How to Live like a Nomad Photographer

Vancouver, 2015 #cindyproject
Vancouver, 2015 #cindyproject

A nomad mindset means that you are mentally and physically light. You don’t hold onto past possessions. You live in the moment, and you are flexible.

You cherish experiences, relationships, and your life’s passions. You disregard material possessions, concepts of “stability”, and you aren’t held down by others.

You live with freedom, joy, and lightness. Nothing holds you back.

Why travel?

Seattle, 2015
Seattle, 2015

I think to many, the concept of being a nomad is exciting and exhilarating. Most of us are stuck in cubicles and boxes on a daily basis, and we feel trapped.

Most people I know– many of their dreams are to travel and see the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “lifestyle” and having a certain mindset as of late. Meaning– what kind of lifestyle or mindset makes us the happiest, and most fulfilled?

Hunter gatherer society vs agricultural societies

Prague, 2015
Prague, 2015

Traditionally we have been a hunter-gatherer/nomad society. We were highly mobile, operated in very small communities, and were always on the move. We would eat whatever we could find– whether they be fruit, leafy greens, nuts, or (once in a while) animals.

As time went on, we eventually became part of an agricultural society. No longer were we constantly starving in search of food (like nomads), but we had more stable homes. We started to build homes, and more permanent cities. We started to live longer; but did we live as happy a life as before?

Comfort or feeling alive?

Tokyo, 2014
Tokyo, 2014

Without modern society, technology, and agriculture– we would never have the “cognitive surplus” to meditate on life, philosophize, create art, or any of that. In a nomad life, we were only preoccupied with living (particularly not dying).

However we can’t fool our biology. Although human technology has rapidly advanced in just a few lifetimes, our pre programmed nomadic lifestyle mindset hasn’t changed much.

With modern society– you see all the ills of too much comfort and technology. We no longer go out and see movies with friends; we would prefer to Netflix it at home by ourselves. We no longer go to Church and socialize on Sundays; we would prefer to watch the game at home. We no longer walk; we are constantly trapped in our cars, stuck in traffic, in our suburban sprawls. While smartphones have enabled instant and free communication with anyone around the world, we have never felt more alone than we do now.

How to be more nomadic

Tokyo. 2014
Tokyo. 2014

After spending a few weeks in Orange County (car suburbia central), I’m starting to realize how much of a modern “luxury” it is to walk. I’m always trapped in the car and the only walking I can get done is at the mall (which inevitably tempts me to buy stuff I don’t need), or at another mall just across the street.

As human beings, we thirst for adventure. We hate routines (although productivity blogs tell you otherwise). We hate answering emails day in and day out. Our smartphones have become chains and shackles (instead of digital tools that empower us). We want to travel, explore, see the world.

I think this is why street photography appeals to me so many others out there. Street photography helps us tap in the “inner nomad” in us. By aimlessly wandering the streets, we are able to serendipitously have novel experiences. We meet interesting new people. We see places we have never seen before. We exercise our creative pathways, and make images that connect us with the environment and other people.

Tokyo, 2014
Tokyo, 2014

Another thing I’m starting to realize is how to live like a nomad is to be both physically and mentally light. If you’re always living “on the go” and you don’t have a permanent home, you cannot accrue a lot of stuff.

I’ve personally traveled with a lot of stuff in the past, and it is just a pain in the ass. There is nothing worse than carrying a heavy backpack with multiple cameras, multiple lenses, and multiple electronic gadgets that weigh you down. You don’t enjoy your traveling or exploring. You’re just thinking about how tired your shoulders and legs are.

So the thought occurred to me: how can we apply a “nomadic mindset” to our daily lives?

Tokyo, 2014
Kyoto, 2014

First of all, we have historically operated in very small communities and clans. That means, with photography and social media– we shouldn’t follow hundreds upon thousands of people. We should only follow a few people who we are close to; people that uplift and inspire us.

Secondly, we love what is light and portable. When it comes to a camera for street photography, just use whatever is lightest, most compact, and most convenient for you. Disregard image quality as your number one factor.

Thirdly, we need to aimlessly wander, explore, travel, see the world, and walk more. If you’re stuck in a suburb (like I currently am) this can be very difficult. Small suggestions: make the best out of your situation, like do “street photography” at the mall, go to the park with your family and take snapshots of your loved ones, or every once in a while go to the downtown area of your city, and just walk around with camera in hand.

Tokyo, 2014
Tokyo, 2014

Fourthly, own only what you can carry in your backpack. When I moved out of Berkeley, I was astonished how much crap I own. I’m still paring down my possessions, but I know that I am going to only limit myself to one backpack when I move to Vietnam for the next 2 years. I like the idea of owning only the possessions which I can hold on my back. We still need possessions and tools to operate, but how much do we really need?

Fifth, live everyday as if it were your last. Carpe diem. 99.9% chance you will live another day tomorrow, but what if you get hit by a drunk driver, slip and crack open your skull, or fall into a coma when you sleep and not wake up the next morning? Live each day as if it were a complete life, and don’t procrastinate on anything that is truly meaningful to you. Disregard money, wealth, and status– only do what personally brings you joy, meaning, and happiness.

Everyday is a learning experience

SF, 2016
SF, 2016

Everything I write here is what I have learned on my personal experiences. None of this is truth, and is only applicable to me.

But what I have discovered is that everyday is a learning experience. I try to keep my mind open to new ideas, and flexible like bamboo. Whenever I think I “have the answers”– my growing stops. I become less curious, excited, and joyful.

For me, the only way to true “happiness” is to do meaningful work that helps other people. I hope some of these ideas and words are helpful to you. Take what resonates with you, and throw away the rest.

Tomorrow is uncertain; make the best of today.

Always,
Eric

Friday, June 3, 2016 @ 9:08am, after two espressos, a 630am workout, five minutes in the sauna, a cold shower, another espresso (and pour over) and 7 eggs and some avocados for breakfast. Yeah, I know, I’m probably going to die of caffeine (or egg) overdose one day.

Currently reading

Tokyo, 2014
Kyoto, 2014
  • “Antifragile” by Nassim Taleb
  • “The Bed of Procurates” by Nassim Taleb

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