Some people travel to see new places — to take a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower or tour the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa because they know that they might never get the opportunity to see it again.
Others travel to have new experiences — to taste the sugary beignets at Cafe du Monde or explore the mountainous Andes by horseback.
Zach Mueller grew up in the Northeast, but went to college and grad school down in Texas and ended up in St. Paul. Currently, he works as a data scientist and runs a nonprofit community biology lab on the side.
Zach has traveled for all of those reasons above and captured ten years of it on his phone.
Recently, he narrowed down his collection of over 200,000 memories, moments, and epic adventures to 100 Fracture prints.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Zach about his adventures, both abroad and at home as he builds one of the coolest gallery walls we’ve ever seen.
Drew: So you have these ten years of travel. Where did you get the travel bug?
Zach: The first trip was with a couple of my cousins and my brother. We wanted to go to Europe for a few weeks and just kind of traveled around. And then just all of a sudden I just continued traveling as much as I could, which right now is about 25 countries that I’ve visited so far.
Drew: Out of those 25 different countries, what’s the place that’s been the most inspiring?
Zach: Definitely, uh, New Zealand. I did a study abroad there in my undergrad years and was out there for four months, so I really got to see the country. One of the things I really liked about it was the culture of just being very relaxed, and the DIY vibe of everything. The diversity of landscapes is really awesome there, too.
Drew: What do you usually use to shoot all these photos? Is it a mix or do you have your old faithful, trusty camera that you can’t live without?
Zach: It’s definitely changed over the years, but in the early, early years, it was the second ever android phone made. After that, I went through a phase of going through a lot of different waterproof cameras, mostly Olympus. Recently, in the last few years, it’s mainly been the Pixel series of phones.
Drew: So what was your process in going through the thousands of photos and picking this particular hundred for your project?
Zach: The whole idea originated when I bought a house late last year. I’d never really decorated my room because they’ve always been rented. But I just felt like I should finally do something to the walls in my new room because it was my own house, with something that is distinctly my own type of thing. One big thing about me is my love for travel. I currently have 217,318 photos backed up on Google Drive.
I wanted to get at least one highlight from each trip, so I started going through the photos and whittled it down to just the top one hundred there.
Drew: Wow. That’s quite a project to get to all those. So if you had to pick a favorite of those 100, is there anything that rises to the top?
Zach: Yeah, there’s a photo in there of me and my friends in Thailand doing one of the elephant tours, like on elephants walking through a jungle. I picked it because it very much sums up my friendship with those very good friends of mine. Currently, most of us are pretty scattered, so we don’t really see each other on a day-to-day basis. Now, we mainly just see each other through travel.
Drew: Do you usually travel with that same group of friends?
Zach: That’s been a common one. We also went on a South America trip a few years prior and are going to Japan later this year. But about 50% of the travels have been solo trips.
Drew: Are you typically the kind of person who books a plane ahead of time? Or are you more likely to fly over there and figure it out as you go, and just wander and explore?
Zach: It definitely depends, but I was visiting Croatia back in 2011 and the only thing I had booked in advance was my round-trip flights. I ended up essentially visiting a different city every single day. I was doing overnight trains, buses, and ferries every night and I ended up going through a bunch of Croatia, a couple of cities in Italy, and then also Montenegro.
Drew: Wow! That’s an adventure right there. So, what ended up leading you to use Fracture to print them?
Zach: Yeah, I was familiar with Fracture before this. I had bought a couple of prints for my parents. For this, I wanted to summarize all of my life’s travels so far, by taking 100 or so and putting them all together. I loved that they would be borderless and directly on the glass. Super light, super simple to work with.
When it came to the actual arrangement, I ended up printing out all one hundred photos and played around with a ton of different arrangements. I originally ended up with this sort of timeline, where the left-hand side is older photos and those on the right are more recent.
Drew: One last question. Here at Fracture, our biggest goal is to help people focus on the moments that matter most. When you think about these travels, is there a moment that you treasure most?
Zach: Yeah, so I recently went to New Zealand on my own and just traveled around the country for a couple of weeks. One of my favorite spots there is Piha, which is one of the beaches. It’s a black sand beach in the northwest, just a little west of Auckland. There’s this thing called Lion Rock, which is this big rock that looks kind of like a lion from a distance in the center of the actual beach itself.
The first time I went I climbed up to the midpoint, but when I went back, I pushed myself a little further to go to the very top. It was nice to enjoy all the memories and everything from revisiting that same spot at Piha again.
I felt a much deeper connection to all the memories from the first time and it was really nice to have experienced that.
Drew: That’s inspiring, man. Thanks so much for sharing these photos and your story with us.
Hopefully having those 100 photos on your wall will help give you a tiny bit of the feeling of returning and give you a nice reminder of the adventures you’ve been on. We’re so glad we could help you preserve these moments for years to come.