Meet the Expert – Anna Mazurek on Traveling in India & Southeast Asia

We interviewed this week’s #RTWChat co-host, India & Southeast Asia travel expert, and photojournalist and traveler, Anna Mazurek.  Meet Anna, her traveling gnome Alfred, and learn why she loves this part of the world. 

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Portrait of Photographer Anna Mazurek


1. Anna can you tell us a little about yourself.

I am a freelance photographer, writer and travel blogger based in Austin, Texas.  I have a Master’s degree in photojournalism from the University of Missouri.  Since 2008, I have been traveling almost nonstop.  I have visited 43 countries and lived in five.  I recently wrapped up an eight-month bucket list trip through Central and South America.

2. Which countries in this region have you visited and how long have you been in each?

I spent five years running summer photo trips in India and Southeast Asia.  After my trips ended, I explored Asia for two to six months each year.  I traveled across India, Thailand, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore multiple times.

3. Which of those countries was your favourite and why?

India has been my greatest teacher.  The extremes of India dissolved all my notions of the world and taught me the beauty of humility and kindness.

I also love Laos and Burma for their remoteness.  I have always been drawn to the people and places on the fringes of life. Both countries were closed off from the world for decades but are quickly changing.

4. Tell us about Alfred. How did Alfred come to be and how many places have you brought him?

Alfred is my globetrotting gnome.  He’s probably the only gnome that’s been kicked out of the Taj Mahal.  We have trekked across five continents together in the past six years.  Alfred loves to be photographed in iconic places.  People love Alfred so much that I started selling gnome cards on Etsy and at art shows.  My goal is to make people laugh and inspire them to travel.  If a tiny green gnome can travel the world, why can’t you?

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Alfred in Sukhothai, Thailand. Photo copyright Anna Mazurek.

5. You’re a photojournalist and will be teaching at Texas State this year. Many travelers photograph their journeys. Do you have a piece of advice that will help people capture better memories?

I am a fan of street photography, candid shots of everyday life.  Focus on the raw details of the place and culture.  The best way to get a glimpse of the real culture of a place is to wander the streets at sunrise.  I love seeing the children walking to school in their pristine uniforms and the fruit vendors setting up their stalls for the day.  The light is always best half an hour before and after sunrise.

6. Is there any country in SE Asia that you haven’t been to yet, but really want to go? Why do you want to visit? 

I haven’t seen Indonesia properly.  It’s pretty high on my travel list now!  I can’t wait to photograph all the temples in Bali especially the Ubud Monkey Forest.

7. How did you first start traveling?

My first trip overseas was to England.  I spent my junior year of college studying abroad.  The best part is that I went alone.  It was one of the most amazing and scariest things I have ever done!  When I started living my daydreams, it redefined what I thought was possible and expanded my comfort zone.  Besides, sitting still is boring.

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Khardung La (18,300 feet), India. Photo copyright Anna Mazurek

 

8. What is the most beautiful place in this region that you’ve photographed?

My top four places to photograph:

  • Ladakh, India
  • Sukhothai, Thailand
  • Bagan, Burma
  • Luang Prabang, Laos

 

And now for some fun questions:

9. What is the most adventurous, or craziest, thing you’ve done while traveling?

I have a horrible fear of heights so I decided it was best to face my fear.  I went bungee jumping in New Zealand.  I screamed at first but then started laughing because I realized how silly it was to be scared.

10. If you could travel with anyone, dead or alive, (besides Alfred) who would you travel with?

I am torn between the Dalai Lama and Dave Grohl.  The Dalai Lama because I am fascinated by Buddhism.  I have been lucky enough to photograph both of them at events but never met either in person.  I love their positive attitudes!

11. Besides travel & photography, what are your hobbies and/or do you have any special talents?

When I’m not on the road, I spend a few weeks a year building furniture with my father.  He handcrafts 18th century furniture for a living with antique tools. I recently finished building a five-foot tall solid mahogany campaign chest with hand cut dovetails and string inlay.  It’s taken almost four years to complete.  I’ve very proud of it and grateful for the quality time with my father!

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Bon Mai village, Northern Thailand. Photo copyright Anna Mazurek.

12. You’re on a roadtrip. What are the top 3 songs in your playlist?

  • Wherever I May Roam by Metallica
  • Keep the Car Running by The Arcade Fire
  • Havana Daydreamin’ by Jimmy Buffett

13. If you could be a superhero, who would you be & why?

I would be Superman solely based on his ability to fly. It would make traveling so much easier and avoid all the wasted time spent in airports!

Join us this Tuesday, July 14 on #RTWChat to talk more about India and Southeast Asia with Anna Mazurek.  #RTWChat is on Twitter starting at 3:30pm EST.

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