You’ve seen his photos around our social media and have read his blogs, but today we are getting a first-hand account of Alex Paul, our traveling ambassador’s, philosophies on health, wellness, and pursuing your dreams. Our family has known Alex for many years as he started working with us on different projects when he was in high school. Now a full-time college student at Indiana University-Bloomington, Alex has become an established photographer and is exploring the United States one road trip at a time and sharing the details with Red Leaf today. We hope you enjoy!
Thanks for sitting down with us today. Let’s start by telling our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got started as a traveling photographer.
I’m Alex and I’m from Indiana. I’m grew up with two great parents that showed me how to travel in a way that wasn’t your standard Disney World vacation. We went to state parks and went exploring, which taught me to go do that in my later years. With photography, it really started by looking through photo books. Specifically, it was an Ansel Adams photo book in the 8th grade where I remember thinking, “wow this is incredible. I want to do that.” Growing up in the social media age and seeing other people travel and take cool photos also inspired me to go out and do it myself. So it snowballed from there. I started taking photos and getting better at it, acquiring new skills, and figuring out ways to use my photo skills to make money and become a professional at it, which brings us to today.
You’ve focused a lot of your travels on the United States. How many states have you been to so far?
Since I graduated high school and started road-tripping around the country, I’ve traveled over 150,000 miles and been to 45 states.
*Take a moment to let that sink in- WOW!!*
So your interest in photography started at a young age, but when did you realize, “oh yeah, this is what I want to do with my life.”
There really wasn’t one moment that I was like, “yes, I’m going to be a photographer.” More than that, photography is just something I do and am talented at that allows me to do what I love, which is explore new places through travel. That’s the greatest part of it. I can be a photo journalist, I can be a traveling photographer and have two very different, awesome experiences. It’s a way to document moments in time that mean something to me. I can promise you, no one loves my photos as much as I do because they serve to remind me of specific moments in time that are meaningful to me. I love photography, but it’s the memories that I capture through photography that I love most.
Very cool. I actually didn’t know that. Tell us about one of your most impactful trips.
It’s not really any specific trip, it’s more a type of experience. When I first got the idea to travel around the United States, it was because I wanted to intimately know the country I’m so fortunate to live in. To me, traveling and having these great experiences was the best way to be a citizen of my own country and of the world. With travel, it’s very interesting when you go to a place with zero expectations and are blown away by everything you experience. For example, I just went to Big Bend in Texas and I’d never been to that area before. Historically, that part of America used to be part of Mexico, so while you’re still in America, everyone is speaking Spanish and the food is ethnically Mexican. I can go visit this place and get all this unique cultural experience without having to get a passport. Same as going up to northern Maine, the culture is very different because you have Nordic influence and French influence, but you’re still in America. You can go to different places in America and feel like you’re in another country. It’s a really unique place.
I like what you said about “going in with no expectations and being blown away” by the experience. That’s a very counter-cultural way of thinking. How do you embrace that mentality when it comes to your stage of life right now? You’re in college, building the foundation for your future, how do you try to limit expectations and roll with what comes your way?
There’s this great inspirational quote that says, “don’t work for the world, let the world work for you.” Go out and find a way- no, actually sit back, think about your values and what brings you joy- and let the world come to you and fulfill those things in your life. I really love travel. In fact, I need to travel. So I sit back and ask myself, is there a way I can build this value into my world so I get to do more of it? So with working with Red Leaf, I’m not trying to build a brand as an influencer, but going out to create content that you guys can use that allows me to go travel and have the experiences I want to have, that’s letting the world work for me. I try to find a way to let the world fill that love and passion in my life and be open-minded to however that comes about.
Love that! And that’s exactly what we talked about before bringing you on board the ambassador team. We wanted to make an ambassador role that fit who you are, and that’s different from our other ambassadors, because each person is unique. Our company mission is to provide products and services that add value to your unique health journey, whatever that looks like; not tell you to pursue one specific version of health.
Exactly. I live a pretty diversified life and I like having balance in my routine. If you guys were telling me I had to go get jacked, I would have to pursue that 24/7 and put on 50 pounds and it would be completely against what I want my healthy life to look like. I feel like a lot of other brands are just pushing this “get big and jacked” vibe and you guys have a much more accessible approach to a variety of people and lifestyles.
Since we’re on the topic of Red Leaf, will you share your favorite Red Leaf product?
Definitely the Cranberry Lime Pre-Workout. One time we were driving and it was my turn to drive. It was late at night and I was really hurting for energy so I grabbed a single serve packet and just downed it and it was epic. It helped me stay awake and alert. Another time, we had just summited this peak and were coming back down, totally exhausted, and we’d taken some photos of the products at the summit and realized- “oh! We have pre-workout.” So we added it to our water packs and got a great energy boost to finish the hike.
I know we’d talked previously that pre-workout was never something you used, but have really enjoyed having it with you on your travels since becoming an ambassador. That’s what we love about Red Leaf is that it’s super versatile. So final few questions- dream big. What does your ideal life look like?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently actually. I actually would love to have a very stable, concrete social life. Even though I love the nomadic lifestyle, it’s because I want to explore new places not because I want to live on the road. The dream situation would be to have the most amount of free time, almost an unlimited amount of free time, to explore my passions. And no one has free time anymore. I want to create works of art in the sense of documenting things with photography and video. To provide a unique lens onto the world of how I see things. It’s awesome to see big, beautiful landscapes, but it’s equally beautiful to go have an awesome conversation with the person working at the gas station in rural Kentucky, which is only 100 miles from my backyard. Inspiration is everywhere and I love finding spontaneous opportunities to meet amazing people or see something new and gain a new insight into how other people live and package it in a photo or video.
Free time IS important because it allows us to pursue the things that make us who we are, and so often those things get lost in the rat-race. So with that big vision in mind, obviously things don’t always work out exactly how we want them to. How do you handle setbacks when they inevitably arise?
Happiness is just reality – expectation. Setbacks are always going to happen. Things will never go to plan. But those setbacks often result in really cool, meaningful experiences. That’s why I like traveling so much. With my personality, if I sat at college like a normal student, I think I’d be very afraid of trying new things because I’d be so afraid of failing. But with travel, you constantly are having setbacks and you learn how to think critically and deal with those setbacks as they come, which really serves as a platform for the rest of my life. Like some things I’ve learned through failures are time management skills, fueling my body, taking into account my mental game (that’s about 70% of it) and knowing when I need to back off or when I can push myself a little further. At this point with travel, I just don’t view setbacks as a big issue. When I’m traveling with friends, something crazy will happen and where they are freaking out, I’m calm because I’m prepared for setbacks to occur- not anything specific necessarily, but I’m prepared for anything to happen.
That’s very wise and a great lesson to learn at an early stage of life. For those people who are interested in traveling or having new experiences, how do you recommend they get started?
Very simple. Just go do it. The first time you do it is that hardest time. And if you really want to do it, you’ll set up your life to be able to go do more of it. Don’t make excuses. If you really want to try something new, you will.
Straight forward, and to the point. We want to thank Alex for sharing some of his philosophies on life, travel, and chasing his dreams. To join him on his latest adventures, follow him @alexpaulphoto on Instagram! All photos in this blog were taken by Alex on his travels with Red Leaf.