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A Year In New Zealand Irrevocably Changed This Man's Life And Career

JANUARY 9, 2016  —  By Madeline Distasio  
Madeline Distasio

Madeline Distasio

Writer and editor holding it down in Philadelphia. Interests include drawing, exclusively wearing black, having too many books to fit in my tiny apartment, and choosing my dachshund over people.

If you're looking for a sure-fire way to change your entire worldview, approach that process in the most literal way possible by picking up and moving to a different corner of the globe. There's nothing more terrifying than packing your life away in one checked bag and pretending your comfort zone never existed, but there's also nothing that will impact and enrich your life more profoundly.

And that's exactly what Johan Lolos learned in October of 2014 when he left his Belgian homeland behind to explore New Zealand. What started as a three-month road trip with friends quickly turned into a year of self-exploration that completely changed the trajectory his life and career.

"When I arrived in New Zealand in 2014," Lolos writes, "I was full of expectations, but I didn't really have any goals. I just wanted to travel and explore the country."

The journey began as a road trip with friends that he only expected to last for a few months, but the artist quickly realized that there was something infectious about the New Zealand landscape that would take far longer than 90 days to process.

Being left behind by friends in a foreign land is incomprehensible to most, but Lolos knew that if he left with them, he'd always regret it.

After settling down in Wanaka, his artistic transformation really began. "At the time of the road trip," he said, "I called myself a photographer, but I was really just a traveler with a camera. For me, the only thing that mattered when it came to taking a good picture was great scenery."

He quickly discovered that he had much to learn on that front. Fortunately for him, the mountains, lakes, and rivers of Wanaka served as his silent teachers.

Lolos also surrounded himself with creative peers who inspired him to take his work seriously enough to turn it into a profession.

In the artist's words, "I was deeply inspired by my photographer friends. They taught me to chase soft light, to seek contrasts, and to hike a few hours to get the perfect shot from the top of a mountain."

The simple truth is that the photographer experienced a rebirth of sorts in Wanaka. The experience fitted him with brand new eyes.

"My photographic style changed considerably earlier this year, since I found all the inspiration I needed in Wanaka," he writes.

"While I was originally looking for bluebird skies, I left searching for moody scenes and chasing the golden hours."

Travel and transplantation have transformative properties, and a year in the wind totally changed this man's outlook on life, art, and what it means to let places comfort and inspire him. As for what's next, Lolos says that he wants nothing more than to revisit New Zealand and Australia to look on them with the fresh eyes that they lent him two years ago.

To see more of this creator's work, be sure to check out his website. If you want to keep up with his adventures as they unfold, follow Lolos on Instagram as well.

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