I can still remember the click that would end life as I knew it. I was sitting cross-legged at the end of my bed during a drab April evening when it happened. With one click, my screen went black and the most stunning, vibrant photographs I had ever seen appeared. After the initial shock of the magic of the images I was beholding started to stabilize, my eyes hungrily scanned the words that I had failed to notice initially. I had stumbled upon a photography workshop website. The words and images I was seeing soon dissolved into wild daydreams of not only far-away locations, but heart-achingly beautiful ones at that. I had that delicate, rare feeling, that nearly fleeting tingle of the universe reaching into my soul and grabbing my gut and filling me with warmth and excitement and hopeless optimism at once…
This is how I could travel the world.
Up to that point, if anyone had asked me what I would do with my life, no holds barred, I would have said “traveling photographer” without stopping to think. But I didn’t know what that meant. Other than the fabled and highly sought-after careers had by National Geographic photographers, I didn’t even know if it existed. In fact, the furthest reaches of my imagination could only envision the image of a newly checked-in travel-weary me plopping a well-worn suitcase on the bed in a low budget hotel room, grabbing my camera, and rushing out the door to some adventure I was certain would materialize.
But the answer was right in front of me.
I could get paid (or at the very least break even) to travel anywhere in the world, if only I knew enough about photography to teach a workshop.
My life completely changed course from that epiphany. The rest of my night, well into the early morning hours, consisted of information overload. I relentlessly searched for any information I could find on landscape photography, photography in general, online schools, free tutorials, and everything in between. Occasionally I would take a break from all my searching just to stop and admire pictures of the beautiful landscapes that were out there waiting for me to photograph. This was going to be my ticket to seeing the world not only on my terms, but well before I retired from whatever miserable career path I had yet to settle upon. As I reluctantly went to sleep that night, still wishing I could stay glued to my laptop in that sort of over-stimulated, desperate, sleep-deprived way, my mind wound down with fantasies of my globe-trotting, sunrise-waking, mountain-climbing, tripod-toting self and I swear happiness radiated from me for months afterward.
Fast forward three years and nine months later, I had another epiphany. Well, sort of an epiphany. No, it was an epiphany, but not quite like before. More like an awakening epiphany. A sensible, guarded, cautious, but optimistic-all-the-same, epiphany. And it started with YouTube.
I had shelved the dreams of leading photography workshops as a solid back up plan because, ultimately, I let life get in my way. I had started to live for immediate comfort, rather than nurturing my longing in a feasible way. I had indeed taught myself as much about photography as I could… devouring books, tutorials, and workshops; as well as hanging on every word of advice any respected photographer cast my way. I even returned to school and earned a degree in fine art photography. My dreams of traveling the world never dissolved, they just faded at times. Like a constant, dull ache that was simultaneously uncomfortable and comforting that would flare up at the slightest mention of a trip by anyone I knew. I contented myself with the knowledge that I at least had a dream yet chose to cover up the fact that I wasn’t pursuing it with the excuse of not knowing how. And that’s where YouTube was my saving grace. Or the gateway, at least.
On a recent afternoon, I found myself taking a break from some much needed soul searching by watching GoPro videos of South East Asian vacations that left me wanting for an escape from my newly-found blah. And then one video entitled “What to Pack for Long Term Travel” was suggested. I thought I had a good idea of what to pack for long term travel, but due to my limited experience I was curious as to what I might improve upon so I watched it. I eventually followed the user’s profile back to her blog and quickly found her monthly spending reports, which had finally begun to demystify long-term travel for me. It’s easy to buy into online programs that sell you the dreams of eternal travel, hell, even I had, but in all my wanderlust-fueled searches on the subject, I had never found anything as tangible as an honest-to-goodness budget report.
After more digging and following more leads in this network of well-informed and much experienced globe trotting bloggers, the deep-belly rumble of my mischievous optimism emerged. This, I thought, this might actually be the real answer. To be location independent and still make a livable income. Blogging for a living. Writing about my experiences. Networking with a myriad of other bloggers. I can do this, I thought.
I mulled it over for a few days before I even told a single soul. Not because I was afraid no one would support me, but because I have grown to truly hate failing/quitting/giving up/hating what I profess as my new dream. I disappoint myself. I realize I learn from every situation I put myself in, but constantly starting over a new career path or a new dream is exhausting. But I have a good, clear vision with this new venture. And most of all, I have hope. This could be how I travel the world.