Five years ago, the furthest place from home I had ever went was Canada. Like most Americans, I essentially lived inside my own little bubble of comfort. I thought I knew what I wanted in life, and was enjoying my last years as a student. I hadn’t seen the world and I most definitely knew nothing about photography. One trip abroad changed all of this. Traveling opened my eyes and helped me learn more about myself than I ever imagined was possible.
During college, I picked up Spanish as a second major and decided that I needed to study abroad to get the full language learning experience. I wanted to go abroad, not just to improve my language skills, but to broaden my horizons. I ended up choosing Spain as my destination and spent nearly half a year in Europe in what would be a truly life changing experience.
This was my first real experience traveling, and the beginning of my journey as a photographer. Before Europe, I had taken a handful of pictures on family trips with dinky little disposable cameras or cheap point and shoots, but I decided to bring my parent’s camera to Spain with me, because – apparently, that was the thing to do.
I traveled extensively through Spain and got to visit some of the most fascinating places in Europe, like Rome, Paris and London. At the beginning, the idea of half pressing a shutter to focus was beyond my technical knowledge of picture taking. The more I traveled, the more I started taking pictures and learning about the art of photography. Each week of my semester abroad I started growing more fascinated, not only with the amazing places I was exploring, but with finding ways to capture these same sites in photographs. I had a lot of people back home who wanted to know what I was doing and where I was going so I quickly discovered that photography was a way I could document every little leg of my journey. Document is exactly what I did – I wanted to capture all of the sensations I felt while traveling in a picture and took photo after photo trying to get that perfect image – not just to share with others, but to freeze that memory in time for myself to enjoy sometime down the road.
Over time, the act of taking pictures was just as desirable as the travel itself and I found photography incredibly satisfying. The little Kodak camera I took with me five years ago was quickly ditched for a better camera when I got home and now my camera is probably my most expensive possession next to my car. Everywhere I go today, I come back with thousands of pictures and spend hours sorting and editing them.
My trip abroad gave me wanderlust – I now have 27 countries checked off my list in just five quick years with more on the horizon. Picture taking is something I take a lot of pride in, and continue to teach myself new tricks whenever I can. Now, I have friends asking me to shoot their engagement photos and my hobby might just grow into something more – all because of one trip I took outside of my comfort zone five years ago. There is so much to see in the world, don’t limit yourself. Take a risk and see what happens. It just might change your life.