Can you map out your nomadic experience and tell us why you moved so much?
I didn’t come to being nomadic with any planning, to my own detriment of course. I found myself in my late 20’s divorced, in a job I hated, and in a state I was greatly unhappy living in (Ohio). It seemed like a good time to start over in all things, not just my relationship status. So I sold or packed up everything I couldn’t fit in a suitcase and decided to be nomadic because I didn’t know where I wanted to live if I left Ohio and being nomadic gave me the opportunity to see the world as well as to try out living in different places to see where I might one day want to settle.
Where is home?
I’m still not sure I have one in the traditional sense. My twitter bio says, under location, “Home is NYC.” But it’s really home only because the person I love most is there and because it works well as a home base for a person like me who works in travel.
Favorite country you enjoyed living in the most and why?
I enjoyed living in England the most because I could return there and not have to deal with the language barrier that I always faced everywhere else abroad, yet it still felt like enough of a different country from the USA to give me something new and different to experience on a regular basis.
Why is Instagram your favorite social network?
I’m a photographer before I am anything else. It’s the only social network that was built solely to share, and allow others to build a community around, photography – so it’s the most natural fit for me!
Why did you make the shift from wedding photography to travel?
Once I was divorced, the last place in the world I wanted to spend every weekend of my life at was another person’s wedding. Additionally, though I was good at it, I hated it because it was mega high stress. Travel photography brings less stress and allows me to be more creative. There’s also a lack of repetition. Wedding photography became very repetitious and when it did, it then made me feel bored.
For someone who wants to get into travel photography what are the things they should do?
I’d actually recommend taking the Matador Network Travel Photography course. It’s a tough thing to break into these days, but they set up their students with work once you are an alumnus and that kind of support can’t really be found elsewhere on the same level.
I’d also recommend being active on Twitter, talking to brands and destinations.
And of course, be on Instagram!!
What are things they shouldn’t do?
You shouldn’t expect that just because you have a camera and like to take photographs, that you are already, or can easily become, a travel photographer. Instead, work hard, constantly learn and seek to better yourself, pay your dues and have a vision that’s different.
Tell me a story about when you had the most fun taking pictures and which country it was in.
Scotland or Spain! They’re both so stunning from a landscape perspective and yet they also offer incredibly colorful people, delicious food and captivating cultural moments that make it fun to be a photographer.
What about the opposite?
Whenever I am on a press junket of any kind, where we’re rushed from place to place and we never spend very long in any one place – that is stressful to me. I am not the world’s quickest photographer. For me the best shots come when I have time to wander, and work unencumbered, discovering the story for myself rather than being told what I should be photographing.
Were you ever homesick and how did you deal with that?
Definitely. Toward the end of my four years of being nomadic, I was very ready to be in one place for longer than a few nights or a week. I wanted not so much my home in America, because I didn’t really have one anymore; but I did long for some place that was my own which I could come and go from.
When did you first get a sense of an identity crisis and how did you deal with it?
Oh I’ve been going through an identity crisis since I was born. But I’ve always known I wanted to be a photographer and I find these days that as long as I keep that knowledge and desire at the forefront, my identity takes care of itself a bit. Or rather, that everything falls into place according to that and usually works out the best then.
What was your journey like to being comfortable with yourself?
I’m still on that journey! But it’s a less strenuous one than it used to be. Being in my thirties helps with that. Some things just come with time and a wisdom that can’t be bought.
How do you usually find common ground abroad?
I focus on the common struggles, hopes, fears and dreams that we all share. There are more of them than I knew as a child and travel far enough, you discover that though we dress differently and speak a different language, the human race is actually more united, than divided.
In your opinion what is the best camera to use and why?
There is no one best camera to buy that would be the best for every person. A camera is a very personal thing and the best camera for each situation is also different. For instance, I know that street photographers favor Fuji and Leica cameras for their quiet shutters. I currently love my Samsung NX3000 because it is inexpensive, it still has interchangeable lenses and most importantly, it isn’t bulky. Which makes it great for travel. However, I would prefer to have a full frame camera again and for that, I drool over the Sony a7 and a7R cameras.
That being said, I also hold to what Chase Jarvis said, “The Best Camera is the One That’s With You.” A camera doesn’t take a great photograph, the person behind the lens does. If you have the most expensive and most extraordinary camera ever made, but you don’t know how to shoot manually and you have no eye for composition, then you’re still sunk.
What is one piece of advice you can give to other Global Nomads?
Plan for nomadic or frequent travel as much as you can, but know that eventually you will just have to let go and GO! There’s never going to be a 100% right time to travel where the stars align perfectly and fate conspires to give you every cent you’ll ever need to accomplish every one of your wildest dreams. You have to work for it and then when you’ve put in the work, you have to take the leap. No one who travels frequently has a perfect life but we choose to do it for different reasons and we make sacrifices where required because of what we need in our own lives and what we, hope we can, give to others. Don’t compare your life to another person’s in pursuit of your dreams.
Where can we find out more about you and what are you up to?
Twitter (@KirstenAlana) is where I share my everyday, Instagram (@KirstenAlana) is where I curate a travel guide based around photos of the places I have traveled, Facebook (@KirstenAlanaTravels) is where I share photos from my travels and photos from other people that inspire me. Pinterest (@KirstenAlana) is like my mood board. Google+ (+KirstenAlana) is where I share bits of everything. My blog www.aviatorsandacamera.com is full of personal, narrative travel stories heavy on photography. And my portfolio site www.kirstenalana.com is where you can connect to it all or sign up for my monthly newsletter which is a roundup that also features news and deals from my partners/clients.