Boarding Pass – Jen Altman

It is often said that you learn a lot about yourself through travel. Well, in the case of my Boarding Pass series, I find that I learn a lot about others through their own travels. I never would have guessed that the beautiful, soft eye of photographer Jen Altman had spent time in the United States Navy (aka her ticket living in Europe! – read on below). Originally from California, but growing up for a time in Japan and smack dab in middle America (Omaha), I think I can relate to Jen’s life growing up a little bit of everywhere (although mine was all domestic), and made it extra fun putting together today’s feature. Even more fantastic are the new travel-inspired projects she’s putting together these days :) Enjoy! {Thanks, Jen!}
last trip taken:
I just returned from Boulder, Colorado last week – but that was work related. My last foray out of the country was Tuscany last summer in which my dear friend and I shared an old farm house in a tiny village outside of Lucca for two weeks.

next trip on deck:
The only trip I have on the books right now is to Stockholm in May to shoot my cousin’s wedding. I am so excited not only to be a part of that special day, but it will be my first time to Sweden as well. In the meantime, my mom and I try to take an annual road trip with my daughters to see family in Atlanta, Georgia. I have a major crush on the south and traveling by car is the absolute best way to indulge in that part of the country – so many equally quirky and breathtaking things to see.

{a little collage of adventures over the last ten years…}

one place you would go back to again and again:

Sardinia, Italy – again and again. It is my favorite place on earth. I lived in Sardinia for three years and I reflect on that time often – it was the first time I lived on my own – it was a soulful, almost spiritual experience and Sardinia itself is bewitching. Once it captures your soul, it’s hold is eternal. It was also my first experience with slow food – everything you consume comes from the land and sea outside of your door – I truly believe that is part of the islands power – as you consume – it consumes you.

place you’d most likely recommend a friend go visit:
Such a tough one! That would truly depend on the person and what they would like to gain from the experience. I had an amazing time traveling through the Highlands of Scotland; walking the streets of Paris; shopping the souqs in Turkey… Greece and Israel were both very spiritual journeys. That is the beauty of travel – there is a place in which anyone can feel like they have found home.

preferred method of transportation:
I think this depends on where I am. When traveling in the States – I love to travel by car. There is something almost nostalgic about stopping at the plethora of strange and wonderful road-side attractions this country has to offer – and I am equally adventurous about road food when I travel. Some of the best meals of my life have been consumed in dusty road side cafes. In Europe, I love traveling by train – there is something heartbreakingly romantic about it – I love writing and simply watching the world smoothly race by. When I lived in Europe I was serving with the United States Navy aboard a repair vessel. As our main mission was to aid and repair other vessels, most of our work was done in port. This was an incredibly unique situation in the Navy as we spent a maximum of about five days at sea before pulling into a new port. I loved traveling through the Mediterranean this way – the sky at sea is unmatched. I was on board when the ship changed homeports from Norfolk, Virginia to La Maddalena, Italy – I have never felt so truly alive as when standing on deck – the salt breezes creating havoc of my hair – in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
place you’ve never been but dying to go:
Without question, Egypt. I have been obsessed {and I am not using that word lightly} with ancient Egyptian history since I was a child and the thought of walking through the hushed and holy halls of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, standing in the Valley of the Kings, or at the foot of the Karnak sends ripples of excitement through my heart. I remember with utter clarity the feel of the earth reverberating through me when I first stepped foot in Italy, Greece and Ireland – I know that I would be so passionately connected with Egypt as well.

place you’d never go back:
I do not think that there really is a place that I could say I would never return to – though the airport in Pisa comes close. My husband and I did have a rather nasty spell of bad luck when we traveled to Budapest. The city itself was spellbinding. But traveling by bus 12 hours there and 12 hours back {3 hours each way spent at the Hungary/Croatia border} – and then having our luggage and purchases stolen from said bus – not so fun.
most memorable trip in 2 sentences or less:
Standing on the boardwalk in Opatija, Croatia; my husband whirling me around under a full moon while someone is playing “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” on the accordion. I remember wearing my hair in braids; I felt so young and alive – he asked me to marry him at that moment.

how do you prepare for a trip?
A crash course in the language is imperative to me – I do not like feeling helpless or that I could not communicate in an emergency situation. Beyond that, I day dream. A lot.
how do you record your travels when you’re traveling?
I photograph and I write. I collect a lot of paper – tickets, receipts, museum brochures – they really help clear the dreamy fog I find myself in when I return.

what is your favorite thing to photograph in a new place?
Everything. Anything that I find fascinating – people, food, land – if I am moved by it, I capture it. And doing so on Polaroid seems to enhance the memory – it is how I felt the moment I pressed the shutter – full of magic and lovely light.

on an average, how many pictures to you take on a trip?
Shooting Polaroid I am only limited by the amount of film I am willing to tote around with me. To me, 50 incredible Polaroids are worth gold in comparison to hundreds of digital files.
what’s in your “designer travel kit” ?
I never travel without at least one of my Polaroid cameras. My three favorites are my 680SLR, SX-70 and my 110b Pathfinder. I also love to bring a medium format camera – either my Hasselblad 503CW or Yashica Mat-124g. Loads of film of course. I have a little kraft paper Moleskine that has addresses in it – I also keep a supply of stamps in the interior pocket of the notebook for impromptu post card sending. I always bring my pack of Stabilo Point 88 markers, another blank soft cover Moleskine for journaling and sketching, a Kolo Essex travel book for note-taking and stuffing paper goodies {museum brochures and such} and my Ipod – packed with music that will eventually become the soundtrack to that adventure.
what do you do after a trip? how long after a trip does this happen?
Honestly, I go through a little down time – especially after returning from Italy. I feel like I belong there so coming back to the States is always a little bittersweet. I have so much in my life to be grateful for – so I focus on that and once the aforementioned fog has passed, I scan Polaroids into my Mac and share them on my blog – and sometimes, in my shop and online portfolio. This last trip to Italy actually helped inspire my latest venture, Fieryeyed Books whose first publication, “Little Italy” was in essence a visual journal of my time in Tuscany. When I returned from living abroad I found a wonderful project in an old Martha Stewart Living magazine that I wrote about and photographed here.
favorite souvenir/thing to bring back?
I always buy jewelry. I especially love finding one of a kind pieces in the markets and antique stores abroad. I love that I can go through my jewelry cabinet, pick up a piece and tell myself exactly where I purchased it and why – it bonds me to that place forever – a talisman – there is great power in such things. I have a necklace and a stack of bracelets I wear everyday of pieces I have collected throughout the world. The necklace is made up of five coins, stamps and medallions that not only symbolize their origin, but something much deeper to me – my spiritual connection with each of those places. A coin featuring the Goddess Athena as an owl from Greece and a medallion of Kuan Yin from Japan are among the five.

latest project::
on etsy::
d*s “sneak peek” :: here and here

Click HERE for more artists and designers featured on Boarding Pass!

1 Comment

  • such a lovely post. my very favorite part was the bit about jen’s engagement. who could resist? full moon, an accordion, braids? perfection.

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