Four years ago a job opportunity brought me back to Calgary, a city in which I previously spent seven years. After two previous 4 month road trips for my photography I re-evaluated and made some hard decisions before getting back out onto the road again. I’ve paid off all my personal debt. I’ve saved and upgraded my photography gear to best capture the images I want to create. I’m living a minimalist lifestyle. I’ve saved for this next adventure. I’ve taken business courses, revamped this blog, my photography portfolio and started other projects. August 28, 2015, was supposed to be my last day in this cubicle but upon looking at a few things and with the recent addition to the adventure I’ve decided to postpone the launch day a few months to allow me to save up just a little more money. This means that come December I’ll be putting the final preparations on the next adventure and heading south.
Obviously I love travel but throughout my life so far I’ve had minimal “travel funds”. I’m a big fan of the “road trip” and photography. Being originally from the Vancouver BC area I have done quite a few shorter trips down the West coast of North America and into the American Southwest. The fact of the matter is, I’ve enjoyed a younger persons life so far and am at a point where I’m simply not ready to “grow up”. I played drums in many rock and roll bands over the years, traveling British Columbia and Alberta Canada extensively in cover bands when just starting out and then getting to see parts of Canada from the windows of a 15 passenger van through the late nineties in a Canadian Pop/Rock band named Zuckerbaby that was signed to a major label for a few years. Experiencing such things as Quebec City in the autumn, Montreal in the summer, a glimpse of P.E.I and so on. These travels just fuelled my passion to eventually get back and photograph these places and everything in between.
Since those days in ZB I’ve relocated back to Vancouver and back again to Calgary, worked as a freelance and employed web designer/developer for 15 plus years and still played music locally up until December 2013 when I decided I wanted to focus all my time into my photography. I’ve had my own exhibitions, sold some prints and have been selling some stock photography on a few sites. I simply want and need to take the time to get it to the next level. Like years of drumming has taught me, one must be doing something all the time to be any good. During 2006-2008 I was busy working for a company based out of Las Vegas, Nevada handling all their new website designs and web development needs. This was a great gig and aside from allowing me to afford some of my own road trips, they also flew me down regularly for meetings and face time which allowed me to take weekends away from the glitz of Sin City and see other parts of the Southwest. Life was moving along swimmingly until the whole general economy took a bath. In October 2008 I lost the Las Vegas client and was back to freelancing.
After the economy tanked, freelance web gigs were becoming few and far between. Companies everywhere were cutting people left and right and no one was spending money. Jobs were being fought over by hundreds of designers and developers and freelancing had become almost pointless. For a few years following I was on the list at a major Canadian recruitment agency and even that spawned no results. Awhile following I called up an old acquaintance who works as a Assistant Locations Manager in the film industry and started to get some work, (albeit scattered) as a Production Assistant, the lowest paying, shittiest job in the industry, but it was work. It also got me interested in being a Stills Photographer in the film industry. Unfortunately that is a job akin to winning the lottery, you’re literally waiting for some of the older guys to die off so you can move up the waiting list for potential work.
So I started thinking of ways to do what I love on my own, looking for a way to step off the hamster wheel. I soon made a decision that would change the purpose of my life and have never looked back. Seeing something new every day, exploring places with my camera and talking to new people is all I think of. It consumes me.
As I ventured from province to province, the weather was actually pretty reasonable considering it was winter. I drove and hiked and took almost a terabyte’s worth of raw photographs. I saw things and experienced “quiet” that most people will never experience. I learned many new things about myself. I learned how valuable good friends are. I learned that fear is the enemy and that it’s nothing more than a product of our ego, the one that was developed through years of society’s prefabricated bullshit. I learned that it’s VERY okay to be as free as possible. I learned that there are things we sometimes need to let go of, like 500GB of photos that were lost in a split second when my storage hard drive hit the tile floor of a Starbucks. Thus learning that sometimes the things we experience are for our eyes only. I learned that “shit” happens everyday all over the world and it only defines us if we let it. The strong move on.
After the bittersweet adventures of the first trip I arrived home to Vancouver in February 2010. Feeling renewed and excited at first which was also prolonged by the energy produced by Vancouver hosting the Olympic games. Vancouver did a great job with the Olympics but things soon were to be returned to normal. Just as prior to my winter trip I started to again look for work in the over-saturated web design/graphics industry. Sending out 3-5 resumes and applications a day. Again, I was back to getting no replies. I looked into the upcoming film and TV shoots for work and saw how many were actually wrapping shooting for the season, a job I really didn’t want anyway. So back to freelancing I went. Low balling bids just to get the work and then nickel and dime’ing piece work and juggling bills to sustain the most meagre of existence. Basically scraping by only to do it all over again next month. This people, is not life. It’s a mild form of hell.
So I looked around my small bachelor apartment and again wondered why I was paying for a box to hold the stuff that I had crammed into it. A drum kit from a past life that had been collecting dust for almost two years. A passion once yes, and it did hurt a part of me to watch it go but really, lets be realistic it’s a tool to do a certain job. A big screen TV that I hardly ever watched as I was always working and couldn’t even afford the cable anyway. Some prints of my photography that I had outgrown artistically. ..and a room full of miscellaneous furniture and home items that meant nothing. Dead weight. I decided to liquidate my life of the clutter and use the money to experience life and new places while again shooting everything I can find with my camera and advancing my photographic abilities, my artistic vision and once again attempting to build my portfolio. Material things are just that, things. From the smallest trinket to the largest mansion none of it is ever truly OURS. We can’t put it into a container the day before our death and take it with us to wherever it is we go next. It gets dispersed to those we leave behind or perhaps the very bank that you payed those mortgage payments to for decades takes it back to sell to the next sucker. I want the life that flashes before my eyes at the moment of my death to be well worth the price of admission.
By September 2010 I had given up my Vancouver apartment, sold all my belongings, put all my faith in myself and my abilities as a photographer and went for broke one more time. I traveled through and photographed the Southwest USA. However, I honestly wasn’t in the proper headspace. I was letting my small budget dictate the pace at which I traveled. It was like I thought that if I moved constantly, quickly, saw “more”, that somehow I would get more out of the money. Four months later I was back in Vancouver looking for work.
Fast-Forward 4 years. Along with the preparations and accomplishing the realistic goals I had set to be better prepared this time around I did take some time to myself. I did a few “shorties” (short trips). Three of them to the Burning Man Festival where I learned even more about myself, my emotions, life and people in general. I took portraits of other attendees of the festival and gifted them back to them during the winters after we all returned back to our daily routines. The extreme gratitude I was shown for this gave me the idea for Fotos Forward, my sidecar project for this next road trip. This project is a very important part of this next adventure. Gifting creative photography sessions and photos to those who live in remote areas, have mobility issues, or simply don’t have the financial means to justify such an expense. Sure, I understand that I’m not feeding the hungry or clothing the homeless. But I’m doing something that I CAN do and that will make a difference in the lives of the people that I do this for. We all like to have a photo of a memory, of a moment in time, perhaps on we can give others who mean something to us. That’s all I’m trying to give.
Sure, some of you will think I’m crazy, some will wonder why I’m doing this just to see “North America” when there’s so many other places to go. Well the answer is that North America is a place I can feasibly start for now. If my plan goes “as planned” and yes I do have one, this North American tour will only be one of many steps and trips. It’s starting with what I know and knowing what I can expect, knowing that I can get more than a lifetime’s worth of photographs here. That I can meet some of the most amazing people right here. Trust me, I’d love the chance to spend years in South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the list goes on. For now though, I will experience what I can get to on my own.
As I venture out this time I plan to be much more disciplined. This will be more of a job, a regimented routine of exploring, photography, portraits, photo editing, networking, writing, video creation, and just learning more about the places I visit. As of July I’ve added a new facet to the road trip. You’ll get to watch a first time newbie RV owner fumble through aspects of owning and towing a vintage travel trailer. This will allow and force me to slow down. It will also provide me a place to edit and sleep and cook. Much more on all that later. So check back in December when I finally hit the wonderful blacktop one more time.