The moon is up over Tibet. Snow crunches under my feet as I wait for the sunrise to ignite the fluted ramparts of the Himalaya. I can hear the far off clanging of Yak bells and the whistle of the herders beginning their day.
I am alone, surrounded in the shadows of the greatest mountains on earth. The scene before me hasn't changed much over the last Millennia. I feel enriched here witnessing this spectacle. Lewis Mumford once said, "Raw experience is empty, for it is not what one does, but what one realizes that keeps existence from being vain and trivial. It is the artist who realizes human experience, who takes the raw lump of ore we find in nature, smelts it, refines it, and stamps it into coins that can pass from hand to hand and make every man who touches them the richer."
I take photographs to define my experiences, to encapsulate these moments and share the earth's most extraordinary places with my friends and all of the aspiring vagabonds and wilderness trekkers that hope to travel one day. If you've found my website and are reading this, you're probably a lot like me. You find it difficult to describe your fascination with the wonders of the earth and the cultures most connected to it. Somehow, these feelings have defined you and how you live your life. Here within these pages, you will see the places that existed in my own childhood dreams.
I realize these travel dreams were not mine alone. I have friends that have dreamed of climbing and trekking in the Himalaya since the day we all climbed the tallest tree in the neighborhood, tied an American flag to the top and posed like Tenzing Norgay for the 'summit' photograph. I realize that most of those friends will never make their journey there. Life gets in the way sometimes. But I have tried to share the majesty, intimacy and timelessness of these places in my photographs in a way I hope you can all relate to. I've tried to capture the reality of my childhood imaginations and share them with you. I realize that despite having grown up with these dreams, nobody needs to go on a trip like this. But as we work through the daily routine of life at home, sometimes it helps to know that we could go. That it's all really there. Better yet, I hope my photographs inspire a few of you to actually follow your dreams and take your journey. I want to remind everyone that ordinary working people can visit remote places like this. They do it all the time. These are not expensive or difficult places to explore if you travel independently and stay with the locals. And of course, there are endless experiences to be had in the wilderness areas of our own backyard.
But you can't begin a journey if you don't step out. There is nothing mysterious about a rucksack. All you need are a couple changes of clothes, some hard earned time off and less money than you think. Get out there and watch the ravens fly through the dazzling glow of a remote slot canyon, watch the northern lights dance over the snows of Denali, or take an extended journey and join the Tibetan pilgrims spinning prayer wheels outside a cliffside monastery. Fish for Pirrhana in the Amazon, watch autumn leaves fall in a gentle snowstorm in Patagonia, or marvel at a palm tree swaying dark against a billion stars while camping on a moonless night in the middle of the South Pacific. It's all there. And the earth needs people who travel this way, who earn their time with its treasures, and promote its conservation. Time is the most precious commodity we actually own.
Live your dreams.
Explore the world...
Michael Anderson is an award winning travel and landscape photographer based in Ridgway, Colorado. The following is an excerpt from an online interview he gave in the summer of 2008:
I was a backcountry ranger for several years in Yosemite National Park where I met Galen Rowell and spent the week of my 21st birthday at a remote ski cabin learning from Galen at one of his first workshops. He was a great story teller who lived through some extraordinary adventures and he lit a fire in my imagination that continues to this day. On the night of my birthday, Galen took me aside and we talked about how individual vision, seeing the unexpected, and an artist's passion can combine to create great photographs, but also shape our view of the world and our goals in life. I wrote his words down on a piece of paper I keep in my copy of his famous book 'Mountain Light' which he signed that week. Since then, I've worked hard to find my own voice and I've incorporated a lot of his philosophy into my work.
Then I started exploring. I worked hard all year so I could spend my summers backpacking and climbing in the Sierra. I walked over 1,000 miles one summer and spent a lot of time off the trail. I saw amazing things, was often solo and found that I had a hard time sharing the intimacy of my adventures with people that weren't there. But my stories were always more effective if I had a few good photos. My passion for photography was growing. I sought to capture the essence of what moved ME on those trips, and in doing so I also learned how to capture scenes in a way that moved OTHERS who were not there.
In 1989, I took my first trip to Mexico carrying a tent and a backpack and took buses or hitched rides with other travelers all the way down to Guatemala. It was a rough and tumble time in Central America back then. I ate at street vendors, bought groceries at the local tiendas, camped on the beach, slung up my hammock and was surprised at how cheap and easy it was to get around. I spent about $10 a day on that trip. I had just discovered the freedom of vagabonding. The experience changed my life and I continue to travel in this way.
One of my favorite authors, Rolf Potts says 'the more we associate money with life, the more we convince ourselves that we're too poor to buy our freedom. In reality long term travel has nothing to do with demographics-age, ideology, income-and everything to do with personal outlook. Long term travel isn't about being a college student; it's about being a student of daily life. It doesn't require a bundle of cash; it requires only that we walk through life more deliberately. Vagabonding is about using the prosperity and possibilities of the information age to increase your personal options rather than your personal possessions. It's about looking for adventure in normal life and normal life within adventure. Vagabonding is about time- our only real commodity -and how we choose to use it.'
When I begin a trip, I have only a vague idea of the experiences and places I will see along the way. I make my route up as I go, allowing me to drift with the flow of the environment and the weather, always open to unexpected invitations for adventure. True to Rolf Pott's words, I try and gather my time off into one big trip a year so I can immerse myself in the swirl of beautiful, strange, colorful and occasionally chaotic environment of international travel. I camp or stay with locals and take local transportation whenever I can. I never know what will happen or how the trip will end. My ultimate goals with photography are much the same. I have a vague idea of where I want to go, but I am letting the journey take me there. It's going to be an adventure, and I can't wait to see what's around the next corner.