Thursday, December 23, 2010

The World in 365

Photo: Teenie and Weenie in Shanghai, China
With fellow photographer Dan Denardo

2010 was a record year for me as I traveled to 19 countries within a 12 month period. Here's a peak at some of the places I've gone to, what I saw and the friendships I've made.

To see the full album, please follow the link:
The World in 365

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Photo: Breakfast in Huzhou, China

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sole to Soul

Photo: Shoe on wire

When I was younger my mom and I would spend hours at the local discount department store--browsing and trying new and amazing products. We were new immigrants to Canada at the time--with very little money to spend, so needless to say, we spent more time trying than buying.

One day, she had bought me a pair of shoes--blue with purple stripes and orange text that read "TRAXX" on them. They were ugly, I recalled. But having just arrived in Canada, I had very little say as to what was nice and what wasn't. I was just happy to have shoes--but even though I was only five at the time and having no grasp of Canadian culture, I still had the innate human instincts to know that it was "damn hideous." Other kids made fun of me at school whenever I wore them. They'd call me names, push me off the jungle gym, pinched and poked--and for some strange reason, this kid named Chuck took my shoes one day and threw them in the garbage bin. I went home without my shoes that night--only to be yelled at by mom. It wasn't until the next morning when the custodian found it and returned them to my class.

It got to a point when my shoes became my demise. They were two sizes bigger than my feet. When the teacher turned off the lights, the orange text glowed in the dark--and when I ran, sometimes I'd trip, plunging my face--first to the ground. My shoes flew off my feet whenever that happened. Some nights, I'd come home crying, sniffling like a kid without Kleenex, snot running down my nose. I'd walk through the house looking for a place to hide my shoes--and had I known how to use a lighter at the time, I probably would've burnt them. My mom would comfort and console me, promising a new pair as soon as I'd grow out of the one's I had.

On some days, I'd sit on the bench at recess looking out at all the other kids--wishing I'd be in their shoes. Nike's and Reeboks would flood my nocturnal dreams. But when I asked my mom for those brands, she'd turn to me and look deep into my eyes, held me tight and said, "It doesn't matter what kind of shoes you wear, son, as long as it gets you there."

Sometimes, when I'm in the midst of travel, tired and drained of emotions--held together only by hope, I'd think back to those days when I was "that boy with the ugly shoes." In retrospect, I'd come to realize that no matter the distance, it is not the sole that carries me forward--but the SOUL from within that compels me to aim higher, push harder, and go further. And sometimes, when the world just seems unbearable, when all is restless and all is devoid of the fabric that sustains humanity, I just have to look deeper, think clearer to find the stitches to mend and weave back together the very essence of all that is beautiful in our world.

Lately, I've been asked to speak to local youth groups, schools and organizations--and every time I'm up there, I can't help but to look at all the little shoes before me. It comforts me--because when all is said and done, I'm just a simple man with simple ideas, common goals and common needs. It is that common thread that binds us all. And no matter the color, no matter the shape, size, creator or creed--it is the goal at hand--the destination at target that should only matter. Sometimes, as humans, we seldom look beyond the materialistic things that limit us from achieving our goal. We let it define us, control and mentally shape the outcome of dreams--and when one is awake, it is the materialistic notion that dictates why we fail or why we succeed.

It took me two years to grow out of those shoes--and by 2nd grade, I got used to them. After a while, I naturally grew into them, I ran faster, kicked harder, and eventually, the glow in the dark orange text stopped glowing and lost its luster. I simply adapted to what I had.

"It doesn't matter what kind of shoes you wear, son, as long as it gets you there."

Twenty five years later--on the cusp of turning thirty and having traveled to over 40 countries--through wars, devastation, heartache and pain, trials and tribulations, I've never forgotten those words. And to this day, I'm thankful she only paid $5.99 for those shoes.

*Currently filming in Shanghai, China. Due to blogging bans in China, a special thanks to my buddy Chris for posting this on my behalf from North America.