A new journey

First off … here’s what happened last summer as I cycled 500km across Ontario’s Greenbelt Route. A one-minute summary 🙂

So after a lengthy time away … I’ve found some new inspiration. I’ve retired Sidetracked & Wandering as I’m spending more time working on a collaborative project with my friend Serena draw.post.repeat. At the same time, I’m consolidating what I’ve written and drawn (and continue to do!) while outdoors with stuff that I’m beginning to write about minimalism and random musings or observations.

Between studying and learning new skills for my work — I also spend a lot of time reading about and pondering life in urban environments, the way we choose to live, and the things that influence our decisions. So expect a mishmash of different areas of interest that I am exploring and if you choose to follow along, I hope you enjoy the journey (and pardon the work-in-progress as I build out this new site).

Driving towards a sunrise

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Recovering from a lack of focus

Piece by piece, I began to sell and/or give away my camera equipment.  My Canon 30D and all the lenses that I had acquired over the years, I found myself letting go of.  I had even acquired multiple compact point-and-shoot cameras over the years that I sold or gave away. It felt so freeing.

How I ended up selling all my camera gear

I have to admit, there’s a level of irony involved with my story.

Photography (and what I learned as a result) led me into nature, but nature (and my time spent outdoors) took me on a different path.

That path led me to selling off all my camera gear.

Intrigued?  Here’s my story:

I never really found interest in photography until a family road trip out to western Canada.  At the time, I didn’t have a camera but my sister had this pretty nifty waterproof camera so I made the most of it during that trip.  Learned an appreciation for the beauty of the mountains thanks to the above friendly chipmunk.

My sister's Minolta Vectis GX-4. My sister’s Minolta Vectis GX-4.

The photos I took captivated an audience back home and eventually led me to purchasing my first digital camera.  This eventually led me to what I refer to as the camera rat race.  As I’d discuss with friends the latest of camera equipment, I’d keep purchasing new camera gear (lenses, camera bodies, tripods, etc.) with the thinking that it would help me capture better photographs.  They did, but the money that I probably invested into camera gear brought me nowhere closer to a satisfactory result, and I was lugging around way too much gear.  My backpack was too heavy for me.  I was unhappy and tired.

Options and More Options:

Hiking mountains with so much camera gear really began to provide perspective. Do I want to enjoy the mountains?  Or was I just there to take a photograph to share with people?  The camera would weigh down my neck and back and my backpack containing all my lenses and the tripod would bear down on my shoulders.

Eventually, as I was travelling from place to place that everyone was essentially taking the same photograph (and posting it on Instagram), I found myself reflecting upon what I really wanted out of photography.  Was it recognition?  Was it to share with others what I had the good fortune to see?  Maybe a bit of both?  Did I even care?

Not only was it the weight that mattered but as a result of all the options I had to work with to capture a photograph — all that gear I carried around — I discovered I lost my freedom and creativity.  I essentially was a slave to my camera and its family of gear and I needed to shed all of it.

So I began to pick up sketching again.  I wasn’t any good but it didn’t matter to me — I felt like I was actually focusing on art again — something that was really unique coming from the coordination of my eyes, mind, heart, and hands.

The Cameraletting:

Piece by piece, I began to sell and/or give away my camera equipment.  My Canon 30D and all the lenses that I had acquired over the years, I found myself letting go of.  I had even acquired multiple compact point-and-shoot cameras over the years that I sold or gave away. It felt so freeing.

With some of the money that I earned back from the sale of all that gear — I picked up two cameras (Fuji X100 and Fuji X-Pro1 with a 18-55mm) — focusing on a balance between quality and weight (at the time).  That’s it (Okay fine, I picked up a GoPro since then too).

No extra zoom lenses. No additional camera bodies. No more extra gear.

Life with less:

My choice to limit and establish a constraint for myself has led to a greater satisfaction and appreciation for living in the present moment, rather than thinking about a cool photograph I will be able to share.

I don’t debate with myself anymore about whether I should use one lens or another — I will simply make do with what I have.  With the Fuji X100, there is no zoom to even think about.

I take fewer but better photographs.

I stop thinking about the next great camera that I’ll acquire. No more money getting sucked into the abyss by photography gear.

The most brilliant thing about this is that, I no longer have to worry about my back and the crazy gear that I have to lug around.  I was no longer tired from lugging around such heavy gear.  I worried less about gear being stolen or damaged.

More importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with a form of art that I hadn’t explored since I was young. For me, the fact that I can express myself with just a pen(or some pencil crayons) and piece of paperin order to describe what I saw is precisely what I may have been striving towards.

A watercolour ink sketch in the Grand Tetons from Inspiration Point A watercolour ink sketch in the Grand Tetons from Inspiration Point

Review: Packing Light by Alison Vesterfelt

Back in November I had the opportunity to download the audiobook for Alison Vesterfelt’s Packing Light.  It was by chance that I came across it on NoiseTrade where I often am scouring around for my music addiction.  Interestingly enough this was also my real first audiobook that I had tried out. I’ve written before about travelling light and minimalism but it was always a philosophy and concept that I have been experimenting with and continue to do so today.  Having the opportunity to listen to the perspective of someone else — in this case, Alison Vesterfelt’s journey and thought process — was quite refreshing.

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In Packing Light, Vesterfelt is taking the reader along on her personal cross-country road trip experience, which actually leads to a mindful discussion on not just the literal decision towards travelling with less but also towards a spiritual and philosophical thought process.  The act of travelling for me has always somewhat represented a spiritual and philosophical journey and I appreciated the dilemmas and challenges that Vesterfelt found herself confronted with.  I found myself fascinated and moved while following Vesterfelt’s exploration and search towards figuring out the right path for her to take.

There is often a lot of discussion on minimalist lifestyles when you search online.  It isn’t necessarily something for everyone but at the same time it is something that I feel each individual should read and think about for themselves.  We are often bombarded with a lot of information and ideas; so much so that we often forget to allow us (and thus lose) the time to figure out for ourselves what is right for us, and what may be better for us.

One good outcome from reading (or in this case … listening) to Packing Light is that Vesterfelt’s story takes us on that journey and through the vivid tales and observations that Alison makes;  you may find yourself asking important questions … and maybe stumbling upon an answer.

Step One: Towards Minimalism and Travelling Light

Over the past couple of months my friends and I have begun discussing plans for a trip to Peru and one of the biggest challenges is the agreeing on “how” to travel.  It’s probably one of the most peculiar debates to have come up but everyone has their own preferences around how they would like to travel.
For instance, some friends would prefer to avoid tourist traps entirely while others want to see the major attractions.  There are friends who want to travel and explore without depending on guides while others are not comfortable without having a guide in an unknown territory.

My take?  It’s really all about how much time you have.  If you have the time to spare, I completely encourage everyone to explore without the use of guides, but at an age where many of us are tied to vacation time for work, guides provide a service that really helps to optimize the travel opportunity.  I think there are benefits to all types of travel but there is a scenario that suits each “style” of travel.

Generally speaking, I’ve found myself shifting towards travelling lighter and lighter.  Ever since I started to camp in the backcountry, one of the major challenges I’ve confronted is the amount of “stuff” that I have to bring.  There’s all the camping gear, and then if you’re an avid photographer, there’s even more camera gear than camping gear!

I may enjoy photography, but it’s hard to enjoy yourself in the nature when you’re lugging around more than your own weight (I exaggerate).  So as I began to contemplate why I travel and why I hike or backpack, I decided to try and let go of all the things that I typically think I need in order to be prepared.

So as I plan towards Peru 2013.  One of my first steps has now been to sell off all my camera equipment.  It’s a bit weird this time of year for me as I’ve been trying to get rid of my stuff while everyone else around me has been busy acquiring new things for others or for themselves.

My First Goal:  To simply have one lens and one camera for documenting my travels and adventures.  Will report back soon.

Hiking down Mt. Crawford

The next step will be to sort out how I will pack for Peru and other adventures in the future.