Reflections of a Nomad Photographer Part I

nomad-edge-flemming-blog In November 2009 having sold my flat and most of my belongings I left Copenhagen and embarked on my present great journey as a Nomad Photographer. No home, no base, no strings, complete freedom. After six months, three continents, five countries, thousands of images and having been around the world I returned to Copenhagen for a Summer break. “I need sleep” was one of my first sentences.

I felt jetlagged for 4 weeks as I attempted to re-charge and archive thousands of experiences, images, people and emotions inside my messy head. I am now able to reflect on the first chapter of my life as a nomad photographer. If you are not familiar with the beginning of this tale I suggest reading my Dreams become reality post and perhaps my profile. To make sense, my reflections are intimate but of course I have chosen to leave many things out for my public blog.

So…what was it like?

Well, to coin a phrase, it was no picnic. It is nothing like a normal trip that has a defined end and a home waiting for one when you reach that end. Here; the road is home and everything comes with you. It can be absolutely amazing and also amazingly hard. I am not fishing for sympathy votes here, just telling it straight.

As is evident from my Dreams become Reality post I was completely drunk on karma at the time. Naturally, a mean hangover comes knocking at some point and reality does a boomerang return. It felt like I had disrupted the space time continuum and it took a while to properly align my planets again. As space time trembled I forgot the things I usually like to do and I lost my passion and possibly myself for a bit. Learning to live on the road as a nomad was a lot harder in real life than in my head. I also stacked the odds against me by starting this journey absolutely exhausted after months of preparations, selling my flat and all of my things.

I do not really like using the word nomad in describing my life. When I think of nomads, I think of pastoral nomads moving their tribe and herds through the desert struggling to survive. That is hardly me, although incidentally herding cattle is something I have great expertise in. But there certainly is a fundamental difference between a trip on the road and actually living on the road. On a trip you escape and leave everything behind. Living on the road you escape nothing as everything now comes with you. There is no home to store it. Every issue, every problem, everything I normally leave is now in my luggage. As if I wasn’t already carrying too much gear. This is now life and not a trip. Obvious really, but it took me very much by surprise. Perhaps there is some meaning in using the word nomad after all.

It is the hardest  thing I have ever done and the best thing I have ever done! It took me a while to master being a nomad, ultimate freedom is a tough ride. Once I got the hang of the controls I had experiences and captured images that really defined my new life. Chasing the light, going where Mother Nature takes me. My travels took me to Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Australia and the great Southwest of the USA. I learned a lifetime’s worth of experiences as I met old friends, made new friends and had the great pleasure of travelling with a dear friend for a while. I captured thousands of images and created my best work. I had the pleasure of the sun almost every day. Mother Nature was as always wonderful and even offered up a slice of magic now and then for me to capture. I witnessed the ocean at play like never before at Wyadup Rocks. I snorkeled among corals on Rottnest Island. I walked and captured the Valley of Death. I was awed and sandblasted by a sandstorm of Frank Herbert’s Arrakis proportions in New Mexico. And the hmong children of Laos touched me for life.

Six months of living on the road as a nomadic landscape photographer felt like a long time. I had about 40 to 50 different homes, flew on 21 airplanes and drove tens of thousands of kilometers capturing thousands of images. Whereas I had the company of friends during the first part, my last two months was spent on a 12,000 km solo mission road trip in USA through some of the most jaw-dropping beautiful and dramatic landscapes on this planet. I met friends but was also very much alone and completely immersed in my art of photography. I was either high and drunk on nature or down and fatigued on life – resulting in the best images I have ever created. There’s a reason why so much great art, music, movies were done by people on drugs, depressed, crazy, etc. resulting in the perfect creative zone. At the end of the six months I was ecstatic about the images, trip, the experiences, the people but battling fatigue and migraines. Obviously my nomad photographer life needed to include some breaks from the road and some rest in something resembling a home with friends and family. As I flew back to Copenhagen I could not quite shake the feeling of failure, but still felt proud. I had done it and I deserved and needed my Summer break.


I may regret some of the decisions along the way but that’s life. I do not regret my new life at all. I cherish all the great moments and highs. I learn from falling in and climbing out of black holes although I still bleed from the cuts and should like to not fall into quite as many. It is ultimate freedom and I can chase the light, go anywhere I want whenever I want. I don’t doubt I will at some point want a home and someone to share it with. I also have to make this financially sustainable. But presently there are chapters yet to be written and this simple free life and chasing the light is too good to give up.

Stronger, somewhat wiser and equally more vulnerable I am ready for chapter two. Second chapter opens in November 2010 as I embark for Papua New Guinea with Aussie mates Mark Stothard and Christian Fletcher. After Papua New Guinea, Australia needs her visit and then several options include Thailand and India; and Africa calls me very strongly.

I am attempting to make my life a story and thank you for reading. Stick around as there is much to come. To paraphrase a quote from my beloved Firefly sci fi show; this spaceship is tore up plenty but I’ll fly true.

35 Comments on “Reflections of a Nomad Photographer Part I”

  1. Really hearing ya on this one. Looking forward to the rest of it. I offer a quote from Han Solo in return:

    "She'll make point five past lightspeed. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid."


  2. Kære Flemming

    Sikke en dejlig post hvor du tør vise bagsiden af medaljen frem! Jeg tror godt jeg forstår, at friheden kan være skræmmende. Du har smidt alle rammerne og står nu med alle mulighederne, men hvilken skal man så vælge, når man kan vælge alt. Det er hårdt at være sin egen dynamo! Når du drager af sted igen, vil det være meget lettere, for næste gang har du ikke lige skullet sælge en lejlighed og komme af med alle dine ting. Næste gang skal du bare pakke dit grej og sætte dig på et fly.

    De bedste hilsner

    1. Kære Hanne, tak for din kommentar. Både den uendelig frihed og rodløsheden ved ikke at have en base kan være lidt svære at tøjle 🙂
      Ja det bliver i hvert fald nemt at komme afsted næste gang, lever stadig ud af en taske, intet er pakket ud så det vil tage ca. 30 minutter at gøre klar til afgang 😀

  3. Great story Waytogobo!

    I reckon a lot of the unsure feelings you were feeling was breaking a long time developed habit of working and all of the normal things we do in normal life.

    I had a similar feeling for 3 months after I left 9-5 work for the first time..very unsettling…but like any habit you can work around then and adjust yourself for the new direction you have chosen.

    No doubt that in the next chapter of your journey you will have the knowledge of what worked for you last time and what annoyed the hell out of you…and you will fine tune the concept some more.

    Looking fwd to being a part of the next adventure as well!


    True North Mark!

    1. Thanks very much my friend! I do believe our forthcoming adventure will be one of many!

      As for 9-5, been 3 years since I quit that and that was certainly unsettling however that was a mere drop in the water compared to this nomad earthquake 😉

      Cheers mate, see ya on the boat 🙂


  4. Enjoy your rest Flemming,look forward to seeing your new website.Go to India, I am just back from 3 months there, its exhausting but worth it…Cheers Birte

  5. Ak ja se hvad skoenhed der kan komme ud af at give helt slip og turde turde! Tillykke med det!

    Det strejfer mig blot; at jeg i saa mange aar troede at jeg ejede tingene – men nu erkender jeg at tingene ejer mig.

    I et vildt oejeblik vil jeg give helt slip og bare droene derud af i et eneste vidunderligt oejeblik – i dette eneste ene liv – som er mit.


  6. Hi Flemming,

    A really engaging post, I enjoyed it. Hopefully we can catch up on your next trip to Australia. I love the photo 'Open road to new horizons' as well. Those red tones are amazing.


  7. Love it Flemming. I'm looking for a less tructured lifestyle myself. We're planning an Aussie road trip leaving in a few months. Can't wait! Hopefully I get some great shots on my travels too. No better way to practice!

  8. *Falling through the door*
    I'm here Flem, I'm here! Not missing out on commenting on this post, just needed more time to take it all in. But never fear, I made it in the end! 🙂

    Very interesting to read your inner thoughts hey. It's funny, because when you're working full time and think about living the dream one way or the other. You think it would be soooo easy! Go here, go there, do this, do that. What ever you want.

    But obviously there's one thing not thought of as you have pointed out- and that is that those of us who are so used to that structured (rat race) kind of lifestyle will actually struggle for some time to adjust.

    Think at what you've managed to achieve even though as you have said- you were out of it mentally to some extent. You managed so much, and really achieved some incredible things- and this is just what we're able to pick up through your images and stories.

    Now you have done it, you know what to expect! So when you hit the road again you will be so much more focused and able to take advantage of situations even more.

    You definitely have us wishing you all the best, and I'm definitely thrilled to be able to follow you along. Some day i'll get you down to the Stirling's, but until then the Pilbara will do nicely 🙂

    1. *Mental image of Stephen falling through door in Kramer style 😀 LOL

      Thanks heaps for your comments. I cannot quite tell you everything behind it but trust me when I say I know this better than most and that this is so very true: "Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it!"

      You are right that I now know the controls of this bloody tricky spaceship of mine 🙂 It will be bumpy as always but I'll fly true. Thanks for the best wishes, see you in the Pilbara and yes, those Stirling Ranges are still a must too!

  9. I just finished your blog "Reflections…" and want to tell you that I am proud of you, Flemming Bo. I find my imagination wandering off with you and am filled with awe and great appreciation for your journey. You have gone where few dare to tred. You have experienced more in the last year than most people do in a lifetime.

    You are a bright beacon for those few who can actually imagine themselves on the road like you have been. Know that there are still some dreamers some explorers on this rock who are with you wherever you may wander.

    Your friend and compatriot,

    howard jones
    SLC, UT, USA

  10. It is a different feeling to leave for a permanent life of travel rather than just a long trip. The first 2 weeks felt very strange for me and it took a while to adjust.

    We have been travelling for 5 months now but we are going slowly so that helps make things less tiring. We spent 2 months in Buenos Aires and now 6 weeks in Salta. Combining periods of travel with renting an apartment for a month or so has been a good combination for us.

    1. Hi Erin, thanks for your comment and visit to my blog. It is indeed a very different feeling, not the leaving part, that was easy for me, more the feeling of "wait why the heck is this so different to all my other trips, what's happening?".

      I agree that I probably do make it a bit more hectic at times by doing this as a professional photographer always looking for shoots.

      All the best to you and Simon!

  11. Nicely written account Flemming, when you finally settle you will have to write a best selling autobiography and fill it with great photo's which I'm sure you have plenty of. Sounds like you are really experiencing life to the full to me.
    By the way India is a photographers dream but make sure you are fresh and lively when you go there because you will be worn out once you have been, It's just full on. I had a gret time there but didn't realise it until about 3 months later.
    Looking forward to your future tales and photo's.

    Cheers Pete.

    1. Thanks Pete!

      It's a quote from one of Douglas Coupland's books I think "if your life was a book would anyone read it?". Perhaps, just perhaps, I can make mine a story. I can't write it though, could never begin to write a book, so all ghost writers, send me your resume hehehe 🙂

      Thanks for the tips on India. I have a friend there, but yes I have also been told that it's very full on with so many people that I really must be fully charged. Will keep that in mind, cheers.

  12. Great post! How the feeling of 'failure' could have even flickered into your mind is beyond me as you've done what many are just too scared to do. I travelled 'round the world' for 5 months with my gear a few years ago and had days where I was sick of lugging my camera bag…even if I didn't plan to shoot I had to take it with me as we were staying in some dodgey places at times. Days are spent planning your next move…and not always your next shot. But I also had the most amzing days and fantastic weather/opportunities in places where there should have been none. We tend to forget, when we're sitting at home in our own little bubbles, that there's a whole other world out there ticking away and it will continue to tick away whether we are part of it or not. I can think of no better way to recharge the batteries than to go 'home' and prepare for your 'Chapter 2'. I've been 'home' for years now but hoping for my own 'chapter 2' next year…happy travels 🙂

    1. Thanks very much for your comment and support Sandy. I guess I have done 'something', somethind different anyway. Feeling of failure is an old enemy of mine, sometimes a daemon sometimes a good 'engine'.

      I hope your dreams of chapter 2 comes true and thanks so much for the best wishes.

  13. Flemming,

    Awesome post. Eleven years ago I had the same ambition. I quit a 9-5 six figure corporate job to embark on a similar journey. No one – and I mean no one in my life – understood why I was doing it but I was responding to that inner pull. Looking back, I myself did not understand why I was doing it. The realities you spoke of were very true for me as well. I went through extreme emotional highs and lows, physical and mental fatigue, the best self reflection I have ever had, and ultimately a renewed spirit and appreciation for life. For me, after 11 months away, my journal and photography became a chore and the inner me spoke again and I knew it was time to go home. The one thing that my time alone did not prepare me for was the indifference about my experience I faced from the people in my life once i got back home. At first I was angry about this. But as you, I realized that there is no way for others who have not done this to understand that this was not some big vacation. It was work and honestly for me, some of the most real bit of life I have lived to date. Your posting is well timed for me. Working as a teacher now I am lucky to have summers off. I just got back from 6 weeks in Australia and unlike last summer 6 weeks in the Canadian Mari-times, I realized now how I failed by not keeping the "nomadic" life up. I really love that life. The fact that chapter two is set to begin for you in the coming months disproves you as a failure. This comes from one who has been there and would love to go back but circumstances now prevent that. What you are doing is special and amazing. Don't be hard on yourself as you have won the battle and are living the life many would love to – even knowing and understanding the realities. I look forward to more pictures and posts!

    Two tips – if I may be so bold! First, I learned to plan vacations from my "vacation" to help get over the times it did become difficult. Especially after being in difficult places for extended periods of time. After two months in India for example, I spent three weeks in Europe to nest and re-charge. Second, do not end a chapter in India. As others have already mentioned, as rewarding an experience it is, it is still the most trying place I have spent time in the world. Your emotional swings there will be great and at times to get through a single day was more work than anything I had ever one in life. Having said that, it is the one place that still calls me back the strongest!

    Sorry if it seems I was rambling. Thank you again for sharing!


    1. Thank you very much Dan, that is one incredible insightful comment. Only people who have done this can relate like you obviously do. Thank you. I relate strongly to everything you say.

      One price to pay I haven't touched on in writing is what you mention. That my frame of reference, my world, is now so far removed from almost everyone else's that common ground can be hard to find. I chose this myself, just have to remember it when that feeling of total estrangement crops up.

      I love your tips, will come in extremely handy, thanks!

      Thanks for your continuing support and I hope you get to chapter two as well.

  14. Flemming you have such a gift for imagery with words as well as your gift with photographic imagery.

    It seems that you really didn't have a choice – you would have been damned if you didn't go anyway. Coupled with your core self-belief and passion, these gifts should see you in good stead. Sometimes the hard and rocky places we fear when we are sinking turn out to be soft and forgiving and energising. I'm looking forward to reading about how things continue for you – except maybe the bit where you're stuck on a boat with Christian and Mark in PNG and you can't get away – the horror of that could be more than your readers can take!

    1. Hi Muzz, thanks mate, thanks so much for your comment. I do love writing these and I also need an outlet for my stories so all the lovely blog people get the best – and worst of me. Glad to know the writing is appreciated, I do work hard at it.

      Thanks for the words also and I reckon you might be right on the part about the boat, the Fletcher, the Mark, the Flemming…some stories are better left untold. What happens on the boat stays on the boat…..then again, good stories need to be told 🙂

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