Going One-Way

I recognize, and apologize for, my pretty much complete absence from this blog for the past however-many months. Every time I would go to write, I found that I really couldn't get myself to make a post about life lately without talking about the big changes I've been trying to make. These changes often felt too premature to announce as so much was still in the works and unfolding, so I figured it was better to stay quiet while I tried to figure out this new phase in my life as new opportunities kept arising, the road kept changing, and new ideas kept emerging. I didn't want to speak anything into existence until I was certain.

Now, though, I'm certain. And as I start blogging again, I guess I'll kick it off with this:

On Tuesday, January 9th, I'm moving to Africa to work full-time as a photojournalist throughout the East and Southern region of the continent.

It still feels pretty surreal to say. This move is big and challenging and wild and exciting but with my one-way ticket just days away, it couldn't be any more real. It also couldn't be any more right.

Botswana, 2017

Botswana, 2017

Since my first time to Tanzania in 2010, which was also my first longterm trip outside of the U.S., I felt on some level that I would someday live and work in East Africa; I just didn't know how or when or for how long or if it would have anything to do with the field I work in. However, in the early months of last year, I began planting the seeds to figure out how to make the move happen. I knew I'd have the ability to leave San Francisco come December 2017, so in the interim, I searched to see what was out there. I followed every single lead I could find, I bothered every single editor I could somehow find the contact info for, and my search even took me to London in March to see what I could find there. However, after an amazing opportunity presented itself, I ended up traveling to South Africa, Botswana, and Mozambique from May to August to work for three magazines, which was the final incentive I needed to cement the decision that I had to move there, indefinitely. I had to give it a go.

I was enamored by how fulfilling my work was, how exceptionally beautiful the region was, and how wonderful the people I had met were. And with offers to come back to work for these magazines again in 2018, as well as landing work for two other publications that have been my dream jobs since I was 15-years-old, there was no further question. This was it. This is it.

So I went back to San Francisco for the last time, and started packing.

Yosemite, 2017

Yosemite, 2017

I was looking forward to beginning the process of taking down my life in California, because of what it meant I was getting ready for. But still, I was surprised by the moments that felt incredibly easy, and the moments that kind of stung. Such as:

Easy:

  • Seeing my house completely empty for the first time since I moved in and noticing how much it echoes
  • Accepting that my time in San Francisco had come to an end, that I had taken full advantage of all SF could offer me, that I had used my time there wisely and fully
  • Having final hoorahs to visit my favorite spots in California - Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, the redwoods, the desert, the cliffs behind my house - knowing fully well that I embraced them as much as possible in my four years
  • Quietly and unceremoniously walking out of the newsroom for the last time
  • Fully appreciating the fact that I was leaving California on good terms with the city that had given me so much trouble during my first few years.

Not so easy:

  • Saying goodbye to friends with a meek "see you soon..?", even though you both know that's really, honestly, probably not true.
  • Becoming acutely aware of basic creature comforts that I'm about to be without (temperate and comfortable Northern California weather; a closet full of clothes; being a short drive or walk away from anything I may need - whether a doctor, a camera repair shop, or a grocery store that's familiar and bountiful)
  • Watching strangers from Craigslist clear out my bedroom and my living room and feeling almost defensive, almost protective, over the most inane, silly things (for example, my dresser: which had seen me through college and two moves and an eviction and a breakup and a get-together and was now going with some lady who didn't seem to care that she scratched it as she dragged it out the front door)
  • Realizing that I owned way too much stuff
  • Trying to figure out how I ended up owning two salad bowls
  • (Which inevitably turned into many afternoons with me standing in my kitchen, looking at these salad bowls, wondering what I was going to do with them and how they even got there in the first place)

In the end, though, I had reduced my beautiful, warm, sunlit house by the ocean down to a few seldom things:

  • A few boxes to be held in a storage unit in New England
  • What I could fit in my little white car (a poster I couldn't part with; a couple of sentimental pine cones from Tahoe)
  • A suitcase and a backpack what will go with me to my new home on my new continent.

I left my keys on the empty counter in the kitchen, and my life in California came to close.

Me, Alamere Falls, Point Reyes. 2017. Photo by Andy Taylor.

Me, Alamere Falls, Point Reyes. 2017. Photo by Andy Taylor.

I won't pretend that this move is going to be easy. It's going to be hard work, it's going to be challenging. It's going to be faraway from my family and beyond July of this year, it's relatively unforeseen. But to say that I'm just looking forward to the challenge is a monumental understatement of how immensely excited I am to begin this adventure. Every year that I've traveled and worked in this part of the world has only further cemented how right it feels to be there. So here it goes. 

Open for anything. Ready for everything. Absolutely not looking back.

Pomene, Mozambique, 2017

Pomene, Mozambique, 2017

Franschhoek, South Africa

Franschhoek, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Tofo, Mozambique - the first place I'll unpack my bags.

Tofo, Mozambique - the first place I'll unpack my bags.