I had spent the last two years of my life working as a UPS driver in rural northern New Jersey. It wasn’t where my 19 year old self saw myself at 29. I went to film school to learn how to make allegorical narrative and documentary films that would change the world and yet here I was, breaking my young back moving 50lb boxes of dog food from the 120 degree back of my box car, up long, steep gravel driveways in West Milford New Jersey in the dead of summer. “How did I get here? I had bigger dreams than this!” I’d proclaim to myself as sweat poured out every sweat gland of my body. My hands chewed up, my knees showing early signs of impending replacement surgery.
I think we’re all aware that life doesn’t always pan out the way we envision it. But this? This was not my dream! I’d see images and read stories of travelers, climbers, nomads, leather and rubber tramps and the like who were living their lives their way, cheap, broke, but happy. No pension, no 401k no health benefits, no monthly mortgage payments, just a strong desire to experience more, here and now.
Waiting for retirement was not an option. Would I still want to travel at 55? Will I still like climbing mountains? WILL I STILL BE ABLE TO WALK? No, I wasn’t going to wait. I had to make a choice and I had to do it now.
In recent years I had become enamored with still photography. Instead of telling stories at 24 frames a second I could deliver a thought, a feeling, a life changing idea in just one frame. That prospect consumed me and I began taking my camera with me on all my travels, the gunks, the adirondacks, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, the Jersey shore, North and South Carolina, Florida the American west. I began traveling as often as I could, chasing a “Dharma Bum”- like existence and documenting it all through my lens. Photography fueled my travels and my travels fueled my soul. I created an Instagram account and website to share my adventures with one goal in mind, to inspire the people around me to connect with the natural world around them and, in perhaps my own romantic and idealistic way, help encourage them to see that the same mystical connection that we feel when we’re in nature also connects us to everyone and everything on earth.
After some time with the company, I earned my first week of paid vacation. I booked my girlfriend and I a 10 day trip through northern California to explore Yosemite and Big Sur in a 1984 VW Westfalia campervan. It was a taste of the exact kind of life I wanted to live and the harsh reality was I’d be going back to a life that didn’t feel authentically me. One night laying sleepless on a picnic table under the stars near Sand Dollar beach along highway 1, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as if the universe was screaming at me from all angles at the top of it’s lungs. “Live the life you want, even if it means risking everything! Live a story worth telling!” It was a feeling of intuition like I’ve never felt before in my life and the next morning when my gf woke up I told her I’m quitting my job to chase photography and a life of adventure.
Not even one month after this revelation, I posted this photograph of a road in Yosemite National Park and had a little fun with it. The caption read, “If I can get 1000 likes on this off-center photo I’ll quit my job.” Today that photo has nearly 1,400 likes, something absolutely unheard of in my little corner of the social media world. 4 days later I put my two weeks notice in to pursue a life of purpose, one with meaning that fuels my spirit, a life that is authentically mine. Weeks after I posted that photograph I realized, for the first time, what is was. It was a road with two arrows, one to continue straight, or one to turn off and go a different direction. I’m glad I chose the latter.