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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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