Browsing

BLOGGING

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

How I Became a Travel Photographer

Over the years, there is one question, no matter what direction my career seems to be heading at any particular moment, that remains the biggest and most common.

How do you do what you do?

I figured it would make sense to put my whole story in one place. This post won’t be advice. It’s just my life as it happened, and what I’ve learned so far.

What, exactly, do I do? Today, I am a freelance photographer and blogger focusing on travel, adventure, wildlife and culture. I am concerned with issues of conservation, social issues, and overall encouraging a greater sense of empathy for people, places, and other living things on our planet. In addition to my photography and writing work, I lead adventure trips and workshops that focus on many of these areas.

The main things I get hired for:

• Photography
• Social media posts or campaigns on behalf of a brand
• Blogging
• Marketing campaigns
• Trip leading, workshops, speaking and teaching

Who are my clients? They can be brands, hotels, tour providers, non-profit organizations, travel boards and destination-based services. Usually, the companies or organizations I work with are aiming to go deep into their story or a message they hope to communicate through their product/service. My job is to either tell that story through my work, or to appropriately figure out how to do so effectively and creatively on their preferred medium or platform.

My job also includes my custom trips, and will evolve from there I’m sure. The direction my work has taken has developed organically, led by a desire to connect people to whatever is outside their comfort zones.

Currently, when confronted with the question, “What do you do?” I would answer that with “travel photographer.” But if you asked me this a couple of years ago, I would have said I was a blogger. If you look at my older photos on social media, most of them were of me, not by me. This is just one example of how creative careers evolve, shift, and change. There is no right answer, and there is no blueprint for how to do it.

Before starting this blog, I worked in outdoor education as a guide and trip leader. And before that, I was a student wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life like many of my peers.

STARTING AT THE BEGINNING

I first found my love for photography in high school. My first camera was my dad’s old Nikon F camera. I shot mostly on black and white film, and loved the creativity and experimentation photography allowed me. I applied for art schools with my photography portfolio, and was accepted to the School of Art + Design at Purchase College. I got there and felt really intimidated. I come from a town where careers in art were not encouraged, and people told me I couldn’t make a living doing photography. I told myself the same. I changed my major to graphic design, thinking it was a more “employable” option.

Me in art school. Twas a time.

 

I got a job at a summer camp after my freshman year. I saw it as an opportunity to do something different, meet new people, and make a positive difference in the life of kids or teenagers. That summer, I found out I loved being outside. I loved hiking, camping and nature. And I loved connecting with young people. I was also working at a mom & pop camping supply store during the school year, which helped me acquire the gear I needed.

The following fall, I got the idea to take my outdoor knowledge to another level entirely by doing a course with NOLS. I got my butt kicked on my 30-day program in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. But the course also challenged me in a big way, and gave me a deep appreciation for the outdoors and everything that getting outside of your comfort zone can teach you. You can read more about my NOLS experience here.

Spending 30 days in the wilderness impacted me so deeply that I got back to college and decided I wanted to study science. This was rather dynamic since I had already taken two years of visual arts classes. I talked with one of my advisors about drafting up a proposal for an unconventional interdisciplinary major that combined art and science. I proposed a course of study that allowed me to focus on both art and environmental studies, specifically in the area of marine ecology. It was approved. For that, I am incredibly grateful to my two advisors, one each in art and science, who advocated for me and believed I could pull it off.

The next summer, I got a job as a canoe guide for the Boy Scouts of America in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. It was my first time canoeing at this level, but I was fresh from my NOLS course, and loved learning the new skill set required. I had also come to enjoy spending my summers outside and challenging myself both physically and in my facilitation skills.

My first Wilderness First Responder course simulation. (It’s makeup. And toilet paper.)

 

Coming back to school, I wanted more hands-on experience in the field with science. I had also never left the country, and was determined to do so. I asked my advisor in the sciences, a marine ecologist, if he had any colleagues abroad who might be interested in mentoring me in an internship. He did–– in Portugal. After significant logistics and planning, I took a leave of absence and spent a semester living in Portugal learning a whole lot about seaweed. You can read about my experience going to Portugal solo here.

LIVING OUT OF A BACKPACK

I got back from Portugal and wrapped up my college career with my interdisciplinary major. That winter, I started thinking about what I wanted to do after graduation. I thought I’d probably work as a guide again, and then apply for advanced programs in marine science.

I had built up enough outdoor experience that I was able to get a job leading adventure trips for teenagers in Europe. It was a step up from my previous guiding job, but had a lot of similarities in terms of leadership and group dynamics. I spent that summer leading trips in Spain, Italy and Greece, and I didn’t make much money, but I realized that this job could be a way for me to travel and do something positive with my time while I figured out the next step.

That summer turned into two years. I met my ex-partner and we traveled and worked as guides together in China, then moved to Australia, where we lived for 11 months. My partner’s goal for our year there was to take advantage of the strong Australian dollar and make a solid amount of money. Over the course of that year, I had many jobs. First I worked as a salesperson in a camping supply store full-time. Next, I worked at an iron ore mine site doing catering–– flying to the site and working 12 hours a day for 14 days straight, then flying home for a week off. My last job in Australia was my favorite one, finally doing something I was passionate about. I led wilderness trips for a company in Southeast Queensland for students from Hong Kong. This was one of my favorite outdoor education jobs to date.

Hiking in Australia, and the backpack I fit all my belongings in for ~2 years.

 

After Australia, we spent four months in New Zealand. We worked on farms and lived outside most of the time. I learned how to budget wisely, and just how far a dollar can stretch if you prioritize your spending and value experiences over things. In Australia, we had each saved a significant 5-digit amount of money, so we were able to enjoy our time (without spending wildly) in New Zealand with that savings and still go home with a decent amount.

Lake Pukaki, NZ. 

 

By the end of our time in NZ, we both felt it was time to go home. I took a summer job guiding in Alaska, and my partner went home to the UK. I spent a few weeks at my parents’ house before starting my summer gig, and during that time, I bought my first ever smartphone–– a $200 Motorola Moto G. Before that, I was the proud owner of many old Nokias (the kind that required T9). After spending over two years on the road, I had tons of photos (just from a point+ shoot camera) and stories to share. My friends and family asked me all the time about my job, about how I traveled for so long, and about my advice for making it possible financially. I had been feeling like starting a blog would be a smart choice, just to put all my thoughts in one place. Instagram seemed like a good place to start. I brainstormed names and landed on Erin Outdoors because it was catchy and available. I wasn’t sure if my Instagram or blog would ever become something, and I didn’t intend on it or expect it from the start, but I wanted to have a memorable name just in case I decided to pursue it on a larger scale.

I started posting photos on Instagram, and bought ErinOutdoors.com. Though I owned the domain name, it was six months before I did anything with it. After Alaska, I headed to Guatemala to visit a friend and work for a volcano hike company. After a couple of months in Antigua, I realized I was ready to set up a home base, and that I wanted to be in the States. I lined up a job working in the Colorado office of one of the teen adventure companies I had previously guided for. It was going to be my first office job and for once, I was really excited to be in one place.

I got to Colorado, found a place to live, and bought a car with the rest of the money I had saved from Australia. I had a few weeks of free time before my job started, and flew back to my parents’ house to visit for the holidays. I felt very strongly that I needed to start the blog then. I figured out how to install WordPress (you can learn pretty much anything from YouTube videos), got a free theme, and wrote a couple of posts. I didn’t really share that the blog existed far and wide at first. I wasn’t trying to make it big, I just wanted an outlet for my ideas.

I started at my new job and really enjoyed the structure of it. Having a full-time office job (my first) gave me the space and time to have an actual life outside of work. I made friends, I went on hikes by my house, I bought plants and a blender. I was blogging on the side, trying to stay disciplined with it, with the exception of the summer months.

Though I worked in the office, during the summer I led trips for the company. That summer, I led a couple of back-to-back trips in Costa Rica. When I got back to the office in Colorado, I was unexpectedly let go.

BECOMING A “BLOGGER”

Getting fired isn’t really something you plan for. At 25, I felt invincible, and it was a big surprise. In retrospect, it was one of the best things to happen to me, and I was naive to think that it wouldn’t. I had a couple of options: get another full-time job, or try to see if blogging was a potential income source. This was not the start of the blogging world–– there were well-known travel bloggers already making it. I would read and re-read their websites trying to figure out just how they made it possible for themselves. I wanted to know everything. I was reading so many blog posts from the same bloggers that I felt like I knew them in person.

With a few thousand dollars saved, I decided to take my newfound unemployment as an opportunity to go on a road trip both for personal and professional reasons. I had done a good amount of traveling internationally, but hadn’t seen much of the USA. I wanted to explore the National Parks, and had an idea to install a platform bed in my car. Here’s the set-up I ended up building. I put my room on Airbnb and left for about two months. I had bought an iPhone, borrowed a camera from a friend, and tried to take photos and write as much as I could along the way. This was also the first time I started meeting people from Instagram in real life, which still felt a little strange to me.

Halfway through my road trip, hiking in the Grand Canyon.

 

The experiences I had and the connections I made on that trip were a solid foundation for what my career would become. I didn’t know what I was going to do for work exactly, but I knew what kind of lifestyle I wanted, and I knew what I cared about. I knew I wanted to follow a sense of purpose in my work, and that I wanted to figure out how to make that possible.

When I got home to Colorado, I needed to find a job ASAP. I didn’t just get one job… I got several. I never stopped blogging, but I still wasn’t really sure how to monetize it, so it remained something I did on the side. At the time, I knew I wanted more experience with social media, and I already knew I had some skill in that area from growing my own Instagram account (to about 10k at that point).

I got a job as an intern for filmmaker Aly Nicklas in Boulder, and picked up a few social media accounts to manage for my friend Tiffiny Costello, who is a digital marketer. I was also house-sitting, dog-sitting and babysitting whenever I could. In addition, I picked up a part-time restaurant job, which ended up being the hardest of my jobs to quit when it came time. You can read about my restaurant job here.

While balancing my jobs, I started getting emails from brands inquiring about working with me. They wanted to send me products in exchange for a blog or Instagram post, and I was excited about the opportunity. Outdoor gear is expensive, and it was a huge win for me to get it on a trade basis. Through working with Aly, I was able to see what it was like to be on photo and video shoots for outdoor brands. I started to feel very limited by my camera set-up of my iPhone and a GoPro, so I bought my first Sony camera (Sony a5100). I helped run social media for the Born Wild Project and worked on various photo shoots for brands as a model or blogger. Meanwhile I started getting more inquiries from brands. I was experimenting with vlogging on YouTube and starting to take photography more seriously.

On a project in Mexico with Aly Nicklas, Alisa Geiser & Ali Vagnini (who shot this photo)

 

Over time, more emails were coming in and I started spending more of my time on paid blog content. Eventually, I had to quit most of my freelance jobs to focus on my blog and social media channels. I bought my first full-frame camera (Sony a7R ii), and started being more bold in my trip planning. I learned from trial-and-error how to pitch potential trips to brands and how to put together my package offerings. I even developed an trip that my followers could join me on–– a seven day custom adventure in Greece.

I started doing more photography. It felt like coming home. I started learning Lightroom & Photoshop and getting more comfortable with my camera. As my skill set expanded, I looked for jobs that were photography specific. I made more connections, I refined my proposals, I deepened my relationship with my existing clients, and I found a community of incredible people who were pursuing their own creative endeavors in ways I really admire.

I’m not sure if you ever get to a point where you really feel comfortable when you do what I do. If that does happen, then I’m not there yet. It’s still as much of a journey as it has always been.

MY BIGGEST STRUGGLES

UNCERTAINTY

With the exception of my 7 months at the 9-5 office job, I never had all of my income coming from one place. I have had extended projects and campaigns, but I always have to figure out what the next project is. I also don’t really know what the next year or five years will look like because I’m creating that future for myself. The uncertainty of all of that can be unnerving at times.

SELF DOUBT

There have been times when I felt completely unqualified. I felt like I didn’t really know what I was doing, or that I was not as knowledgeable as my peers. If I didn’t know how to do something, I’d feel self-conscious. I would compare myself to other people and wonder if I was doing things right. I even caught myself feeling guilty for getting certain jobs because I felt I was too much of a newcomer in the space. I now know that all of this is normal, but none of it is true–– doubt and imposter syndrome are both very real, especially for those who are trying to do their own thing or start something new.

FEAR OF FAILURE

Once I actually committed to trying to be a blogger and photographer, my fear of failure got loud. I am grateful that I’ve always been able to give myself a reality check that my personal worst-case scenario is not that bad, but fear still shows up. For me, it has revolved around what people will think of me if/when I fail, and that I won’t accomplish the things I want to. I have had to re-frame my fears and assure myself that no failure is worse than not trying in the first place. Every failure I’ve experienced has taught me something valuable.


MY BIGGEST LEARNINGS

IT’S A PROCESS

A career is not something that is given to you in a complete package. It doesn’t appear out of thin air. A career is something that is built slowly and refined over time. It is made up of all the things you learn and re-learn, the mistakes you make, the failures you earn and each moment you get up afterward. Though sometimes I took an indirect route to each point on my journey, it all had a purpose. I think that is true for everyone, no matter how much things make sense (or how much they don’t) at any given point. My journey was not a straight road from point A to point B. It was about following my curiosity where it led me, and continuing to move in the direction that felt most purposeful.

IT’S ALL ABOUT PEOPLE

Another important point that I am always reminded of is that I could never have done this alone, nor would I have wanted to. There were moments early on where I would catch myself being cynical and acting like I could do it all by myself. But there is no way. You need help. Personally I had a lot of it. People shared their expertise and experience with me. They helped me through complicated times. They gave me their time, their advice, their attention, their connections, their support. Along the way, I have met some of the most inspirational people who constantly push me to be the best version of myself. The importance of networking is huge, but prioritizing nourishing and genuine relationships is what is really important. Never get so caught up in the business of it that you forget this!

DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY

You can never take anything too seriously. When I was living in Australia working odd jobs, I stressed out so much because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I was so self-critical, and it prevented me from enjoying the moment. I now know that a tremendous amount of trust is required on this road if you want to, you know, actually enjoy your life. Remember to have friends, make time for them often, get outside, breathe, treat your body well, read, go to the movies, go to concerts, ride a bike. Just make sure you’ve got a life outside of work, and that you do things that have absolutely nothing to do with figuring out your life’s purpose from a career perspective. 😉

To some extent with my life/career-related posts, I feel like they all end the same way. Let go, be open to what happens, learn from your failures and enjoy the ride.

I hope this was helpful.

If you’re looking for practical tips or advice, check out the following posts, as themes are similar:

FULL BLOG ARCHIVE


Feature photo taken by Renee Hahnel.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

How to Monetize Your Passion

I work as an adventure photographer and writer. The biggest question I get about what I do… is HOW.

How do I travel so much? How did I get started as a photographer? How do I get paid to blog? How did I make this my job? How do I live such an adventurous life and still eat food make a living?

If you’re curious about what I do and how I do it, see my FAQs here. But let me make it clear that there was a time when these questions plagued me. The career that I currently have would have absolutely baffled me in my early 20’s. How the hell was I supposed to make money doing something I actually liked?!

It turns out it was pretty simple. I had to answer a few important questions for myself really thoroughly and often (they’re coming, keep reading), then I had to take action.

Before we dive in, just a note on this whole analysis paralysis thing you’re probably going through that brought you to this post. In order for anything to happen, you have to do something. This article isn’t meant to be passive. Read it, then answer the following questions.

Let’s go.

WHAT YOU DO THAT PEOPLE WILL PAY FOR?

Make a list of your potential products and services. What are you good at? What do people ask you for advice about? What are you known for in your friends group? What kinds of questions do people come to you with naturally? What are you good at making or creating? What do you enjoy doing?

And which of these things can you make money from?

Are people always asking you for travel advice? For exercises to get a firmer butt? For smoothie recipes? For gardening tips? For super sweet video editing techniques? For makeup or hair? For help figuring out what’s wrong with their car? You don’t have to do all this stuff for free.

Make a list of items you could potentially charge money for.

WHAT IS YOUR THING WORTH?

When I first started blogging for brands and companies, I had no clue what I should have been charging. At first, I worked in exchange for exposure because it was worth it to me at the time.

I get that this is hard. I get that you can’t exactly reach out to a complete stranger and ask them for their rates– not everyone is comfortable talking numbers. Maybe you have to get a little creative. Make sure your questions are specific. Who do you know that does what you want to do? Find some kind of connection to that person and explain where you are coming from. Maybe they can give you some insight.

Do some market research using whatever resources are available to you. That includes Google.

Eventually, you have to pick a price and go with it. “I didn’t know what to charge” is a dumb reason for not selling a product or service that people want. Whatever you charge is probably more than you’re getting right now ($0.00, right?).

If everyone is saying “oh hell yeah” to your rate without trying to negotiate with you, then you’re charging too little. If nobody is responding, or if your pricing is shutting down the conversation altogether, then you’re charging too much or you’re in the wrong market. Change something and see what works.

Next to the list you just made, write the range of what you can charge for each item.

WHO WILL PAY YOU FOR YOUR THING?

Figure out your ideal consumer/demographic. Who are they? How old are they and where are they located? What are they going through in their life? What do they do in their spare time? How much money do they make? Where do they shop? Why do they need your product or service?

You need to identify your target demographic for a couple of reasons:

  1. You might need influence
  2. You definitely need people to buy your thing

If what you do/make is made more credible or valuable by having a large audience, you need to attract this audience (side note- do not buy followers) and give them value. How can you be most valuable to this group of people? How will you attract them? And why will they want to buy your thing?

For each item you could potentially sell, write a sentence or two describing your perfect customer.

WHERE WILL YOU SELL IT?

Where do you want your thing to be available for purchase? If you’re a consultant, how will people know you exist and how will they contact you? If you sell a product, is your store online? Do you sell at pop-ups, craft fairs, trade shows? If you lead workshops, how do people book those?

However people are giving you money, make it easy for them. Look at your own spending patterns. How do you spend your money and why? When you think about your own purchasing experience, what makes it smooth and seamless? What makes you want to buy something again?

Give your customer options, but make the best deal clear and obvious– all they have to do is say YES.

Make a list of how and/or where you will sell your thing.

WHAT IS YOUR PLAN?

Look at your answers to all of the questions above. They should give you some clarity on your next step. It should give you some idea of the options you have and the avenues you could potentially go down. It will also give you an idea of how scalable your thing is– and scalability matters if you are looking to make a fully grown career out of your passion.

If this feels overwhelming, ask yourself which of the things you wrote down is low-hanging fruit, i.e. which one of them feels easiest? Which of these could you start selling this week? Which of these could you start selling today?

Pick one of your products or services, and write yourself a 5-step plan from creation to sale. Here is a personal example:

Getting a project-based photography or collaboration job

  1. Make a list of 5 specific target brands
  2. Shoot or compile images I have taken that are consistent with their branding
  3. Make a portfolio specific to that style
  4. Send portfolio with package rates (& make one of the packages stand out as a great deal)
  5. Negotiate prices and packages

It won’t always be 5 steps– sometimes it’ll be 3 and sometimes it’ll be 10. Monetizing your passion can be big and scary. Breaking it down into actionable steps can make things seem much more attainable. After you make your plan, the next step is setting times or dates for when each of these will be completed.

CREATE, TRY, REPEAT.

Not everything you do will be a huge hit, and you have to accept that right now, otherwise failure will bog you down every step of the way. You can love it or hate it, failure is a crucial part of the process.

Do I think all passions can make you a ton of money? No. Do I think everyone should try to monetize their passions? No. But if you want to do it, now is the time. You are most likely not going to get any more clarity than what you now have. Entrepreneurship, creativity, starting a business or a side-hustle– these are not endeavors that come with a guidebook. You have to see what works and take it from there.

Get to it. And don’t forget to have fun.


 

Feature photo by William Reed Olds-Benton.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Pursuing My Dream Job

I don’t know what your dream job is, and this article definitely has to do with blogging, but it’s also applicable to you if you want to start anything.

Three years ago, I bought a smartphone and downloaded Instagram. I bought this domain name and thought it might be rewarding to start a blog.

I used to spend hours reading the work of other adventurous people– folks who made a career out of their travels. It seemed unrealistic and a little outrageous. And when I started, I didn’t intend to make this a full-time thing. But I’m here, three years later, and it’s a full-time thing.

“What do you actually do for work?” is a question I receive a few times a week. I am mainly a writer and photographer, working in the travel and outdoor industries. I document incredible places and experiences, working with brands making awesome stuff, hotels with beautiful properties, and non-profits doing meaningful work in their communities and in the world. It’s my dream job, it’s a lot of work, and in pursuing it over the past few years, I have learned a few things.

1. IT’S STILL WORK WHEN IT’S YOUR DREAM

“When you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I disagree. Just because you love something doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Just because it looks glamorous from the outside doesn’t discount the more difficult moments. Passion and drive will never fully soften stress or worry. It’s still work, and as a result, it still feels like work. When you do what you love, you’ll work many days in your life– it’ll just be more enjoyable.

In fact…

2. IT’S OFTEN HARDER THAN SETTLING

I struggle to think of a time in my day when I don’t think about my work. I juggle a lot. I have writing projects, I have photoshoots, I edit those photos, I pitch new ideas and trips, I run a coaching practice, I write on this blog. I spend a few hours a day doing things for my businesses that I don’t necessarily get paid for– reading, researching, making connections, writing blog posts like this one, answering non-job-related emails. And I don’t have one boss to report to– instead, I have a dozen of them, all with different needs. It’s more complicated. It takes more energy. Frankly, my 9-5 was way simpler and easier.

3. YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN

Believing in yourself is part of this job. You have to be your number one fan. This is on you. It’s on you to make it happen. Even if you don’t believe in your success, act like you do. Find a new confidence and let it lead you everywhere. Tell everyone about your thing. Get business cards. Be proud. And please, identify yourself by whatever you are trying to be– nobody hires people who are “starting out in photography,” or “trying to be a blogger.” People hire photographers. People hire bloggers. Your title is whatever you decide it is. Believe it.

4. IT TAKES DISCIPLINE

If you want this to be your job, you have to treat it like a job. Be on time– even if you work from your couch. Have a schedule. Know your calendar. Have boundaries. I don’t believe in the “hustle till you die” strategy. I believe that we need to re-charge sometimes and we need to stay in touch with ourselves when we are working toward something big. Discipline means you know when you are working and you know when you are not working. But when you are scheduled to work, make sure you actually work. And when you are working, always always do your best.

5. THERE IS ROOM FOR YOU

This is so important. It’s easy to look at everyone else in the field you want to be in and to decide that there simply isn’t room for one more. But there is. You are the only one who has lived your story. Nobody can create exactly like you can. I remember a few years ago, looking at all of the people who were doing what I wanted to do. At the beginning, I didn’t think I’d get there. And looking back, I actually didn’t have a solid reason to discredit myself. When you keep going at it for a long time, you’ll have these moments of “this could actually happen,” followed by moments of “this is actually happening.” Know that there is room for you.

6. YOU WILL GET REJECTED

In order to really succeed at this thing, you’ll have to reach out to a lot of people. And you will have to be your own best fan, because you will get rejected. A lot. And as you make your way up, you’ll experience bigger levels of rejection. Some will start to matter less, and some you will take personally. Understand from the beginning that it’s never personal, and that you’re signing up for this. I still get rejected often. It means I’m trying, and I’m constantly reaching higher. It’s just part of the process.

7. YOUR CHOICE: FUN OR STRESSFUL

This whole thing can be fun, or it can be stressful. Honestly it’ll definitely be a bit of both– that’s what happens with uncertainty. But what if it could be fun? What if you could play in the unknown? What if you loved it? Let it be fun, understanding that your worst-case scenario probably doesn’t mean the world will end. The whole entrepreneurial journey is full of unknowns, and that’s a given. It’s on you to decide how you will cope with them.

8. YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS WILL CHANGE

When you are defining your own career, success is a moving target. It changes as you change. It evolves as you become more skilled and explore new avenues. You might be surprised how your ambitions shift. A goal you had a year ago might feel really easy now. It might feel just as far away. Set benchmarks and check in with yourself. Stay ambitious, but always remember where you started and how much you have learned.

9. YOU HAVE TO LOVE THE PROCESS

Why are you actually in this thing? Is it to get a lot of followers? Is it to work from a beach? Is it to get famous? Are you just as in love with the process as you are with the result? If you don’t love the process, it will feel old pretty damn quick. If you don’t yet know if you love the process, you’ll find out as soon as you start, I promise.

10. IT’S WORTH IT

And honestly, there are times when I really wonder about this. There are late nights and early mornings when I’d simply rather sleep. There are weekends I’d rather do a million things than respond to emails or edit photos. There are weeks and months when I wonder if I should go get a more stable job so I didn’t always have to think about my next project. But I know what I want my mark on this world to be– connection, motivation, beautiful images, stories that enrich and empower. So I do this. Every day. And it’s worth it.

photo by BC Serna.

photo by BC Serna.


Know that this isn’t an overnight success kind of thing. And know that you most definitely are not alone. Going after the things you truly want is hard work, and nobody ever promised it’d be simple or easy. It might feel impossible, but you will never know unless you start.

Whatever your dream job is, and wherever you are in the process, I’m rooting for you.

Thanks to Katie Boue and Tiffiny Costello, who helped me brainstorm for this post. Feature photo by Rebecca Slaughter.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

You are Qualified

I get a lot of questions about my lifestyle. What do I actually do for work? How do I travel so much? How did I get to where I am?

They are questions about my path, about what I’ve learned along the way, and about the boxes I needed to tick in order to get to next level upon next level.

And I always answer the questions–  but it’s never been about the boxes. It never will be.

A couple of summers ago, I got fired from my first attempt at a 9-5 office job. My first reaction was panic. I had taken that job because it was what I thought I should have done. It was a stepping stone while I figured out the next step. It was logical. It had a steady paycheck and health insurance.

Back then, this blog was my hobby. It was a way for me to process my experiences, to connect with people, and to contribute something, even if it was just rambling from my restless mind. I wondered what it would be like if the blog was my full-time job. I looked at other bloggers and wondered how they did it.

I didn’t think I was qualified to make Erin Outdoors my job. I had no idea how I would even go about that. I had no experience in journalism or photography or social media or freelancing. I didn’t have any friends doing anything remotely similar.

So I took the full time job because I thought it was the right thing to do. I thought it was my obvious next step– a way to buy time while I prepared for a freelance career I might someday pursue.

Getting fired really expedited that process.

My options were to go get another full-time job, or to try out a more mysterious creative path. The latter had less knowns and less security, but I was done buying time. The longer I waited, the more I realized that waiting to be “ready” was just some bullshit excuse I bought into. So I made a list of my skills and ideas for how to monetize them.

At first, things were slow so I got busy learning. If I had time to be frustrated with a lack of progress, I had time for another job.  I was an intern. I was a volunteer. I was an assistant. I took every opportunity to learn a new skill. I found people I looked up to online and paid attention to everything they were doing, down to the last detail. And I stayed consistent with my craft. I wrote when I didn’t feel like writing. I worked for free if it meant getting my name out to the right people.

I wanted blogging jobs, so I started calling myself a blogger. I was my only advocate, so I had to be really good at it. I had to be good at telling people why I was a perfect fit for their project. Why I had so much to contribute. Even when I didn’t believe it 100%, I knew I would work hard. I knew I would do my best.

I was often terrified. I thought someone would see through me– that they’d realize I wasn’t qualified. What I now know just a short time later, is that the most successful people are often not the ones with all the degrees and qualifications. The most successful people are just the ones who work hardest. The ones who don’t take no for an answer. The ones who stay up late and wake up early in pursuit of their dreams.

People want to know how I got to where I am. It has nothing to do with ticking boxes, and everything to do with experimenting. I’m not here because of where I have studied, or because of what cameras I use or what platform this website is hosted on. I’m here because I decided to take a leap, pay attention to what worked, and do more of the things that did.

I have learned over and over again that there is never a perfect time for you to pursue your universe-sized dream– the thing you don’t know how to do, but feel pulled to anyway. Take as many classes as you want, put it off for a few years, tell yourself you’re not ready. It’ll still come chase you down.

How many blogs had I written when I started calling myself a blogger? Two.

You decide on your title. Identify yourself as who you want to be, and go do the thing.

Don’t you dare call yourself unqualified. Nobody knows if you’re “qualified” or not– qualify your damn self.

The life you want to create is yours to make. You already have every qualification you could ever need. Curiosity, ambition, and the vision of the dream is more than enough.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION TRAVEL TRIP REPORTS

Why I Went to Maui (and What I Did)

If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d have way less friends. Seriously, credit for most of my friendships goes to the Internet. Specifically, social media.

The relationships I have made as a result of social media have challenged me, they have brought out the absolute best in me, they have taught me a lot. And they have also gotten me to see some pretty amazing places. One of those places is Maui.

_DSC8246

I met Elisabeth Brentano at the Outdoor Retailer trade show last summer. We chatted for a few minutes and went our separate ways. That was it. But fast-forward seven months and we’re sleeping in a Jeep together on the top of a volcano. What?

Life is full of connection, and connection is awesome. Connection is the reason I do most things in life.

The trip came about because we’re both freelance bloggers and photographers, had some free time, and wanted to go to Hawaii. We kept in touch on Instagram and started talking about our plans. February was open. We both had airline miles to spend, so we bought flights and got curious. We outlined an itinerary, emailed places and people that seemed interesting, flew to Maui, rented a Jeep from Avis and hit the road.

Elisabeth and I both work with sunglasses brand Sunski, and one of their team members lives in Maui. Huge thanks to Raja and Rachel for letting us crash for a few nights! Their house was our first stop, then it was off to Heleakalā for sunset.

Haleakalā is an incredible volcano that I struggled to pronounce on more than one occasion. We drove up for sunset, slept in the car (campground info here) and drove back up to the top at 3am to attempt some star photos and catch sunrise. You have to do this if you go to Maui.

Next up: the road to Hāna is a famous for its stunning views and waterfalls around every (hairpin) turn. There are plenty of places to stop and marvel– do some research here and you will be rewarded. The drive takes 2 hours, but more if you stop at places like Wai’anapanapa State Park like we did.

It’s worth staying overnight in Hāna– a day trip would feel like too much time in the car, especially because the roads are windy. We had a beautiful stay at Travaasa in Hāna. Our bungalow was straight-up gorgeous.

snapped by Elisabeth at Travaasa

Kihei is another place you’ll probably visit when you’re in Maui. We spent a lot of time on Big Beach, aka Makena Beach, where we saw a couple of beautiful sunsets. For food, we had a recommendation for MonkeyPod in Wailea from a few people– and we ended up going back more than once. It has an awesome beer selection for a craft beer nerd like me, plus great food (butternut squash pizza please).

In Kihei, we stayed at a couple of beautiful vacation rentals. I never think about searching for rentals before a trip– I always go straight for AirBnb or to looking at campsites. This was a reminder that sometimes it pays to reach to to individual property owners. I saw Tracy’s Tropical Treasures online and sent Tracy an email. She got back to me right away. We stayed in two of Tracy’s locations, and had the opportunity to photograph a new property for her. The only thing nicer than Tracy’s properties was Tracy herself! I highly recommend that you reach out to her if you’re planning on going to Maui.

Next up we headed to Lahaina. I took surf lessons with Abner at Hang Loose Surf Club. Abner is a rad dude– a go-getter and native Hawaiian who runs 3 businesses. I was super inspired by him. It was also my first time ever *really* standing up on a surfboard. I’ve taken surf lessons before… more than once… but never actually had much success. I recorded the lesson and will be sharing it on YouTube in the next few weeks!

In Lahaina, we stayed at the Plantation Inn, a lovely B&B with gardens and a picturesque pool & jacuzzi. Dinner at their restaurant, Gerard’s, was one of the best meals I have had in recent memory– they’ve been serving some of these dishes for over 30 years. Breakfast was also delicious (get the french toast) and a great start to our last full day.

We had heard amazing things about the Iao Valley, but it is currently closed (Feb 2017) due to heavy rains a few months ago. We opted for the Waihee Ridge Trail, and it did not disappoint. Lush green jungle and views from an impressive ridge. We didn’t hike to the top– we were too busy marveling at the view of the valley below the clouds.

Overall, this trip came about because we got creative with the resources we had, and ultimately because we made it happen. We asked around and stayed flexible.

I wanted to write this post to give you an idea of some of the things we did, but also to share the “Why” behind the trip. I went to Maui because I was curious and because frankly, I didn’t have a good reason not to. On the trip, I took photos all day and edited at night. On more than one occasion, I pondered the idea of a 9-5 job so that I could go on “real” vacation and not have work obligations follow me around everywhere I go. But it’s all about chasing and building the life you want to create, and this is the life I am creating.

A life of adventure. A life of Yes. A life of defining my Why. My lifestyle wasn’t something that happened overnight– it’s something I’ve been working toward ever since I realized I had a choice. You have choices, even if they look like small steps right now. What life do you want to build?

BLOGGING INSPIRATION

Do The Thing

One question I have consistently gotten over the past two years goes something like this:

I want to blog. But where/how do I start?

This question is bigger than blogging. It applies to any new thing you want to do– anything you want to launch, anything you want to say to the world. A freelance career. Traveling for the first time. Launching a new business. Anything at all that you haven’t done before. Anything that’s a little scary and a lot unknown.

When I started this blog two years ago, I was a 25-year-old about to enter into her first full-time office job, trying to shift an existential quarter-life crisis into a quarter-life revelation. I had spent the past three years living out of a backpack guiding adventure trips. It sounds glamorous, but I was really hard on myself for not having a “real job” and not knowing what I was going to “do” with my life, as if it was that simple.

I started this blog from parent’s couch over Christmas. My first few posts aren’t my best work, but I haven’t changed them. Because it takes guts to put yourself out there, and looking back, I’m proud of 25-year-old me. Because there was a time when this felt really awkward. There was a time when I had to stretch myself to do something that feels easy now. If you want to start your thing, whatever it is, you will need to stretch yourself too.

It’s uncomfortable, I promise. It feels weird. You’ll doubt yourself, you’ll feel anxious, you’ll invent all the things people are saying about you. But don’t worry, nobody gives a real shit about your struggle. The only thing most people see is courage, and that is remarkable.

Just starting your thing is enough to inspire someone. Acquaintances from high school will take interest; they’ll watch your come-up from afar and wish they had the guts to do their thing too. And remember that successful people fail. We fail hard. We get up. Over and over again. You will too.

And we commend successful people for failure because being publicly real and honest is hard. Taking risks is hard when you have the option to be comfortable. But it’s way worse to have to answer to that part of you that knows what you truly want to put into this world– to have to tell that part of you that you chose comfort, instead of following your truth, is heartbreaking.

I want to tell you exactly how to do the thing. But I can’t. Because I don’t have that answer, only you do.

And it’s not really important how you do the thing, it’s just important that you do it.

The most important aspect of starting, is that you start. Begin with your whole heart and get truly invested. Investment leads to progress and failure, in bigger amounts than you can imagine. Both offer invaluable learning.

Do the thing.

 


 

Feature photo by Garrett King.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION SOCIAL MEDIA

You Will Have Haters

And they’ll be loud sometimes. For real. They’ll get inside your head and make you think you should just be quiet.

I write personal development for adventurous people. I also write about things I believe in, including social & racial justice. This grinds a lot of gears for some folks. It’s political. Well, whoop dee doo– I’m over posting neutral content. I’m over seeing it. I’m over the idea that we should try to appeal to a wide audience. Over. It.

Having an opinion based on your values is way more important than trying to get people to like you.

There was a time when I took everything personally. I can’t anymore.

When you exist on the internet, the one negative comment you get (out of however many) will be the one that sticks, I promise. It’ll be the one you zero in on– the one you let define you. But you can’t let it stick. It’s not personal.

Haters come with the territory when you say anything at all that takes a side. Giving enough of a fuck to take a stand is worth it. It’s not really about you, it’s about a bigger picture, so release yourself from having to take everything as a personal attack. Choosing to stand up for anything says far more about the strength of your character than a few (or even a few hundred) negative comments.

I wear my values boldly because I believe that’s how you get shit done. Anyone can tell me that my values or beliefs are wrong, but that doesn’t mean they are right in their accusations.

You do not exist to make other people feel comfortable. Your actions speak to your priorities. What do you care about, and are you speaking up about it? Standing up? Showing up? When you decide to do so, I’m on your team.

I have been called many names on the internet– some that I am not even comfortable repeating. But it’s the internet. Is anyone surprised?

Getting hated on means I had something provocative to say in the first place. Many agree, some will not. It is hard to have a peaceful conversation with someone who is determined to bring you down. So if that isn’t going to happen, let it go.

When you live in your truth, people will disagree with you loudly and rudely, online and in person. You cannot let this dampen your spirit or dim your light. More people need your ideas, your vision, and your love more than you will ever know.

We have to give a fuck about things that matter, and we’re always going to get hate for it from someone, somewhere.

And I guarantee that amidst any negativity, there will be a day when you will get an email or comment that simply says, “Thank you for speaking up.”

It will be the only reminder you need that now is not the time to be silent.

 


 

Photo snapped by Adaeze Azubuike.