Why I ditched my comfort zone

posted in: California, Personal

I shot this selfie drone video (aka dronie) while camping in the Eastern Sierras with my wife to commemorate our one year anniversary of turning life upside down. I’ll tell you what I mean by that in a moment, but 2014 was easily one of the best years of my life. I hiked the dunes of White Sands National Monument, drove Highway 1 along the Big Sur Coast, stared up in awe at the largest tree in the world, photographed the sun set on Half Dome, toured Denali National Park by bicycle, and visited family I hadn’t seen in years. So far, 2015 is shaping up to be just as good.

I’m no self-help guru or blogger pundit who has allegedly “hacked life”, but maybe sharing my story will help and inspire someone out there with career burnout or an oppressive routine to consider other options. Life is precious and time is something you will never get back. Not pursuing your creative calling and squandering away your dreams is a tragic way to live.

It was a frigid night in February around 8:00 PM. Valentine’s Day to be exact. Instead of going out on the town for dinner and a movie like a lot of other couples were, my wife and I were heaving one last box of gear into our 25 foot Airstream and putting the truck into “drive”. We hadn’t planned on leaving so late that day, but pulling up our roots had proven to be a formidable challenge. After months of preparation and several late nights of hard work we couldn’t wait any longer to turn the page and begin this new chapter. Within a matter of months, I had resigned from my commercial photography job, rented out our house, put everything in storage, bought a used Airstream, installed a solar system on the roof and packed a shortlist of essential items that I would need for the next year to come. Maybe longer. I was becoming a full-time, road tripping, travel photographer in earnest. At the time it took a lot of gumption to alter my course. This was a massive lifestyle change and I was leaving behind a salaried paycheck with benefits and a safe predictable routine. What kept me going was a proverb that had always resonated with me. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

An Airstream trailer sits parked covered in snow and ice on a cold residential street in Denver, Colorado. (Seth K Hughes)

Everything was gravy... But somehow we still felt unfulfilled and unhappy.

Up til then, we had been living in a hip, victorian rowhome in one of the hottest neighborhoods in Denver. I had a cushy salaried job as senior photographer for a national sports and fitness retailer. My wife was busy working as a freelance writer and ostensibly we had the American dream dialed. Everything was gravy... But somehow we still felt unfulfilled and unhappy. Like we were short changing ourselves and wasting precious time. We eventually came to realize that what we needed was to feel alive, challenged and inspired again. We had saved for months and had enough in the bank to float us for several months until we figured out how to make a living on the road (that is an entire blog unto itself). It was a leap of faith but as I sit here typing this in a small cafe in rural Baja, Mexico, I can say it was absolutely worth it.

Images from the road

 (Seth K Hughes)

A woman walks up a sand dune during sunset at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. (Seth K Hughes)

Cyclists ride up Independence Pass near Aspen, Colorado. (Seth K Hughes)

Traffic flows through downtown Seattle as the city buildings begin to light up during the evening twilight. (Seth K Hughes)

A man stands on a rock at Marshall's Beach admiring the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. (Seth K Hughes)

The sun begins to rise on the horizon at Joshua Tree National Park. (Seth K Hughes)

A hiker and his dog stand next to the Mint Hut overlooking the Talkeetna Mountains near Hatcher Pass, Alaska. (Seth K Hughes)

Two cyclists tour the Denali National Park road on bicycle with Mt. McKinley towering in the distance. (Seth K Hughes)

A red truck enters Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Nabesna, Alaska with snow dusted mountains and autumn foliage covering the landscape. (Seth K Hughes)

A view of Crater Lake in the wintertime with freshly fallen snow around the caldera rim. (Seth K Hughes)

The Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park winds through the foggy Giant Forest in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. (Seth K Hughes)

Nighttime camping under the stars in a recreational vehicle at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. (Seth K Hughes)

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