Twelve Travel Questions with Nomadic Frames

Morgan Van photo by Shoot Booth

Photo by Shoot Booth

Name: Morgan Paar and Vân Nguyen (Nomadic Frames )
Home Base: New York City
Last Trip: Mexico
Next Trip: Panama/Costa Rica
Twitter: @NomadicFrames

1. What are three things you take on every trip? 

Our cameras (two Canon 5D Mark III), iPhones, rain gear.

2. What is your best remedy for jet lag?

We don’t have any secret snake oil when it comes to jet lag. We just try to adjust to the local time as best we can. We often try to sleep on the plane to adjust to our arrival time.

3. What is the first thing you do when you get to a new place? 

Vân: Go out into the town for a beer.

Morgan: I once went straight to a bar upon touching down in Edinburgh, Scotland. I had very little money and nowhere to stay that weekend and I wondered if buying beer was the smartest move. While at the bar, we meet a super nice young woman who said, “I’ll go stay with my boyfriend for the weekend. Here are the keys to my apartment and the address. Make yourself at home and just put the keys through the mail slot when you leave Sunday night.”

4. What place has the best food? The worst food? 

Vân: Vietnam has my favorite food. Everything was fresh and delicious—from seafood to street food to exotic fruits everywhere. I loved the beer in the Czech Republic but got really tired of eating meat and potatoes everyday. Fresh fruit and vegetables seemed almost non-existent.

Morgan: No food comes close to Taiwanese food for me. Hands down the best. The Filipino island of Palawan was tough as I’m a vegetarian and they ate mostly seafood. I ate a lot of eggs and rice on that month long bicycle trip.

5. What is one place that changed your outlook on life?

Morgan: My life changed a few times in different ways during my four months in India. To see the masses of people who were sleeping on the streets of New Delhi every night made me appreciate all that I have.

Vân: Even though I was born in Vietnam (I left at the age of 6), I was a bit in shock when I first went back as an adult in 1999. The weather was so hot and humid, the crowds were overwhelming and seeing the remnants of the war such as people missing limbs was really intense. It made me really realize that I have so many opportunities available to me that my cousins in Vietnam don’t have.

6. What is your favorite travel quote? 

Vân: “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

Morgan: “The journey is the destination.” – not sure if this quote originated from photojournalist Dan Eldon, but I heard it from him first.

7. Is there any music that inspires you to travel?

Thievery Corporation is the first band that comes to mind. The film Latcho Drom by Tony Gatlif is an amazing document about Roma (Gypsy) music and the people who make it from India to Spain. Ravi Shankar transports us to India, Ali Farka Toure teleports us to West Africa, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan makes us want to pack bags for South Asia. Ry Cooder has done some inspiring music all over the world as well.

8. What is your craziest true travel story? 

Morgan: We were filming drum-frame builders in the bush two hours north of Accra, Ghana. All were super friendly except the biggest guy who thought we were making lots of money with this video while only buying them lunch and beers. He got really, really angry, raised his machete over his head and threatened us. The two Accra drum sellers who brought us there talked him down but I thought we were going to die that day.

Morgan Drum Builders Ghana

Vân: We had just embarked on a two hour camel trek to a Berber camp in the Sahara desert on the Morocco/Algeria boarder. A lightning storm quickly blew in just as we set out. Sitting high on the camel’s back easily made us the tallest objects as we submitted the many mountainous sand dunes. As the sand whipped us from every direction, I though for sure I would get struck by lightning. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Van Morocco Berber Camp

9. How do you think that travel videos can be useful to travelers, even if they aren’t filmmakers themselves?

First, they inspire. A good travel video gets us excited to visit a place and meet its people. As soon as we buy a plane ticket, we immediately download whatever Anthony Bourdain has produced from that country. From his videos, we not only learn about local food but also about customs, social norms, geography, travel challenges and so much more. If a photo is worth a thousand words, video – with audio – is worth a million words.

10. What is the goal/philosophy of your videos? 

The Nomadic Frames motto is: “The world is our passion. We travel. We record. We create stories.” Our goal is to inspire others to travel. We also want to show that people and places around the world are wonderful in their own way yet also similar to our experiences. We also want to show that travel is not only beautiful but also rewarding. In other words, travel is important and worth the costs.

11. What advice do you have for someone who wants to make travel videos?

To quote a shoe: “Just do it.”

#1. Watch travel video. #2. Don’t hesitate, go out and shot and edit and learn from your mistakes. #3. A camera is just a tool. There is no ‘best camera.’ Get what you can afford and learn to use it. The story is more important than the tools.

12. What is your best travel tip? 

Learn from the locals. Don’t just go to museums and eat at McDonalds. Travel is about living culture and the locals are the holders of most of what is valuable. Immerse yourself.

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