F&F: We are stoked to share this fabulous interview with Maxeen – the brilliant photographer behind Maxeen Kim Photography. We are totally inspired by her journey around Europe. To leave all your home comforts behind to travel, explore and photograph Europe is something many dream off – but few actually do!
Read on to find out about what Maxeen has seen, what she plan’s on doing and get some tips and travel inspiration. Warning, this interview will make you want to quit your job, grab your camera and not look back..!
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about you – where did you grow up? What was it like?
I grew up in a tiny town on the East coast of South Africa called Port Shepstone (an hour south of Durban). It was a pretty quiet place to grow up – your typical small town. My dad is a surfer, at 56 he’s still going down to the beach every chance he can to hit the waves, and us kids spent most of our time in the sunshine growing up, either at the beach or in the garden. It was a hot place to live and we were always outside. It was a good place for a kid to grow up.
Did your parents travel and inspire you to travel? Or, if not, what gave you the desire to explore?
My dad traveled a lot before getting married, but when it came to family holiday’s my parents have very different tastes. My dad did a lot of beach, camping holidays with us, while my mom favoured renting a cottage in the Drakensberg Mountains.
I however, always wanted to see the world. When I was in pre-school my teacher asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said, “Go to Paris!” I was about 5 years old and had just been given a Disney book all about Mickey painting his way across the French capital. I have now been to Paris 3 times, and yes, I love it.
Can you tell us a bit about your photography and how/if you want to incorporate it into your journey?
Photography is a huge part of my life and in all honesty, I can’t decide if I’m doing the trip largely to take photo’s or if I’m taking photo’s to make sure I remember everything about the trip. Being in Cyprus has already taught me so much about myself and I am looking forward to all the new lessons I will no doubt be learning. As a destination wedding photographer, I am also excited about all the venues I am getting to visit. I have already been lucky enough to shoot a destination styled shoot with some amazing suppliers in Cyprus and have a couple more planned for various destinations along the way. I also have a hashtag for the trip which you are welcome to follow in order to get sneak peeks of all my latest adventures: #MKPFollowTheJourney
Are you shooting much film on this trip?
I’m a hybrid shooter so I will be shooting both. I do however always edit my digital work to look like film regardless. I must admit, I have been shooting a lot of digital so far though as I am just too excited to share what I am seeing.
What made you decide to leave London to travel Europe?
Ha, this is a good question. Basically, my whole life fell apart at the end of last year and I felt like all I had left to hold onto was my passion for my photography and my business. When I was 16 I had come up with the idea of travelling Europe for 6 months and I looked at my life and thought, “well, it’s now or never!” – luckily with my work, I can work from anywhere, so I packed up everything and off I went.
Where will you go? How long for?
I started in Cyprus and was there for just over a month before making my way to Greece and the island of Ithaca (where I am now). I will be in Greece for a month before setting off for Finland. From Finland I will be going to Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, France (Paris again – yay!), Italy again, 3 different parts of Spain, Austria and then I will be finishing off my year in the Republic of Ireland. The whole trip should take me 6 months.
So far what is your top place you have visited and why?
On this trip, I would have to say the Blue Lagoon in Cyprus. I’m a complete and utter lover of the sea and I have never seen water like that before! It was bright blue and so clear that I could see the rocks and sand on the ocean floor from the top deck of the yacht I was on. And naturally diving off the yacht had to be done!
What has been the most incredible ‘moment’ on your journey?
Ah there have been some amazing sunsets viewed from hammock’s in Cyprus but I’m a people person and I would have to say it’s the people I have met along the way that are making the trip awesome. I have found that in life, if you take the time to speak to someone from a different culture or on their own travels, you can learn some of the most profound truths. So much so, that I have begun compiling a book of quotes and portraits of those I meet which I am hoping to get published at the end of my trip.
Where are you heading next?
Helsinki, Finland. I am going from island hoping in Greece, to summer way up North – I’m really hoping that it’s not too cold as packing for that part of the trip was a nightmare.
Best food of your trip so far?
I am a firm believer that the best food is always found in the homes of the people who live in the country you are visiting. Earlier this year I visited Serbia and had one of the best meals of my life around someone’s kitchen table in Belgrade – complete with a shot of homemade schnapps of some sort. During this trip, the best meal I’ve had has once again been served in someone’s home, this time in Greece on day 2 of my stay on the island. I was had Keftedes, which are Greek meat balls which are served with brown rice, tzaziki, peas and salad, and it was delicious.
Anywhere off the beaten track you would love to share?
Yes! There is a little piece of my heart hanging out in a hammock at Sea You Beach Bar in Cyprus. It overlooks Potima Bay on the road towards Coral Bay and if you are ever in Cyprus, you need to visit. It is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail in a jam jar and watch the sunset.
How do you keep healthy whilst travelling?
I love yoga and attended a yoga-lates (cross between yoga and pilates) class whilst in Cyprus. I also do yoga using YouTube (God bless technology!) wherever I’m staying. I don’t like running but I know it’s good for me so I have been going for runs in the evenings to keep fit and to help me process my thoughts. Aside from that, I usually only eat when I’m hungry and I try to go for the healthier option on the menu if there is one.
Do you read on the road?
Yes I most definitely do. Before I left for this trip a friend recommended I read The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. It’s an adventure and I didn’t get to finish it before I left London so I brought it with me on my travels and it’s the best thing I’ve ever read. I’m now reading it for the second time!
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Hahaha… Internet! I am still working during my trip and have done destination styled shoots, family shoots and events so not always being able to connect or having a slow upload speeds is always fun as you can imagine.
What do you hope to discover/gain from your journey?
I hope to gain a better understanding of myself, of the cultures and countries I have visited, some beautiful photo’s to add to my portfolio, new friends and… a new place to live. I have thought long and hard about where I’ve been and what I want out of life and I have decided that if I find somewhere great along the way, I may just come back and live there. After 7 years of living in the UK, I think it is time to go back and live in the sun.
And words of advice to those looking to head off on a long trip in Europe?
Do it! If you are waiting for the perfect time, you will be waiting forever. Have a rough outline of where you want to go but be prepared to be a little flexible so if something different captures your attention, you can take the time to explore it and lastly, just book a ticket!
What is next, after the big journey – for you?
I have a number of destination wedding bookings throughout Europe and the UK which is great. I have also recently been asked to be a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding in Australia in May next year, so it looks like I will be making a trip Down Under!
Photo Credit: Charlie Kingsland Barrow