The countdown is on…April 1, 2015 is when I will begin my year-long journey around the world, taking me to wherever my heart and camera desires (finances permitting!)
When that time comes, it will have been just over 4 years in the making. In late 2010, I took a giant leap of faith and signed up for a “deferred leave plan” that is available through my employer, which is basically a forced savings plan. This allows me to take a year off and have my position secured for when I return.
Let me tell you, it was a nerve-racking decision to sign up for this plan, as I didn’t know if I could afford the salary deductions, while still paying for my house and the overall high cost of living in the Northwest Territories (Canada’s western Arctic). In fact, I kept the email exchange between me and my boss from when I notified him that there was a “certain form in his inbox for him to sign,” which was basically me signing away a chunk of my salary for 4 years. His response was: “are you sure”? I remember clear as day, walking down the sidewalk as I typed the following response in my phone:
—–Original Message —–
From: Tawna Brown
Sent: Thursday, October 07, 2010 04:11 PM
To: (my boss)
Subject: Re: Envelope in your Inbox
It’s a tough, really, really tough decision, as it is a big pay cut and I do not have a dual income household. But something inside keeps telling me to do this, so I will just have to adjust my life accordingly, start looking for change on the ground, use grocery coupons, buy stuff only when it’s on sale, look for bottles and cans along the highway and bring them into the recycle depot. Maybe my photography will help me out! Who knows…
Oh! I just picked up a penny on the sidewalk!! A lucky one I bet!
I kept that email as a reminder of a time in my life where I put my hands firmly on the helm and steered my life into the direction it was meant to go. Deep down inside I knew that it was the right decision and that things would work out.
Just over three years have passed already, and while I think about my upcoming year off every single day, I am so incredibly far from being ready for this adventure. While many people think there is a lot of time for planning and preparation, I don’t think they have any idea of what is involved.
It is one year until I am “free as a bird”, and there are numerous questions that need to be thought about and answered. Some of these questions are:
- where am I going and when?
- what do I want to do?
- what is the purpose of my year off? What do I want to accomplish?
- what will the ideal suitcase be (can’t be a backpack, as I’ll have a camera backpack)
- what will I bring in my suitcase?
- who will I forward my mail to?
- what kind of insurance do I need (for house, for car, for health, for my belongings?)
As a photographer, there is another set of questions (related to photography) that I will need to answer, some of which include:
- what is the ideal photography backpack?
- what should be in my camera gear “kit”? Do I take it all?
- what is the ideal back-up system for my images and how does this all work? (I am particularly challenged in this department!)
- and numerous questions related to photography techniques and post-processing.
As a travel photographer, I want to be prepared to see the world and be able to capture what I see and how I see it. This will require a high level of control and familiarity with my camera gear, as well as a good grasp of different photography and post-processing techniques. I’ve put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to learn all kinds of things prior to my departure, and instead of my list getting shorter, it is getting much longer as I discover new things I want to learn about.
I am a planner; this is in my nature. I can’t just sit back and relax and take things as they come (well maybe once in awhile, but I’m not particularly skilled at this). I am a sponge for travel and photography-related information; particularly from people who have been down this road/journey/path before. I welcome you to share any tips, ideas, or general comments you may have.
For now, let me ask you two questions (really it’s 3 questions):
- If you were to travel around the world for a year, which 5-10 essential items (non-photography) would you bring along in your suitcase?
- If you had a year to travel, where would you go and why?
I look forward to hearing from you.
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