I was a backcountry ranger for several years in Yosemite National Park where I met Galen Rowell and spent the week of my 21st birthday at a remote ski cabin learning from Galen at one of his first workshops. He was a great story teller who lived through some extraordinary adventures and he lit a fire in my imagination that continues to this day. On the night of my birthday, Galen took me aside and we talked about how individual vision, seeing the unexpected, and an artist's passion can combine to create great photographs, but also shape our view of the world and our goals in life. I wrote his words down on a piece of paper I keep in my copy of his famous book 'Mountain Light' which he signed that week. Since then, I've worked hard to find my own voice and I've incorporated a lot of his philosophy into my work.
Then I started exploring. I worked hard all year so I could spend my summers backpacking and climbing in the Sierra. I walked over 1,000 miles one summer and spent a lot of time off the trail. I saw amazing things, was often solo and found that I had a hard time sharing the intimacy of my adventures with people that weren't there. But my stories were always more effective if I had a few good photos. My passion for photography was growing. I sought to capture the essence of what moved ME on those trips, and in doing so I also learned how to capture scenes in a way that moved OTHERS who were not there.
In 1989, I took my first trip to Mexico carrying a tent and a backpack and took buses or hitched rides with other travelers all the way down to Guatemala. It was a rough and tumble time in Central America back then. I ate at street vendors, bought groceries at the local tiendas, camped on the beach, slung up my hammock and was surprised at how cheap and easy it was to get around. I spent about $10 a day on that trip. I had just discovered the freedom of vagabonding. The experience changed my life and I continue to travel in this way.
One of my favorite authors, Rolf Potts says 'the more we associate money with life, the more we convince ourselves that we're too poor to buy our freedom. In reality long term travel has nothing to do with demographics-age, ideology, income-and everything to do with personal outlook. Long term travel isn't about being a college student; it's about being a student of daily life. It doesn't require a bundle of cash; it requires only that we walk through life more deliberately. Vagabonding is about using the prosperity and possibilities of the information age to increase your personal options rather than your personal possessions. It's about looking for adventure in normal life and normal life within adventure. Vagabonding is about time- our only real commodity -and how we choose to use it.'
When I begin a trip, I have only a vague idea of the experiences and places I will see along the way. I make my route up as I go, allowing me to drift with the flow of the environment and the weather, always open to unexpected invitations for adventure. True to Rolf Pott's words, I try and gather my time off into one big trip a year so I can immerse myself in the swirl of beautiful, strange, colorful and occasionally chaotic environment of international travel. I camp or stay with locals and take local transportation whenever I can. I never know what will happen or how the trip will end. My ultimate goals with photography are much the same. I have a vague idea of where I want to go, but I am letting the journey take me there. It's going to be an adventure, and I can't wait to see what's around the next corner.
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