Hidden Signs in Photos

An In-Depth Look at What’s Lurking in the Background of Your Photos

Do you ever get home, look at your photos for the first time on a large computer screen, and then notice details you never before saw? What’s that in the background? What is he motioning? How could she be…OH my GO–! I know I see odd things upon closer inspection, and I wanted to clue you in on exactly what I found. Throughout my thousands of photos taken throughout 9 different countries in 2012, you can imagine that photobombs were so tame in the scheme of things, they didn’t even make the cut. 

Let’s start off with a fairly normal photo (and you can read through and then click to enlarge the photos, running through a slideshow all at once) so you can be as shocked and awed as I was. 

Take a look here (below). Can’t see much except a sand hill, right? Wrong, naturally. 


Let’s look closer (below):

Yeah, weird…I didn’t know Mr. Revere was even still alive! Or that he visited India! So honored though.


Let’s take a glance at a new photo (below) from Nepal:


Big whoop, you say. A guy is asking for directions. But look closer now (below).

Holy eep, man


And this was one of the small riots, too. Naturally someone was killed here later that afternoon, but I was safe and long gone by that time.

Okay okay, let’s get a bit more light-hearted. Here’s a photo I took of the incredible mountains of Thailand (below):


And now, with the details you missed or perhaps weren’t even aware of!


Oh, that’s…hmm. Maybe not so light-hearted.

You get the idea now. Since I know you’ve caught on, I’ll only include just the labeled photos for your viewing convenience. And because you’re probably still wondering about this post’s photo header (you weren’t), here’s the “background” on that one (below) too:


Thanks for warmly welcoming me to India, ma’am.

Here’s a guy who went out of his way to welcome me to India (below):


Thank you. I know I’m laughing in the photo but I was so, so frightened. Trauma? You bet your bottom dollar!
Moving on to a treasure hunt in Singapore (below):
And now back to a sign in the mountains of Nepal (below):
Oh, you’ll like this one. Rad motorcycle tricks by a student of mine and his bro in India, bro (below)!
And another typical scene from my second Indian apartment’s front yard (below):
Just commenting, people, not judging. Calm down.
Nothing odd about this one, actually (below):
And while we’re on the animal theme…here I am in northern Nepal (below):
I, too, am saddened by this photo. And I thought being called a pig was an upgrade over heifer.
Last but not least, here I am during a huge conference of ours in India. I didn’t know what I was getting into when asked to pose for a photo (below).
Needless to say, I had to weed guys out and only ended up with 4 of ’em.
So I urge you, citizens of the world…go back through your photos. Look closely, examine, and see what’s under the surface. I’m sure you’ll be dismayed at your findings; I certainly was. Enjoy!

2012: A Rather Serious Look Back

Fact: My posts here on Anti-Tourist Traveler are sometimes rather lengthy.

Fact: The above statement is an understatement.

Fact: I sometimes like to write serious bits, and I’m about to do that. You came to be amused, you say? Hey, then don’t read it! Skip to my post above or click HERE if you’d rather see the not-so-serious year-end summary. Ready to cry? I warned you. Oh come on, I’m not THAT bad. Am I?

People seem to be under the impression that I did not work hard this year. Just because I post photos and stories of adventures—from my weekends—does not mean I am living care-free and flouncing about mountaintops and clouds seven days a week. I strictly limit that to four days a week, obviously. But in India I usually worked extremely stressful 10-, 12-, or even 14-hour workdays six days a week. In Malta, I was often up quite early researching and late writing, and had to sit down for hours every day interviewing, gathering information, forcing myself to write articles on the spot, and editing photos. Many times I was extremely ill while at work. Am I complaining? No, because I chose said jobs. Was it an experience? A lot of the time, yes! And sure—not many folks get to scuba dive on the job or conduct college workshops on innovation as “work,” but for that I sacrificed anything even moderately resembling a real paycheck, comfort, stability, or any sense of normalcy. I made these choices, and I’m pleased with them, but please don’t think I haven’t been working or have been living off of someone else’s dime.

People ask me when I’m going to actually get a real job and settle down, and to that, here’s what I have to say. 2012 has been a terrible year for so many people. There have been multiple mass shootings. Innocent children have been gunned down. I just learned that a childhood friend exactly my age was thrown from her horse and killed. Another friend of mine was found dead in his home this year. And I saw violent death more than once while abroad. Of course it changes you a little. Tragedy has been seemingly rampant in 2012, and these sad events really make you sit down and wonder. Life’s just too short to not be enjoying ourselves every day we can. At this point in my life, my years still aren’t about working all year with 10 days of freedom and perhaps a few sick days. I’ve made choices: Choices not to have kids, not to have a high-paying job, not to know what I’m doing a month or a year from now. Those are choices I’ve made that I’m pleased with, for what makes me happy–still–is exploring. 2012 has been the most incredible year of my life, but I ran through nearly every emotion possible. Who said my year’s been easy? I didn’t know if I’d walk normally again with my leg injury in India, and was alone and scared. I didn’t know what was wrong with me when I came back from Thailand and had to see four doctors with no real health insurance (and I’m still battling an extreme case of Lyme Disease). I earned virtually no money and sometimes didn’t know where I’d sleep at night. But again, this is the life I made for myself in 2012. Sustainable? No, but I’ve paid for it with my savings. I work hard in between my adventures to make the life I want for myself, so please don’t assume it’s been a.) easy, b.) free, or c.) lucky. We needn’t compare, because while jobs, marriage, and a family may be your thing, I used my time, money, and energy to make myself excited and happy. We’re going to have a different set of photos and stories to share from our years, and hopefully we’re both happy with that. We don’t have enough time in this lifetime to whine, to think what could have been, or to wish. We need to do what makes us excited to live, because we only have one chance at that. 

Also, it’s gotten to the point where the fact that I don’t have a boyfriend, have not given birth, and do not have a stable job or income makes people actually think I’m not in control, but I see it as just the opposite. I’m not hurting anyone else and am making choices for myself. And please, don’t think that whether it’s amazing Facebook status updates or hundreds of baby photos, any of us are having fun 100% of the time. We as people don’t post the average; we only advertise the amazingly good or terribly bad. You won’t hear the stories of loneliness, money problems, fighting, or dilemmas we all go through on a daily basis, but in reality we all battle these things. In short, don’t assume. Just make sure you’re happy with your own life, and if you’re not, work on making changes.

People have talked about my Malta and Italy photos a whole lot more than anything else, which surprises me. I think it’s beach scenes, hiking views…accessible vistas that are different but not too far away from the unknown. My trip photos from India, Nepal, and Southeast Asia, however, draw far fewer comments. Why? I’m not sure, but perhaps it’s because it’s not very attainable. People aren’t about to go to those random, far-out places that require sketchy night buses, dangerous motorcycle rides up and down mountains in torrential rains, and uncomfortable nights alongside no one who speaks English. There are awesome places, people who look like they’re from another century, crazy bugs, and scenes that are just plain odd, but I’m guessing people can’t identify with them very well. It makes me feel bad, because I want to transport people with my photos and stories. I don’t know what I can do differently, but here’s an example of what I mean:

The most popular photos of the year, based on Anti-Tourist Traveler comments, Facebook comments, and friends who wouldn’t stop talking about me in the purple red-carpet event dress: 



Some of my personal favorite photos of the year:


Notice the difference? Sunsets, me doing activities, me dressed up, food, and camels vs. portraits, moments, bugs, and scenes. Well, to each his own I suppose.

I’m still, STILL so shocked at how many people travel or live abroad, know “facts” about where they are, and still have not lived, really lived there. I understand to some degree; if I were living abroad for a substantial length of time, I’d want to be comfortable if possible. Still, hang out with locals and eat their food, even if it’s difficult. No one said living in a foreign place was easy. But travelers? If you’re going on a 2-week vacation to relax in the sun, fine, be that way. But if you’re going to a truly foreign place…why are you complaining? Isn’t the point to experience things, and to learn? I complain about rice and traditional clothing as much as the next gal, but when all is said and done I accept it and follow suit, whether it’s covering any exposed skin in 110 degree heat or not making out with my multiple husbands in public. But most people: Why are you partying like you would at home? Why are you all comfortable when, if you were really experiencing a place, you’d be with the locals and feel…well, awkward? You can feel at ease, but you should not feel as if you’re in your normal Western home. Doesn’t that beg the point of travel?

Now that my rant is over (Though there’s plenty more, so if I haven’t yet bored you, please–when you see me in person—ask anything! I love opposing viewpoints and am curious to hear your opinions), I leave you with a very long thank-you list. If not for everyone I met this year or re-visited—or kept in touch with while away—I don’t know what this all would have been like. To all of you: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

In no order whatsoever: Mady, Tobie, Larvin, Varun, Signe, Jared, Vic, Ola, Daniel, Jay, Anwar, Kristine, Claire, Paul, Ruth, Deepak, Rajesh, Sanit, Anshul, Gregor, Katia, Jay, Martin, Mithin, Rapunky, Rohit, Rohan, Roshan, Vadiraj, Vanessa, Krishnaveni, Polly, Whitney, Frida, Jimbo, Kate, Niel, James, Harpreet, Vinoth, Amir, Timothy, Reilly, the Bih, the Blem, Greg, Piero, Ron, Tim, Jennie, Katie, Gina, Omar, Brenna, Ana, Ken, Martijn, Kemal, Nina, Tanya, Marta, Niels, Roy, Brett, Colleen, Azeem, Jessi, Noel, Sally, Krishna, Amrut, Geeta, Shashi, Savio, Jibin, Jimmy, Chris, Jared, Sarah, David, Satvik, Shridhar, Lhakpa, Tsering, Tashi, Pasang, Billy, Sergio, Juan, and my wonderful, wonderful students of DFP7, DFP8, DSF3, DSF4, and DSK. You guys made my 2012.

Life in Malta, Part 3: Networking


My my how time flies! One year ago I was writing to say I was leaving to India for a fellowship, and now here I am abroad, not sitting in a cute little café and drinking a cappuccino, but actually about to return to the states with a baby on one hip and four babies on the other hip. Or is it five? I don’t really remember, but I guess however many I get through airport security with is how many I’ll bring to the homeless shelter with me.

I just stopped over to visit a friend in Italy for a few days and will then return to the good ol’ USA. Hey, come on—I’m pretty nearby and need to pack on an extra few before I return home so everyone believes the bit about the pregnancies. Anyhow, Malta was good to me. I realized that no matter where in the world I am, friends and strangers alike offer their kindness, learning experiences, and adventures within every walk of life. And how does one meet these people, you ask? I’ve found that networking, a term which I used to hate, has come in so very handy with meeting people—even people on the small island of Malta. As you should know by now, I simply love standing around in a fancy-schmancy atmoshphere, awkwardly “connecting” and noshing on awkward things like chips and dips, fondue, and hummus in order to explain to fellow unemployed people how we can pretend to be of use to each other. My remedy? I went out into the real world for mini sessions of “Coop’s Networking Nightz on the Streetz.” Here then are bits of these conversations so that you, the viewer, can understand how to network while abroad.


Street Scene 1: The donut truck man parked on the street

Man: You want some donuts?

Me: Hmm…well they do look pretty good…but I

Man: No, you really don’t look like you need them. You really don’t.

Me: Wha–


Street Scene 2: Inside a small corner shop

Random Maltese Woman: Hello–where are you from?

Me: I’m from the USA.

RMW: Oh, America! What do you think of our country?

Me: Well it’s very beautiful and many peope are friendly.

RMW: America is a big country, yes? And you people make lots of movies and are loud I think.

Me: Well yes, Malta is very tiny compared to America, and yes, we tend to be somewhat loud p—

Interrupting American: DO YOU HAVE ANY HEINEKEN 6 PACKS?

RMW: No, but we have Cisk. You know, Maltese beer.


Me: I’m sorry.

RMW: Don’t act all innocent. I’ve heard your cackle.


Street Scene 3: Along the promenade, speaking with a first-time scuba diving customer

Me: Hi there, and what do you do?

Guy: I’m a magician.

Me: Oh, awesome! You do stage magic or i—wait, how come I’m no longer wearing any clothes?


Street Scene 4: Walking on the streets of Gozo

Voice: (From behind. Husky-ish.) Hullo Kuh-thryn.


Same creepy old 4-foot-tall man: Hey there, hey, hi, hi you. We’re going to be all right. All right. Yeah.

Me: (Audibly shudders)


Street Scene 5: Couple giving me a ride.

Couple: Are you on holiday here?

Me: No, I’m working here for a scuba diving guide on Malta & Gozo.

Couple: Very nice! We’re on vacation.

Me: (confused since they sound Maltese) From…?

Couple: From Floriana! (near the nation’s capital, approximately 30 minutes away)

Me: So you come here on vacation. Er, holiday.

Couple: Yes, when it’s the weekend or we need to relax, we come here.

Me: Ah. I see. Well that’s close by! Do you ever travel…abroad?

Couple: Sometimes we go to Gozo!

Me: Ah. Mhmm. What about…to other countries?

Couple: Our friend once took the ferry…to ITALY! Wow!

Me: And I thought Maltese peeps didn’t get out much!


Street Scene 6: On the street, innocently waiting for the bus

Random Nigerian Man: How are YOU?

Me: Uh, I’m fine, thanks.

RNM: My name is !Xobile. Are you married?

Me: Well you skipped over quite the courtship period, now didn’t you?

RNM: I would like to invite you to marry me and be my 6th wife.

Me: I’m flattered, really. Under more normal cir—

RNM: Boom! Married. 


I’ll be back in the U.S. in just a matter of days. I assume it’ll be the usual: Jet-lagged sleep; the eating of brownies, cookies, processed food, and cheap Chinese food; seeing friends; doctor’s appointment; enjoying consistent hot showers; not having folks stare; job hunting; and gchatting with my newest Nigerian prince. Until Italy and the end-of-the-year’s Best Of 2012 list, I’m out!




[Photos: Unedited goodies from the isands of Gozo and Northwestern Malta]


[click above to see multiple photos in one go]

Life in Malta, Part 1: Problems and Solutions


Welcome to my first post from the sunny country of Malta! Where’s that, you ask? Chances are that unless you’re European, have visited relatives in southern Italy, or happen to have worked on a cruise line around the Mediterranean, you probably aren’t 100% clear on where this country is. Well, it’s here. If you ask what I’m doing, the short is that I’m a scuba diving travel journalist. For the long, read two posts down, an entry titled “Exciting News!” which is conveniently…here.

I’m living on an island, and you know what they say about that! “When you’re on an island, you figure out how to solve all your problems because there’s nowhere to run to—you’re stuck.” Actually I have no idea what they say about islands except that a lot of people want to leave. Strangely enough, Malta will solve all of your problems! I picked common fears, phobias, addictions, and problems folks in the world face these days, and I have to say that this island country has truly provided answers—no, not just answers, but real-world solutions—to all the problems I could possibly imagine.


Problem: You’ve got a gambling addiction and can’t bear the thought of being away from gambling, or at least not having casinos nearby.

Solution: There are mini-casinos all over town. Seriously, if you walk down a street you’ll find a mini-mart, a butcher, a hair salon, a mini-casino, and a shoe shop. Called Fairplay or Bestplay, these tiny “stores” have about 5-7 slot machines and are nestled in high-class, frosted-glass storefronts. Open most of the day. Obviously for addicts. Come on! Also, there are three regular casinos, a horse track, and loads of online better companies that run betting all over the world. Then there are bingo and slot floors in small shopping malls, hotels, and more. I know it’s common in Europe, but it is definitely weird to me to plan a trip to buy a shirt, a rack of lamb, and some candlesticks, and then stop into these undercover-looking rooms to use slot machines.

Problem: Global warming? It’s a huge problem, yes it is! And what’s being done about it?

Solutions: Don’t worry; every time I jump in the water to go diving, the world’s water level rises 1.46 inches. Statistical fact. 

Problem: You’re sick of all the NYC sheep wearing their white headphones 24/7, completely oblivious and unable to hear you even when you try to be nice and tell them they dropped their pink iPhone cover.

Solution: Almost no one owns iPods, iTouches, iPhones, or even MP3 players in general here, so don’t think they’re not hearing you; they’re simply ignoring you. Oh no, wait, those are just French tourists being rude. Nevermind.

Problem: You don’t understand these solutions. There not helpful, you say!

Solution: Read something else. A grammar book, for starters.

Problem: You’re watching your figure and don’t want to have your flab showing while in your bikini.

Solution: No worries! Everyone here is on a strict diet of pasta and bread, so looking pregnant under the afternoon sun helps you fit in.

Problem: You’re superstitious and are worried about black cats, the number 13, and all that jazz.

Solution: In Malta there’s almost always construction going on, and almost never anyone on the ground directing traffic. Cranes are overhead holding heavy objects above your head, road crews are oblivious to the backhoe clawing a foot away from your car, etc. There’s so much construction, in fact, that whenever you walk the city streets, the likelihood that you’re walking under multiple ladders is about 103%. And I haven’t even told you about the…oh shoot, wha—

Problem: Your vote doesn’t count unless you leave in Ohio or Pennsyltucky. Whatever. You want to live in a free country where they listen to the people.

Solution: There’s a big election coming up in Malta, and the politicians are advertising heavily on the billboards. If you want to know how they vote, read it here: http://bit.ly/VJHc8S. What are their stances? Labour laws, the economy, no divorce, domestic v—wait, no to divorce? Where am I???

Problem: There’s a company here called Enemalta.

Solution: The solution is in the name! Actually it’s an energy company, but in a largely English-speaking country…research those words, people!


Well anyhow, I better get back to work. Around here you’ll see some photos of hikes, famous cliffs, the sea, a trained falcon, old Maltese cliff homes, and more. Next up will be a bit of photography from my lovely hikes around this island, the villages of Malta, and snaps of me riding on a Segway around cliffs. Seriously.