Today’s cameras are wonderful and capable machines. And next year’s models will be even better. In fact, the longer you wait to upgrade your camera, the bigger your reward.
The time-value proposition for world travel is exactly the opposite. For every year you wait to travel, opportunities are lost to history. Global cultures are becoming more homogenous. Uniqueness is rapidly disappearing.
If you are faced with the choice of updating a five-year-old camera or traveling to experience Vietnam, you should grab your perfectly fine gear and hop on a plane.
The destinations we select for X-Peditions workshops are chosen for their cultural and photographic uniqueness. But also, because they are cities in transition. Some are experiencing seismic changes. But that same precariousness also means they have qualities in danger of soon being lost.
We are constantly visiting, revisiting and re-evaluating our destination cities. Our past, present and future cities include:
HAVANA, CUBA (2018, 2019)
X-Peditions’ first workshops were held in Havana. Geographically close yet culturally distant, Cuba was a natural inaugural choice. Joe and David’s prior experience and personal contacts in the country allowed our travelers to stretch beyond the typical tourist bubble experience.
We have temporarily suspended our workshops in Cuba pending resolution of tightened US travel restrictions and the political unrest in nearby (and closely linked) Venezuela. The Cuban people are experiencing significant economic hardship due to both of those factors.
Our hearts remain with the friends we have made on the island. We will continue to monitor and assess the situation, and look forward to resuming travel to Cuba as soon as it is appropriate to do so.
HANOI, VIETNAM (2019 – present)
With its friendly people, traditional culture and world-class food, Vietnam will quickly win you over. Hanoi in particular offers an amazing environment for traveling photographers. But it also is a city in transition.
The maze of buildings in the Old Quarter, the city’s iconic scooter culture and even its vibrant street food scene are all under threat of modernization. Five years from now, Hanoi will be a very different place.
Our Hanoi itineraries vary based on the month in which we visit. September’s Hanoi X-Pedition is timed to the rice harvest. It includes include a trip via overnight train deep into the rural mountains near the Chinese border to stay overnight in a traditional farming village. This region of Vietnam features some of the most extreme geography in Southeast Asia, and our side trip provides a look into a traditional lifestyle relatively few westerners get to see.
Our November Hanoi X-Pedition includes a visit to the Ninh Binh region. If those huge limestone rock formations jutting up out of the flatlands remind you of Skull Island, maybe it’s because they filmed much of the 2017 King Kong movie here.
En route to Ninh Binh we’ll stop at an untouristed village to see and photograph the hand manufacturing of vast amounts of incense for the upcoming Vietnamese Tết holiday. On our trip back to Hanoi, we’ll visit a remote pottery factory which employs centuries-old traditional techniques.
Opportunities like this are thanks to Thu Hoia, our Hanoi-based producer. As journalists, we refer to such indispensable people as “fixers”. They greatly expand both our range and capabilities when working in foreign countries.
You will find Thu to be a knowledgeable and friendly presence on our trip. She will be your window into the less obvious aspects of Vietnam.
Those joining either of our Hanoi X-Peditions should expect a welcoming culture that is open to discovery, a mix of dense urban and traditional rural environments and a mouth-watering food experience.
LISBON, PORTUGAL (Schedule TBD After Coronavirus)
We originally had decided not to include European cities as potential X-Peditions destinations. But a chance 2019 encounter with Lisbon, Portugal changed our minds.
We’re currently scouting Lisbon and developing an itinerary for our first trip there after COVID-19 vaccine availability. We are happy to be working with Lisbon-based photographer Emanuele Siracusa, who will be lending his considerable local knowledge and abilities to our cause.
Lisbon offers an alluring and unique opportunity to visit the Europe while turning back the clock. You’ll discover a charming city that has not yet experienced the mass influx of tourism or (even worse) Starbucks, McDonalds and the like.
The narrow lanes of the old city neighborhoods filter the light as it makes its way down to the cobblestone streets, taking on various hues from the reflections. Even non-photographers remark about the light in Lisbon.
The Seven Hills of Lisbon, AKA The Seven Giants, form a striking backdrop for street photography. Even if you pack your camera bag lightly, you’ll expend plenty of energy searching for photos along the inclines.
The good news is that all of that extra work will allow you to rationalize your daily regimen of pasteis de nata each morning—and perhaps an extra glass of port at the end of the day.
KATHMANDU, NEPAL (Schedule TBD After Coronavirus)
Nepal has made great progress in rebuilding following the earthquakes of April 2015, with many historic districts having been repaired. We are fortunate to be working alongside Ajay Maharjan, our photographer-producer in Kathmandu.
Our plans for Kathmandu are currently on hold due to COVID-19. We’ll have a timeline after we are post-vaccine. What we can say now is that Kathmandu will offer an adventurous mix of friendly culture, significant historical sites and a present-day sprawling metropolis within a developing country.
As with our other trips, we’ll be looking to get outside of the big city to interact with and photograph the quieter side of this unique and spiritual country.