means of sleeping in places I never would have thought of.

If you're a lover of vans or being outside, chances are you have come across the name Foster Huntington. I have, about 5 years ago. When I found his blog, A Restless Transplant, I was instantly hooked on his travels, writing, and photography. His Syncro and simple style of photography kinda made me who I am today. Foster's work inspired me to pick up a 35mm film camera I didn't know how to use, and eventually invest in a van as a means of sleeping in places I never would have thought of.

 A couple years ago, Foster made a killer vanlife book featuring all the wild rigs he's come across during his years of travel. Nowadays, people love looking at that kind of content. Photos of such give them this fantasy world where they would quit their 9 to 5 job and explore wherever they wanted, living on the road. Foster just made another book titled Vanlife: Your Home On the Road, which features a bunch of travelers that decided to do just that and hit the road. 

A couple years ago, Foster made a killer vanlife book featuring all the wild rigs he's come across during his years of travel. Nowadays, people love looking at that kind of content. Photos of such give them this fantasy world where they would quit their 9 to 5 job and explore wherever they wanted, living on the road. Foster just made another book titled Vanlife: Your Home On the Road, which features a bunch of travelers that decided to do just that and hit the road. 

 As Foster announced on social media that he would begin receiving photo submissions for the book, I instantly started gathering some of my favorite van photos from over the years. Foster is my favorite photog/van guru, and to be featured in something he created would be insane. Oddly enough, I didn't have to submit anything to get in the book. Foster contacted me shortly after and asked if I would contribute some photos myself. I was ecstatic.

As Foster announced on social media that he would begin receiving photo submissions for the book, I instantly started gathering some of my favorite van photos from over the years. Foster is my favorite photog/van guru, and to be featured in something he created would be insane. Oddly enough, I didn't have to submit anything to get in the book. Foster contacted me shortly after and asked if I would contribute some photos myself. I was ecstatic.

 Getting my work in a book created by the guy that inspired to do this stuff is a huge milestone for me. Sure, my part isn't as rad as some of the other few van dwellers living on the road, but I'm stoked to have been included. I love vanlife culture and the way Foster has documented it and curated this type of culture.

Getting my work in a book created by the guy that inspired to do this stuff is a huge milestone for me. Sure, my part isn't as rad as some of the other few van dwellers living on the road, but I'm stoked to have been included. I love vanlife culture and the way Foster has documented it and curated this type of culture.

 Good friend   Barky   has probably the coolest section in the book. Well done my friend.

Good friend Barky has probably the coolest section in the book. Well done my friend.

 If you feel like feeding your inner wanderlust while stuck doing something you wish you weren't doing (which happens to often to me), pick up a copy    here .   You will not be disappointed.

If you feel like feeding your inner wanderlust while stuck doing something you wish you weren't doing (which happens to often to me), pick up a copy hereYou will not be disappointed.