September 6

11 comments

It’s Not About Success, by Anne McKinnell

By Dan

September 6, 2011

Today, a guest post from Emerging Pro columnist Anne McKinnell, who is currently enjoying an extended road trip away from “real life.”

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During my 17 years of self-employment, I always organized my work so that I could take a month off every summer. I renewed my interest in photography a few years ago and noticed that some of my best images were made during these vacations when I had time to experience new places, find inspiration, and experiment with new techniques.  It’s just not the same when you only have a day on the weekend to create your masterpiece.

When I started planning my career switch into photography, it was hard to take people’s advice to keep my day job. I know it is tough making a living in photography. But I also know that, for me, doing it part-time would not equate to giving it my best shot.  To give this a fair shake it needs my full attention.

So I decided to take a risk. I sold my house in Victoria, BC, took half of the money and put it away for the future, and I’m spending the other half taking a year-long travelling adventure with the goal of photographing as many national parks and beautiful places in North America as I possibly can.

I get different reactions when I tell this story around the campgrounds: all the older people tell me I am wise to take this adventure when I am young while I still can; all the young people look at my like I have two heads and ask me what I’ll do when I get back.

I think the older people understand something that most younger people do not: it’s not about money or success, it’s about enjoying your life, and if you wait until retirement you might not get to do it at all.  There is more to life than money and owning stuff.

So many times I have looked back and wondered where the last year went. Often I would have memories of that month long vacation, a few boating trips, and some visits with the family. All in all I could account for about 2 out of the 12 months being memorable. The rest of it sped by.

So far, in my new life, I have been travelling for 3 months. It seems like a lifetime ago that I lived in my house in Victoria. I have made so many new memories since then. People say time flies when you are having fun, but it seems to be the opposite for me. Years fly by when I’m wasting them doing the same thing day after day. When I’m making new memories, time slows down. Now I am inspired, I have time to imagine new creative ways of expressing myself, I have time to experiment and play.  Now I’m living!

If you want to make a similar change in your life, I have one valuable piece of advice for you that has been the key to the whole thing. Without it there would be no adventure. No Debt. Debt is the one thing that keeps you tied down and prevents you from making choices. Start paying off your debt. Stuff doesn’t matter, sell your stuff, it owns you. When you have no debt you are free.

You don’t need to have a ton of money saved up to travel or to quit your day job to pursue your dream. You can afford it as long as you have no debt. Many people have found ways of travelling or making other life changes with no savings at all. And with a little time on your hands to think, I have no doubt you will find your own creative methods of accomplishing what you really want.

I don’t know if I’ll be successful in my career switch, but now I understand that it isn’t about success.

Take risks:  if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.  ~Author Unknown

To find out more about Anne’s journey, follow her adventures on her blog: http://blog.amckinnell.com

About the author

Hi, I'm Dan Bailey, a 20+ year pro outdoor and adventure photographer, and official FUJIFILM X-Photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.


As a top rated blogger and author my goal is to help you become a better, more confident and competent photographer, so that you can have as much fun and creative enjoyment as I do.


  • Good for you for taking the chance Anne. It’s too easy to pass on the great opportunities that really define your life (and work). I’ve really enjoyed following your travels and clearly you are a richer person for having taken the leap.

  • Anne, you know how I feel about this philosophy – I’m right behind you – maybe by a couple of years – but this is also a direction we’re heading whenever all the pieces fit together. It will be great to be able to see more of the world but almost as good will be liberating ourselves from “stuff”. I’m very excited for you and your husband and I look forward to hearing more about your adventures (and the more mundane as well)! You summed it all up well in your article.

    Ken

  • Hi Anne,
    Funny reading this. Just after our son was born, I suggested we think of selling and use the money to travel. We didn’t. Now we’re in negative equity in a depressed market. I totally agree that debt is absolutely keeping me doing things just to feed it.

    Fair play to you.
    Sean

  • You are so right: life is a collection of experiences and memories – owning stuff won’t give you the intense experience that you get by travelling and exploring the world.

  • Thank you everyone for all your kind comments and words of support. It’s good to hear that the article resonated with people and may have even inspired some to take their own leap and formulate escape plans!

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    Terry Bourk

    I have read you new book “Behind the Landscape.” I could not “put it down” meaning that I kept at it because each photo you presented/analyzed was interesting and informative. I am trying to develop an eye for composition (both the scene and the light).

    Thank you! The examples you present and the suggestions are very helpful. Purple Mountains, McKinley River and Wonder Lake are fascinating.


    Roger Sinclair

    You have done it again! Another triumph.

    Your generosity to share, the clarity of thought and concise explanation thereof is brilliant. Perhaps I should also mention the beautiful photos and the talent necessary to produce them.

    Thank you, Dan.