There are many things that lure me to travel and keep the passion flaming inside to see more of God's beautiful green earth. I love the planning, the getting there, the road trips, the seeing remarkable things with my own eyes, the process of photographing them and the way it deepens my faith. But one thing I'm really growing to appreciate is the people I meet and see along the way.
I've always thought traveling outside the USA was the most exciting. I love all the Kiwis I've met in New Zealand with their hospitality, cute little accents and helpfulness as I navigate throughout their country. The language barrier in China and South Korea meant I had to observe rather than engage. But after some intensive road trips within my own beloved country, I'm finding that there are far more generous, kind and interesting people right here at home than I thought.
I love the folks who work in restaurants and convenient stores in towns that attract many thousands of people a year, yet they themselves haven't actually seen these places. It always astounds me when someone has lived somewhere for his entire life yet he hasn't made the hike down into the Grand Canyon to see Havasu Falls, for examples, and he doesn't seem particularly bothered by what he's missing. Yet he'll gladly give me helpful tips and tell me stories of what he's heard to make my experience better.
All the wonderful outdoor enthusiasts I encounter who appreciate God's creation share a special bond with those who embrace outdoor adventures as I do. There's a familiarity or a feeling of family when I'm in the middle of nowhere and some hardcore woman strikes up a conversation about the exciting things I'll see right around the corner. And hearing her story, which she entrusts to me as she shares, is a privilege bestowed upon those who appreciate the adventure as much as she does.
I've been impressed with the nature of many fellow photographers I've met and gotten to know along the way as well. My opinion is that many portrait photographers are quite territorial, but landscape and nature photogs seem more than willing to share their space. Perhaps because we work in the outdoors it's difficult to be sour, but whatever the reason I suppose we know that there's plenty of globe to go around so there's no need to be territorial.
At Horseshoe Bend last month, since I spend the entire day just lingering there, I took many pictures for many people. Busloads of tourists from China and Japan in particular came and went. But it was fun to be hiking up to the Delicate Arch feeling like I just wanted that hill to stop being so steep and hearing, "Hi, do you remember me from Horseshoe Bend?" And then having a talk with that family from China about all we've experienced and seen.
People watching and including them in my photos has become more a fixture in my journeys as well, as I notice that, as beautiful as places are, they don't mean much without people. To see a couple enjoying a sunset or a family experiencing their first ever glimpse of the Milky Way is really encouraging... "Yeah, they see it, too."
I guess what I'm trying to say in my feeble way is "thank you" to all the wonderful people I've been over the years, who've made my journeys such a pleasure. I can't wait to see who is on the horizon!