In the winter of 2008 I was made redundant from my job at a company that I didn't particularly like working for. It was a shock to be told you're not needed, or as I saw it, I was not good enough to be kept around.
Maybe it was my age or lack of exposure to the world of business but at that time of my life I considered redundancy to mean failure. It knocked me but after phoning my mum (told you I was young) and speaking to my housemate, I soon realised that I hadn't in fact failed but that I had been presented with a wonderful opportunity to take a new direction, whatever direction I wanted to. I chose to go travelling... I booked a flight to Krakow, bought a Eurail ticket and spent the next month travelling Europe by train.
I've visited many places in my time but none as striking or as poignant as Auschwitz in Poland and it still resonates today as one of the best, most interesting places I've ever travelled to. Having had an interest in modern history, especially the world wars, since my teenage years I knew it from photos and writings but to see it and be there in person gave me a real sense of what it was and what happened there.
I got to Auschwitz II late in the day and spent a few hours at dusk taking it all in. I was one of the few people in the camp at that time of day at that time of year. It was very soon after dark with all the tourists having left long before, I wasn't meant to be there, I just was. No one official had noticed my presence and only when I thought I should probably leave did I realise that I was actually the last sole there and I was at the far end of the camp near the destroyed gas chambers with no way of someone finding me. A mild panic set in with thoughts of freezing to death overnight or sleeping in the huts where many people who suffered cruelly had slept before. It was dark, it was winter and I didn't speak Polish. How the fuck was I going to get back to Krakow?!
Luckily as I approached the main gate I saw a light on inside the old SS guard house. A knock on the door later, a surprised, non-English speaking guard let me in. I was inside the SS guard house, a place no tourist is usually permitted to enter. Through gestures, pointing and broken English we managed to communicate that I needed to get back to Krakow. He called a taxi to take me to a bus stop, of which there was no bus stop sign and of which I would have had no chance of finding on my own, where I waited for over an hour inappropriately dressed for a Polish winter for a minibus to come along and take some locals, and a frozen tourist back to Krakow.
The whole trip and the circumstances surrounding it was an amazing part of my life and an experience to remember and it stays with me to this day.
I remember this particular day vividly. I had worked since the early hours of the morning and had been continuously called back in for a few more hours each time I'd been released. Finally, having been released once and for all, I rushed home to grab my surf board and wetsuit, turned off my phone and headed for the beach in hopes to beat the sunset. In those moments as I stepped into the shockingly cold water and slowly let my stiffened joints stretch and work to pull my body and board out past the waves, a smile crept up onto my lips. It's as if all the stress of my day had melted away in the brief moments it took me to paddle out past the crashing waves. In the last minutes before the sun dipped below the horizon, as I sat there listening to the sounds of the waves lapping at my board, I was reminded that there's far more important journeys in life than the big life-changing ones, and that this was one of them.
I'm on a journey to become a better photographer; it's been three years and counting. While walking through the ruins of Tulum, Mexico I realized I needed to do a better job of conveying the stories I've seen. It was during that trip, the world became my teacher. I made an investment in learning by purchasing my first DSLR and devoted many hours towards becoming a better photographer. Through lots of trials and errors, I am learning to create quality photographs. I've captured majestic waterfalls and glaciers in Iceland, camel treks in the deserts of Morocco, the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s busiest intersection and nature’s surreal sculptures in Central Turkey. Three years later, I find myself in Kanchanaburi, Thailand floating on a bamboo raft along the peaceful Kwai River. Content with life and carrying a camera bursting with captured memories. I've come a long way since Tulum and yet I am just getting started.
My Grandfather would often recall moving from Quebec to Ontario at 18 to start a new life. He was small for his age, making potential construction employers hesitate to hire him. In protest, he would say "Just give me a chance. I'm a hard worker." "Everyone is worthy", he told me. "You just have to believe in yourself."
My Grandfather passed away in 2009 during my second relapse with my eating disorder. While my Grandfather was an example of what happens when you relish in self worth, I was an example of what happens when you lack it. By the age of 21, I had suffered from a distended stomach, heart problems, kidney infections, dehydration (from abusing laxatives) and tooth decay. My lack of self worth had physically manifested.
While attempting to step out of my eating disorder's shadow, I fell in love with traveling and my camera. My camera's lens became a clear lens to view reality through. Starting in 2010, I travelled to 11 countries and 17 US states. I travelled with my Grandfather's boots in tow, something I kept after his death to remind me of his determination to both live and love life to the fullest. The boots have been with me throughout my recovery and I oddly get great comfort from them (as if the boots were my Grandfather himself). During this journey, I have realized, above all, that our moments of struggle enable us to better to appreciate our moments of triumph.
A journey late Autumn 2012, a long weekend, a breakaway from London to New York City. Really, it was just meant to be a celebration, a reason to go out and get your heels on.
Well with the mayhem that ensued, it will go down in History as Hell-oween, for it was Halloween, the very weekend Hurricane Sandy reared it’s ugly head above the people of Manhattan. The hurricane that had found its way up the East Coast over months had reached Manhattan with a fury, and now nature had its little dance.
Monday morning, Sandy made its way up from Staten Island to Times Square, on the streets with a photographer’s curiosity, the pursuit of unusually dressed people to stare at, was replaced by an innate need to capture. A woman protecting herself from the rain in what was a tropically hot city only a matter of days ago, and was now wet with an apocalyptic sense of doom and gloom. But along with this there was a sense of beauty, the beauty of the unknown and the unpredictability of life.
Offering opportunities of the unspoken, taunting you with the new and unexpected. There can be an uncertainty of where traveling will take you. Although you once believed that you had set the destination. What is not on your traveling itinerary is the internal discovery with through the experience, making the journey itself a worthy destination.