Boarding Pass – Jennifer Wetzel

Last month my world got a little smaller when I was preparing a “sneak peek” for Design*Sponge. Jennifer Wetzel shot the Kansas City home tour, and somehow the dots were connected, and we realized that Jennifer – professional photographer – is married to my childhood friend Lucas (I lived in Kansas during elementary school). It was a completely unexpected, but delightful connection, and fun to be back in touch with Luke after 20 years, and today get to know Jennifer a little better. P.S. One of her side projects even documents bathrooms around the world! Thanks, Jennifer! –Anne

home town:
Joplin, Missouri

where you live now:
Kansas City. We’re always moving back and forth across State Line from Kansas and Missouri and back again.

last trip taken:

Seattle, Washington to visit my best friend for a week. We stayed in her living room and she took us to all of her favorite places. She’s lived there for 5 years, so I trust her more than I would my own outsider agenda. I love when you leave a place thinking I could live here.

next trip on deck:
Hopefully we’ll revisit Europe with our daughter before she is old enough to need her own plane ticket. I’d love to introduce her to our friends there, and start her travels early. She’s already flown to Austin, Texas and Seattle, Washington, and she just turned 6 months old!

one place you would go back to again and again:

Germany. We have gone there again and again and we will continue to go again and again to visit friends and family.

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

Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city has beautiful parks and makes smart use of its public space. There are loads of art museums and things to do, but just walking around and getting lost (and you will get lost) is most enjoyable. My favorite of our three visits there was when we had a 5 hour flight layover, took the tram to the city and then just sat at a sidewalk cafe watching people walk by in the rain. I feel like I got a true sense of the people there, just by observing them going about their day.

preferred method of transportation:
in-town: walking
from town to town: trains
I love when the public transit in a city really works to connect the community. Here is a series of vignettes that my husband, Lucas, wrote about public transit in Germany based on his observations commuting to work and class each day.

place you’ve never been but dying to go:
Brazil is intriguing. I know very little Portuguese though. But the music! And the food! And the energy!

place you’d never go back:

Marrekesh, Morocco was a little overwhelming. The hustle and bustle was a little much for me. Once we got to the smaller coastal town of Essouira, I was much more relaxed. You find out what kind of person you are when you are travelling. Your limits are tested, sometimes you adapt and other times you discover a personal trait that you have to own up to. Personally, I’m not a good haggler at the market. I know this now.

most memorable trip in 2 sentences or less:
Living in Germany for 8 months was a bit like an extended trip with a leisurely return back to the U.S. I am constantly reminded of all sorts of little memories from daily life there and it’s something that I never want to forget.

how do you prepare for a trip?
I look at the weather forecast a day or two before I leave and then pack only what I need into one bag. I read a bit about the history and try to stay away from the tourist books. 

how do you record your travels when you’re traveling?
I take photos and Lucas writes. Sometimes we collaborate on a project pairing what we observed to share with others or to publish in a newspaper, magazine or impressionistic blog post

what is your favorite thing to photograph in a new place?
Just an everyday street scene. Nothing will remind you of that feeling of standing there like seeing things exactly as they are, with no posing people or special monuments. Just life, somewhere else in the world. It’s humbling. Lately, I’ve been documenting the beautiful bathrooms of the world

on an average, how many pictures to you take on a trip?
Probably not near as many as other photographers. I like to observe for a bit once I arrive in a new place. I like to notice things as a traveler first and then shoot them instead of searching for things to shoot immediately. You have to give a place the chance to show you what it thinks you should see.

what’s in your “designer travel kit” ?
Canon 5D MkII. Lenses change according to location. Urban place: 40mm pancake lens, a location with landscapes, maybe 85mm fixed? I prefer fast lenses so I can shoot at night, too. Sunglasses and a scarf are definitely on my person at all times. Sometimes I carry a small notebook to jot ideas down, or note details about a place that I want to research more later. 

what do you do after a trip? how long after a trip does this happen?
I always put together a photo gallery online to share with friends and family and for my own collection. I do it immediately upon return, while the memories are fresh. I also print out 4×6 prints (and a few larger) and put them in an album. It’s fun to have a physical product to look though.

favorite souvenir/thing to bring back?
Photos satisfy my souvenir need.  I also collect postcards from the places I visit for our collection.  My husband bought me a postcard spinner to display them all. I bring back that feeling of independence and curiosity to remind myself that travel is important to see how other people in the world live and how we are all so similar and so different.


BOARDING PASS is a regular column exploring the creative ways people travel.

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