Cynthia Viola Photography

12newadventures

3 Steps to a More Adventurous Lifestyle

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And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later
— Randy Komisar
Hang Gliding Photographer

I use this quote often, and if I’m honest, I don’t know anything about the author, but it resonates so fiercely I continue to do so.

It wouldn’t surprise anyone if I said I’m not cut out for the 9-5 lifestyle. Even when I’ve had other “regular” jobs they were never 9-5. Waiting tables and bartending often consisted of different shifts every week, with those changing 2-3 times mid week as others called out and I filled in. Working with teens more often than not involved late night phone calls (this was before texting was really a thing…I know, I’m aging), Friday night football games, Saturday shopping trips, week long camps and weekend retreats. Anything involving the church world was far more than Sunday mornings. It was taking a bag of groceries to families mid week when their food stamps ran out. It was late night texts talking people off the figurative ledge. It was frantic last minute schedule changes right before going on stage, a million emails, evening meetings and morning groups.

Somewhere in the midst of it all I picked up photography and just fit it in where I could. As the story goes, one day I realized the thing I loved most shouldn’t be the thing I push to the back of the calendar wherever it fits, but should actually dictate my calendar. Full time photographer and entrepreneur has been quite the dream job. I make my own schedule, travel extensively, meet tons of new people and live wherever I want.

Swimming with a Dolphin

Despite this perfect dream job, however, for a while there I was allowing the day-to-day of keeping up with the business side as well as family and house and garden and dog to overwhelm my deepest passion. And honestly, at the time I didn’t even realize it, I was so busy just doing stuff and keeping a full calendar that I didn’t give myself time to pause and reflect on what I wanted most. And what did I want most? As it turns out, adventure.

There is certainly no need for everyone out there wanting more adventure to leave their jobs, their families, their city or their dogs, and my decision to do so didn’t even involve adventure…I realized afterward that adventure was a driver. But here are a few little things EVERYONE can do to insure a little more excitement and exploration enter your calendar.

One: Decide

Take an uninterrupted hour or so to sit and decide if you even WANT more adventure in your life. Adventure has become such a buzz word lately, I’m finding that when people tell me they want more of it and I ask them what adventure would look like for them, they not only start off with the reasons why they could never do “something like that”, but they can’t even tell me what that “something” would even BE. So… WHAT DO YOU WANT? Do you even know? I have personally loved swimming with dolphins, hiking the Appalachian Trail and Hang Gliding the most. But with each of those, I DECIDED I wanted them first. If adventure is just this vague concept of something exciting, you’ll never do it.

Two: Plan

Figure out what said adventure INVOLVES. Do you have to travel? How far? How much does it cost? Do you have to take off work? Can you find a coupon? Do you know someone who might could hook you up with a friend’s discount or a place to stay while you travel to said location? If the cost seems insurmountable, what can you sell? Can you cut back on Starbucks and/or alcohol for 2 months to come up with an extra couple hundred? Is this something you do solo or does a friend join you? Maybe the whole family? Figure out what it involves and make a plan. Swimming with dolphins, for example, takes about 1 hour, costs about $250 with the photography package and a Florida resident discount, and, of course, requires that I be in Florida (or other similar beachy location). I found a time when I’d be in Florida anyway, found some friends I could stay with for one night, set aside the hour, saved the money and voila. Life long bucket list item: check.

Three: Do

Follow through. Once you’ve figured out the details, make a plan, tell the world (or a close friend) you’re going to do it for accountability. THEN. DO. IT. What began the catalyst of my adventures was a New Year’s Resolution to have 12 new adventures in 2018. That meant I had to make a list of about 20 potential indoor and outdoor things I might like to do, and then once/month figure out how to make one of them happen. Then, rain or shine, with friends or solo, I just did it. And I haven’t looked back since.

Appalachian Trail Section Hiking

Fulfilling your wildest dreams doesn’t have to be so hard. With a little planning and a resolve to make it happen you can have hundreds of little adventures across your lifetime. There is no reason AT ALL to wait until you’re retired and frankly too old to physically accomplish what you want. We’re not even guaranteed tomorrow. What if you wait to have fun until you’re 65 and you don’t make it to 66? All those years working to finally live… for what?

My life has left me uniquely unfit for constraint
— Jamie Lannister (I'm a tad excited for Game of Thrones to come back)

A Lifetime of Adventures

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“Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you
— Tim Ferriss
Cross Country Road Trip

17states 

17 photoshoots

14 friends’ couches, air mattresses and guest bedrooms

9 weeks on the road

8000 miles 

7million squashed windshield bugs 

6 Airbnb homes 

5 new experiences

3 windshield cracks 

2 mentoring sessions

1 epic adventure 

Roughly $350

Big Bear Mountain

When telling people about my cross country trip this week I’ve noticed myself and others calling it the “adventure of a lifetime.” And while that is certainly true of my life up to this point, there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do a similar trip in a couple years. I don’t want to limit myself by thinking that my encounter with the dolphins will be the only one I experience in a lifetime. I hope to have many opportunities to have epic road trips, camp in the desert, snowboard in the rockies over and over again, and to someday again call Los Angeles one of my homes.

Big Bear Ski Resort

I don’t know where I’ll be living next year, I barely know what the next two months hold other than weddings and my plan to jump back on the Appalachian Trail. I do know I want to walk forward with hands out and palms up ready to catch whatever joy or pain may come my way and I want to live a lifetime of adventure.

Joshua Tree
Swimming with Dolphins in Key West

For those interested in what a trip like this COST, I’ve broken it down my expenses below. (I did not factor into this expenses like monthly bills, savings etc, as I would have spent those regardless.)

  • Total of Gas/parking/tolls/food/housing and extra adventures like Big Bear, The Grand Canyon, Sedona, Joshua Tree, Mardi Gras & Dolphins: $4,515

  • Minus the amount I always budget for Gas, food and adventures for two months and would have spent anyway: -$1500

  • Minus the income I made BECAUSE of shoots on the trip: -$2,675

  • =$340

It’s easy to think that epic adventures like this are impossible, but really we’re only limited by our imagination. And seriously, this trip could have been done for a fraction of that cost. I spared no expenses on food or the adventures I wanted to take. I could have been much more frugal, experienced fewer side adventures and/or prepared more meals in advance, but I wanted to experience the local flavors of each city, and I knew I’d make up the difference in shoots or dog walking.

I realize not everyone can make $2500 on the road as a photographer…but you likely have other skills you can utilize BEFORE the trip to save up that money in advance. Selling stuff on Craigslist, seriously how many shoes or hats does one person need? Extra side hustle jobs like dog walking, Uber driving, babysitting (I walked for Rover while in LA and will continue in NC) or other freelance work, and networking with friends and family (and don’t forget extended friends of friends) for free places to stay while you travel. (My best tool for this was Facebook. In the search bar type “my friends who live in (insert city or sate).” There might only be one and there might be twelve, it’s worth checking, and it’s always a great excuse to catch up with old friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Nine times out of ten people are MORE than happy to help you, they just don’t know how to unless you ask.

If there’s one book I could recommend to help someone take a risk and plan an adventure, it would be 4 Hour Work Week from Tim Ferriss. I listened to it twice while driving. I was already doing basically everything he talks about, but he puts it to words in a way that helps people who have traditional 9-5 jobs figure out a way to live their dreams and not give up their income.

Anyway if you need help brainstorming, don’t hesitate to ask!

If you want to read more about the trip itself you can check out either this post about the various landscapes I encountered or this one about life on the road.

If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves
— Thomas Edison

When Men and Mountains Meet

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Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
— Mary Oliver

It is decidedly sad that Mary Oliver passed this last week, but the event did present the inclination for many of her followers and those who had never heard her words before to dive into them. Her intentionality with seeing the world and life around her as well as her acceptance of death have inspired many to do the same. I have found myself returning to her words many times on this cross country excursion. And, as I’ve paid attention, and been quite astonished, it is now my duty to tell about it.

I truly cannot get over the variety of mountains I have come across these past few weeks. Beginning of course in my hometown, with the low rolling and misty blues of the Blue Ridge on the east coast. I have photographed them often, but usually only to adjust my lighting before asking a couple or family to step in front of the lens and allow me to capture the mountains merely as a nice backdrop. When they are allowed to be front and center, the varying shades and subtle shifts of light become far more evident.

Blue Ridge Mountains, Boone NC

Next the arid, multi-colored deserts of Arizona, surrounded by cylindrical spires that look built rather than evolved. I, of course, expected to see and experience the Grand Canyon, and it was, just as magical as everyone says. Vast as far, and farther, than the eye can see, and with edges that make you wish you were a bird so you could simply run and leap off the side!

The Grand Canyon

Perhaps the unexpected nature of stumbling across Sedona on several friends’ suggestions, I think, made it a bit more magical to me, however. The spontaneous schedule shift, extra driving to an unknown location and last second scheduled sunrise yoga session on the side of a cliff is simply something I won’t soon forget. I chose to hike alone first, early in the morning in order to get to the top of the mountain before the sunrise to capture a few shots and simply sit with the cacti as the light slowly and determinedly crept across the hills altering slightly everything it kissed. When I met up with the others for the yoga session, it was only 35 degrees as the wind whipped up the face of the cliff but the air was so crisp and the light so empowering you felt the temperature more as a welcomed tingling in your bones rather than something to shy away from.

Sedona Sunrise Yoga Session

Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains I’m quite accustomed to the deep deciduous and ever-greens of winter, summer and spring followed by the outrageously vibrant oranges, reds and yellows of the fall. Something I’ve never experienced in nature before this trip, however, are the lush blue pastels painting Sierra Nevada alongside these lonely, dry, salty pink hills. An unexpected shift in the weather sent me driving north through the desert before crossing the rockies into San Francisco, and I could not be more grateful for the extended reroute. I spent hours just sitting and staring at these colors. There was something so tranquil about the undisturbed quiet reflection of the mountains. I wanted to stay all day but the pending snow storm was going to trap me if I didn’t move on.

Nevada Mountains

So move I did. By the time I got to the top of the mountain in Lake Tahoe, it was snowing and my little car was starting to give me questioning looks every time I stopped to capture a photo. The Rockies were not unlike the Blue Ridge in the color and selection of trees, they were simply immense. Snowcapped evergreens blanketed the mountains in every direction making me excited to come back in a few short weeks to snowboard at Big Bear.

Rocky Mountains

The cliffs of Big Sur surrounded by its icy turquoise surf was certainly the most unique bunch of mountains I came across. A place I’ve been dreaming about seeing for years, I was a little worried when signs mentioned several closed sections (due to landslides from the storm I’d avoided a couple days prior), but I was able to see everything I’d hoped to and more. The vineyard valleys that followed provided a startling spring green compared to the rest of the trip, but only emphasized the vast beauty across the country.

Big Sur California and Monterey California

Next, the fire scorched trails through Malibu, bursting not with pain, but new life from the ashes. A first glance at such scarring almost makes you want to look away, but further inspection shows the beauty breaking through because of the pain. Most forests do better after a fire, so while it’s hard to look at (and certainly not ideal for areas near homes and businesses), it’s all a part of a healthy process of growth.

Malibu Forest Fires

Finally as I flew into Seattle I was honored with the chance to see a blanketed Mount Rainier both from above and below the mist. It’s extraordinary to experience life from multiple perspectives. From above she looks alone and lonely, from below, however, you see the multitude of trees and the city to keep her company.

Each set of mountains has had it’s own beauty and it’s own story. This world is ever changing and brimming with diversity, much like us. May we be brave enough to keep it that way, both in the forests and our cities.

Mount Rainier

If you’d like to see the entirety of the images from the trip, feel free to leave a comment here or shoot me an email. (cynthia@cynthiaviola.com) I’ll be selling digital downloads and prints if you are so inclined. Thank you for supporting this grand adventure.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable
— Mary Oliver

A Grand Year of Adventure

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Authenticity is more than speaking; Authenticity is also about doing. Every decision we make says something about who we are
— Simon Sinek

I decided at the beginning of 2018 I wanted to try to experience 12 new things. They didn’t need to be specific to any genre or meet any quotas for cost or time, they just had to be new to me. I wrote HERE about my midway point and I figured now would be a good time to follow up with the grand finale.

If you’re curious what, specifically I tried:

Indoor Rock Climbing

A Wedding Expo (I know, I know, it was actually very far out of my comfort zone: Sales)

Zip-lining over an Alligator Farm

Riding a dirt bike

Organized a Styled Wedding Shoot with a lot of other Vendors

Bought my dream car

Running 2 Spartan Races

A Midnight Bioluminescent Kayak Tour (With a bonus surprise: Meeting a Manatee!)

Hiking my first 2 sections of the Appalachian Trail totaling 170 miles, 100 of them solo.

An Aerial Cirque du Vol Class

Changed the Battery in a Car

Rode a scooter through downtown Raleigh

Began target practice with my new pistol, (previously only shotguns and arrows)

Posed for an artist

Took a class on Indian Weddings

Shared some life experiences with teens at Asheville Alternative High School

All in addition to regular intervals of my favorite adventures like a new tattoos, concerts, camping, paddle boarding, cycling, go karts, new foods and traveling.

Cynthia Viola Adventures

All this started when I really owned my personality type (ENFP) and what it means for me. The “driver of my car” so-to-speak is exploration, and my co-pilot is authenticity. I am happiest when I’m on an adventure and when I’m making choices that feel good and true to who I am. Apparently, when following this plan, this is when an ENFP is best able to inspire others, which in turn, makes me feel good and true to who I am which makes me want to go on more adventures. It’s a beautiful circle.

I feel immensely grateful for the never ending supply of new things to try. Adventures and exploration are definitely not for everyone. In fact, to get psychology technical on you, Extraverted Intuition (Exploration) isn’t even IN the cognitive stack of half the population. And only a quarter of people would have it as their driver or co-pilot. So I get it, a lot of people think I’m crazy or reckless or childish or unable to commit to anything, but for those of us who lead with this function and have ever had it stifled by school or family or religion or circumstance or inadvertent choice, you know that it’s the only thing that will ever make you feel alive. So to YOU I would recommend whole heartedly to set your own adventure goal this year and don’t settle for anything less. Life is too short to be stuck living someone else’s dream.

Cynthia Viola Adventures

What’s up for next year? I’ll be kicking the year off by driving across the country capturing memories for families across the way, hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon, experiencing Vegas and Mardi Gras and then who knows?!? I’d love to meet an elephant or dolphin; my all time bucket list item is the Aurora Borealis, I’d like to parasail or scuba dive. I’ll definitely hit the A.T. again but the sky is the limit! I’ll stick with #12newadventures because it’ll always be new and never boring.

The world’s a roller coaster and I am not strapped in.
Maybe I should hold with care, but my hands are busy in the air
— Incubus

Choose Your Life

PersonalCynthia Viola6 Comments
An ENFP is: Body of a woman, soul of a child, mind of the free and heart of the wild
— Ashley Lemaine
#12newadventures

I don't know about you, but while I like myself as I am, I definitely don't want to stay the same forever. I thought I liked myself at 16, but looking at that arrogant know-it-all, I have to roll my eyes. She thought the world revolved around her and could not be told any differently. I thought I liked myself at 22, but looking at what a naive child I became, I cringe. She took everything given to her without question, without pause. She nearly lost herself entirely in an effort to please others. A worthy goal, perhaps, but not worth the cost.

My thirties have been full of adventure, exactly as I hope the rest of my life to be, but also a bit reckless at times, so at Thirty Four years young I want to see if I can become the best version of myself to date. I want to keep the confidence of my youth, without being callous. I want the childlike joy of my 20s without losing my intelligence. I never want to give up adventure, but also don't want to achieve it at the risk of losing people I love. There must be balance to everything.

I decided to experience twelve new things at the beginning of this year and I don't intend to stop there, for changing horizons somehow have a way of changing us.

#12newadventures

I'm not sure at my half way point I've yet discovered any grand mystery of the universe, but I feel at peace with my life choices and grateful to be afforded the opportunity TO choose them. I am grateful that I've never lost a love of learning, and grateful the world is so big and grand and full of opportunity to always experience new things. 

For example, did you know that you can drink spring water right out of the ground without filtering it on the Appalachian Trail? (Not after it's flowed for a few feet, but as it's coming, unpolluted, out of the ground) Or if you use a long straw to blow on your campfire, instead of just your mouth, the concentrated air will help the flames really burst to life. Also, hang gliding is a much more relaxing and serene form of air adventure; I was surprised to find I liked it better than skydiving, which was actually a bit painful. Diving chest deep into water that's below freezing will force your body into defense mode to warm your core. (teeth chattering, shivering etc) It will also sacrifice your extremities for the sake of your core. This makes normal functions like climbing a rope or picking up an object infinitely more difficult. 

I wouldn't say any if these individual adventures have changed the course of my life, but I would say that choosing to have them regularly will indeed continue to change me forever. And that's all I ask out of life: adventure, growth and change. 

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, go do something new. Try some escargot or take a boxing class or volunteer at a refugee organization to meet people you could never possibly share the same story with and LEARN. You never know who you're going to meet or what you're going to gain, but the chances of meeting someone new or experiencing something new while stuck in the same routine day in and day out are slim. The people we have yet to meet are the ones who bring us new opportunities, and the things we've yet to do are the things that teach us something we don't know about ourselves. It's always worth the risk. 

And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later
— Randy Komisar