A Horrifying Conspiracy

What if you have never been truly free? What if you have never truly experienced reality as it was meant to be? What if life was supposed to be much, much better for not just you, but for everyone around you? 

I have a theory, keep an open mind and read on…

Our Mental Health Crisis

Most of us in the modern world suffer from depression and anxiety to some extent. Antidepressant use is at an all time high, people self medicate with drugs, alcohol and tobacco… yet when you look around, are people living happier and more productive lives?

Addiction, violence, obesity, suicide, homelessness, divorce rates, are all getting much worse. This isn’t just a western problem, this is a whole world problem. Parents are taking antidepressants and self medicating with wine just to cope. Their kids are taking ADHD medications just to keep their minds focused so they can participate in school. 

People are stressed, depressed, and anxious… this impacts self care, motivation, relationships, work performance, and overall quality of life. 

Image what the world would be like if we were all happy, kind, motivated, all running at 100%

So after 25 years of battling my own depression… here’s my theory… 

We all Suffer from Addiction

The reason you feel depressed and anxious is because you spend MOST OF YOUR LIFE in a state of withdrawal

When you are addicted to “something”… you experience a little “high” when you finally consume what you’re addicted to. This is what makes it enjoyable and addicting. You experience this little high and life seems okay for a bit. 

Yet immediately afterwards, you start the withdrawal process. 

What does withdrawal look like? Depressed mood, anxiety, lack of concentration, mental fog, racing thoughts, and an overall feeling of not being well. 

So image your addiction of choice is alcohol… you have a few beers after work, you feel pretty good! It's nice to be home and relaxed, enjoying your beer with your family… life currently is not sucking for you. 

Yet as soon as you finish drinking… whether you are aware of it or not, you start the withdrawal process. Let's say you drink a few beers after work each day. This means that for the majority of your day, say 21 out of 24 hours, are spent in some state of withdrawal. 

Looking at the symptoms of withdrawal… Do you think maybe the reason you feel depressed and anxious is because you spend MOST of your life in a state of withdrawal without even realizing it? 

Okay so this article is about quitting drinking?

This is about quitting ALL addictive substances. Alcohol, tobacco, coffee, sugar, and who knows what else, the list isn’t exactly small. 

87% of adults drink alcohol, almost 100% of people consume too much sugar, probably 85% of the world drinks coffee on a daily basis. 

The only progress we’ve made as a society is with tobacco… that’s at least frowned upon by most people compared to decades prior. 

The conspiracy is that, unless you grew up in very unique circumstances… you’ve never experienced life free from addiction and withdrawal. You’ve never felt as happy and calm as you were meant to feel. 

You showed up on this earth and your parents poured sugar into you, you craved it, you can probably even remember crying about it when you parents wouldn’t let you have more of it on halloween. 

As you got older you became addicted to other things as well. Coffee and alcohol probably came next. 

Question: Were you happier as a kid or as an adult?

Common concerns at this point:

“I like coffee, I need it to wake up and be productive” 

- The only reason you think you need coffee is because you are satisfying an addiction, you are feeling tired because you don’t have caffeine… before you ever had caffeine in the first place you were never chronically tired. 

“Alcohol helps me relax and makes me happy” 

- Again you are just satisfying an addiction, you were in a state of withdrawal, and having a drink, makes you feel normal again… the reality is you should feel even better than this all the time. Alcohol by nature literally numbs your senses, along with your ability to feel happy. 

“Im not addicted to alcohol, I can stop whenever I want”

- You are addicted to some degree, you’re just on a different part of the same downward spiral as the homeless man on the corner holding a paper bag. He started with a single drink too. Still don’t think it's addictive? Have you ever gone to a party and downed a 6 pack of Pepsi till you threw up in the bathroom? Didn’t think so… 

“Alcohol lets me loosen up and be better in bed”

- This one isn’t even up for debate. Alcohol is by far the number one reason for erectile dysfunction. Drunken sex is horrible compared to sober sex. The key here is for both people to be completely sober… sadly I don’t think this happens much in our society today. 

“Social situations will be boring without alcohol”

- If you walk into any situation thinking it will be boring, it will be. You have the wrong mindset. You are not giving up alcohol… you are choosing to not drink poison that only harms you and adds nothing beneficial to your life. If you walk into a social situation knowing you’ll have fun without alcohol, you will. 

Give it a try, you owe it to yourself

I’m not a fan of telling people what to do. If you think your life won’t improve much by quitting your addictions that’s totally okay. What I’m asking you to do is at least give this a try for a month or so. See what happens. I’m on about day 30 now and I literally can’t believe how good I feel, its honesty shocking, which is why I felt compelled to write this.

If you think this might help someone else more than it would you, please share this article with them, the world might be a better place if you do =)

Michael LundComment
What I learned from my Photography Trip

I just returned from a 5 week photography trip. I had a few weeks off work between contracts and figured why not hit the road instead of paying insane rent in the SF Bay area! It was still a great idea in hindsight. However it wasn’t all bliss and glory all-day-everyday. 

From a photography aspect, it was highly unproductive in my opinion. Did I get some banger shots? Hell yea I did. But I got them at the same rate I did when I was at home doing photography locally. If I went out everyday, I would expect 1 or 2 great shots per week, if all the stars were aligned. Going out and traveling the west coast in a furry yielded no higher results. Here’s why, along with some other thoughts I had. 

Planning is Everything

Okay so if you’re thinking about doing a photography trip like I did, my recommendation is to plan well in advance every little detail. Where you’re going, where you’re staying each night, how long you will be in each location, plan locations around what is open and if the season is ideal for each locale.  

Personally I hate planning, so I just winged it. If I had to do this again, I would probably still wing it. I'm just saying to have the best results you need to plan, meticulously. I showed up at Glacier National Park and 90% of the park was still closed. Whoops. Would have been helpful to Google that. Despite being totally unprepared I still met some great people and took some epic shots. However I feel like if I planned a little more, it would have been better. 

Take a week, take some Xanax, and get the planning out of the way. 

Burney Falls, California

Burney Falls, California

Take your Time

One of the problems I noticed right away, was that I wasn’t spending enough time in each location just exploring. It takes a-lot of time to make a great photo. Notice I said make, not take. You have to go to a location, think about what you want, and make it happen. You can’t do this in one day. You can do this in 2 days with subpar results. Realistically you need to know what you want and revisit a location several times to achieve decent shots. If I had to do this again, I would spend at least a week in each location. 

If you see a photographer doing local expeditions, go join them! They know far more about the area than you do, don’t kid yourself. Plus you’ll be supporting and learning from someone in your industry. There is a thing called Karma. 

Weather is Everything… yes another “Everything”

This one you don’t have much control over, but you can play by its rules and work it to produce some magic. If it's winter time, go to places that look amazing with snow! Pretty simple. If it's foggy, have a fog plan. Don’t go to Death Valley in late May like I just did. Don’t believe Yahoo weather reports unless you want to wake up at 1am and it's still 103f and you’re dripping wet. Yes I’m still bitter about that. (Hint check Furnace Creek not Death Valley)

When you’re new to photography, you seek clear blue skies and nice weather. When you’ve become a little seasoned, you look for moody terrifying skies and aren’t bothered by the rain. Weather makes everything interesting. Go outside. 

Glacier National Park, the only possible view since the park was closed. 

Glacier National Park, the only possible view since the park was closed. 

Don’t be Annoying

There are photographers, and there are people with cameras. Have some respect. Enjoy the place you’re at. Leave the camera in the car and smell the fresh air. 

Don't fly your drone at a national park where people are doing bird photography. It's illegal. Its how to be a douche. Don’t block everyone’s view for hours with your tripod. Ask people if standing here is ruining their shot. Just be respectful. When you don't, it makes us all look bad. 

Also for heavens sake don’t be the photographer that sort of-half ass pulls their car over and rolls the window down, out comes the cell phone while traffic swerves around you, just so you can get your shitty shot. Just don't. I cant even. 

Warning: If you go to Yellowstone National Park, expect this every 7 minutes. 

Advocate for local photography 

One final thought. Traveling to take photos is simply unproductive and harmful. There’s a good chance you won’t have the knowledge or time that a local photographer will have. Your results will not be as good. They might be great, but your skill level does not guarantee this. It’s just luck and the weather. 

Something that was apparent and I thought of almost constantly during my photography trip was: I traveled almost 3,000 miles over 5 weeks for about 12 great photos. Yes I enjoyed taking them. I am quite proud of them. But the environmental impact was the equivalent of burning a barrel of oil for each photo. Imagine burning a barrel of oil and watching the smoke rise to the sky. Was that worth your handful of photos that YOU enjoy? That others might just simply press the like button and scroll past on Instagram? 

You can take better photos near your home, with less environmental cost, with the same amount of enjoyment.

Do that. 

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California

Michael LundComment
Fitness and Depression

There has been a million articles written discussing the link between depression and physical exercise. I also felt like there was something missing with each of them. Something wasn't ringing true with me. This is my attempt at discussing the hidden side of depression.

Okay lets state the obvious. When you are depressed, physical activity generally makes you feel better! It works better than antidepressants (so the research tells us).

The usual advice for years has been, if you are depressed, you should exercise and it will help you feel less depressed!

Okay sounds good.

In reality, well my reality at least, is that when you are depressed, and you full well know that exercise makes you feel better, the depression prevents you from acting rationally.

You feel like, you are not worthy of feeling good, you don't deserve it, you deserve to have a shitty life, you deserve to mop around and be lazy all day, you deserve to slowly decline from self destructive behaviors. Its conceited to think otherwise, to love yourself. Thats for other people, not for you. Thats what depression tells you. If you do manage to fight it and do something healthy for your self, you still feel guilty about it.

Everyone else makes it sound so simple, well maybe because it is. Love yourself, exercise, eat healthy, do wonderful things with your life. With that you should start to feel better, at least you'll be on the right track, and what Ive noticed is that if your life is on a track that you want it to be on, you generally feel pretty good about life.

Depression is a killer. It prevents you from having the life that you deep down want, but also deep down think that you don't deserve.

So how to fix it?

I don't really have a good answer for that, just try your best? Thats what Ive been doing forever and I will say I am much less depressed that I was when I was younger. There are many self help books out there that I find very useful. One of my favorites is "How to be a badass" by Jen Sincero. I find that it helps be get in the right mindset for improving my life, as without some form of daily reminder, I can let depression slowly take over and down the rabbit hole I go.

As far as fitness goes, my advice is try not to think about it as "fitness". Just go do something that you actually enjoy, and keep doing more of it. For me thats photography and hiking, well more precisely, hiking to go take more photos! Its a good form of physical activity and I don't even think of it as fitness. Yet because it is, and I enjoy it, it helps with my depression. Im guessing you can come up with some version that applies to you as well.

And the best part is, I don't feel guilty for enjoying my life.

Feel free to leave a comment and share your experience with this, I don't know anyone personally who thinks like me on this subject, but I bet I'm not alone! I bet you're not either.

Michael LundComment
My Game Plan for Travel

Vanlife, travel nursing, backpacking... who knows let’s just make it happen. Here is my tentative plan for making traveling and photography into my career.

A lot of life is a compromise, the goal is finding a compromise that works and yet still gets you excited to be alive every day. Play it too safe and you risk not really living your life and just going through the motions.

Sometimes you have to just jump in.

Currently, I do travel nursing for a living. I'm am super lucky to basically be paid to travel. Yet here I am writing this and wanting something more. That’s privilege right there if you ask me! There are a few things about this job that I do not like however, and I feel like you have to at least address these and work towards having a better life to be happy. I am a big believer that if your life is at least on the right track, you will be happy.  It’s when you plateau and stagnate that depression and boredom set in.

One of my favorite trips yet, 395 North through Eastern California

One of my favorite trips yet, 395 North through Eastern California

I work night shift and it’s getting old. I love the solitude and sense that I live in my own little world apart from "normal people". I like that my work is generally less chaotic than working day shift. However, the lack of sunshine and physical activity is starting to get to me. It’s hard to be active at 3 am when the rest of the world is still asleep. I'm not saying you cant do it, I'm just saying its just less natural. I can’t really go for a walk or hike at 3 am like a person working dayshift would at 3 pm.

I am traveling for a living now, but I'm not free. I still have to stay in one spot for 3 months (typically) If say I wanted to go to Banff National Park in Canada, I would still need to request the time off like everyone else in a typical work arrangement.

Also not having a home base and being able to work on relationships is a downside to this lifestyle as well. I’m not sure focusing on traveling is going to help matters either, but it’s just something I’ll have to pay more attention to.

So here’s where the compromising starts. I still need to make a decent amount of money as I have some debts to pay off. Now obviously the goal is to make decent money as a photographer, I’m just being realistic and acknowledging that it may not happen for quite some time. I’m trying to be semi-responsible here LOL.

Side note, is being a photographer what I really want to do? Let's say, freelance explorer, I’ll leave it at that for now.

Back to the plan.

Work 3 months as a travel nurse. Spend the next 6 weeks traveling freely. Repeat.

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be more specific about what I will be doing during these 6 weeks between contracts, and I'm sure my plans will drastically change as I learn what works and what doesn't.

Thanks for following along on my little adventure called life =)

Michael Lund Comment
Recommended Books

Here is a short list of what I consider AMAZING books to help improve your life and set you on a better path. I will be adding to this list from time to time so feel free to check back often for updates! Also if you have any recommendations for me please share them below in the comments! Thanks in advance =) 

You can purchase any of these books listed above by simply clicking on the images. I do make a few pennies as these are affiliate links, but it does not cost you anything extra. Also I was not compensated in any way by suggesting these books, I just love them and I'm sure you will too! 

Michael LundComment
Landscape Photos in Portrait Orientation

We tend to shoot landscapes in ya know, landscape orientation. Why is that? My guess is that for the last 20 years or so, we viewed these images on computer screens. Also the sensor in your camera is laid out in landscape orientation as well, so if you hold the camera normally, thats how your images came out. 

Then came the smartphone and social media. 

How do you hold your phone? Vertically or horizontally? If you see an image you like on Facebook do you take the time to rotate your phone? Chances are nobody else does either. They look at your image for a maximum of 5 seconds and scroll past. Thats the harsh truth. Nobody looks at your images like you do. 

All is not lost, you just have to make a good impression even faster. 

The "trick" is to shoot your images (or edit them) specifically for social media. Post your images in a vertical (portrait) orientation and they will fill the entire screen on their mobile device. Shoot it in horizontal (landscape) orientation and all you get is a wide and tiny little rectangle. 

With Instagram this means cropping your photos to a 4x5 ratio and uploading them as such, you do not need to follow the 1x1 square rule anymore, take advantage of this. More screen real estate the better. 

I find that in practice I end up shooting two photos for each scene I come across. One for social media, and one in traditional landscape orientation. The latter might still be a better option for certain platforms or printing. 

The point is you can't ignore how 90% of images are viewed today, and that's on a smartphone, vertically. 

Landscape (Horizontal) on the left, vs Portrait (Vertical) on the right. 

Landscape (Horizontal) on the left, vs Portrait (Vertical) on the right.