In February 2015, I did something mad. Chasing Winter: Deconstruction + Identity is about how I did what I did and the things I discovered doing it. In the midst of February’s winter fury, I made my way from West Coast to East Coast across the United States documenting my adventures like some modern day Bill Bryson. But why? I’m a wayward being; inconstant, unpredictable, and exceedingly volatile. Luckily these traits make ideal traveling companions for my vagabond tendencies. I became liquid mercury seeping into the cracks of a city, ear to the wind as I listened to the pulse of society. I would then ask “Why does this city breathe? What does it breathe for?” because, just like our individual selves, a city has a Self. An identity. It has a personality molded by culture and history, unconsciously maintained by its people. And it was my intention to uncover it.
So this was my scheme in the grand adventure of it all: to acquaint myself with each city along the way and figure out who it was. It was like sitting down with a stranger and conversing long enough to replace unfamiliarity with fondness. To understand a city, one must understand that its identity is created by the collective consciousness of its people. Understanding the whole organism requires focus on the individual components. So I spent the entire month sitting in public spaces, wandering through neighborhoods, and searching for something real. I talked to business owners, cafe-goers, and waiting souls sitting in bars at night. And luckily for me, few things are warmer than the fascination locals have for a traveler.
But no journey is complete without conflict. Loneliness was, and always has been, my muse and misery, an equal source of inspiration and distress. I became frustrated when even pen and paper couldn’t properly capture the sound of ice cracking under anxious feet or dawn’s morning light over an alien desert or the first snowflake landing idly on a warm cheek. The need to share the immeasurable beauty of the world with everyone became so intense that something in me threatened to rupture. Here I was, captivated, holding life’s grandeur in my hands, and yet there was nobody to share that with. So that is what I want to do now. Share with everyone that traveling is the ultimate reversion back to childhood wonder. It’s discovery by senses, not by textbook. It’s being in the moment. It’s leaving your name and identity at home in exchange for a vast world bigger than yourself. By reading this, I urge you to do the same. Once you’ve properly stowed your identity away in the designated bins, take a seat and read onward.
||Images and words by Darlene Barahona||