Adventure is Out There

In Craft & Vision, e-books, Emily and I, Jessie and I, Life Is Short, News & Stuff, Pep Talks, Vision Is Better by David50 Comments

Emily, just back from the final trip to the outfitters and ready for February.

A friend once told me to watch the Pixar movie UP. Aside from the fact that I was crying like a little girl within the first 10 minutes (be warned), there was something about it that resonated powerfully with me. Part of that was the exploration of the idea of adventure. The phrase “Adventure is Out There!” is sounded often in the movie, like an anthem, and while that adventure generally refers to the journey of the unlikely heroes to Paradise Falls, South America, it’s also clear that, for at least one of the characters, the greatest adventure was love. It’s touching, and it should be no surprise to anyone the comes here once in a while that I’ve come close to having Adventure is Out There tattooed over my heart.

In February, a year after I started the adventure that went wildly off the rails, I’ll resume my road-trip, but it is not a resumption of the adventure; the adventure never stopped. No adventure ever goes to plan, and if it was adventure I wanted when I set out in my ’93 Land Rover Defender, JESSIE, it’s adventure I got. I made photographs in the rain all the way down the Oregon coast with my friend Dave Delnea, until he got into the Poison Oak, became so hideously deformed he was scaring children, and had to leave the country. I photographed and camped in Death Valley with my best friend and manager, Corwin, and then through Monument Valley and Zion, and into New Mexico, camping the whole way, and photographing as we went. I drove to the Gulf of Mexico. Spent time in New Orleans. Hung out with friends in Atlanta. I flew to Italy and fell in love. I also fell off a wall and shattered my feet. I came home and crawled my way through healing until my bones mended and I went to rehab. And then a couple days after they let me go home I jumped a plane for Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, where, among other things, I joined 8 new friends as we floated down the Mekong River in a long-boat. And then there was Oaxaca, and Roatan, and then Antarctica. So much of it was unexpected, so much didn’t go to plan. And all of it was gloriously life-giving. And as strange as it sounds, I truly wouldn’t change a thing. This has been one of the most extraordinary years of my life.

I don’t want it to end. Being nomadic is teaching me so much, and while I’ve been sojourning at my family home for the last few months, and while I learned to walk again, I got more time with my family than I’ve had in 20 years. You can see why the idea of returning to so-called normal doesn’t really appeal. So on February 01, I return from travels in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, and pack EMILY (above. I’ll do a Jeep-geek post some other time) and head out.

Adventure is out there, but it’s also in here. It’s an inner game. What separates adventure from the mundane is an openness to the unexpected and a willingness to embrace it, laugh your way through it when you aren’t gritting your teeth, and learn from it. It’s not a freedom from fear, it’s an unwillingness to let it have even one day of your already beautiful, short, fragile, one-of-a-kind life. It’s being present, 100% in your art, your relationships, the way you raise your children, and the way you open your heart to strangers. You can do that from a hospital bed, unable to move, and you can do that from the base camp of Everest. It’s a choice, a posture of the mind and heart. It is not the exclusive domain of the privileged, the healthy, or the strong. It is for all of us that, if you’ll pardon the worn cliche, are willing to hear the music and have the courage to dance without shame.

Tonight we launch Vision Is Better 2, the follow-up of the first one of the same name. It’s 44 essays, almost all previously published here on this blog, about the photographic life and craft. It includes much of my own adventure from this year and lessons learned. And it includes a couple un-published essays. Essentially it’s a sweet re-design of the best blog posts from the last year, available in one place, off-line, and always available. It’ll be available right here on the blog, with discounts as usual during the first week after launch. Whether you chose to buy the book, or not, thanks to you all for being part of this amazing adventure. Some of you were with me, in this blog, Twitter, and FB, through my darkest times, and made them lighter. Some of you were with me in Italy when I fell, in Laos when I made my first scared steps back to traveling, or in Antarctica as I experienced what it feels like to create work I love for the first time in a long while. Thank you so, so much. You remain my fans, friends, and family, but more than that you remain, in the most sincerest terms, my heroes. Thank you.




  1. Pingback: » Adventure is Out There GenTair : todays News and tends

  2. Oh.My.God. It’s called Poutine?!? For real?!? Yikes! You crazy Canadian! Powdered gravy? Sacrilegious!

  3. Author

    @jeffrey chapman and @Melissa Reed – You can say anything you like on this blog but I will NOT have you trash-talking poutine! Poutine is a noble food that has kept many a Canadian cardiologist in business for generations! Not to mention the folks making the powdered gravy and the fine men and women who’ve earned a decent living making Pepto Bismol, charcoal, and stomach pumps! Consider yourselves warned. I’m going out to get some poutine!

  4. Oh boy, Jeffrey, good points! Although you know what they say, sometimes these experiences are just as traumatic, if not more for the friends and family of the patient, not the patient themselves! While David lay crumpled at the bottom of the wall, how traumatic for you as well – watching what he was going through! That kind of thing stays with you – going through my brother’s accident changed me in many ways and I will never get those images out of my head. And while I had a 2 level spinal fusion in May, it was hell, but it was also hell for my friends and family that had to watch me go through that and help me! ๐Ÿ™‚ David is lucky to have such great friends – I know I wouldn’t touch ” fries with curds and gravy” with a 10 foot pole!
    It is true though, when you go through a recovery period, it allows for a period of introspection. It makes you slow down and re-evaluate some things – especially when you aren’t able to do the things you take for granted every day, like picking up your laptop or pouring a glass of milk for your kid. It’s humbling, especially to rely on others for your basic needs! So I know 2011 was a very introspective year for me. It was a LONG year, and while I wouldn’t change my experiences either, I can’t wait for 2012, a fresh new year, and fresh new adventures!

  5. Great post, so great to see and hear you doing so well so shortly, (Iโ€™m sure it was forever for you) after your great mis-adventure.

    Go get umโ€™ tiger and keep those beautiful, heartfelt images coming, they are what capture me and keep me coming back for more, in your books, ebooks and blog!

  6. So love this post, David! Adventure is out there, but we only see, feel, live it when adventure is within us. I also believe it’s a choice. One that everyone can make, in every circumstance.
    So looking forward to your next adventures out there. And also to the adventures within ๐Ÿ™‚ Love the way you share your story and let us be part of your life! Thank you for inspiring the adventure in all of us! xo

  7. David, even though I never posted a comment, I’m reading your blog for over a year now and follow your adventures !
    I have watched the movie “up” and cried like a kid as well. The only problem was to explain to the other kids around me at the cinema why I was crying so much ๐Ÿ™‚ I let you imagine…
    It touched my heart because it’s so true and in a way so difficult to achieve, to give up the “secured” to live the adventure out there before it’s too late….I have a deep respect for all the people that find the strength to do it and therefore for you. I hope you will find what you are looking for and can’t wait for February to follow you & Emily for the adventure out there ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. David – thanks for including us on your journey. your attitude and vision are inspirational. I’m looking forward to the adventures of the next 12 months.


  9. Thank YOU, David! Your life and words are inspiring to me! Have a great Christmas and New years and great time with your loved ones until you travel again! Thank you for taking us with you! :c)

  10. Your courage is inspiring…your vision is amazing. I’m grateful for a friend pointing me in the direction of your blog over a year and a half ago. Thank you for taking me places I have never seen and for moments I would have never experienced.

  11. Always inspirational David. 2012 here we come!

    There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
    – Jawaharlal Nehru

  12. Thanks for your kind words David. I’m so glad you’re feeling so good after these testing times. As said by others you’re our hero too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. I’m so glad to see that you are getting your mojo back David … as Jeffrey says watching you “hike” up and down to that waterfall in Laos was inspiring … but seeing you looking up at the mahouts and elephants who wouldn’t take you up to the temple/sunset/storm on top of Phnom Bakbeng was frustrating for all … so hopefully it won’t be long before I can collect that beer for my panning shot of the live pigs on the back of the moving motorcycle
    from a moving van … maybe next time your peripatetic soul brings you back to Vancouver … good luck with this months “retreading” ….

  14. David,

    My inbox this morning contained, as it does daily, my message for the day: “Home is not where you live, but where you are accepted.” Obviously the world embraced you with open arms; has become your home. And has become a better place in the process. You’ve become the adventure. Not an easy thing to do. I follow the exploits of a number of photographers as I’m sure most everyone who reads your blog does. Unlike them, you seem to have slipped beyond the confines of mere photography, good as you are at it. If you’re not careful you’ll soon become Nicholas Kristoff with camera.

    Looking forward to the book. Hoping it will lend a guiding hand when my next venture starts up in spring.


  15. At first – TL;DR, but after w second there – you, as always, made my day with yet another inspiring post. Thank you. It’s nice to have people like you writing their blogs and sharing their life the way that makes me wanna’ work on my own life. Can’t wait to read the Jeep-geek post. Also, requesting a post about 10-15 things you just can’t imagine your trip without. But not talking about the camera and stuff here!
    Best wishes and early “Merry Christmas!” from Poland. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. I don’t know why (well, really I do), but you almost always make me cry. You are so inspiring and you touch so many many hearts with what you are so willing to share with us. Thank you for that!

  17. Great reminders – thank you.
    I’d say your incredible year is *not* ending, but in some ways, just beginning. And in others, continuing, an endless spiral, the view slightly different each time around.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  18. Adventure is indeed out there and you are the epitome of that mantra! As Jeremy says you have been an inspiration to many this year and your thoughtful and heartfelt posts always resonate with something in me. Adventure is out there. I just need to go hunting! (writing this while on my own mini adventure – albeit with work! – with 2 weeks in Malaysia followed by 3 in Australia, yea baby!)

  19. “Adventure is.. also in here.”

    And, so is grace, my friend. Thank you for unflinchingly sharing your year with all of us.

  20. i was talking about UP this weekend, discussing family plans with my husband, putting off a travel vacation off in order to meet a financial obligation. told him about the piggy bank “For Paradise Falls” getting broken again and again, and said, we are GOING to TAKE THIS TRIP — together, just not today…. I hope that I get a chance to meet you on this tour or another. I love the stories and the images you bring us.

  21. “โ€ฆwouldnโ€™t change a thingโ€ฆ”

    Um, while it was one of the high points of the year to watch you manage to hike up to that waterfall in Laos, I would most definitely change that view I had of you in Pisa when looking over that wall at you prostrate on the cement below. Perhaps even worse was watching you crawl on your hands and knees in Ottawa. And then you made me eat those disgusting fries with curds and gravy (I really hope that crap is some joke you Canadians play on us south of the borderers). I can’t wait to get you back to Italy and remind you how one can eat โ€” and well.

    Adventure isn’t out there; it’s in us. And it’s in you my friend. Beaten and broken, it’s always in you. You’ve been an inspiration to many this year. And I finally got to ride in an ambulance with the siren blaring. But we still need to get you arrested!

    See you in a couple of weeks in Ethiopia. Then Kenya. Then Zanzibar. I can’t wait!

  22. “Adventure is here!” How true, but elusive. Great post David, and glad you’ve been able to share what true adventure can be if we just go, or stay, and get it! Safe travels!

  23. I loved UP too – I understand the bit about the first ten minutes. Is it wrong that I find the flag decals so cool?

  24. What a beautiful post David. Have fun on your adventures. I think I’m excited as you are because I always feel that I’m tagging along. One of these days (mark my words) I will tag along for real on one of your workshops.

  25. Adventure is out there, and it looks different for each of us. I’ll have to live vicariously through your actual adventures for the time being ๐Ÿ™‚
    I like the name for your new Jeep, of course I did use the same name for my daughter, so I am a bit partial to it.
    Happy Trails!

  26. UP is a special movie… I watched it for the first time just few months after my father had died. Can you imagine how much I cried?
    And I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this post. A true inspiration for all of us, your fans. Thanks for sharing all of this! I can’t wait for more adventures!!
    And if, one day, you decide to come to Brazil, PLEASE let us know!!!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  27. David, It’s so good to hear you so well. Now nothing can ever take your freedom–or your adventure–away from you. And that’s something to cheer about. Come to San Francisco/Oakland, please.

  28. My eyes are brimming with happy tears! I have not had the experience of coming back from an accident like yours, but I have felt the joy from truly being able to see new places and meeting new people. I have looked up into the sky in Florence and just gasped at the incredible beauty. There is something glorious about Italy that makes me miss it terribly, more than any other place in the world. The colors are different. I am different there. It’s hard to put it into words.. And I had forgotten that feeling until just now when I read this post. Thank you for expressing the simple gratitude that you have for your experiences. For the giddiness that comes from “eyes wide open”. )(With or without a camera!) It’s hard to explain the feeling inside when words can often come up short.
    And please come visit Chris O. in Santa Barbara! It would be nice to meet you!! Cheers and Happy Holidays!

  29. Amen brother! Looking forward to the day we can reconnect and share love of adventures out there & within.

  30. Well, didn’t that just land in my inbox at the perfect moment!

    David, let me just say, I am so happy for you…I am grinning from ear to ear reading this post.

    AND you need to know that I am eternally grateful to YOU, for your response to my post on your facebook profile…almost one year ago.

    My life hasn’t been the same since… buying your lens, packing up last minute for an unforgettable adventure in Kenya…all the people I’ve met since that time here and on the Twitter community, and the adventures just keep getting better and better.

    There is a wonderful, reciprocal, energy you have going in this community on your blog…and life for me has been so blessed and all the better for it.

    Here’s to adventure! Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. have only seen it once- but love the slogan of that movie.

    my adventure starts in january- i am packing up and moving to california. grad school is on hold for the moment, but ready for new adventures.

  32. As I am enjoying my own nomadic adventure, I have also been enjoying following yours. That part about the wall in Italy was scary but also inspiration to me in how you kept your attitude and outlook on life during the ordeal.

    And you are not alone in crying at the beginning of UP! I will never forget it. I had to stop the movie and look at the timer, I think it was at about 2 minutes and I was crying. It was the saddest thing I think I have ever seen. But amazing to me how going through that difficulty turned into such an adventure. Good analogy for what you have been through!

    Adventure is out there. I love my new life and only hope I can find a way to keep it going. One year will not be enough.

    Thank you always for your continued inspiration David.

  33. Hey David, welcome back and as they say in Zulu – Hamba Kahle, which means go carefully or go well….I am so looking forward to reading your posts from your next adventure and I look forward to meeting you IRL when you return to Vancouver, so…as they say…Hamba Kahle – go well and enjoy your travels.

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