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MEET: Beard and Curly

MEET: Beard and Curly

4

AUGUST 2017

We all wander and wonder in our own little way. Everybody’s got a story to tell. If you want to have a chat, I’d love to MEET you!

MEET travel bloggers Beard and Curly, or if you were their parents, you’d know them as Timon and Yana.

These wanderers quit their 9 to 5 jobs and have visited over 100 countries! When I found out they would be visiting American Samoa and needed a place to stay,  I was really excited to welcome them into my home—namely because I had so many questions!

Tell me about yourselves, where do you live, what you do?

T: I’m Timon Peskin, also known as “Beard”. I grew up in New Jersey, then went to school in Boston, at Northeastern University—that’s where Yana and I met. I studied business, then moved to Arkansas for work for a couple of years, and following that moved to San Francisco. I worked in consumer products, always in sales, but lately in the food industry, specifically organic food.

Y: I’m Yana Kogan Peskin, I was born in Ukraine and then immigrated when I was 4 years old to New York, and grew up mostly in New Jersey. I met Timon in Boston at Northeastern University, then we moved to Arkansas together, and then to San Francisco where we’ve been for 6 years before we started traveling. I’m a pharmacist by trade.

How did you decide to become travel bloggers?

Y: I always traveled. I started traveling with my family, then I went on my first solo trip when I was 18 to Paris, and I was like Ok I need to be doing more of this. And so I made a goal – I decided I was going to go to 100 countries before I turned 30. And that kind of changed how I did things. I took trips every chance I got during school breaks, usually on my own.

Then when Timon and I got together, we kept traveling, but just vacations here and there for a couple of weeks. It’s really hard in the US because it’s just 2 weeks. So right before we decided to quit our jobs, I took a 3 month sabbatical, and thought I’d travel and then settle down and buy a house – it’s gonna be good. But as soon as we came back, we were like Ok we need to quit our jobs. We need to travel.

T: So not long after that, we quit our jobs haha. I mean obviously there were some things at play. The company I worked for got bought out by a much bigger company so there was a buyout, and for me I had some incentive to stay but I didn’t really want to stay – so at the right time it just made sense to part ways with that company. Then Yana quit and we just found that right timing, and we started traveling.

I kind of started the blogging idea, more just to keep track of what we were doing and keep in touch with friends and family. I mean, originally it was never supposed to be a big travel blog. But it kind of just morphed into that. We saw our followers grow, especially while we were in Africa, so we got more serious and changed our direction to add more focus and we decided to do this – let’s start a travel blog.

You have 18k Instagram followers right now. How did you build that following?

T: We gradually gained traction even before leaving Africa. So we traveled for three months in the U.S. and Canada and were doing a road trip and that’s kind of when we actually started getting serious on social media. Like, more focusing on the photography aspect. That’s probably what drove a lot of the followers.

The first six months of the blog itself saw very little traffic. It was just friends and family. And then I realized we were getting a lot of followers from Instagram and social media, and the images were working but the blog wasn’t. So we relaunched the blog. We learned search engine optimization, we learned all of those tools to try and make it grow. And then that’s kind of where we’re at today. We’re still working on our growth.

How long have you guys been traveling so far?

Y: 1 year and 8 months. We started in December 2015.

Favorite destination?

T: There’s a lot of countries to consider. But I would say something about Namibia grabbed me. I love the rawness of it. Like there’s no desert that I’ve seen that’s the same as what you see in Namibia, and just – it’s just rough. It’s a rough place but it’s beautiful and the photography is amazing and it’s a really amazing place. So I would go with Namibia.

Y: We went to the Coron islands in Nicaragua together, and it’s this tiny tiny island. There’s no cars and like, we got met by a man with a wheelbarrow that that took all our stuff to this little bungalow. And this was when Timon and I were just getting serious, but it was this trip that made me realize that Timon was the guy for me.

Least favorite travel experience?

Y: Well, we had a hard time in China. It’s a really difficult place. I never had been to a place where I felt so unwelcome. I mean we were on a budget, but it was just a place that didn’t resonate with me. I would go back to China. There’s so much history and it’s a beautiful country. I think there’s just a lot of people. And you know, with the big cultural revolution and with communism – it makes for an interesting dynamic. We will go back eventually.

How do you make money while you’re traveling?

T: We saved a lot of money. We’re not actively working outside of any blog activities. We haven’t yet stopped for intermediate jobs or short term temporary jobs which is quite common with travelers. We haven’t done that yet. We saved a lot of money and you know we’re hoping that the blogging will eventually help. It’s definitely not paying for travel. At this point it can offset some costs. We’re just hoping that it can start paying for some of our travel.

How much did you guys save?

Y: We travel really expensively. We probably spend like $2,000 a month, flights and everything included. In our first year of traveling we spent about $24,000 for the year. Mostly activities and national parks and stuff. Otherwise living, logistics, food, and tent camping saved us money. And when the company I worked for got bought out, so there were some cash from that. I’d rather go out and experience new things but I could sleep anywhere.

What are your top 3 traveling essentials?

T: For me, camera equipment: Canon 70D, 4 lenses, drone and GoPro. A very large backpack for electronics. And laptop. And buzzers – I got this amazing steel buzzer from Kenya for $8 and still have them to this day. And these shorts that I’m wearing right now. Because it’s not cold so these are the only pair I have haha.

Y: Mine would be definitely coconut oil. It’s everything you need – hair, skin, face, everything. Just lather it!
A good comfortable dress, probably a red one. And my bathing suit.

T: I would add one in there as well. They call it different things everywhere we go, like a shawl or a sarong or here, a lavalava. I think it’s huge – everywhere we went, whether it was the middle east for covering shoulders when it was appropriate, or covering your knees in villages, or for laying on the beach. I mean it’s so multi use.

Y: Oh and flip flops! We don’t have a whole lot of stuff, so it’s not that essential haha. We’re so low maintenance. I literally brought a bar of soap. That’s it.

Why “Beard and Curly”?

T: Beard and Curly naturally occurred. But the name is actually a good story. We were living in San Francisco, and there was a Walgreens a couple of blocks from us that was our go-to Walgreens for anything we needed. And there was this homeless guy who would always every day be in front of the Walgreens.
He’s a really nice really nice guy. He’d watch our dog when we went into the store, and was always greeting people. And usually in humorous ways like kind of nicknames. So he finds something like you’re wearing whether it was a color or stripes if you were wearing stripes, he would call you stripes.
And one day we were walking down the street, and he calls out to us “Hey Beard and Curly”, and we thought hah. That’s interesting. We thought it was cute, it was catchy. And this was before we started traveling. So when we started to travel, we made a list of like 40 items, and we narrowed it down to this – it was our favorite.

What’s this homeless man’s name?

Y: Oh crap, I don’t know.

T: I think it was Steve.

N: Shout out to Steve, in front of Walgreens. On the corner of Polk and Broadway.

How long do you guys plan to be on the road?

T: It keeps extending. It started off as 1 year. Yana knew it was never going to be just 1 year. And so maybe one more year, but Yana’s trying to push it for as long as she can.

Y: So we’ll see. We’ll see. Definitely another year. And then we’ll go from there.

What’s next for Beard and Curly?

T: We’re still here in the South Pacific. We’re thinking of traveling around Australia and Hawaii, and from there we’re undecided. But we’re thinking Southeast Asia.

Y: Our goal would be to fund our travels, and to be independent travelers.

T: It would be great to sustain majority of our travels from blog revenues. But it takes time. It’s only been a little over a year, so hopefully it’ll work out. And if it doesn’t, it was a really cool way to capture memories and meet new people.

What do you guys think of American Samoa?

Y: We haven’t done a whole lot. We really like it! It’s different than Samoa, there’s different things. We’ve only been here for 4 days, but there are a lot of things that remind me of home. I really liked Pola island, it’s so beautiful.

T: It’s an interesting island, in terms of natural beauty. It reminds me of southeast Asia. It’s very mountainous and very steep so it reminds me of Hawaii or Thailand. I don’t know why.
I think there’s a lot of hospitality here, We’ve been hitchhiking everywhere, so it’s really cool. I wish we were staying longer so we could see the other islands.

Last question. Any advice for people who want to travel but don’t have time or money to travel right now?

T: Not having time to travel is just an excuse, in my opinion.
Hear me out, we saved up money and decided to travel, so that’s one way you could do it. But we’re all different travelers. You can get working visas in other countries, so you can still get the same experience and work your way through it. If it’s really that important – if it’s what you want in life, you just gotta make it happen.

Y: Optimize it. Go somewhere and try to immerse yourself in the place. See as much as you can, but also give yourself time to chill out a bit. And as far as advice goes – just do it. When I was younger, people told me I was crazy.
There’s so much the world has to offer, so go out there and experience it. And don’t listen to people who say you shouldn’t or that you can’t. Push your boundaries. You can learn a lot about yourself in uncomfortable situations.

Keep Calm. Wander On.

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Quality time with the Que’s

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MEET: Manufanua Thomas

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

10

JULY 2017

We all wander and wonder in our own little way. Everybody’s got a story to tell. If you want to have a chat, I’d love to MEET you!

MEET Manufanua Thomas. Malaeloa native, WSU educated. Collaborator on Humans of American Samoa, and self trained artist.

 

Tell me about yourself, where you’re from, where you live, what do you do?

My name is Manufanua Thomas. I’m from Malaeloa, American Samoa. When I’m not here, I live in Pullman, Washington where I go to school at Washington State University. I am a landscape architect major, and I kind of want to double major or minor in something… I’m not sure. Maybe comparative ethnic studies, or something more in my main field of architecture – which would probably be floriculture. My hobbies include drawing and painting mainstream type of art. I like to take pictures in my down time, mostly of scenic landscapes or people, when I get inspired. I like to swim a lot when I get the chance, which is hard because I live on the border of Washington.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

So you like photography! What was your first camera, and why did you get into photography?

I got my first camera in seventh grade. It was a really faint pink metallic one that my auntie had passed down to me. And my first “real” camera was a Canon T6i. I got it on October 2015. I was always trying to save up for a camera and every time I had even a little bit of savings, it ended up getting spent. So as soon as I got my financial aid, I bought my first camera.

I know you named it…

Dillard! I sort of came up with that name years ago when I was first starting to think about buying a professional camera. But yeah, Dillard’s it’s name… Her name.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

What inspires you?

A lot of random stuff sort of inspires me. Like if I’m walking down the street, and I see something that looks really cool, I’ll stop and keep a picture of it in my mind. Ooh, I really love sunsets and sunrises. I take it for granted – the sunrises and sunsets here. When I’m in Washington, that’s sort of the closest thing that brings me back home. It’s not really lush green mountains in Washington, it’s more brown hills and that always reminds me of back home. People think I’m really weird for it because every time I see a pretty sunrise, I’ll stop and take 10 pictures.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas
MEET: Manufanua Thomas

What are you passionate about?

Art. I think that a lot of people don’t appreciate what I see or consider art. Like all forms of art. Another thing I’m passionate about is equal rights for men and woman, and all the genders in between. Especially here [in American Samoa], I feel like religion plays a huge role in gender equality, and it’s not really talked about I guess.

Interesting! So even though, for example, the fa’afafine is very much accepted in the Samoan culture… would you accept that as welcoming of other genders?

I just feel like the LGBTQ spectrum should be wider than it is now. I feel like people try to fit into a label but there’s more than that. For some people who identify as gay, I feel like some of them are forced to become a mala when they could be anywhere else in between. And I feel like there’s not much support for it.

How did you get so passionate about these things?

So when I was a senior, I started to think more about this type of stuff. My group of friends sort of shifted, and that’s the kind of thing we would talk about. And my friends Marcie and Allie–they’re majoring in women’s gender studies–and I became so interested in how society thinks about it and how it differs between countries and stuff like that. I guess that’s what sort of inspired me to take on comparative ethnic studies because we talk a lot about like gender and culture and race, ethnicity, sexuality, and stuff like that.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

So tell me about your style. Because I’ve known you as like always wearing basketball shorts and t-shirts. So your style now is pretty obvious, like I can look at Instagram and be like that’s Manu’s style.

Haha um I get a lot of my style inspiration from YouTubers like Connor Franta, That’s So Jack, Lauren Elizabeth. I’d say my style is sometimes minimalistic, sometimes unique and complicated. A lot of people think I shop at Levi’s or Gap but I literally buy my clothes at Goodwill. Except for shoes. That’s the only thing that I’m like – I need to buy a new pair of shoes. I bought these ones online from the Nike store. I also really like Kanye West. And Vetements. They make regular clothing but it’s luxury. And they collaborate with a bunch of brands. I like how they make simple clothing really unique.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

Tell me about Humans of American Samoa. What’s the background story?

So last summer I wanted to start a photography page or something different from other Facebook pages on island. And my friends Marcie and Allie, they were really into Humans of New York, and they wanted to start something here on island too, so we collaborated on it. I took the pictures while they did the interviews. We wanted to get different stories and backgrounds of different people on island. And we wanted to see how people would react to it. We’ve gotten a little hate, but more love about it. Some people are really opinionated and will get offended. But I think it’s good for the island, so you can see what really goes on and how people really feel. And actually, a lot of people have asked us to take things down, they say it’s too offensive. But this is not us. This is the people of American Samoa, you know. We’re not bending the truth or anything. This is it.

Favorite travel destination and why?

My favorite place to travel to was Savai’i. When I left I took for granted the simple things that we have here, like being able to swim anytime of the day and seeing all these lush green mountains. Being surrounded by a unique culture, that’s one thing. And going to Savai’i was really fun because we didn’t stay in a fancy hotel, we stayed at Tanu’s beach fales and lived outside on the beach and got bitten by mosquitoes. But it was so worth it because you wake up in the morning and there’s a Samoan breakfast, you can see the sunset, and you can buy niu almost everywhere. Yeah it was a real eye opener.

What’s the next place you want to visit?

I’m really trying to go for a study abroad trip and a lot of people are telling me to go to New Zealand. I kind of want to go out of the islands. Right now the top of my list is Greece or Paris. I might actually go to Paris next summer for a study tour. It’s great because when I was at ASCC I majored in visual arts and I got to learn a lot about our history and a lot of Renaissance art which can be found at the Louvre in Paris. And this study tour is for design students like myself but it’s more geared towards art which would still benefit me in terms of credits but will be more beneficial towards like my hobbies. Because we would be doing stuff like sketching the Eiffel Tower and visiting museums.

MEET: Manufanua Thomas
MEET: Manufanua Thomas

Favorite app for editing photos?

VSCOcam preset C1 and A5. Or I’ll edit in the Photos app on my iPhone, and change highlights and brilliance.

Goals for the next year?

I want to become an RA. And to become part of an honor society or fraternity—be more involved.

Advice for people from the island who have difficulty finding their identity when they go to college?

Don’t be intimidated. Be yourself and everything will fall into place and will get better over time. Get out of your comfort zone every once in a while, and do what makes you happy!

MEET: Manufanua Thomas

Keep Calm. Wander On.

CREATE: DIY Altoids watercolor travel palette

CREATE: DIY Altoids watercolor travel palette

8 MAY 2017 One of my favorite things about art is art supplies. I adore looking at them, using them (obviously) and now making them! I’m currently obsessed with the watercolor medium—how amazing it makes everything look, the way the paint flows wherever the water...

Travel that I need

Travel that I need

This isn’t how I normally travel. I usually like to go places and see new things. But right now this is just what I need.

Packing Light for a Long Weekend (in Samoa)

Packing Light for a Long Weekend (in Samoa)

15 MAY 2017 I love long weekend getaways. These little trips are lifesavers. I’ve booked my tickets for a long weekend adventure, island hopping to Samoa. It’s still a couple of weeks away, but I haven’t been back there since last year, so I’m excited to go and eat...

Quality time with the Que’s

Quality time with the Que’s

It’s getting harder to say goodbye. I live so far away, it’s not easy to just stop by for a visit, and I wish I could see them more often.

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