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Voyager 01: Jayna Milan

By voyageuw · 4 days ago

Travelers of PNW

Voyager 01: Jayna Milan

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Jenjira (Jayna) Milan is a Thai-American photographer and traveler. Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jayna’s family moved just outside of Bangkok, Thailand when she was 2 years old, and stayed there until she graduated from high school. She took a gap year, then moved to Seattle, Washington to accomplish her degree in Marketing and Interdisciplinary Honors at UW. During her time in Seattle, she founded Voyage UW with her neighbors in Terry Hall, and further explored her passion for travel and photography. Her work is often rooted in capturing authentic human connections and our relationship to the natural world through visual storytelling.

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Why is travel important to you? 

Stepping outside of my comfort zone continually reminds me that my perspective and way of living, thinking, and being are a product from my own personal journey and surroundings. Seeing other parts of the world and meeting folks whom I typically wouldn’t on a daily basis challenges me to broaden my worldview and reflect upon my own identity and privilege. On most trips, especially for solo travel, I’ve typically found that personal growth is inherent when you’re on the road and that you’re stretched in surprising and unexpectedly subtle ways.

Cappadocia, Turkey

What is your relation to the Pacific Northwest?

My sister began uni in Portland three years before I graduated high school, so once I was on my gap year, I decided to dedicate some time in the Pacific Northwest since she was in the area. I ended up falling in love with it and decided to stay here as well!

How has the PNW helped shape who you are?

I’ve never fallen more in love with a place than I have with the PNW. Without a doubt, its got it’s own challenges and issues, but I am so grateful to have found love, community, and a sense of purpose and happiness here. Living in such close proximity to clean air and water is a personal privilege that I’m constantly reminded of, especially when I return from somewhere else. Doesn’t matter if it’s a stateside or an overseas trip, I almost always shed a tear landing into Seatac because the green and blue hues get me every time. Having never lived in the US before, I came into the city without much prior knowledge about indigenous history, especially about the Puget Sound native communities whose land we live, build, and play on. Continually learning more about the beautiful abundance of this land and the native community’s relationship to this space has challenged me to acknowledge my own role on native land and ask myself how I can call this place “home” while becoming a better ally.

Rota Vicentina, Portugal

What is your most memorable travel experience? How has it impacted your life and future travels?

Oh my! Hmm. Hard to pick one specific experience as they’re obviously all different, but I’ll go with my recent short hiking trip on the Rota Vicentina through Southern Portugal. It was my first time ever hiking more than 20 km in a day – especially on sand – and also going for longer than a week on my own. Waking up early, being out on the coast for the whole day, ending up in small sleepy towns, and then ending the day with a beer on the beach – t’was a great time. Not to mention all the bad-ass female travelers I met. Also, traveling at such a slow pace helped me feel grounded to such ridiculously beautiful nature around me and cemented the fact that I want to work around environmental related issues when I return to Seattle.

How would you describe your travel style? Are you a meticulous planner or a go-with-the-flow kind of traveler? What are some best practices you have learned to help you travel as best you can in your own way?

Definitely go-with-the-flow with a wee bit of general planning. I grew up on stand-by flights courtesy of my mom working for an airline, so we learned to be really flexible as kids. I think it really depends on the timeline you’re working with, but if you’re going for a longer trip, I’d recommend for folks to think intentionally about where and why they want to visit a place while still giving some flexibility to your plans. Your plans will definitely change depending on who you meet and what the locals recommend! Stay open to it.

What are your future travel plans?

Great question! I’m currently 2.5 months in a half year long traveling stint, so I guess I’m just about smack dab in the middle of it. I spent 2 months traveling through Portugal and Turkey, 1.5 weeks in Malaysia, and am now spending the rest of my time in Thailand. I’m volunteering (farming & nature eco camps for local Thai kids), traveling through the country and getting to know it from a different perspective, diving, and spending precious time with my grandma and family.

New Heaven Dive School

Interview collected by Kristian Whittaker

Interview edited by Evelyn Hyde