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Brian Hoffsis

In the summer of 2001, after terrifying my family for a year of living and traveling in the former Eastern Bloc from a rural Czech Republic home base, we spent a month wandering the Italian countryside. It all sounds quite exotic doesn’t it? Well, no doubt we were primed for a vacation from the depressed and rusting industrial east. To fill the void of our customary communication methods I took to an ancient form of correspondence – writing postcards. With at least a week delay for transit, I succumbed to significant pressure to ensure I provided every bit of necessary information to aid any future search party efforts. By my second or third card and barely halfway through the swampy Veneto, it became clear that the tiny, nearly magnifying-glass-required, writing had become a substantial documentation of events. Upon my return from Europe, I conducted a retrieval of those cards and, recognizing their fragility, laminated them for safe-keeping.

That event marked the beginning of my documentation practice – one that I now feel sick for not starting a year sooner. Leather-bound moleskins accompanied me most everywhere from then on. Added to the scrawled-on pages after a trip to Honduras and Peru were scores of photos shot with my first non-point-and-shoot digital camera. Until that point, the photos I loved to take found themselves scattered at the bottom of basement tubs as no physical photo albums ever seemed to do the cumbersome prints justice. Soon, under the new medium, photography would become an ever-consuming passion.

Again recognizing the vulnerability and limitations of such a valuable document, especially when lending to others to enjoy, I turned to technology for help. That’s when I discovered print on demand publishing. If only I had a graphic designer to make magic of my vision. Oh, wait . . . I’m a graphic designer!

My first self-published books were faithful and meticulous recreations of the original journals right down to the development of my own handwriting font to fill the pages. There is a degree of tedium in creating the same document twice but the success of the results were motivation enough to see them through to completion. My travel journals could now be handed out to friends and family to enjoy or distribute at will and I could keep the precious originals out of the reach of destructive hands.

Of course, I found that I had a lot to say even after the journals were published. That’s when the Travel Companion Blog became the next logical development. In addition to new travel experiences, the posts acted as supplements to the published journals. Blogging as a single, self-contained entry was something that really appealed to me. I guess it’s similar to my preference of strong, fast-hitting short stories over lengthy novels.

As my great interest in photography grew, the form of the blog had taken full shape. One story, one photo, each sharing an equal and independent importance to the overall experience. As all of the elements mixed and evolved, new and ever-expanding ideas flooded my skull. My next project was an homage to Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War. One photograph, one story.

The Travel Companion from the Realm of the Maya is the latest addition to the collection of journals. It is grander than anything that has come before it in depth and quality. It’s been truly exciting to record and distribute life’s experiences with such full and unbridled creative control. We should expect no less justice to be done for the splendors of life.

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