Why I’m Giving Up Life On The Road
Why I’m Giving Up Life On The Road
I should mention that I’m not quitting travelling entirely. But I am leaving behind this long-term travelling lifestyle and moving back to the UK. I will be putting behind me the long journeys lasting months, and replacing them with 2 or 3-week trips.
I felt strangely lost, like I was leading a ghostly existence. The waves on Phillip Island, Australia, were smashing against the rocky shore, and I had an hour before the sun would set. Thinking about the life my wife and I had been leading for 7 years, I was amazed at all the things we’d experienced.
As well as travelling extensively, we’ve lived in Korea, Indonesia and France. And throughout that time we’ve lived a completely minimalist lifestyle, owning barely more than 2 backpacks of belongings each.
It has been quite a journey, which included learning (and then forgetting) 3 languages, finding photography and creating my business, and most importantly, becoming far more comfortable with who I am.
Visiting spectacular nature spots, standing atop mega-buildings, looking out over the nightly glow of gigantic cities, seeing massive man-made monuments, experiencing earthquakes, climbing active volcanoes, isolated in seeming remoteness, and generally living an adventure that most would dream of – we have loved it.
Yet something was now amiss. I knew what it was because it wasn’t the first time I’d felt it. I knew I was ready to give up a travelling lifestyle.
Why We Started Travelling & What I Learned
The journey began with a desire to see more of the world, but our biggest drive was to move away from what we considered average, run-of-the-mill lives back in the UK.
Seven years ago I was craving excitement, stimulation, and greener pastures. A change of scenery would give me a sense of adventure. A new country to live in would make me happier. Selling or throwing out all of my belongings would liberate me.
And yet, not one of these things has been true.
With every change of scenery, I was still me, no more adventurous than before. In every new country I remained who I was. Selling and throwing out my belongings left me with fewer belongings, nothing more.
I think that my initial beliefs and ideas around travelling were way off the mark.
What I realise now was that before I left the UK I had an idealised version of who I should be. I should be an adventurer, or unique, or living a ‘desirable’ life. I suppose we are flooded with images from T.V. and social media of people leading seemingly incredible lives, and maybe I thought that I needed to be that person, living that life.
During all of this time I feel like I’ve been ticking things off a list. But this isn’t a bucket list. Quite unexpectedly a list in my head of all things I didn’t want or need in my life seemed to take shape early in our adventure.
But what is left at the end of everything, is a married couple who find comfort in a cup of coffee at a nice little cafe, or a morning tea (much of our day involves tea and coffee) at a lake somewhere, watching sunrise.
During our last stay in Korea, my favourite part of the day was before sunrise. We had massive windows, 20 floors up in our apartment right in the centre of the city. I’d drink a cup of tea watching the city wake up, and people busying themselves. I loved those mornings.
At the heart of this is just an appreciation of the simpler things.
What I slowly became comfortable with was that I’m okay being me, whoever I am. I don’t need to be some idealised version of myself. I don’t need to travel great distances to be inspired. I think travelling helped me to develop this new understanding.
The truth is, I’m kind-of boring. I’m not at all the thrill-seeking explorer I once thought I was, and tried to be.
I spend my days, as well as drinking tea, reading books, listening to podcasts or working online. When I’m on the road I don’t go to exciting tourist places and do crazy things, like bungee jumping. When I’m on location shooting, I’m 100% photography focused. It is all I think about at that time.
I’m also an introvert, and that is something I wouldn’t have known seven years ago. When people meet me they note that I’m confident and like to keep the conversation flowing, but most of the time I prefer to be alone, or with my wife, close friends and family. Yet we’re always told we need to be more confident, work on our social skills, be more outgoing – we’re all supposed to be an individualised version of Tony Robbins. And I bought into that idea. I do believe it’s healthy to regularly stretch our comfort zones a little, but not so we can become someone we’re not. But instead, stepping outside our comfort zones may lead us to experience something we may otherwise have missed.
I can’t believe that I used to think there was even such a thing as an ‘average’ life. It seems so absurd now. And pretentious.
Why I’m Leaving Long Journeys Behind
I love the idea of finally having a home, instead of sleeping in foreign beds, on floors, or in airplanes. I look forward to an evening beer with friends along the River Tyne. My taste buds are craving a more consistent diet, with meals being enjoyed in my own dining room. And settling down to a good book, T.V. series (any recommendations for new T.V. series is always appreciated!), or movie now and then seems like heaven on earth.
This isn’t what I’m supposed to say. I’m supposed to say I love travelling and my life is an incredible adventure. But I feel that travelling is often over-romanticised through the media and social media. It’s easy to be drawn to someone who seems to be living this perfect nomadic lifestyle. But what we only see is the best parts of their life. Look at my social media and you will see little to nothing of the bad sides of travelling. While travelling certainly does bring magical moments, it also has its incredibly boring moments, or even stressful moments.
I don’t mean to dampen the dream that so many have of abandoning their lives and hitting the road. That isn’t my intention. This journey really has been incredible, but you should know that it isn’t all roses. And I hope your reasons for travelling are somewhat different to what mine were.
I do encourage every one of you, if it is your desire, to get out and see the world.
I hope I don’t sound ungrateful about my time on the road. I love to visit beautiful locations, especially a quiet landscape. At White Pocket, which I visited a few days ago, I turned to my wife as we sat, completely alone, surrounded in morning silence after filming this tutorial, and said this was one of the most amazing places I’d ever visited. It was worth the journey.
Without travelling I simply wouldn’t have found my passion and career as a photographer. And of huge importance, it is allowing me to go home with few regrets, wonderful memories, and as a much more confident introvert than I ever was before.
Essentially, I’m leaving behind these long journeys because, although they do bring wonderful moments, I’ve found life on the road to be a somewhat lonely existence. We have met and befriended hundreds of people. Yet a tiny few of these people have become real friends. Most of our conversations are the same conversations we’ve had hundreds of times before; ‘where are you from?’; ‘what do you do?’; ‘how long have you been on the road?’
It seems that we rarely get to know a person long enough to really forge a connection. And the older I become the more I realise how important people are in my life. I know I said I tend towards introversion but even introverts still like to connect with certain people.
The other reason I’m abandoning a nomadic existence is because I crave familiarity sometimes. Everywhere we go is new. Everywhere is a place to explore. That can be exciting, but week after week, month after month, year after year, that excitement can start to fade. I want to walk down a street sometimes and not have to get out my map to see where I am.
Routines – When I was at university I swore I’d never get into a routine because they were boring! I was a typical rebellious student. What I didn’t know back then was that some routines are extremely healthy. Both our bodies and minds need them. Our bodies enjoy a healthy eating and exercise routine. While our minds benefit from all sort of positive routines, like seeing family and friends regularly, waking up at the same time each day etc.
Life on the road as a photographer challenges these healthy routines. I have tried to keep up as many healthy routines as possible, but I must say that I’m not always successful. Sometimes you can’t find healthy food around – you just have to eat what you’re given. Sometimes it’s 45C outside and you can’t run. These seem like small things, but add each one up and you can be left feeling a little at odds with yourself.
Looking at my life over the past seven years, most of my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. But right now I feel like the path I’m on isn’t fulfilling. The greatest pleasure I get is creating photos. That is something I would never want to give up. But the excitement/adventure we feel when travelling doesn’t feel like enough to give us a rounded, meaningful life.
I’m not sure what a meaningful life for us looks like – maybe children, maybe not. Maybe a nice, quiet house in the country, or maybe a trendy apartment in a buzzing city centre. We won’t know that until we try. But what I do know is that I have taken from this travelling lifestyle everything I think I can. I’m ready for more.
And of course, the travelling is far from over. I now have the good fortune of exploring Europe and more of the Americas over the next 2 years, only in shorter trips, rather than months at a time. And I do so with the knowledge that after each trip there’s a familiar bed waiting for me, in a city with good friends and a loving family. That thought makes me smile.
Maybe I’m just getting older. But a slower life seems very appealing – something I never thought I would have wanted 7 years ago.
How I Created The Image – Before/After Post-Processing
The Cool Bits -Technical Info
Processing Time: 40 minutes
Exposure Blending method: luminosity masks in Raya Pro
No. of Exposures: 7 (3 tile, 6 exposure panorama, with 1 extra exposure to remove tourists and paint in the sand in the beam of light)
EV Range: 0, -4
Focal Length: 14mm
Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
Camera: Nikon D800
Luminosity Masks: Used to recover over exposed highlights
Workflow Explanation -Antelope Canyon
This image was created using Raya Pro – The Photoshop Plugin.
The below image gives you a rough idea of how crazy this location was! Lots of photographers and tourists, all competing for the best view.
I could image how incredible it must have been to walk these canyons alone. They are spectacular at the right time of day, when the beams of light shine through.
The beams of light nowadays are created by the guides you must hire to visit the location. Our guides had shovels which they filled with sand and threw into the air. Initially we just see sand filtering through the beams, but with enough shovels full of sand, the sand and dust lingers in the caught in a cross-breeze. When this happens we are left with those solid beams of light you see in my image.
Initially I was just looking to shoot the single beam of light touching the ground. Then all of a sudden I looked up and saw two more beams starting to grow. I panned up and shot a few brackets, and then panned all the way up, shooting directly above me and shot the upper part of the image.
At the time, some tourists we still in the little corridor on the left. I panned down and waited for them to leave so that I could shoot the pano again. When that area was clear, the beams had faded significantly. Our guide threw some sand into the beam of light, which I captured.
In the end, I decided to use the initial exposures for the pano, and just used a later exposure to replace the area where the tourists were, and to add some of that falling sand into the beam of light.
I recovered the larger over-exposed areas where the light touched the surfaces of the canyon. I used Luminosity masks in Raya Pro to do this. I did this mainly so that there weren’t any areas competing with the beams of light for brightness.
p.s. Check out my YouTube channel for lots of free luminosity mask tutorials, if you’re new to LMs.
Once I stitched the tiles in Photoshop, I had to use a combination of the Distort and Warp tools to straighten it up and get it to where I wanted it. The originally stitched image suffered from a little bit of distortion.
Then I went through a careful process of dodging and burning to add depth to the image. I’ll create a tutorial on this soon. Essentially, I created a new layer, set its Blend Mode to Overlay, chose a white paint brush to dodge or a black brush to burn, and started painting over certain areas.
Finally, the image was sharpened and resized using my free sharpening tools, which you can download here: Quick Photoshop Secrets 16: Perfect Sharpening & Resize for the Web
As always, I hope you found this useful.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 19th, 2016 at 10:12 am
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