In 2012 I quit my job and decided to leave safety and security behind.
My job wasn’t doing anything for me anyways, other than keeping me comfortable with apathy. If I had stuck through it, I probably would be making twice the amount of money that I made by the time I left. I could’ve had a down payment on a house. I could’ve found a “nice girl” and perhaps planted some roots for a life of stationary normalcy. I shudder at the thought now and cannot express how thankful I am that I got out while I could. Nothing excited me back then; I only felt weighed down.
My uninspired work life motivated me to throw myself into solitude; into what ended up being a journey of 10,000 miles over the course of 100 days. Initially I had no plan, no destination. Quite frankly, I didn’t even have any hope. I just knew that I had to go out and actively look for something to care about. I could either stay put and wallow in depression, or take a swing at life and pull myself out of it.
“I could either stay put and wallow in depression, or take a swing at life and pull myself out of it.”
My first adventure was a huge “C” around the US. I started in Virginia and crossed through the northern states until I hit the west coast in Washington. I then headed south to San Diego and cut back east through the southwest before running out of money in Austin, Texas. I zig zagged across each state, often backtracking to revisit places of particular interest.
I mostly felt depressed on that journey, reflecting on the job that I had just left and the life had become so stagnant. The photos I captured suggested otherwise, however. It’s like the only time I could actually see clearly was when I picked up my camera and looked through the viewfinder. Whenever I put my camera away, the apathy came rolling back and I didn’t seem to care about anything: didn’t care if I felt cold or thirsty in the desert; didn’t care if I made it out of the desert alive. That camera was like an angel or something. Looking back, I don’t know what really brought me back to life: the drastic change of pace and the serenity of the untarnished wilderness, or my camera – the third eye I brought along to marvel at it all with.
While I have always appreciated nature and enjoyed the outdoors, this was a drastic change of pace for me. It wasn’t just a casual stroll through the woods behind my apartment; I was living out there, I was a part of it. Most people are afraid ofsolitude and quiet. And maybe they should be; they open your mind to places it would otherwise never go. I’m a better man for having experienced both. The busy world of – forgive my bluntness – crap that people put up with completely blurs our existence. All that really matters in the world is staying warm and dry, drinking water, and eating food. It sounds like nothing but its everything. Anything else is a distraction. I think that’s something we’ve forgotten along our way on this planet.
“Looking back, I don’t know what really brought me back to life: the drastic change of pace and the serenity of the untarnished wilderness, or my camera.”
I know I’m not the first of a kind. The desire to get away from the busy complications of life and spend some time in the quiet mountains has been true of many throughout civilization. I’m also certainly not the first man to take a camera along with with me. The only difference to my story that made me feel it was a worthy one was the amount of reception and support I received almost instantaneously. I started sharing my story and images on Instagram via @foxclearing, and it didn’t take very long to reach thousands of people.
All of a sudden, I was inspiring people. It was an exciting thing to have happen for me, since I had allowed myself to believe for so long that I couldn’t have a positive impact on anybody anymore. It motivated me, it frightened me, and it gave me a sense of responsibility. I felt empowered. I felt like I had a new purpose, a new calling. If my images and adventures can change even one person’s outlook on life, then in my eyes I have succeeded. That’s worth sacrificing stability for. Don’t we all want to make a difference?
“Get out and explore. Adventure does wonders.”
I decided to stop my first journey when my money had dwindled, but knew it wasn’t the end. I wanted to start the process all over again: get a job, save up some money, bide my time, and then take off once again.
And so, now in 2014, I am about to embark on another grand adventure. I am headed to Canada where I will be traveling more than 10,000 miles for more than 100 days, camping alone in subzero temperatures so that I may shoot a photographers dream: The Aurora Borealis.
I took my life back and regained my happiness through a journey of solitude. Independent travel might not be for everyone, but travel on its own – even with family or friends – can be life changing. It can be a journey of 100 days, of 10 days, or of 1 day. Get out and explore. Adventure does wonders.
Words and Photos: Patrick Semales