• Interview: Brady Parks of The National Parks

    Utah-based folk-influenced band The National Parks are whisking listeners away with their scenic new album Wildflower. To celebrate the release, the band bring intimate “Campfire Tour” to fans. The 19-date outing will feature acoustic, backyard shows at private residences in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Idaho. The tour kicked off on June 19 in Utah and wraps up on July 25 in Arizona.

    The Travel Addict had the chance to catch up with lead vocalist and guitarist Brady Parks. He talked about the new album and being inspired by nature musically along with quarantining during the pandemic and hidden gems in their home base in Utah. Check out the Travel Addict’s interview with Brady Parks below:

    How are you staying busy at home and where are you quarantining?

    We are in Utah and luckily things aren’t too crazy here. It feels like things are getting more and more back to normal. We have been trying to keep busy by practicing together and working on our music. We are releasing songs now. We have a lot of exciting things in the works. That is keeping our minds off how hard this time can be right now.

    Can you tell us a little about how you came up with The National Parks name for the band?

    I feel like nature has always been a big part of our songs. As a songwriter, I am drawn to it. I find a lot of parallels between nature and symbolism and our life and everything we go through. When we thought of National Parks it does play off my last name but it also fits so well because of the themes consistent in our music, nature and those metaphors. It is a perfect fit. We feel like our music talks a lot about getting outside and exploring the world and cherishing the world around you. It seemed to work well.

    You guys have recorded videos in some of the most picturesque locations in the country or the world really. How did you choose the locations to film?

    We are super lucky to be a band from Utah and surrounded by so much natural beauty. There are so many national parks close by. One place we have always been drawn to as a band is Zion National Park, which is in Southern Utah about four hours from where we live. When we were thinking of doing these music videos with a western theme on one of them we knew we had to go to Southern Utah where there are these amazing red rock cliffs and picturesque scenery. It was the perfect fit for how beautiful it is and also because we are from Utah and we take a lot of pride in that. It was a cool way to incorporate all of that.

    I think a lot of people are planning road trips this summer. If people wanted to visit Utah this summer, are there any hidden gems of destinations you would tell them to visit?

    For sure. I would say hit up the national parks. There are Zion and Bryce and they are amazing. Salt Lake City is super cool. Another gem would be Park City. In the summer, it has amazing Main Street with really great restaurants and a lot of fun things to do in the mountains while you are there too. Come to Utah, it is awesome.

    My favorite songs were between the “Wildflower” song or “Horizons.” Is there a story behind “Waiting for Lightning” song?

    Thank you so much. It means so much for you to say that since we are so close to these songs.

    “Waiting for Lightning,” I remember I was sitting in my room one night and this thought of lightning kept coming to my mind. I was thinking about where we are as a band and the overall emotion of the song is when you do everything you can do and you are just waiting for this amazing thing to happen. I just pictured standing out in this rainstorm and throwing your arms up in the air praying for this lightning strike. I think that is where the song came from. At its core, it is a song about hope and determination for getting to the places you want to get to in life and see those miraculous amazing things happen and knowing they are out there.

    What is the difference between playing festivals in front of a new audience instead of people who know you at a normal show?

    There is a difference for sure. I love both of them. Getting to play in a venue in front of our fans, the energy is crazy because they know every word and it is really exciting. They know what is going to happen in a song and know when to start jumping up and down.

    Playing at a festival, the energy is crazy because people are so excited to be surrounded by music and that is what they are there for. Getting to play a festival for new fans is really exciting for us because that is where we want to be. We want to grow. We want to reach new people. We want new people to hear our music everywhere. Playing festivals in front of new fans is a really cool opportunity to showcase what we are about and play our best show. It is motivation to prove ourselves and people can walk away and remember who we were.

    The band was going to host The Super Bloom Music Festival, which I thought was a great idea in a beautiful location for August. Is it still happening or on hold?

    Unfortunately, we had to put it on hold. It is very sad. It was our very own festival to put on to celebrate this new album and some of our favorite bands from around here. We were super excited for it. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to postpone. We are looking for new dates in 2021.

    You guys have also done projects to support the National Parks Conservation Fund. Why is this organization important to you and are there other organizations you are currently supporting?

    We did team up with them and it was a great experience because like we kind of said, I feel like nature and experiencing the natural world is an important part of existing and being human and being able to connect with your surroundings. We are so lucky to have these places, these national parks and if there is anything we can do to preserve them it goes right along with what we believe in for sure.

    What are your favorite songs to perform live?

    I think off the new album we have only had the chance to play “Wildflower” one time before everything got postponed. That was such a great experience. It became a favorite to play live. Besides that, I like to play our song “As We Ran.” The recorded version is big still but a little more folky. When we play it live we have a remixed version that is super energetic and super fun to play. Another older one would be “Monsters of the North”. We love playing that one too. I would pick those three.

    Do you have any destination you are looking forward to going to once this is all over?

    Definitely. Looking forward to getting back on tour. We had a big tour planned to support the album. We were pretty much going to go from coast to coast. I am so excited to get back on the road and play shows in all the states and hopefully out of the country too.

    Do you have any messages to your fans, how are you staying connected to them?

    We have been trying to engage with our fans during this time. We are all in this together. During the quarantine, there were not a lot of people could go do. We tried doing a lot of live streams and contests to bring joy to people’s lives during this hard time. My message is thanks for supporting us. Thanks for listening to our music. We hope everyone is staying safe and we are really excited for you to listen to our new album. We hope that it brings joy to their lives during this time.

    The National Parks photo provided by McKenna Chatterley.

  • Israel

    A trip to Israel had been on my bucket list for over a decade. There were many issues that had prevented my travel to this country in the Middle East that ranged from conflicting work schedules to safety in the region. I am always up for an adventure but this region has been a source of conflict for decades and it made me a little uneasy honestly. 

    In late 2017 a window of opportunity opened up for me to travel there with friends during Thanksgiving and leading up to the Christmas holiday so I jumped at the chance. I also thought it would be amazing to be in a place so rich with religious history close to Christmas.

    As a little bit of a backstory, I grew up in Tennessee in a very religious home during my teenage years. I went to a Southern Baptist Church three times a week and honestly enjoyed my time there. I was an active participant in the youth group and still remain friends with many of the people that I spent time with there. We did mission trips across the US and fun trips as well during the school holidays. I feel like it installed good values in my life and gave me a group of friends that were a wonderful support system during some difficult years. 

    I am by no means a Bible expert but I spent a lot of time in Bible study and became fascinated by the stories, so from those early years I had always dreamed of taking the trip to see where these famous stories took place. In my adult years, I have not spent as much time in actual church buildings and I have been fortunate to gain friends with a variety of religious backgrounds as I have traveled throughout the world. I have joked that for several years I spent much more time in Buddhist temples than churches during my time working in Asia. I still love the spiritual aspect of religion but I am open and respectful to everyone’s beliefs.

    As we embarked on the trip to Israel I was happy to be sharing the experience with friends who had different experience with different religions. On my trip we had people who were Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Druze and even a few that were not spiritual. Israel is a place that is sacred for most of the world’s major religions. 

    Christians, Jews and Muslims all have sacred sites in the country. Some of the same sites are even considered to be special to each of these religions for different stories and reasons. This has created great conflict in the country for ownership of these locations. Even after visiting the sacred cities, it still baffles me why each religion can’t share the sites and worship whatever God or believe whatever story happened there in their respective belief systems. I am sure I am over simplifying the situation but I saw people from all religions who were friends and got along perfectly. It seems like a small group of people do not want peace and will continue to drive conflict throughout the region. 

    I will highlight in the next series of blog posts some of the highlights of my Israel trip to these amazing places and discuss a little bit about my experiences and the history of each stop along the way. I had a lot fun recalling the Bible stories from my childhood and seeing the places in person.

    I will say that there were many parts of my travels in Israel that I did not enjoy. The service was terrible at hotels and I saw some of the worst tourist behavior I have ever seen in all of my travels. There was bus load after bus load of tourists coming into the cities. This is a unique place in the world where there is such a historical significance that people will visit no matter what type of hospitality they encounter. I think this fact drives some of the poor customer service at times. I also believe that the terrible behavior on the behalf of the visitors can drive some of the poor service as well. People are so desperate to see the ancient sites that they act crazy at times. 

    On December 6, 2017, the day after we returned home from the trip President Trump announced that he wanted to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which incited protests in the region. It was crazy and sad to see places that we had visited a few days prior burning.

    Unfortunately Israel is back in the news with protests against plans to annex parts of the West Bank. This week Jewish-Arab protests took place in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.

    Even with the issues that we encountered I am very happy I made the trip and would recommend a visit for anyone who has an interest in religious history.

  • Tel Aviv

    We started our journey in Israel in Tel Aviv. The trip started with a little bit of adventure as we flew from JFK airport. Going to Israel requires a lot more security checks than other international destinations. We had to go thru three different full checkpoints with X-ray right up until we boarded the plane. Extra security really doesn’t bother me in these situations because I am happy the airlines are ensuring safety measures are in place. If you plan to visit you should make sure to allow enough time for security at the airport.

    Tel Aviv was a beautiful city located along the Mediterranean coast line with wonderful restaurants and beautiful beaches. We only spent one day in the city before starting our travels across the country but we could have easily spent several days exploring the city. Tel Aviv is considered a world city and has a famous nightlife scene.

    We started our day in Tel Aviv with a sunrise shoot from the roof of our hotel and ended with a sunset shoot with views of the city and beaches. We toured the city by bus and visited an Immanuel Christian Church in Tel Aviv, the downtown Tel Aviv market, and the city of Jaffa with a stop at Mahmoudiya Mosque.

    After the all-day tour we decided to checkout Habasta, a restaurant recommended by a writer who had recently made the trip to the city. It was an amazing meal to finish our tour of the city.

  • Bahai Gardens

    The first stop on our tour of Haifa was at The Terraces of the Baháʼí Faith, also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa. These garden terraces are around the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel. They are one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Israel. The architect is Fariborz Sahba from Iran, the structural engineers were Karban and Co. from Haifa.

    Fariborz Sahba began work in 1987 designing the gardens and oversaw construction. The terraces were opened to the public in June 2001. Beginning at its base, the gardens extend almost a kilometre up the side of Mount Carmel, covering some 200,000 square meters of land. The gardens are linked by a set of stairs flanked by twin streams of running water cascading down the mountainside through the steps and terrace bridges. From the top of the stairs visitors can see spectacular views of the city of Haifa. 

  • Stella Maris Monastery

    The Bible teaches that the Prophet Elijah fought on Mount Carmel against prophets of the Baal. From then to this day, Carmel Mountain retains its religious significance. According to tradition, Elijah hid in the cave at the slopes of the sea star ridge. The Carmelite Christians sanctified an additional cave at the top of the ridge and erected a large monastery above, which today constitutes their world center. The large monastery known as the Stella Maris monastery was destroyed and rebuilt several times until its final establishment in 1836.

    The monastery’s main hall is luxurious and resembles the shape of a cross. The ceiling of the hall is roofed and decorated with colorful paintings based on motifs from Old and New Testaments: Elijah rising to the heavens, David strings his harp, the prophet Isaiah, the Holy Family and the Four Evangelists. Latin inscriptions of biblical verses are written around the roofed dome.

    We stopped into the Monastery for a quick visit and I was in awe of the beautiful painting on the top of the ceiling. The Monastery is free to the public and I would highly recommend a visit if you are in the Haifa area.

  • Akko Marina

    Akko Marina is one of the oldest preserved ports in the world. From the classical age until the medieval period it served as a significant bustling docking point for shipments coming through the area. Today, it remains a strategic trading stop of the Eastern Mediterranean. You feel like you are walking through history as you stroll down the quaint, tranquil fishing harbor lined with old fishing boats, and enjoy a breathtaking view of Akko’s old city. At ten shekels a person, you can even hop on a boat tour and ride out into deeper waters of the Mediterranean for a fantastic view of the city walls and a taste of Akko’s history. It is considered one of the hidden gems on a tour of Israel. We arrived at the marina just in time for a snack right before a beautiful sunset with perfect light to photograph the fishing boats in the harbor.

  • Akko Market

    Akko Market is a colorful middle eastern bazaar. The market has a wonderful selection of authentic Middle Eastern goods, from fresh fish to buckets of spices to delicious Arab pastries and desserts. As you explore the colorful range of stalls, be on the lookout for the delicious cafés and hummus joints tucked away in the market’s charming side alleyways.

    As a travel photographer it is always exciting to find a nice traditional market in a city. It usually allows you to get a glimpse into daily life of the region and make beautiful images of people and items for sale.

  • Immanuel Church Tel Aviv

    One of our first stops in Tel Aviv was at a Protestant Church called the Immanuel Church in the German- American Colony in Tel Aviv. The church was built in 1904 for the benefit of the German Evangelical community, which it served until its dissolution at the onset of World War II in 1940. In 1955, the Lutheran World Federation transferred control of the church building to the Norwegian Church Ministry to Israel, and a new congregation started taking shape. Today the church is used by a variety of Protestant denominations as well as by Messianic Jews. 

    The church let us tour the inside and see the beautiful stained-glass windows. We also were able to sit as the church and choir practiced for their services that they do in English and Hebrew. It was powerful to be sitting in this historic place and hear traditional hymns that I was familiar with from my childhood. 

  • Caesarea Roman Theater

    The Roman Theater ruins at Caesarea sit on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea. The theater could seat about 4000 spectators. Caesarea was Herod the Great’s tribute to Roman culture, and it became the commercial capital of Judaea. The theater was one a masterpiece to Herod and is still in use today. The hippodrome onsite was the epicenter of this Rome-away-from-Rome. Here, in 10 BCE, Herod dedicated his new city with a competitive sports festival intended to rival the Olympics.

    Herod’s legacy to Judaea, a city admired by the entire civilized world, was to become a focal point of the animosity between Jews and Gentiles, and it was here in the sports stadium that those tensions often erupted.

    Undoubtedly the most painful event that this stadium witnessed is the one that is retold every year during the Yom Kippur Musaf service called aseret harugei malchut (the ten who were killed for the Divine kingdom). During the 2nd century CE, the 10 greatest rabbis of the generation were publicly tortured to death by the Romans for their refusal to give up teaching Torah. 

    King Herod is not a good character in the Bible. Herod appears in the Gospel of Matthew,  which describes an event known as the Massacre of Innocents. According to this account, after the birth of Jesus, some Magi from the East visited Herod to inquire the whereabouts of “the one having been born king of the Jews”, because they had seen his star in the east and wanted to pay him homage. Herod, as King of the Jews, was alarmed at the prospect of a new king. 

    Herod assembled the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the “Anointed One” to be born. They answered, in Bethlehem, citing Micah 5:2. Herod then sent the magi to Bethlehem, instructing them to search for the child and, after they had found him, to “report to me, so that I too may go and worship him”. However, after they had found Jesus, they were warned in a dream not to report back to Herod. Similarly, Joseph was warned in a dream that Herod intended to kill Jesus, so he and his family fled to Egypt. When Herod realized he had been outwitted, he gave orders to kill all boys of the age of two and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity. Joseph and his family stayed in Egypt until Herod’s death, then moved to Nazareth in Galilee to avoid living under Herod’s son Archelaus. 

    Most modern biographers of Herod, and probably a majority of biblical scholars, dismiss Matthew’s story as a literary device.  According to contemporary historians, Herod the Great “is perhaps the only figure in ancient Jewish history who has been loathed equally by Jewish and Christian posterity”, depicted both from Jews and Christians as a tyrant and bloodthirsty ruler. However, he was also praised for his work, being considered the greatest builder in Jewish history. In fact, what is left of his building ventures are now popular tourist attractions in the Middle East, which many have come to cherish as both a historical and religious area.

    We toured the entire site and as you sit on the stone steps you can picture the chariot races and ancient events taking place in this stadium site.

  • Coral Palace Caesarea

    Caesarea Maritima was a large harbor city built by Herod the Great, King of Judea, in 25 BC on a site of previous Phoenician settlement. The city was named in honor of Oktavian Augustus, and was a busy trading location. Now the archaeological site of Caesarea is arranged as a national Park, with comfortable promenade paths around the site, exhibitions, explanation signs, and a pleasant restaurant and shopping area around the Ancient harbor. 

    Herod´s palace is named Coral Palace and was built on the small island/peninsula, now submerged under sea level, but it is still possible to see some mosaics from the viewpoint along the promenade. Crusaders fort is in good condition, Temple of Augustus unfortunately has just a few remains on the ground.