Yellowstone // Life Lessons & Surviving Bear Country!

For any of us who run businesses, it's a lot of work. In fact, it's pretty much all-consuming work, which we are so gosh-darn-passionate about, that we literally love to work. It eventually becomes our lifestyle, and I've always said that, for me, being a photographer, isn't just my job or career, it is my lifestyle. However, there is a fine line between being a work-a-holic and working-harder-and-smarter, which in my book means setting goals, along with limits.

This past summer has been all about finding a balance and a pace that works for me, yet doesn't compromise any of my friendships, relationships or simply the want to do things that I've pushed aside for years! It's been a summer filled with block parties, concerts, bike rides, good food, cabins, friends, and I have honestly had one of the best summers of my life! Yet, there was one thing that was 'on my list' that I've been talking about and it was time for it to happen...I wanted to go camping.

Being gone for a week in September was a little nerve racking for me! It's prime time for everything right now, but I carved out the time, loaded up the car and made the trek to Yellowstone. I had never been to Yellowstone before, but I've always heard nothing but great, fun, adventurous stories from people who have been! My experience was absolutely amazing, but there were two specific things that I did that truly challenged me...

1 - I climbed a mountain. Yep, a straight-up-legit-mountain. To be perfectly honest, it was the most physically demanding thing I've ever done in my life, but also the most mentally challenging, to go along with it! This climb was nothing but vertical, all the way up to 10,000 feet. Just when I thought I had reached the top, there was a whole other ridge to climb and a new terrain to face. The air was thin, and I couldn't look behind me, because I would get so dizzy looking down - we were so high up! All of us have heard those metaphors of 'Life is full of Mountains and Valleys' or 'It takes baby steps to reach your goals', and all I could think of while my heart-was-pounding, I'm trying to control my breathing and I'm literally using ALL of my strength to simply put one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, was "Whatever mother-fucker came up with those phrases was SOOOOOOO right!"

Reaching the top of the mountain was amazing. It was totally worth all of the struggle, physical pain and almost-puking. There was such a sense of accomplishment and pride that I had completed this nearly-impossible task! On the descent, I couldn't help but relate this to business and life, as cheezy as it sounds, all of those metaphors are true. Nothing good has ever come easy, it's always been hard, constant work, but every time another level is reached, it's a small (or big!) victory, and those should be celebrated!

2 - I survived bear country! Now, for those of you who haven't been to Yellowstone, there are signs EVERYWHERE that are pretty much saying "Be prepared to be eaten by a bear at any moment!" Now, of course, I'm exaggerating, but only a little bit! When it came time to hike into the back country, this is all intensified. All of a sudden, there are zero people. All of a sudden, you are surrounded by big trees that - at any moment - a bear could jump out and eat you. Nothing is for certain in the back country, you're risking everything - and you're also a walking target with food strapped to your back! In my mind, there were two possible outcomes on this part of the trip - We make it out alive or accept death-by-bear, these are two very big extremes and clearly, I was pretty nervous!

Yet, I wanted to camp in the back country, this was my choice and I loved the adventure - I was just totally on edge for the entire time! It was very clear that I had entered a big world of unknowns. I felt vulnerable and nervous, I was always checking my back to make sure nothing would sneak up on me - it was uncomfortable! I also felt very small.

I'm happy to report that I never even saw a bear, after all of that worrying, and once again, there was a giant lesson to be learned from that experience, for me. I was proud of surviving (I know, it's very dramatic sounding, but hang in there with me.) I had put myself in a very uncomfortable situation - yes, it was one that I wanted to be in, but never-the-less, it was incredibly scary! I've said this before, but my whole take on fear is to lean into it. Step right on in and 9 times out of 10, it's really not as rough as I think it's going to be. When it comes to life, love and business (because clearly, those are the only major areas of our lives, right?), it's only us who can move ourselves forward. In the world of photography, there are many things that I'm re-structuring, re-thinking, and re-prioritizing and change is good, but change is also unknown, a little bit scary, but ultimately, a very thrilling and exciting adventure!

This camping trip for me ended up to be greater than I ever imagined! I was challenged, I was pushed, I was enlightened and I grew. I chose to share all of the images below in black and white, for no particular reason except for they inspired me more this way.

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I hope you enjoy!


FYI...tomorrow I'll be sharing some fun images from my iphone, stay tuned!