“Paths emerge by walking them.”
I started to travel remote places extensively as I turned 22 years, when I spent half a year in Australia, mostly in the Tasmanian wilderness. Intense times in the North American Rockies and the ranges of Central Asia followed soon after. Traveling has changed my life in a very profound way.
Once I met a shepherd in the Kyrgyz mountains who asked me: “Why are you walking for weeks through this lands? Are you searching for something?” I didn’t really know at first what to tell him. Maybe years ago I indeed might have been searching for something or rather for somebody else than I had been. This has changed. Now, my travels are just one of the ways I want to live. To get up with the sunrise in the morning and to fall asleep as the last light-rays disappear behind a horizon of snow-capped peaks. Spending the day mostly with putting one foot in front of the other, for weeks, for months. Over and over. This way of life creates a a relatively simple world. A world that is focused on the very basics, confined to oneself, to ones’ human and animal companions, deprived of most modern civilized societies’ commodities. It creates the arena for a simple calm mind and a happiness that – once learned – provides a tranquil basement that in its quality for me is beyond any materialist aspirations. Life becomes easier in general. It’s a training to gradually strip off unnecessary wants, which are more alien imposed forces from outside, rather than genuine intrinsic drives.
When I seriously picked up a camera for the first time in 2011 and got enchanted by photography, it deeply started to accompany my personal development. Taking pictures became like practicing being a human animal. I learned to be patient and wait, for hours, maybe for days. All senses sharpened and tuned into the world, observing the present in a high state of awareness. Waiting for the “right” circumstances to emerge, without expecting anything – since often enough, the conditions don’t fall together. For me, photography is a wonderful way to train being in the moment, some sort of psychotherapy in its own right.
I always was drawn to the mountains, most likely because I grew up in a very mountainous region in Austria. During the 6 years of university studies in Vienna I realized how important they are to me. It’s like having good friends around and somebody you can marvel at every time you take a look outside. Through this passion for mountains I got deeply interested into the ongoing glacial melt and climate change. As a trained physicist bringing also the scientific background, this growing global catastrophe has become a major part of my perspective, not to say that it formed some sort of “mission” to create awareness for this disaster. Although – if you look at the numbers – our future appears to become rather grim, we should never stop trying to change. And in order to do so, we have to climb out of our old boxes. Thoughts – and therefore actions – are emergent properties and basically don’t change as long as they derive from the same frame of reference. Stepping out of this means shifting the context, to challenge hard-wired perspectives to evolve. As of 2016 I stopped to fly. Traveling by plane is by far the worst you can do as a single emitter in terms of climate change. I think this is a huge step for a landscape and adventure photographer. But there are other means to travel great distances. Going somewhere far then becomes a journey where you actually can feel the vastness, the distance, the difference, the centuries, the planet, rather than being beamed from one place to another, more or less shell-shocked.
Looking back, this is what traveling did to me – it pushed me to step out of boxes. Most likely I sit in a different one right now. It’s an endless process. But it feels as if it is much larger than the one I found myself in before I started to travel.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”
Henry David Thoreau