Boarding Pass: Annamatic

I’m more than thrilled to introduce you to my brand new weekly column, BOARDING PASS, an insider look at designers and how they travel. I was honored when Annamatic (aka Anna Lee) enthusiastically agreed to be my first featured designer. I’m a huge fan of her blog have long admired her flickr albums and mini travel guides. I used her (very helpful!) mini guide in Bangkok last May, and now it’s been fun seeing places I’ve visited, but through her eyes. Without further ado, here’s Anna:

[self-portraits in angkor wat and bangkok]

last trip taken:
Saipan and Tinian, both part of the U.S. Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands [Chulu Beach pictured below]next trip on deck:

Maui, Hawaii

one place you would go back to again and again:


place you’d most likely recommend a friend go visit:

For foodies: Singapore
For design hounds: Bangkok
For the curious: Yap, part of the Federated States of Micronesia

preferred method of transportation:


place you’ve never been but dying to go:

Java, Indonesia, to see the Borobodur

most memorable trip:

The first time I really traveled by myself was a 6 day trip to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in Cambodia. Traveling alone allowed me to take it slow and get to know people, and I was humbled by just how friendly and generous so many Cambodians were despite their difficult and tragic recent history.

[click here and here for the stories behind Anna’s sketches in Cambodia ]

how do you prepare for a trip?
Usually I first consult a Lonely Planet and Wikipedia to get a basic understanding of history, geography and culture. Then I spend a few weeks Googling and lurking on blogs to find those cool and off-the-beaten-track things that printed travel books don’t often mention. I definitely consult local food blogs to see where (down to the EXACT street stall location) the tasty stuff is. And one of my favorite things to do is search for my destination on Flickr to get some ideas from the wonderful photos that fellow photography-oriented travelers have taken.

  • I have a terrible sense of direction! Getting lost is fun too, but I like to be extra prepared with some good maps… and a compass. Soo…. I don’t like to carry around a big or conspicuous travel guide when I’m exploring so I usually download just the map from Lonely Planet’s website.
  • For design-oriented city maps, so I don’t miss all the cool galleries or magazine shops….superfuture.
  • I’ve found Travelfish to be pretty helpful too; their maps are pretty simple but point out all the important things. They focus on Southeast Asia.
  • This Google map helps me get a sense of where all the accommodations are so I can choose one that is near all the places I want to explore: seeyourhotel.
[sketches from Cambodia]

how do you record your travels?

  • Photographs
  • Sketches. I wish I could do more of these but the travel schedule is usually too tight to allow for much sitting around.
  • Notes & observations
  • To remind myself of the details (the name of the dish, or the location of the temple, etc), I photograph street signs, menus, subway maps; and I keep all the receipts and ticket stubs.

favorite thing to photograph in a new place?

Food! Interesting typography & signs. Architecture, with a preference for old buildings. Maybe it’s weird, but I prefer not to take photos of people. I worry about being intrusive, and invading people’s privacy, so I’m kind of self-conscious about that. To remember people I met, sometimes I write down the conversations I had with them.

[food compilation, Singapore]

on an average, how many pictures to you take on a trip?
About a hundred photos a day

what’s in your “designer travel kit” ?
Canon PowerShot G7: I like it’s size, not too hefty and not too delicate. I considered upgrading to a DSLR for better quality imagery and manual control but there are two things I don’t like about them for traveling: I think they are too heavy and conspicuous for carrying around in unfamiliar terrain, and I also think the size is off-putting for locals in a lot of places where digital cameras cost more than their per capita GDP. A big camera can sometimes come between people, and in the end it’s more important for me to come away with wonderful memories rather than flashy National Geographic style pictures… Sometimes I take a few shots on a regular 35 mm film camera without aiming because I like to surprise myself by developing the odd roll of film at the end of the year and seeing what’s on it.

I always have a Moleskine sketchbook with me, for sketches and observations. I tend to doodle or keep a diary when I travel alone; not so much if I’m traveling with my husband or parents. For better or for worse, creative endeavors tend to be solitary pursuits for me, so I don’t usually feel compelled to draw or write so much when I’m with travel companions.

[objects from various travels]

what do you do after a trip?
I upload my favorite pics to Flickr and write descriptions for them. Each trip’s photo set becomes a kind of diary / essay of the trip and it’s highlights. I compile a mini travel guide blog post where I list places to stay, things to do and how to get around. Because I’m a bit of a chowhound, I also like to do a blog recap of all the food I had in a particular locale. I love following up the trip by reading novels or short stories that are set in the place I just visited; it really adds another dimension to the storyline when one has had first-hand knowledge of the geography! I read a mystery by Colin Cotterill after coming back from Laos, and re-read some Murakami after visiting Tokyo… One of my favorite souvenirs to bring back is a jar of the local condiment of choice. So I like to cook a meal every now and then to bring back memories of the flavors… From Singapore, I brought kaya spread, from Laos, I brought a jar of jaew (spicy red pepper and buffalo skin paste), from Tinian, I brought their super-spicy chili paste. And of course, I love shopping for crafting supplies when abroad. When I get back home, sometimes I like to make something using the fabric or paper or other odds and ends that I found there.

how long after a trip does this happen?
I usually post my photos to Flickr about 1 week after the trip. I have a really bad memory and am kind of paranoid that if I don’t do that I’ll forget everything! But the blog posts usually take longer, so sometimes that happens from 1 to 2 months after the trip.

more from annamatic:
etsy shop (in 2009 all proceed’s from Anna’s etsy shop go to charity – she’s also doing it without buying any new crafting supplies!)

Thanks a million, Anna!!!


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