It’s that time of year again, when I start a post by inadequately summarizing the year that was with a line of statistics based on international travel. Here it goes: In 2021, I traveled for 126 days and set foot in nine countries: Mexico, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg. I actually set foot in the Netherlands too, but since that was just to catch a flight and only for a few hours, we won’t count it.
Without further ado, here are ten photos from 2021.
After existing within a roughly 10-mile radius of the house in Florida for ten months because of the pandemic, it was exciting to board a flight to Washington DC. I went to photograph the atmosphere surrounding the Biden Inauguration. This was my third inauguration since 2009, and each has had a distinct mood. This one felt precarious, because democracy felt precarious. The rapidly constructed fence surrounding the Capitol in the wake of the January 6 assault, the swollen security presence, the dearth of normal people on the streets — it was a little dystopian.
(One of my regrets in 2021: that I didn’t go to Washington two weeks earlier to document the Stop the Steal rally.)
After 15 months away from Tennessee, I made it back in March and enjoyed catching up with friends, working at cafes I had missed, going on walks. Got vaccinated here too. And then in April I flew to Cancun and hopped on a bus to Tulum.
I stayed a couple months in Mexico, half that time in Tulum (the picture above is at Playa Paraiso), making pictures and enjoying very much the opportunity to interact with traveling strangers again. I stayed several weeks at Meteora Stay & Coffeehouse, a hostel in Tulum’s center, and it was one of the top hostel experiences of my life on account of the people there and the connections made.
I returned to Tennessee for part of the summer. More working in cafes and seeing friends. A highlight was a weekend visit with college friends Evan and Laura at their place in Asheville. In the picture above: Evan hiking on Black Balsam Knob off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
One of the things I was doing in cafes in Tennessee: a story about a WWII plane crash site that I first visited as a child. In September, “A Personal Pilgrimage to a Downed Warplane in Papua New Guinea” was published in The New York Times.
In late September I flew to Madrid to begin a 67-day trip in Europe. A unique characteristic of this trip was that I stayed with friends the entire time.
In Spain, I visited Madrid, Salamanca, Avila, and finally Barcelona, where I had but one full day. One of the first people I photographed that day was 19-year-old Bruno, slacklining in a park. By the time the sun would set, I had photographed 20 people, and in two of those cases the person and I would discover that I had photographed one of their friends elsewhere in the world. That sort of thing makes the world feel beautifully small.
In Switzerland I stayed in three cities: Yverdon-les-Bains, Bern, and Zurich, with Swiss, Israeli, and American friends. The picture above, of a wonderful woman named Hebe, is in Yverdon-les-Bains.
The next stop was Munich, where I was hosted by my friend Michy. On the first full day in Germany I joined her and her friend Lina on a day trip to the mountains above Mittenwald for a refreshing hike that finished after dark. On the drive back to Munich we stopped off at a sauna in Starnberg. A perfect start to a two-week visit to Bavaria.
From Munich I took a couple buses and a train to Luxembourg (I traveled exclusively by bus and train in Europe). Here I stayed only for a weekend — too short! — but it was enough to meet people, go on a couple hikes, and enjoy the beauty of late autumn. I also experienced my first Christmas market in Europe — at last! — and loved even more than anticipated the festive, community atmosphere. (The picture above was taken on a road near the famous Schiessentümpel Waterfall.)
And last but not least: Paris. A week of long solitary walks, and dinners with a dear friend.
I flew back to Florida on December 1 and would be here for the remainder of the year. On Christmas Day, I took the camera to the beach and photographed a few folks, like Pat and Jane Johnson, looking toward the horizon.
And that’s it, a rough review of 2021.