From foam parties to climbing Machu Picchu, my favorite images of the year

Let’s start off with the least significant photo of the year.

I shot the below soap bubble pool party while on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

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Photo by Wells Baum

While it’s my most downloaded photo on Unsplash, the only thing it reminds me of is the period where I was trying to finish up my book. Stuck in writer’s block, I remember walking around the hotel looking for inspiration when I heard party music and noticed large bath bubbles floating through the air. The 90s MTV-esque ‘spring break’ foam party was the perfect distraction from the agony of the unfinished manuscript.

What’s popular isn’t always what matters

However, my most meaningful photo from this year had to be the time my wife I and walked up Machu Picchu mountain. It was a true test of fitness, a devious mountain that tricked you into thinking the top was always closer than it was. It took an hour to go up and another hour to go down. But when you finished, we got to write our names in the logbook.

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Photo by Wells Baum

Here’s a few more…

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Bookends: Red and blue in Cusco

Photo by Wells Baum (Cusco, Peru)

Red used to be the world’s “first color,” writes historian Michel Pastoureau in his new book Red: The History of a Color. It was all people knew before blue emerged as a symbolic color in the 12th century.

The red color

It is the basic color of all ancient peoples (and still the color preferred by children the world over). It appears in the earliest artistic representations, the cave paintings of hunter-gatherers 30,000–plus years ago. Blood and fire (the domestication of the latter constituting an important human achievement) were always and everywhere represented by the color red.

Photos by Wells Baum

The blue color

Blue has become associated with peace and tolerance (as in the flag of the U.N. and its peacekeeping forces). In Pastoureau’s telling, blue is the color of consensus, of moderation and centrism. It does not shock, offend, disgust, or make waves; even stating a preference for black, red, or green is a declaration of some sort. Blue invites reverie, but it anaesthetizes thinking. Even white has more symbolic potential.

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Photo by Wells Baum

Read Red versus Blue

Horse power 

Photo by Wells Baum (Peru)
Trains and tractors made the world less dependent on horse power. As the 19th century came to a close, horses were abundant. Consider this fact:

“In 1900 there were 145,000 horses in the French army and 130,000 horses working in Manhattan, while at the same time in Australia there was one horse to every two humans.”

Horses went from animals that drove economies and conquest to sprinters at the pop of a pistol. This looks like a fascinating read: Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship

Cusco in wires

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Photo by Wells Baum

Credited with patenting the first telephone, Alexander Graham Bell also foresaw a broader network of interconnected wires. Just because it doesn’t exist yet, doesn’t mean you can’t imagine it.

From the article ‘Only Connect’ on Technics History:

…it is conceivable that cables of telephone wires could be laid underground, or suspended overhead, communicating by branch wires with private dwellings, country houses, shops, manufactories, etc., etc., uniting them through the main cable with a central office where the wires could be connected as desired, establishing direct communication between any two places in the city… Not only so, but I believe, in the future, wires will unite the head offices of the Telephone Company in different cities, and a man in one part of the country may communicate by word of mouth with another in a distant place.

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Image by Wells Baum

Tips for starting a business overseas from entrepreneur Vinay Raval

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Vinay Raval is an entrepreneur and world traveler currently based out of Cusco, Peru. He’s also a close friend, my former basketball coach, and simply one of the happiest and honest people I know.

Let’s flip it over to Vinay…

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Vinay Raval. I lead authentic cultural experiences for travelers in Cusco, Peru.

What are you currently working on?

I run a company called Faces of Cusco that specializes in offering a local experience to tourists. Our primary focus is on reinventing the experience of visiting the San Pedro Market. This market specializes in Andean products and features diverse produce, art, and services from Peru. The goal is to educate travelers and to foster genuine interaction with local vendors. I’m also setting up a small store to sell hot chocolate from locally grown cacao in Cusco’s main plaza. Localism begins with good food and good people.

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Where do you like to work?

I do my best work in coffee shops where I can connect with my team to establish the day’s top three priorities as well as brainstorm new business ideas. No one is allowed to use technology during our meetings. This allows us to more easily focus on the vision. Coffee houses are the original social networks, anyway, so we’re doing all the communicating we need to do face to face.

I also like to work on the go. I enjoy walking meetings where we search the town for inspiration. On a recent retreat to Lima, we often walked along the Pacific Ocean to kick the brain into gear, to relieve stress, and to encourage spontaneity. We’ll often stumble upon locals on our walk and bring them into the conversation.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself in Peru thus far?

I’ve learned to embrace uniqueness. They call me “El Indu” here as I’m one of a handful of Indians in the town. Everybody here remembers my face and I’ll attract attention whether I invite it or not. For a business, this is incredible.

“Embrace whatever makes you unique.”

What motivates you?

Waking up and having no idea what I’m about to get in to. Most folks back in the USA place huge pressure on themselves to plan out their day because things are already established. In Peru, there’s opportunity wherever you look because there’s huge demand for everything but no supply for it. It’s my job to fill that void for both the locals and the tourists coming in. Also, our new concept of genuine and local experiences opens minds and helps local vendors better connect with travelers.

What was your earliest ambition?

A basketball player but I wasn’t committed enough. I’ve always enjoyed creating new ideas and finding original solutions. I took the Myers-Briggs test once and it outlined my future: ENTP or inventor. This was spot-on and really helped me pursue my passion.

What’s one work hack you use that others may find helpful?

Involve people from outside your team. Crowdsource from the locals. You get your best info from people on the ground, the street vendors for instance, because they’re the ones in the loop. They catch patterns that the rest of us don’t see, are the first to know about new competition, and really understand how to sell.

“No one is more informed than someone working in the streets all day; they know the ins and outs.”

Best word of advice for other entrepreneurs?

Create and keep moving, so you don’t get bored of people and places. Stagnancy is the worst enemy for all inventors.


You can learn more about Vinay and his team on the company blog. Keep in touch with Faces of Cusco on Twitter and Instagram.