I found myself heading back down California Highway One last week. In a lot of ways this stretch of highway is where this path started for me. In early January of this year I found myself without pretty much everything I’d thought that I needed to keep myself alive and happy. I left my home in my little Honda and just drove, with no idea where I might be going or where I would end up.
I drove the familiar roads of Western Oregon in a daze, spending my days looking at the scenery and trying not to think too much. I distinctly remember the comfort that the ocean gave me, it was the most solid and consistent thing in the world and I had a almost physical need to stay close to it and anchored to myself.
I spent all month driving down the coast from Bellingham, Washington to Los Angeles, California. Eventually I started to feel the sun on my face and was able to begin forming thoughts about who I had become and how that had taken everything I wanted away from me. In a lot of ways I had taken my previous personal successes and built them into a wall of brittle confidence I thought would carry me through whatever the world could throw at me, I was gravely mistaken.
It took me a while, but I was eventually able to just look up at the world around me. I started to ask myself what I could do, what I was good at. I knew that I could take care of myself, I knew that I loved being outdoors. I remember driving down The Avenue of the Gods in Northern California and realizing that maybe this was a new chance for me to define myself.
I’ve always dreamed of living the life of travel, it seems so luxurious and fulfilling. I’ve never much been one for the fancy life, I could never afford it and honestly it just doesn’t do much for me. I don’t see why I would want to pay hundreds of dollars a night to stay in some room when there are stars to sleep under.
More than that I’ve always dreamed of being a photographer. I built a life and business around being close to and involved in the arts. As much as I loved my previous life and all the personal triumphs that it had brought to me, the nature of the work and lifestyle really kept me from having the time I needed to focus on photography.
When I first hit Big Sur, California this January I could feel my entire focus begin to shift. I realized that I had nowhere to go and that I didn’t need a destination. There were days that I spent reading comics and napping next to the ocean because that was where I was supposed to be. I began to realize that there is no greater joy for me then watching the rain fall into the ocean, or the clouds settling into the tree tops.
I just decided to stay in Big Sur until I felt that it was time for something else, which ended up being about eight days. I spent my afternoons sitting high in the hills overlooking the ocean watching for whales and my nights photographing the starts and trying to become comfortable in my skin again. It was in Big Sur that I really became comfortable with the idea that my life could have new value, and that I am not a culmination of my mistakes.
I live this life for all the people that I’ve failed. I live this life for all of my friends and the people I meet. Mostly, I live this life for myself.
Please remember to reach out! I would love to hear from you. If there’s a spot you think I should check out, you’d like to spend an afternoon shooting photos or just want to chat, post a comment here or send me a message on Facebook. Oh, and please follow me on Twitter and Instagram @roadlyfe to stay in the loop! You can also email me at email@example.com.
All words and images © Adam Smith 2015.