Travel Won’t Fix You

Travel won’t fix you. Maybe that’s a strange thing to say, and maybe you disagree. Maybe you have had an experience so profound that it did turn you into a better version of yourself. So let me clarify.

Some of us are guilty of driving off into the sunset and thinking that is the end of the story–– poof, our worries are over.

The story never ends with just us and the sunset. For travel to be a permanent fix, you’d have to be running forever. And running, well, it takes energy and stamina and a lot of drive, and it can get uncomfortable quickly if you’re not used to it.

I don’t know if you’re looking to be fixed or righted or patched up in some way. I know that’s not what travel, by itself, does at all. Indeed, flinging yourself into the unknown is rarely comforting.

So if you are wanting to be free of your imperfections, do not seek travel. Should you find yourself chest deep in worry, know that the view from the airplane window will not absolve it for you. And if you head down the road looking for that something you can’t quite name… well, the act of seeking offers no guarantee of defining it any sooner.

I don’t share this in order to be discouraging… that’s the last feeling I want to leave you with. I promise there is hope in here.

I want you to know that travel isn’t going to fix you without your participation. Throughout my adult life, and perhaps throughout yours, there was always this hint that travel is the miracle cure for dullness, for heartbreak, for existential crisis. But in my experience, travel made all of those things way worse at some point before any of them got better.

I sought travel for the first time when I was 21. I, like many, was guilty of romanticizing it–– I thought cobblestone streets and port wine on the river would result in the clarity I was so desperately seeking. I was a student of many things, but I wasn’t truly learning from life quite yet. I was a stubborn student of myself alone, thinking I knew everything in my short existence.

Travel, like many things I thought I understood, kicked my ass.

Another time I hoped for a quick fix, I moved to Australia for a year with $800 cash and a backpack. What could go wrong? Sitting in my room in a suburb on the outskirts of Perth, I stared at emails from friends telling me just how lucky I was. Meanwhile, I was just getting by. No fireworks or exciting love story. Just working a full-time retail job like I could have done at home, except with less friends and more depression. But it’s supposed to be better than this, I thought. It’s supposed to be exotic and fun and adventurous, right? Funny thing… you will not enjoy something if you’re constantly labeling your experience as lesser-than.

I remember biting off more than I could chew on more than one occasion. More than one solo trip I thought I could conquer. More than one hotel room I didn’t leave during daylight hours. More than one landmark I did not visit because I was too anxious to go alone.

I have done stupid things in more countries than I can count. Fell in love once, lust more than once. Hiked up mountains unprepared, stood on a volcano in a thunderstorm like a human lightning rod. Not smart. I trusted the wrong people and offended the right ones, got ripped off and fooled and hurt and embarrassed. In New Zealand, my ex-boyfriend and I had a screaming match in our car in the pouring rain. Travel didn’t fix us then. I still feel the heartbreak of that scene, the bruise of it. But travel had no way of holding me back from myself–– instead, it peeled away all the layers of home to show me who I really was, and why I made the choices that I did. Through all of it, the stuff I’ve shared publicly and everything I never will,  I feel lucky to be alive and carrying all of those experiences with me.

No matter how hard a trip was, no matter how tough it was, or how broken I felt, I kept coming back. I kept making it work. I kept saving money for the next trip, or applying for the next job in a new place, or couch-surfing in whatever city I could get a cheap flight to.

Yes, there was fear that felt bigger than me. There was my heart beating fast in my chest on trains and in taxis and other places that should have just been easy. There was disappointment and boredom and anxiety and enough dread to fill a mid-life crisis. There was challenge and pain and joy and triumph, too. Because the things I dealt with in my life were never going to just disappear and be replaced by what I thought travel would be. Travel just added another layer. A thick one.

I began to see that although travel would never fix me, it would give me more challenge to work with. It would help me build my toolbox, so I kept coming back to it. Travel requires you to do more. It requires deliberate choices. It puts all of the weight on your two shoulders and asks you to name the specifics of each day, each moment.

When I thought travel would spit me out clean and whole, I was wrong. I wanted travel to scoop me up in big comforting arms and sing me to sleep. But it doesn’t do that. Travel is far more discerning than that–– it’ll put you through wringers you didn’t know existed. Travel had me overcoming impossible odds, finding serendipity and meeting God, though I could have never identified any of that at the time.

So when I say that travel won’t fix you, know that I mean it lovingly. I mean it with excitement and joy and incredible hope.

It does not fix you and does not make you more comfortable in your pain. It does not soften loss. It will not gloss over the mistakes you’ve made, or patch a broken heart. It can’t promise to heal you or give you clarity, regardless of if you are looking for it or not. But maybe after all the miles you’ve walked, and the stories you’ve lived, travel will present you an opportunity. And maybe in that, you’ll find the strength to fix yourself.

Model: Adaeze Azubuike.


Deep Thoughts from 2017

Every year I write these yearly personal reflection posts, I start with some kind of statement like “what a year,” (wow that’s very original, Erin) and 2017 was no different.

I want to note that the title “deep thoughts” is meant to be facetious, if you didn’t already get that. These are entirely personal, and none of them are going to cure cancer. But I share them because if they help one person, then that’s enough.

This was a year that many things really came full circle for me, the biggest theme being my creative interests. I have written before about my longtime passion for photography–– something I had given up on in my early 20’s out of fear and doubt. The second half of this year marked my full return to it.

In continuing my yearly tradition (Deep Thoughts from 2016, 2015 and 2014), here are my very personal reflections from 2017.


Short-term wins are great ego boosters. One-time gigs can be a good thing (and even necessary!) for your bank account. But if they are not contributing to your long-term vision for your future and the world you want to live in, my opinion is that it may deserve more thought. Sometimes we don’t know what the hell our long term vision is in the first place. But with every opportunity, relationship, and job we pursue, we can ask ourselves if that thing is aligned with how we want to be and/or the vision we want to work toward. This way of thinking allows us to say no to the wrong things and make room for the right things.


From time to time, I look back on articles on this blog and find it so funny how I wrote as if I had answers! I never had answers, and I still don’t–– but this is the most comfortable I have ever been with admitting what I don’t know. As a recovering know-it-all, this feels really good and refreshing. This year, admitting the room I had to grow allowed me to learn from friends and mentors more than I ever have.

Earlier this year, I was at a Sony conference and plopped myself down next to landscape, travel and humanitarian photographer Colby Brown. He was super friendly and receptive, so I asked him a few questions about his path and business and took his feedback to heart. Fast forward six months and I found myself in a helicopter with Colby above the Namib Desert in Namibia. This is because I identified him as someone I could really learn from, and did whatever I could to get myself in a position where I could work for, with, or alongside him. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of mentorship, and the investment (time, energy, money) that it requires.


I’m a God person, but please feel free to substitute The G Word for The Universe, or simply for your own inner wisdom, as I truly think this applies to everyone regardless of spiritual belief. Look, you get a lot of clues in life if you are open to receiving them. Until this year I ignored the things that were right in front of me– signs that were all around me consistently– because I thought I knew better! THAN GOD. Noooooo. Things that are not for you will never be for you, no matter how much you try to push and pull and manipulate them. Things that are for you will always be. Stop trying to contort yourself into a job, relationship or situation that isn’t working. Let go and see what flows instead.


I can still hear my grandmother repeating “patience is a virtue” to me as a kid, advice that always fell on stubborn ears. I have historically rushed into things and wanted to see immediate successes, but there are some things that are really only good with time. There is no substitute for practice or experience, and you can’t get down on yourself for lack of results if you haven’t been actively trying for a good while. So do your thing consistently over a long period of time. Know when to pursue something, but also be gentle with the process, and know when to be patient (personal progress), and when not to be (standing up for what is right).


How amazing is it that you will never be successful running someone else’s race? You will never be able to do exactly what they’ve done, because you aren’t them! Their shoes won’t fit you. How incredible is it that you have full permission to stop comparing yourself to anyone else, because it is actually 100% absurdly useless?! Ha!!! This one felt like unlocking a secret golden treasure room, one that I hope to return to whenever I need the reminder.

Your path is yours and yours only. Don’t know where your lane is yet? That is OK. You’re already on it, so stop trying to force it. Experiment with anything that feels exciting to you, and if you fall into the comparison trap (we all do), scoop yourself right back out.

I would love to hear about your reflections from this year, so please share them with me in the comments or link me to your blog posts. Here’s to another year of learning for all of us. Wishing you a healthy winter solstice and a joyous start to 2018.


Moving is Hard (Even When You Want to Go)

On Tuesday I moved to LA. Honestly, there were endless reasons not to go.

There will always be reasons not to do the scary thing or take the risk. The reasons not to do something always seem to be louder, right? They scream and demand to be listened to. They show up to remind you that you could be lonely, that you could stay scared, that expectations are real and that they could be broken. I already know that’s all possible. It feels like I’ve lived through all of it many lifetimes over. I’ve been there, sat with loneliness on four continents, on islands and in cities and on beaches and rooftops. I have lived that solitary uncertainty more times than I can count in my early 20’s alone and in truth, I already know that it’s exhausting.

None of those reasons were good enough not to go.

Driving out here was like 16 hours of meditation. All that time just to sit with myself. Somehow when there’s just road in front of you and it’s just you, there’s nothing in the way of wondering why you’re not working on your dream project or why you’re not finding the love of your life. You can go into that middle-of-nowhere gas station and buy as many peanut M&M’s as you want– those same fuckin’ questions will be there when you start driving again.

Moving is hard even when you want to go. Even when the going is the most important thing.

I know for sure that no song is catchy enough, no podcast interesting enough, no canyon stunning enough to take my mind off of the wounds I normally try to cover and hide from myself. Driving out here was 16 hours of showing myself the walls I’ve put up, and 16 hours of giving myself the forgiveness and permission to start taking them down.

It was finding acceptance and courage; it was stirring the pot of stuff I thought I left behind in Boulder or New York or Porto. Just sitting in my own history, remembering the main players in every game I’ve ever won or lost, the prominent characters of each chapter of my life, wondering if I might see them again as I turn another page.

I have moved around so much. I have lived in many houses (sometimes tents), alone or with someone else, and leaving– well it’s familiar but I’m not convinced it gets any easier. Part of me will always fight the belief that it’s best to not get attached so that you don’t have to hurt when it’s time to go. Part of leaving will always suck– apply it to whatever you want, it’s hard to uproot. You can know a relationship isn’t right but still love the person, maybe you still love why you fell so hard for them in the beginning, and maybe you still do. It doesn’t mean they are right or good for you.

I think the hardest part of leaving is that bit right before you do. You can imagine it for months, you can fantasize about your new life and how great it’ll be and how free you’ll feel and the exact thing you’ll wear as you board the plane or drive past the state line. Even when you’re ready to start over, it’s hard.

To some, it must not seem right that I’d trade mountains and open space for traffic in the city. But I would much rather return to the Rockies someday knowing that I followed my heart and soul; knowing that I listened to the cells of my body that pushed me West, and that I most importantly responded to that call. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. Remember that nobody else gets to have an opinion on your decisions without your validation.

When you make a change I promise you’re gonna get hit with all of it– the loneliness and the hummingbirds, the heartbreak and the starry-eyed wonder of the new place, whatever and wherever that might be. I know California doesn’t promise me anything different. It certainly doesn’t promise anything that I don’t look for. I know that I see magic wherever I choose to look for it. I am happy to be here. I am happy to sit on these steps in front of the lime tree and write this to you. I’m reminded of the porch at my old place in Colorado, how it too became a place where I’d sit and unload my thoughts here– where I handed over my dreams and my hurts in surrender and therefore, in strength.

If and when you move into a new story, remember that although you may feel like a stranger in the new place, you’re not a stranger to yourself. You can sit and know yourself anywhere, regardless of what tree you sit under. Life is hunch after hunch. But you have to trust that you know what’s best for you, and that the feeling that pulls you in whatever direction is not without purpose. If you don’t listen, how else will you get anywhere?

There will always be a million reasons not to go.

The point is that you are the only one who can decide to drive your life in any direction for 16 hours, or however long it takes you to get where you’re going. There will always be endless reasons not to go. Decide which call you want to listen to.

Know that nothing is wrong with you if it’s hard. It just means the chapter was meaningful in the first place.


How to Do it All

You may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I don’t love that– it’s unlike me. I stick to deadlines, even when I set them myself.

This is about balance, something I have been thinking about a lot lately. I knew this summer was going to be a hurricane; I mean, I designed the storm myself. I pushed the boulder down the hill in the first place, so I can’t be surprised that it picked up momentum. I balance my photography gigs, this blog, social channels, trip leading, a coaching practice and my life (i.e., my car getting totaled in a hail storm). I don’t always do it well, but hi, I’m here, so I’m obviously doing it in some general capacity.

An alternate title for this article might be “How to Keep Your Shit Together,” and SPOILER ALERT!!! I don’t actually know the answer. But if you continually launch yourself into the deep end, well, ya better learn how to swim.

“How do you do it all?”

Clumsily. Blindfolded. And on too little sleep.

My attempt at balance is messy. It’s a lot of throwing spaghetti at the wall— a metaphor I use all the time because what a visual… and that’s how it feels. It feels like pasta everywhere, with my laptop and cameras somewhere buried in there too.

It seems glamorous to travel the world and write and take photos. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it feels easy. Do not mistake this article for a complaint. I am in love with what I do for work and I wake up thankful every day. I also recognize the great privilege that has been present in my life allowing me the opportunities that got me to this point. But you can get run down or burnt out doing literally anything, and I don’t think it’s supposed to be fun or easy all the time.

Sometimes life turns up the volume on every channel at the same time. Sometimes you wish just one thing would slow down. Sometimes you just want to catch one little break, but the punches keep coming. You cannot always control the volume. It becomes really important to look at what is actually in your control, and act in your own best interest, because nobody else can do it for you.

The following points are written in the first person, as affirmations. That’s on purpose.


I’m accustomed to being a one-woman show. I over-commit, over-volunteer, over-extend. I can do it all! WATCH! Then upon finishing “it all,” I promptly start laugh-crying into a large pizza (that is, on good days).

Sometimes even the highest achievers need to ask for help. Willingness to ask for help is a strength. And shocker… sometimes you can even hire people who will do something better than you can, allowing you to spend your time doing the things you are best at.

Ask your friends for help. Ask specialists for help (and, ahem, pay them accordingly). Ask the people in your life for help who have told you over and over that they are here for you. It’s usually not an empty offer.


Time and energy are the most precious commodities we possess. You do not have time for bullshit, you do not have time for people who do not show up for you, you do not have time for things that drain your energy and give you nothing in return. You do not have time for people who poke holes in your dreams. So say no to all of it, because it’s not making you better. And it’s most definitely not helping you keep your shit together.

Say no to jobs that do not pay you what you’re worth, say no to people who suck up your time and energy, say no to shitty food and giving up on yourself. Say no to the wrong things so you can make space for the right things.


When was the last time you felt small? When was the last time you reminded yourself that we’re all just floating on a rock in Space? When was the last time someone reminded you that your problems are just not that big?

It’s not always about you. And don’t allow yourself to feel bad about that fact– that’s not the point here. The point is that this world, your life, everything you’re connected to, is much bigger than whatever is stressing you out. Listen to a podcast. Watch a movie. Read a book. Do something that puts things in perspective. Remember to celebrate your wins when you can. Remember that this isn’t the first time you’ll have to deal with something hard. And remember that you are not in this alone.


Comparison does not make you better. It doesn’t. It puts out your fire because it convinces you that other people have better ones. It dilutes you, makes you feel small, and makes you feel like you’re not enough. Comparison does not improve you or your work– it doesn’t lighten your load.

I do not know a single person who does not struggle with this. I compare myself to other people in my industry, to people I know and people I don’t know, to my best friends, to people my age. It has never helped. We have to just stop. Don’t get sucked into it, and notice when you do so you can pull yourself out.


You must have energy to do work that matters. So take the requisite time. Decide to eat well, to exercise, to devote time to your spiritual practice or mental health, whatever that means to you. Notice what you need– do what you can to make rest possible. If you’re working multiple jobs, I feel you. It’s hard. It sucks. It feels impossible. Do what you can.

I don’t believe in Hustle Till You Die. If The Hustle is killing you, change what you are doing. It doesn’t matter how “successful” you are at the top if you sold your soul or your health to get there. You have a limited amount of time and energy. Spend some of it on your personal well-being.


Why are you here? What makes you feel fired up? What gets you out of bed? Maybe you don’t have a super passionate idea of what that is right now, and that’s OK. But follow the clues your life is giving you. And stay focused on the purpose-driven stuff. Don’t get distracted by the shit other people are doing, gossip, negativity, or the million reasons people will tell you your goals won’t work out.

Listen. The storm will never stop, it just changes form and intensity. That’s life. Life will bring you challenges, then push you into the deep end and throw the entire pool off the cliff. It’s your job to learn to swim regardless.


Thanks for reading. If you liked this post, or if you know someone who would find it helpful, please share it– handy share buttons below.


The Home in Everywhere

This post is sponsored by Zappos.

I haven’t lived here– really lived here– since I was 17.

This is where I grew up. There have been weeks I’ve come back in my in-betweens in the past ten years. But not to stay. Since I left, I have carried the feeling of home with me wherever I go, and I think it makes every place hard to leave. This place taught me the meaning of home so thoroughly. I learned it well. And leaving anywhere is rarely easy as a result, because I see magic everywhere.

Home is the smell of the second floor of my parent’s house in the summertime. Home is the sideways light on the grass at sunset. It’s conversations with my grandpa at his kitchen table where I used to sit and eat boxed macaroni and cheese after school. He’s sharper than a tack without even trying.

Home. Where I don’t feel guilty for getting up late or just taking care of myself– something I have never been good at. Where the regulars at the old coffee shop remember me– and why on earth did I ever think I could get work done there, when I know I’d be happily stuck in an hour-long conversation– a recap of the past year of my life and theirs? Home is where I walk to the beach for a sunset, only this time I’ve got a camera in my hand and each time, more weathered skin, more wrinkles around my eyes, more freckles on my arms given to me by the same sun I know here.

Home is the same salad my mom makes every September when the tomatoes are ripe and red. Home doesn’t care when I leave and it doesn’t care when I come back. It’s a feeling anyway, like a memory, like nostalgia. And I take that with me everywhere.

Sometimes home is found at the bottom of my suitcase, the airport armchair I fell asleep on. Sometimes it’s journaling on the subway. Passport stamps and taxi rides and 40 cent fish soup on the side of the road next to a temple in Bagan. Sometimes home is restlessness in hotel sheets. Home is the endless hike down the mountain in the midnight sun. Sometimes it’s breakfast with someone I just met. And I’ll swear I knew them in a past life as we finish the blueberry pancakes.

Every place becomes a part of me, this one just carries more weight. It was the first place I knew, and for a lot of my life, it was the only place I knew. It taught me to know others– like your first best friend. Home is a deep exhale. I come here in the transitions now. I come here for a kind of grounding. A kind of reverence for the in-betweens and the closing of chapters and the starting of new ones.

I am wearing Teva Original Premier sandals, mom is wearing Teva Original Universal Rope sandals.


I knew the feeling of home here first so I could learn to feel it and hold it everywhere else. So I could find Home in every place I have ever been– in a park in London, in the blue and white tiles of old church walls, and under a waterfall of frigid snowmelt in New Zealand.

This was always home first. Sometimes I miss it. Sometimes I miss the shortcut to the house from the train. So I’ll take a few days out of the year to be here, and I’ll be home somewhere else the rest of the time.

I know this place by heart. But I know home is more than one place. After all, understanding that home had a feeling is what allowed me to leave it in the first place.

Our Teva sandals are from Zappos’ free and fast next-day shipping and excellent return policy is perfect for my nonstop travel schedule. I am wearing the Teva Original Universal Premier Leather in Indigo– great for the beach or walking around London, wherever I happen to be. Mom is wearing the Teva Original Universal Rope in Cognac.


Love is Like That

I know so many people who are heartbroken right now. What’s the deal?! It’s my friends texting me about the ache. It’s the emails from readers I’ve never met. It’s the echo from a post I wrote about love on Instagram.

We are all hungry for feeling. For meaning.

Love is so damn complicated. Trust that I’m screaming this from my soul to my fingertips.

It’s messy. It’s clear and muddy at the same time. It’s the biggest paradox we’ll ever know. And it’s almost a guarantee that at some point in our lives, we’ll have a crazy run-in with love. A head-on collision. We’ll feel like we’ve had 4 strong margaritas and ran around in circles for an hour blindfolded.

Love is like that.

I am addicted to love, and to loving the moments that didn’t even feel good– because we don’t get to choose the ones that stick. I first realized this in a scene I’ve mentioned before– I was 21 and had moved to Porto, Portugal without knowing anyone. I would lay lonely on the roof of my apartment and stare at the sky, knowing that I would eventually miss that moment.

That feeling comes and goes in waves that take me over.

It was the feeling I had dancing to bad pop music with a tall freckled Australian guy in Budapest. It was a comical scene, but I knew I’d miss it as soon as it was over. Because you can love a moment, even a moment like that one. Especially a moment like that one. And maybe it doesn’t entirely make sense which ones our hearts choose, but those are the moments we remember.

It feels like we don’t choose the people we love either. But magic doesn’t happen on accident.

It’s loud, right? So loud sometimes it’s all we can hear. It brings us to our highest highs and our lowest lows, and it doesn’t really care what it does to us. It’ll teach us about the depths of our hearts if we allow it to. If instead of turning up the volume even more, we just got quiet, and listened.

You will read this and connect it to whatever your experience is with love, and whatever it means right now. It can be the way we love wild places, the way we love the way our coffee smells, the wonder of this whole life in general. It can be absolute heartbreak, heartache. It can just be heart, and that’s enough. It shifts and changes and it always will.

We know this: when it shows up, it refuses to be ignored. Love is like that.


Deep Thoughts from 2016

When I started this blog two years ago, it was hard for me to imagine what it would become. I just set out to share– and as it turns out, that was worth something. Because I’m here, still writing, and still sharing it.

I’ve done these Deep Thoughts posts for the past two years (here’s 2014 and 2015), so in keeping with that tradition, here are my personal reflections from 2016.


This year, I thought a lot on what I really require– in jobs, in relationships, in what I really need in order to live comfortably. I saw that I often over-compromise. I want to be the best at everything: the best employee, the most supportive friend, the person who wakes up the earliest and stays up the latest to work on their passion project.

For me, a lot of that isn’t healthy. In order to bring out the best in myself, I actually have to set firm boundaries instead of being a pushover. I have to be a bit more thoughtful about what I say yes to and when I say yes to it.

Having boundaries does have to mean that you are closed off– it can mean that you know yourself well enough to identify what works for you, and to stand for those things.


My followthrough record in 2016 isn’t as good as it could have been. I said I’d do things that I simply did not have time or energy for. Showing up for me means being vulnerable– in being honest and humble to bring out the best in myself and in others. It also means asking myself if I could have done better, and committing to that goal.

I am proud of how I have showed up in some arenas. But there were failures, too, and they were on me. It’s on me how I show up in my friendships, it’s on me how I show up for my clients, it’s on me how I show up for myself. These are decisions I have the power to make, and that I must make, in order to be effective and bring 100%.


I tried to do a lot of things this year– and I still am doing a lot of different things. And I wish I had another lifetime to pursue all these passions I have found, but I can’t do everything and I can’t be everything for everyone. I also can’t please everyone with my writing, my beliefs, or the things that I create both on and off the internet.

In pursuing my greatest dreams, I know I will turn people off. I have to be fine with that. And in this pursuit, I also have to be fine with quitting jobs that I love. I have to be fine with saying no to coffee dates that I’d love to go on. Because I can’t be everything for everyone, and if I tried to do that, I’d be ineffective at the things that matter most.


I gave a lot of advice online this year. And I didn’t always listen to myself.

We are fucking wise, y’all. You are fucking wise! Listen to yourself. So often, we undervalue our own rules of life, and for some reason we think they only apply to others but could never fit into our own situation. Many things I dealt with this year could have been dealt with sooner and better had I listened to my own advice and given myself enough credit to do so.


I’m a big, big dreamer, and my head is in the clouds constantly. But I need to remember that while I’m enjoying the view up there, my feet are also on the ground. Big dreams require little details in order to thrive. They require steps, planning and logistics. If done right, none of those things take away the magic of the dream. But still, they must be done.



Thank you for being a part of my story. Feature photo by BC Serna.