Dusting off my lenses as I pack up my suitcase for a (very, very long overdue) trip has me feeling all the feels.
Aside from the images it has created, simply holding this little 3 pound black Nikon with its red aztec strap, floods me with memories that bring butterflies into my belly. I bought this camera nearly a decade ago, my first big purchase ever, right after graduating from high school. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. A little bit insecure and a lot confused, I was a girl who truly understood nothing about myself or the world I lived in. I was certainly lost but with that came a burning desire inside of me to get out of my small Ohio hometown to try to find my way.
My high school friends and peers booked their college courses, paid for tuition, unpacked their dorm rooms and buried their faces into overpriced text books and booze. They studied with their roommates and spent all of their free time getting to know their new friends.
I, on the other hand, booked a few flights, paid for my passport renewal, packed up my suitcase and buried my face into the viewfinder on the back of my new toy. (Ok, so there was booze too. But can I just say that sipping Guinness and fizzy Bulmer's at the pub in Ireland is a bit more reputable than frat house jungle juice and Natty Light.)
I didn't just choose to leave everyone and everything I knew to travel solo, I needed to. I needed to immerse myself into an entirely new environment and take time to study different cultures and languages. I needed to take time to expand my independence and most importantly rekindle my friendship with, well - my self.
"Don't you get scared and lonely going to these new places all alone?" I would often get asked by family and friends back home. The answer was no. No, because I was in the exact company I needed at that time of my life.
Just me, myself and...my camera.
My camera was the one and only companion I wanted to have join me. Every flight, every train and bus ride, she was there sitting in my lap. Through every new city I wandered, cobble stone street or dirt path I crossed, she was there, holding my hand along the way. She was the shield, hanging around my neck, that hinted at the mission I was on. It was a shield that protected the introversion I so badly needed during those few years of self discovery. Holding the camera in front of my face politely told strangers and new acquaintances, "This girl has a purpose right now. So please don't disturb. And please don't be offended by her anti-socialization."
My Nikon, she was the supportive friend who didn't talk back, didn't try to influence me, didn't judge the path I was walking down. Instead, she sat close quietly and listened. She encouraged me to zoom in closer and look past the surface level of things. She stayed patient and allowed me the time it took to analyze all that I viewed through her lens. She was my own personal art therapist, urging me to use creative expression to unveil my truth. She comforted me on every journey while I navigated life exactly as I needed to.
Through her lens, I didn't overlook the small things that I might otherwise have. I could fade away behind her, and observe the beaming sun flare hitting the horizon like magic, invisible to my human eye. I grew a new appreciation for the simple beauty of hand holding, gentle shoulder touches, forehead kisses and expressions of love between humans as I watched from a distance, in awe through my 200mm. Sometimes, I focused my macro lens towards the dirt where I could witness the strength and resilience of teeny tiny ants hauling leaves and earth particles on their backs while colony building. That is bad ass and the beauty of the world, my god, is effervescent.
This camera was without a doubt, the paramount tool that sharpened my fuzzy, confused world into clear focus. Through discovering the world, I discovered myself.
I couldn't always put my new experiences into words, but I could frame them into snapshots that both made sense and looked beautiful to me. I suddenly had thousands of photographs that translated my perceptions into tangible forms of self expression.
My photos became the way I could communicate clearly, to myself and others, all that I was seeing, doing and feeling. The photos I make reflect the way my mind works and the way in which my eyes see.
Looking at my photos always transports me right back to the emotional connections I felt with each place I went and each moment I partook. But holding my camera (the real OG) in my hands reminds me of how far I have come in the past 8 years.
Those years of travel shaped me into a strong and confident human being with a clear understanding of my place in this world. I have since settled into a comfortable life in New York City, where the time seems to slip away faster than anywhere else I've ever been. It has somehow been two years since I have traveled abroad and I am only now realizing that I have pretty much abandoned my dearest companion all this time. Maybe it is because I have been too busy and uninspired by my day-to-day routine. Or maybe, just maybe, it is because I simply haven't needed her in the desperate way I used to. And that kind of makes me want to cry big, fat, happy tears.
But today, I am finally dusting off my old friend. She still has sand stuck behind her lens cap from the beaches in Bali, Honduras, and Spain. She has dents and scratches along her sides from the Grand Canyon rocks and Australian cliff edges that I used as makeshift tripods. She even still has a few sticky spots from the Italian wine and gelato I spilled on her.
Unlike 8 years ago, this time I am not travelling because I need to figure out who I am (I am ever changing) nor because I have forgotten my place in this world (it's everywhere). This trip is simply because the world is beautiful and exploring it has become an essential part of who I am.
I feel much different now than I did 8 years ago, but my camera, she will always feel the same to me. Next week, we will break our 2 year travel hiatus and I so can't wait to see what magic she pulls out of me. I might need to invest in a body warmer for her though, as we are on route to: ICELAND!
For the first time, we won't be alone - we will be sharing the journey and trekking along with two of our loveliest friends. I hope you are ready, Danielle and Laura!
Has anyone else felt this sort of companionship with their camera? Certainly I can't be the only one having this small love affair.
Also - I am so, so excited to visit the Nordics for the first time. Have any of you been to Iceland? The fresh air, bubbling hot springs, ice caves, geysers and Northern Lights await!
Stay tuned for my trip recap once I return!