Soul Medicine.

     This post won’t be nearly as extensive as my last two but it’s something that I think is pretty relevant to our current culture. On Saturday I had the privilege of going down to Drumheller for the afternoon. The sole purpose of the trip was to create images that aligned with my desired photographic style. With my only company being my camera and tripod it was an introverts dream day. Just a side note, the images below are from a trip to Two Jack Lake during Fall but nonetheless work well for the point I want to highlight.

     Everyday I’m thankful for having something that I feel so fulfilled doing. If you you’ve been reading my posts for a while you might remember that as I grew up I often had intense anxiety about what I was to do ‘when I got older.’ This anxiety never really left me but more so motivated me to search out that thing that I could never get tired of. Originally I assumed it was sports since that’s all I did with my time. However, after being injured and not capable of performing at the high level I was used to, my plans were redirected. It was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve had to work through but in reality it was like hitting that jackpot. If it weren’t for this blessing in disguise, the new drug called photography wouldn’t have encompassed me. Maybe it’s just that I was enabled to explore a creative outlet and put in countless hours of learning something new that allowed me to take my mind off the disappointing injuries. I’m not too sure exactly but considering I hadn’t viewed myself (and still don’t) as a creative person this was an avenue virtually unexplored.  Almost immediately I knew this was something that I wanted to do for a lifetime. I’m not sure how long I’ll be fortunate enough to do it as a career but having something that rejuvenates my entire being is unbelievably comforting.

     Generally, I don’t think people are aware of the thing that rejuvenates and gives them life. Even for myself I probably wouldn’t have found photography in the context I did if it weren’t for a drastic realigning of my life’s direction. Being self-aware is something that I admire in people and see that people who know themselves tend to exude wisdom. The only problem is that self-awareness isn’t something that can be taught. I’m not even sure if it can be learned over time but I want to encourage everyone reading this to try to dig deep and find that thing that brings you life. Maybe you already have it and if you're so fortunate to have that I’d love to hear what it is and how you found it (seriously I’d really like to hear your stories). As always, thanks for reading and sorry last weeks post wasn’t sent out in the email (things got messed up after the redesign).

Oh and if you were wondering whats with the boots, I'm a brand ambassador for Bluprint Comfort and those are a few product shots I made. Most comfortable shoes I've ever worn!

Fantastical Food Pt. 2.

If you haven’t read last weeks post, I recommend going back and doing so for some context. 

      A trend that I’ve noticed in many peoples’ lives is that if they were brought up with any sort of extremes in their life, almost inevitably, they’d flip the opposite direction as a teenager or young adult. I’d like to think I’m exempt from this paradox but in many regards I’m recognizing it in myself. Fortunately, I was raised in somewhat of a balanced home (yes mom and dad you guys did great, give each other a high-five or something) so the effects are minimal and due to my inquisitive mind I’ve learned from wise people to always question both sides of any story. Essentially, I think that’s how I’m at the point I am now; always questioning and increasingly aligning with the minority within the social circles I’m part of. Maybe I just need to find different circles but even in high school when everyone partied and thought it was ‘cool,’ I thought it was a waste of time and money. There’s a plethora of other examples of this in my life but it seems consistent throughout the years. I’m aware, or more so cautious, of the reality that I could just be a contrarian, always wanting to go against the social norm, but when it comes to forming an opinion on important matters I think it might be an asset.

     As I mature I’ve reflected back on events that have occurred throughout history and more times than not travesty followed right after something that should have been intensely questioned, simply wasn’t. I’m sure you could list a surplus of case studies so I wont get into it but if that’s the reality shouldn’t we oppose the set standards more? With all this said, I want to get back to the topic of food and hope you’ve been reading everything I’ve said so far with our western perspective of food in mind. As Wirzba adamantly opposes in his book, Food and Faith, our western culture has diminished food into nothing more than sustenance that we need as cheaply and quickly as possible. Before this period of rethinking food I would’ve aligned with the default consumerist mind set of food only existing as fuel for our bodies to use up and burn. It was also due to Food and Faith that I made the connection that since food is one of the most intimate things we experience it should be observed with more reverence. Not only do we ingest matter that has been grown from the earth but also for people who eat meat another being is consumed. A creature that inhaled and exhaled, ate, and existed in many of the ways we do. I don’t recall what context I heard this thought, but why do we decide that eating cows, pigs or chickens is entirely fine but then dogs and cats are off limits. Why is it the cows and pigs get the duty of being perpetually killed to be mindlessly consumed? I don’t have the answer, even though I’m sure there might be one, but I’m unsure if ethically we can justify the treatment of millions of animals being grown for us to devour.

      I want to continue with these food posts while I’m thinking through a lot of the things I’m writing about but they take a lot of time due to the amount of thought I have to exert. If you have any comments, questions or insight I’d love to hear them. I should also mention that I’m currently trying out vegetarianism to see what that would look like and possibly understand things a little better so if you have any advice or personal experiences send me a message. The images below are from a fun day hike I did with Paul in the beginning of winter at Elbow Lake and wedge pond. I don’t think I mentioned it but last weeks photos were from Crescent Falls. Thanks for reading and I truly appreciate your time of sharing these thoughts and ideas I’m working through.

5 Awkward Aspects of Travel!

     This list contains only a few major things that happened to me while traveling and living abroad over the past 8 months. I’ve come to the realization that every item listed is invaluable. They all taught me something about the world and how to survive in various cultures or scenarios. I hope you enjoy the list!


1.    Receiving Visa’s Late.

     Not receiving my visa on time was the first hiccup that occurred prior to even embarking on this trip. Due to a local holiday, the government in my 6-month nation wasn’t working; therefore processing my documents took forever. Unfortunately, this caused me to miss a week in Spain but through staying back I was able to reconnect with friends at the college. I know there was a reason for me missing out on the first week, whether it was to simply strengthen friendships or something part of the bigger picture. Needless to say, it made me realize the importance of applying for visa’s at the right time.

2.    Bathrooms.

     Without a doubt, one of the most dreadful parts of travel are the bathrooms. From foreboding holes in the ground with feces' surrounding the pit, to hacked together toilets where the bidet soaks you after flushing, it’s almost never a pleasant experience. By the way, both of those examples are just a few I’ve endured. Finding a nice bathroom is nearly impossible in most countries so I highly recommend relieving yourself in any decent restroom you stumble upon.

3.    Failing at Unspoken Customs.

     Every nation you travel to there will be customs and specific ways of doing things that only the locals know. Just a few examples that I’ve encountered are not eating or doing things with your left hand, greeting each person every time you enter a room, not shaking hands, wearing specific clothing, and even simple gestures like waving all have underlying meanings in some nations. In addition to these common ones, when I was in a mountain village an old grandma instructed me to eat the bread we were eating for breakfast specifically with butter, then jam, then home made cheese to top it off. It was a fascinating interaction but made me realize everyone, everywhere have unique customs only insiders know. Be sure to ask locals what some of these things are so you aren’t a walking insult.

4.    Language Barriers.

     This is one of those things that can either help you or cause a lot of trouble if you don’t use it properly. Photographically speaking I like not being able to communicate with a subject through language but rather body language. I’ve found that my success rate of getting an image with only body language far outweighs the results of verbal communication. The downside of this is when you have a local roommate or need directions and they don’t speak English make it almost impossible to be informed. I suggest learning a few simple local phrases just to be safe.

5.    Dying ….almost!

     Whether it’s from the commute, food, disease, national conflict or natural disasters there is always a risk of dying. Now take a second to evaluate if you thought I was referring to travel or being at home. The reality is that all these things are possible wherever we are, but when we go abroad, being aware of the foreign forms is necessary. In one of the African countries we visited there was an expat who spent an hour fear mongering the possibility of rabies and seemingly, guaranteeing our doom. This was over the top and not helpful at all, but a more realistic near death experience was the ‘taxi’ ride I had in Egypt. Overseas there are definitely risks but they can be adverted if you accurately educate yourself of what each country’s dangers are.

     Now take these odd and uncomfortable experiences I’ve shared and explore our remarkable planet. Embrace that awkward moment to grow from it! I would love to hear some of the abnormalities you’ve experienced throughout your travels!

The photos below are from my last trip in the Caucasus, located in a small mountain village. Even after six months, I still had to be aware of how to act within the context of that sub culture.

Ponder, Comment, Share , Travel! 

The Necessity of Nature.

     It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get out of the city, which has resulted in feeling quite torpid. Not only physically stagnant but also in an emotional, career, life, motivation, aspiration, and inspiration sort of way. At first I was confused as to why I was feeling this way but after a short amount of time introspectively speculating the truth revealed itself while watching Ben Brown in Iceland exploring a glacier. The wonderful irony of this is that I was sitting inside watching YouTube videos and not doing anything about it. However, in my defense, that’s the problem with living in a massive city in a different culture. It makes finding a way to escape the concrete jungle nearly impossible. By no means am I ungrateful for the opportunities I’ve had thus far but all my life I grew up on an acreage that allowed me, anytime I wanted, to walk out my door and go for a walk amongst nature. Even when at college I was able to organize trips to the mountains or look out over the prairies and watch the wondrous sunsets whenever I wanted.

     Some of my favorite memories are from when I was younger and built various forts on our five-acre property or trudging through knee-deep snow just for the sake of being outside. When I first started photography I would escape by going into the forest to search for my prized subject; mushrooms. I’m not sure what it is but every time I photograph these funguses it brings be a calm I cant define. What sort of things feed your soul and rejuvenates your mind?

     To conclude, I’ve come to the full realization that nature feeds my soul and makes the necessity of connecting with my creator more accessible. Since this isn’t always possible I decided to challenge myself creatively to produce a time lapse everyday this month. I have no idea what they are going to consist of at the moment but stay tuned. Once again thanks Chase Jarvis for your 28 to Make challenge and the endless inspiration you provide. You’ll be able to watch these videos by subscribing to my YouTube channel at Mason Unrau

My Street Pup & Mental Health.

     Well as the title suggests I now have a puppy that was generously given to me by my host family! I think I named her Chai but for these sorts of things I am extremely indecisive. There are multiple reasons why I chose the name Chai and a few of them are because it means tea, I love tea, it is one syllable, she is kind of the colour of Chai and Chai remind me of a lot of people I love.  Overall pretty simple and straight forward but at the moment the landlord doesn’t allow pets so that’s a problem that will hopefully be changed soon so I can train her properly. Any advice is welcome. With getting a puppy I know it will help my mental health, which is extremely important while I’m living abroad and should give me more motivation like I had prior to traveling.

     On the topic of mental health, in my home province, Alberta, the suicide rate went up 30% this past year, which is likely due to the disruption in the prosperous economy. Needless to say, I think intervention and awareness of mental health is really important. In a affluent, free, and yet largely apathetic society like North America it doesn’t seem like the urgency or importance of the matter really reaches people. Even in my life various forms of mental illness have been something I have had to work through and is a daily reality for multiple people close to me. The prominence of dealing with it didn’t strike me until a close friend of mine committed suicide; it hit me so unexpectedly it was like getting packed in the face by a volleyball. It shook me. I’m not sure if I’ve processed it completely. It has taught me a lot, forced me to grow up, and mature to become more aware of people reaching into my life. When I realized people reaching in a paradigm shift had to occur where I had to start reaching back. I probably fail to do this consistently but it’s a growing process. I try not to merely reach back but to hold on tight and reciprocate so I’m not taking that relationship for granted; especially for the people I care about.

     That’s probably enough seriousness for a blog that’s generally about travel but I like to get real sometimes and having a puppy is somewhat an adventure. Below are a few quick shots of Chai to bring you back up from the low you might be feeling. Since writing this post she has been given permission to come inside and I hope to be able to get some good quality photos of her once I train her a bit better. If anyone reading this wants to further discuss mental health or really anything feel free to contact me and I will do my best to quickly reply!