‘Simone… serious… how old did you say you are?? 10?’ It’s not the first time one of my friends looks at me and wonders what the hell I am doing. In fact; it is one of the things I keep asking myself on a very regular basis too. You see I have a serious case of ‘I don’t really know what I want anymore’ I’ve been self employed for the last 12 years and it’s been a roller coaster ride. Let me take you along for the ride for just a little while so you get to know me a little better.
From operations manager to photographer
I had worked for Nike for 9 years as an operational manager before I decided I wanted to become a full time photographer. Well, no scratch that… I wanted to become a photographer ever since I can remember. But… it was an expensive education and at the time my parents didn’t think it would be a good idea, so it never happened. I left school, didn’t know what I wanted to become and applied for jobs left and right. I got hired as a student nurse and did that for about two years. Turned out it was not really my thing, so quit and applied for the next thing that came along. I think I kept that up for a couple of years. Starting a job, doing it for a few years, quitting because I got bored and moving on to the next.
At some point I ended up with my dream company, which was Nike (this is not a Nike ad, it just happened that way) and I got hired as an inventory planner at the pro sports department. We were responsible for all deliveries of teams and athletes within Europe and it was great fun. I moved up the ladder to team manager to operations manager and then …. I got bored. Well maybe bored is not the right word here, but problems kept repeating themselves. And every time a new manager came aboard, he or she felt the need to re-invent the wheel again and I got bored with that.
Taking pictures has always been something I’ve done since I was a kid. My dad had a dark room so I loved seeing pictures come to live and once I purchased my own digital camera I started taking more and more photos. I discovered micro stock and figured why not make a few bucks doing what I loved. That worked rather nicely and with the money I earned I purchased better equipment, moving it up a notch. I started hiring models for shoots and the income crept steadily up.
At one point I started working a day less at Nike as I was working almost 24/7 combining the photography business with daily work. But that still wasn’t enough time and working three days with my job was just not an option.
Full time photographer
At that time I quit my full time job. A well paying job. I was 44 years old. Not your average age to start a new business and a new career. But fuck it, I went for it and got successful pretty quick. I did weddings, portraits, product and in the meantime I finally went to school to get that photographers diploma. As it turned out I sort of hated doing wedding photography. I had really nice ones but also really, really boring ones.
Around the time I started doing photography full time I also figured I needed to have a blog. All the big photographers in the US that I followed and admired had a blog, I followed a couple of food bloggers around the world and I thought; let’s start one too. My first blog – Junglefrog’s Daily Adventures – was quickly changed in name to Junglefrog Cooking. It turned out I loved to write about food, make recipes and share them with the world.
Blogging at that time was non existent in the Netherlands, so I blogged in English. I also, at some point, started one in Dutch, Frog Bites (my company name at the time was Junglefrog Images. Don’t ask me why.. 😉 ) but about 7 years ago I felt the need to rebrand and write more in Dutch. And so Simone’s Kitchen was born. It took of straight away and is still quite popular with around 100.000 unique visitors a month. Not huge but not small either.
My career at that point had changed from overall photographer to food photographer. That didn’t happen overnight but I loved shooting food and it naturally progressed that way until I decided – 8 years or so ago – that I wouldn’t do any other photography anymore. Food photographer it was. I’ve shot more than 60 cook books, done countless commercial jobs, editorial jobs and anything food related.
And then shit hits the fan
Life was all great, I got to travel quite a bit for my blog. Got invitations to all sorts of wonderful destinations and I loved it all. But then, one cold day on December 7th 2015 one of those press trips didn’t end so well. We did a husky tour and I was sitting in one of the sleds. Strapped in against the cold, shooting pictures. At one point we were going downhill quite fast, the sled in front of us fell over, my friend who steered the sled, tried to brake and steer and we ended up against a very tall and big Norwegian tree.
My right ankle was crushed really really badly, the left one broken and a broken rib. The last two I never noticed as the pain in the right ankle was so severe that anything else in comparison was minor. Let me make a long story short, but it took over 6 months of sleeping in a hospital bed in the living room for me to heal sufficient enough to be able to function. I didn’t stop working though. My very first shoot was three days after I left the hospital. I shot from my hospital bed in my living room and thinking back it was madness but I was, after all, self employed. So no paid sick leave.
So first the shoots where from my bed, then from the wheel chair, then on crutches and finally I could sort of walk again. It took one and a half year (more or less) before I could walk again without a limp. If anything was a lesson in patience, this certainly was.
Fast forward to today; of course that ankle will never be what it used it be. And I have to keep the amount of steps I take in a day within limits. I can’t run and I cannot climb a mountain. But I’ve come further than I ever though possible and my surgeon still calls me ‘his miracle’. At some point it looked like I might be spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair. And maybe it was that which led me to rethink my future. I’m 56 right now so not young by any standard but still far too young to sit back and let life dictate what I do. So I began thinking about a plan B. Food photography is still fun but not what it used to be anymore. Maybe I got bored… again… So yes, it would be the sane thing to keep doing what I do. Earn good money and say fuck it to everyone else. But… I love travel and while I have had a Dutch travel blog in the past I figured I give travel blogging a good go.
And even though it might not be the obvious thing to do…. I’m doing it anyway. Because I like it. Because it is me.
Probably not the most exciting travel blogger but hey, I am real and I have fun doing it so that is what counts!
I might be calling it travel with a handicap (as that is kind of what I have more or less…) or travel for over fifty, as I think there are not a lot of older travel bloggers out there. The ones I see most are in their twenties. So yes, it makes no sense. But today is the day I say “Fuck it, I’m going for it” (sorry for all the fucks..)