I saw a butterfly today while I was outside reading. I noticed many things about the butterfly:
- it had pale pastel yellow wings
- it was very small, about the size of a nickel
- it flew very quickly
- it likes to fly just above the cut grass
If I were to photograph the butterfly I would need a long lens because it was so small. It would probably have to be a macro lens so I could get in close. I would have to be very fast to catch up with it. The photo would be very pretty with the pale yellow and the bright green grasses. I also noticed that the palm leaves were rustling in the warm breeze. There were no other sounds.
I didn’t photograph the butterfly, but I would never have noticed all of those things about it had I not been on a new life mission to take notice of the beautiful things in the world and capture them in photographic images.
The other day I was walking across a crosswalk in a city and some impatient driver almost skinned the back of my heels as he passed behind me he was so anxious for me to get out of his way. Obviously I remember that happening because I just told you about it. But I don’t remember the colour of the car, whether it was a sports car or station wagon or even a truck. I didn’t take notice of the driver, maybe it was a woman, I don’t know. I probably noticed some of these things at the time, but I didn’t leave any space in my brain to remember these facts. I don’t need them. I’m trying to focus on the good things in the world.
This is how my life has changed focus over the last 6 months. Before I was always trying to finish the task at hand so I could get on to the next thing. I needed to finish my shower so I could start work, I needed to finish my spreadsheet so I could write that presentation, I needed to finish the presentation before lunch, I needed to eat lunch and walk my dog before my meeting. I sometimes wonder now if I ever completely focused on what I was doing rather than the notion of finishing what I was doing.
Now I live for the moment rather than for the next moment. I take time to enjoy the butterfly and think about its beauty. Photography is the tool I use to help me change my focus and see the beauty in the world. For me, the beautiful image I make is not the end product. The end product is the change in how I view the world and live my life. That is what all this is about.
Check out our travel map showing our route so far. You can click on it for a larger interactive version.
I don’t think that everyone needs to change their careers or live a life on the road – that is just the answer that worked for me. But I do believe that finding a method of focusing your attention on the good and beautiful things in the world can change everyone and I hope I can inspire some people to do that. Maybe you too will use photography as your tool, or maybe you will paint or write. The one point I will emphasize is that if you photograph or paint or write about what is wrong with the world that feeling will encompass you. I’m glad there are people out there doing it. There has to be someone to let the public know about injustices in the world so we can all pitch in to make a better world. We can all do things to promote peace, make a clean world, and protect the animals (notice I didn’t say end war, stop global warming and cruelty to animals). But if you are looking to become a happier person, that probably isn’t the right path for you. I needed to become a happier person and this is what has worked for me.
That doesn’t mean that I am always totally happy and my life is all tra-la-la now. I really need these tools and I have to work at it to bring happiness to my life. If I was one of those people who are inherently happy all the time, I would probably be a photojournalist trying to raise awareness of what is happening in Somalia. That’s just not who I am. I wish I was, but I’m not. I can’t change the chemical balance of my brain by wishing for it. But I can change the things I think about and how I focus my life and I think maybe that does change the chemical balance of my brain!
I know that changing my focus from finishing my spreadsheet to watching butterflies might make me poor. But it doesn’t feel that way. (Yet!) I’m a smart person. I think I can find a way to help inspire others to bring happiness into their lives and make a meager living at it at the same time.
I have very much enjoyed writing my blog posts and writing my first ebook was rewarding. It also felt right to give it away for free. This new world is about giving and sharing and I will find a way to make that work for me so I can keep bringing value and inspiration to you.
At first I thought I would only give the first book away for free and then start charging some nominal fee for the subsequent books. I still may end up doing that, but I am currently working on a different business model which, if it works, will enable me to keep making the books available for free to my readers.
Some of the books will be “how-to” books on photography because there are some things you need to know in order to make the beautiful photos. But some of them will be about changing the focus of your life, changing careers, and becoming a happier person.
For the people who are considering a nomadic lifestyle, I have some concrete information coming up tomorrow as I tally up the costs of the trip on the 6 month anniversary, analyze where the money is going, and see if I am going to hit my budget targets. It turns out that my spreadsheet skills are coming in handy.
By the way, if you didn’t get your copy of my free ebook “8 Types of Natural Light That Will Add Drama to Your Photographs” enter your email address below and I will send it to you. You will also get my monthly newsletter which contains excerpts of my most popular blog posts, my recent images, and free wallpapers.
Chris Plante says
So… what your saying is that the other side of the grass IS greener? I see that it has worked for you.
After a month of vacation travel I tend to miss being at home. I travel a lot for work so maybe that’s part of the reason. I am rarely at home. But also, sometimes, I get anxious to see my family and friends and tell them about what I saw, experiences I had, and who I met.
Anyways, my wife and I have a plan to tour North America in the same fashion as you someday. I now have the truck to do so. It’s a start. Now, gotta save the money and vacation time. 😉
This was a really great post. It’s been fun following your adventure. Thanks Anne.
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Chris! You know I am starting to think that when you take risks the grass really is greener! As far as travelling goes, I really like this RV thing! It does make a difference when your home comes with you. You have your own bed, your own shower, your own kitchen everywhere you go. My family says they feel like they are on the trip with me because they read the blog and we talk on Skype. On Christmas they will probably set up their ipad in my spot at the dinner table 🙂 haha. I’ll be like a hologram. Thanks for your comments Chris.
Russ Bishop says
Wonderful images and heart-felt thoughts Anne. I’ve enjoyed traveling with you these past months through your blog and look forward to all the adventures ahead. Thanks for sharing!
Anne McKinnell says
Thanks for always coming back to hear my stories Russ, I’m really glad that writing on the blog has allowed me to connect with people like you this way.
Anne thank you so much for this. The last 5 months have been really brutal for me personally, to the point that I am dreading 2012.
I needed this blog post today. Time to sit down and think about my life and what is still important to me…
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Heather, sorry to hear things have been tough for you lately. Spending some time thinking about what is really important to you is a good idea and will help make sure your life is going in the direction you want. I know that doesn’t make it any better now though, but it will help later! You might be surprised how easy it is to make changes.
Edith Levy says
Anne what a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing not only your adventure and your photos but your inner thoughts and feelings as well.
Anne McKinnell says
Thanks Edith, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Len Saltiel says
Wonderful post Anne. I am so glad that you have found something that has made you a more fulfilled and happier person. Some people will never find what makes them happy and it’s really nice to hear about someone who has. I hope your story is one that changes other people’s perspective.
It’s been really cool to follow your adventure and hope to continue to follow your wonderful travels and images.
Anne McKinnell says
Thanks Len, it’s sort of a two step thing: you first have to find what makes you happy, and second take a big risk in changing your whole life to follow it which is hard in our world that is so focussed on material things and living life in a certain manner. Breaking the rusty cage sure is freeing and once done you wonder why you ever stayed in the cage in the first place.
Robert Marleau says
I found your post so inspiring for this new year’s beginning thast I will post on my own blog. Thanks!
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Robert, thank you so much it makes me very happy that you found the post inspiring. That is becoming the most valuable and reaffirming thing for me – when people write to me and tell me I inspired them. I went to your photo website and I’m blown away by that photo of the waves!!! Outstanding image. I couldn’t find your blog though (and something tells me it’s going to be in french even if I do find it?). Leave me a link to your blog and I’ll visit it and see if I can pick out a few words 🙂 Thanks again for commenting.
I’m posting your blog tomorrow on my french site http://www.robertmarleau.com you can have a translator on the bottom…don’t worry to comment in english!
Your photos are gorgeous have à nice day