Last week I gave you the cost analysis of my year long trip around North America. Now it only makes sense to show you the other, much shinier, side of the coin: the benefit analysis.
Was it worth it? I don’t think I have ever met anyone who went travelling and, regardless of the amount of money they spent, ultimately regretted it. Not one person has ever said that to me. Of course it was worth it!
But since this is an analysis I’ve gathered what numbers I can drum up to share with you.
To re-state my goals of the trip, I wanted to experience and photograph as many national parks and other beautiful places as possible, improve my photography by getting lots of practice and, at the same time, build my photography audience.
I have these calluses on my hands that I never used to have and I’m starting to think it is actually from holding my camera! I took a total of 19,444 images which works out to about 55 images per day and 350 gigabytes of data.
I visited 19 National Parks including 4 in Canada and 15 in the USA. That is in addition to the countless national monuments, national recreation areas, national seashores and state parks I went to! I have visited many more national parks in the past – these are just the ones that were new on this trip. But still, there are so many more to see.
During this first year of being a full-time nomadic photographer I didn’t want to worry about making money so I decided to do everything for free in an effort to build my audience.
I wrote two photography ebooks during the trip and gave them away for free. 8 Types of Natural Light That Will Add Drama To Your Photographs was released in November, 2011 and Before The Shutter was released in March, 2012. Because they were free, it is impossible to know how many copies are out there in the world. They have been on many websites and lots of people emailed copies to their friends. But, as far as the ones I can account for, there have been 29,091 copies downloaded.
Here’s how the sources of the downloads break down:
My website: 8,911
Barnes & Noble: 3,143
It is worthy to note that only one of the books is on Amazon and it’s only been available for one month! So one ebook in one month on Amazon did better than both books on all the other distribution channels combined!!
In order to get the ebooks from my website, you have to sign up for my newsletter. That’s how I built my email list that I use to send out a monthly update about my travels, the most popular blog posts from the past month, new images and photo tips. I can also use that list to promote any future products I make.
Right now my email list contains 2,500 people. It is interesting that the ebooks downloaded from my site are around 4,500 for each book. So that means that lots of people were able to download without signing up. I am guessing that they probably got the download link emailed from a friend. Which is ok, I’m totally cool with that. The whole point was to spread the word.
Not that many people unsubscribed from the list. I calculated that 2% of the people will subscribe, download the ebooks, and then immediately unsubscribe. About 4% of the people unsubscribed eventually.
I also had a few publications during the year:
- my image of downtown Victoria at night was on the cover of Harbors Magazine, which is the in-flight magazine for Kenmore Air;
- my image of a sleeping sea lion was featured as a full page in a children’s book on urban animals called “City Critters”;
- my image of fishermen in silhouette appeared in an instructional photography book called “BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography”;
- and best of all I had an image featured in Canadian Geographic’s “Best Wild Weather Pictures of 2012” collectors edition magazine.
All of these publications were totally unsolicited. Each of them discovered my image somewhere and came to me.
As far as income goes, I sold about $800 worth of stock images. That is my only income during the year and I put no effort at all into selling the images. They were totally unsolicited.
Now that the big trip is over my focus is on making this lifestyle sustainable. In the future my travels will be much slower and cheaper. I won’t be driving 46,000 kilometers in a single year and going to 105 campsites. Staying longer in each location will mean cheaper camping and that, combined with less driving, will keep costs down. As far as income goes … well, I’ll just say that I’m really excited about some new projects I am working on! I hope to have to my next photography product out in September and this will be my first product that is for sale.
Next week I’ll have more details about how the risk I took to change my life affected me on a more personal level and what I learned about becoming a full-time nomad.
Michael Lawson says
While I haven’t had the luxury of time to write responses to your posts throughout your travels, I have followed you every step of the way. I wanted to say thanks for sharing your adventures, your photos, and really your life with us. I am looking forward to the next steps along your path from both a photography aspect as well as vicariously experiencing the nomadic life with you. The wrap up posts have been a real eye opener for me and were a great touch I thought. Not everyone shares that kind of info. Good luck with your future, I wish you the best.
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Michael, thank you so much for your wonderful comments! I’m so glad you enjoyed following along on my trip and my new life. It has been a true journey with lots of life lessons along the way. I’m so glad I took the risk. It was a scary thing to do but now my life is on a path that is better for me and I feel like it has so much more potential to be fulfilling. Sure, I might have less money, but I am more fulfilled. Now I am happy almost every day and that is probably about 90% more happy days than I used to have. I know not many people share their financial details and personal challenges, but I thought why not? It doesn’t hurt me in any way to share and I hope it might help others. I really appreciate your support along the way Michael, thank you.
Patricia Davidson says
Anne, This is all very exciting! Congrats on meeting your goals and the publications! I have a year in my future of similar travel goals but will go at a much slower pace. It’s always great and helpful to read your posts!
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Patricia, thank you very much! I am excited for you to hear about your travel plans. I too am planning on slower travel in the future. I think it gives you the time to really get to know a place and enjoy it more. You just need to travel for twice as long, that’s all 😉 I hope we get a chance to meet up in Bandon next time. I love it down there. But, as you know, not only was the weather bad but my dog was in his last days so it just wasn’t a good time for me. But I know we will go through there on our way down south in November so I hope we can meet up then.
Jon Lamrouex says
Looking forward to your next publication. Keep shooting and writing.
Anne McKinnell says
Thanks for the encouragement Jon!
Len Saltiel says
It is always nice to see someone take a risk and reach out for their dreams. I am sure that even if you didn’t get the response you wanted, you wouldn’t trade it for anything. Looking forward to seeing where you take your journey next.
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Len, you are absolutely right, even if I didn’t achieve my photography goals it was still the trip of a lifetime and it wouldn’t have stopped me from finding a way to become a nomad full time. If I can do it with photography that is an added bonus, but if I had to do other work there are lots of options for things one can do from anywhere in the world and still travel full time. Thank you so much for all of your support along the way. I have been enjoying seeing your photography journeys too!
Edith Levy says
Thank you Anne for a wonderful post. You may not know it but you really help fellow photographers by sharing this kind of information and for that I am truly grateful. Thank You! I for one loved both your ebooks and I re-read 8 Types of Natural Light before my Maine Trip. It’s a great resource.
Great going Anne, your trip really seems to have been a success on many levels and reading about it very enjoyable. Your photography is great, your writing is as well, and you have a real knack for inspiring others.
Your experience makes me think of some of the impediments that keep others from striking out in the same way…Here in the US we hear much about how the government needs to get out of the way so we can have the freedom to follow our own iniative. If you’re self-employed however that freedom includes nearly unaffordable or unobtainable health insurance with the ongoing threat of personal bankruptcy. It seems to me other systems such as in Canada are better for providing a secure base that allow its citizens to strike out in their own way such as you’ve done. Would you say that fits with your personal experience?
Adam Allegro says
Anne, I just want to express how awesome I think you are. People like you are the ones who are following their dream, paving the way for all of the rest of us. I will be a civilian in September after 11 years of military service… Packing up all my stuff, selling most of it, and backpacking around Asia for a year. After that, I will try and turn this in to a living. We will see… Anyways, just wanted to let you know you Rock! 🙂
Where or what system would you recommend for storing my images for safety but also for display and re-sale.
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Rangadang, if you are looking for a solution that includes all 3 things, storage, display and sale, I would check out photoshelter or smugmug. They are a bit pricey but there are not many solutions that encompass all three things.
James Ronan says
You have created a fan! You’re willingness not only to share photo, camping and location tips, but to discuss the financial aspect of your adventure(s) is to be commended. Image met many semi-pro, pro photographers over the years that believe to share is to lose out. I always found the opposite was true. Over the years I have combined my photo interest (mostly hobby with sporadic sales to magazines and stock) with local travel and enjoyed more local sites then most of the native born in each of the states and countries I have lived. Your beautiful photography, and engaging writing style is an inspiration. I signed up for the RV blog too. With our recent retirement I hope my wife Karen, Sydney ( our son/dog) will follow your foot steps. We have always said our goal was to visit all of the US and Canada’s National and state parks! I now realize I should have retired at 30, but it is never to late to move forward!
Anne McKinnell says
Hi James, thank you so much!! I’m glad you have been enjoying the blog. I think to succeed in business today, any business, requires a different way of thinking than it a decade ago. It used to be that everyone wanted to keep their trade secrets and to let anyone know things was creating a competitor. But today society fuels itself on information and you cannot succeed unless you share information because that is what everyone wants. That’s quite a goal trying to see all the national AND state parks! But a very worthy one 😉 Some of the state parks we saw in Utah and Nevada were just as nice if not nicer than the national parks. There are so many beautiful places. Thank you again for your kind comments.
samuel bennett says
anne: I have your ebooks, get your letter, and I am ashamed t say I have not followed as closely as I might have. You’re the reason, or part of it, for that. I have always been very uncomfortable with the box. So I didn’t have to think outside of it. I just had to say to myself, and all who thought I am a bit touched, it’s all a grand experiemnt in the end. Sure we live on a true financial edge. So how can you justify trying become a “photographer”? Well…Not being creative is like having a disease for me. Like air and water, is is a component of life’s breathing. And, there is a very positive side to not having money for this expensive hobby. You focus more on the creative and technical skills, and less on getting, or thinking, this or that piece of equipment will make me “better”. You have more time to do the craft since you are not bogged down with equipment, or decisions about what equipment one needs. Being a “hands on” person, I have made several pieces of gear for mere cents, where if bought new, only dollars, and lots of them get you what you need. I still have a long ways to go to approach the levels, you and others have reached. But finding your blog and hearing about your “nomadic” lifestyle, was a great kick in the ass to propel me to try. After all, if one doesn’t try, one never knows. Right?
As the I Ching says, “Perserverance furthers”.
Anne McKinnell says
That’s exactly right Sam. Who knows what you can do with your life? You might do something great and something original, but you have to take a risk first. I’m glad my risk can inspire others to take their own risks and at least have the possibility of achieving something great. Thanks for your visit and comments.