How an intense divorce helped one travel photographer find her calling

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It takes guts to leave everything behind and travel the world, but for Kirsten Alana her decision was simple. After her marriage ended, she decided to take a bad situation and use it as a motivator to jumpstart her lifelong dream of becoming a travel photographer. Fast forward hundreds of adventures later and Kirsten Alana has become a top Instagram travel photographer. Her posts which are synonymous with her bright, vibrant aesthetic, read more as storybooks than a simple picture and have captivated millions of viewers.

By immersing herself in a culture and being able to capture incredible landscapes, city views, and the people that make up a country, Alana has been able to transport her almost 200,000 Instagram fans to different regions of the world. Her fans can count on her for honest reviews and incredible story-telling from those who inhabit every city she visits. It's the reason why so many of them turn to Alana for everything from wanderlust inspiration to advice on their next vacation.

And trust us, with one look at her Instagrams, you'll be a fan too.

We recently sat down with the incredible traveler herself to talk about the events that led up to her big career switch, where her love of travel first began, and more!

YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews, click here. And come back at 12 pm EST for more exclusives on Kirsten Alana, including where she finds her travel inspiration.

When did you first fall in love with photography?
I had a camera in my hand when I could walk and talk. My father was a photographer in the military intelligence department. This was post WWII obviously but he did a military and intelligence at the end of the Cold War. The wall hadn't come down yet in Germany so he was doing a lot of Germany and Russia intelligence at the time. I saw his albums of what he would shoot in his free time which was a lot of beautiful German Alps and daisies and blue skies. It was his black and white portraits of people in Europe that got me. Both of my parents subscribe to National Geographic and so they were always around my house. My dads photos and the Steve McCurry Afghan Girl cover just burned into my memory.

I ended up joined a childhood arts program, and it was there that realized I couldn't draw or do design, but I could take pictures. I wasn't the best immediately, but I knew I loved it. Being pragmatic though, I would get a degree in communications and photography was always just a thing on the side. But in college I took engagement photos -- I went to a school where every woman ended up going there to get her MRS degree -- and I shot for people in college. It kept going there after that. I shot on film cameras and learned how to develop my own film. And it got a bearing on the traditional aspects of photography.

Eventually I got married myself and we moved to a place in Ohio and I couldn't get a job in what I had been doing which was communication for colleges. So I gave wedding photography a try full-time. He cheated and we got a divorce, and I really did not want to be the divorced wedding photographer in a corner at the reception. All the pieces ended up falling into place and I was able to pursue travel photography, which is what I really wanted to do. All of a sudden there was no excuse for me not to try.

What made you decide to go completely nomadic?
It wasn't a choice in terms of what I was doing. I had a stable life and it wasn't stable. My husband cheated and then we divorced. We had a three-story house, two cars, and considered pets. We had a very stable life. When all of that fell apart because of him, it was a very logical choice to just tear it apart even further. Why would I get another house when the door is open to just leave it all behind literally and metaphorically?

I went out to San Francisco where I had friends and began living with them since it was free and I always wanted to live there. I was doing yoga one morning on my friend's roof and I just thought, I'm done sleeping on couches, I'm just going travel. I don't want to live in San Francisco now when I don't know what I want to do and I don't want to be a wedding photographer here because that didn't sound fun. It was easier to have no fixed place to go back to.

YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews, click here. And come back at 12 pm EST for more exclusives on Kirsten Alana, including where she finds her travel inspiration.

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How an intense divorce helped one travel photographer find her calling
What are you looking at πŸ‘€πŸ˜‚
How I look every day because life is too short to not have fun with yourself πŸ™†πŸ»
Move the way you want to move πŸ’ƒπŸΌ
This is my face when someone mentions food!πŸ€“ Releasing a new video tonight! Can't wait!❀️
Shooting a new vid for you guys!! Uploading Wednesday!!!😍❀️🎬 #teamworkmakesthedreamwork
It's the most wonderful time of the yearβ€οΈπŸŽ„πŸŽ
"Mom she won't let me have a sip of her Capri Sun" -6 year old nerf gun loving Brent to 6 year old polly pocket obsessed Mere NEW VIDEO IS UP W/ @brentrivera πŸ‘« Link to watch is in my bio! ❀️
Adventuring with friends at the beach 🌊 Pretty sure this house was haunted... not to mention the door was open. Something you guys don't know about me is I am the most savage ghost hunter around nothing scares me and I mean nothing πŸ‘€ Do you believe in ghosts? πŸ‘»
Bonjour, je m'appelle Meredith. Comment t'appelle tu? Out of my 3 years of studying French this is one of the only things I remember πŸ˜‚πŸ‘‹
AHH!!! We hit 3MILLION subbies today!! πŸ’žπŸŽ‰πŸ˜­πŸŽ‚ I love my #macbabies so so much!!! You all mean the WORLD to me!!! Our family is growing so much! Thank you for allowing me to just be my awkward self. I love you and I can never thank you enough for all the opportunities you've given me!! πŸ’žπŸŽ‰πŸŽ‚βœ¨πŸ˜±
i like pink doors β™‘ ps..new video going up soon! ahh who's excited?!? link in my bio! also, what's your fav color?! hehe πŸ’žβœŒπŸΌοΈπŸŽ‰
until next time thailand β™‘ ps...guess who just uploaded a vlog!! you get a sneak peek of my final room decor!! ahh! also, how did you find my youtube channel? i'm so curious! πŸ’žπŸŒŽβœŒπŸΌοΈ
i just wanna travel the world ✈️ where should I go next ?πŸ˜‰
so ready for halloween πŸ‘» SOOOO, I just uploaded a brand new HALLOWEEN VIDEO!! Click the link in my bio to watch!πŸŽƒ
eye see you πŸ‘€ Ps: thank you all for your amazing and continued support. I want you all to know how much I love and appreciate you so much. xoxo
Have you seen my new video yet!? It's all about music festivals so make sure to check it out on my YouTube channel! + there's some friends in it☺️
My new video is dropping today!!! Can you guess what it'll be..?πŸ˜—
u like em crazy babe don't u
the #londonhasfallen premiere last night πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§
when the waiter passes your table with food
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trying my hardest to be "fierce"....
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We love taking walks, no phones, just talking about life. If you can, make time every week to take a 30-minute walk with a friend or a loved one. It's a cool way to get to know each other on a deeper level!
Leap year gives us all 24 extra hours to #DayItForward! We’ve teamed up w/ @Chevrolet to send love to #UsTheFamily - check out our Twitter feed tomorrow!!
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NEW VIDEO: Creepy Things Girls Do πŸ˜‚ Comment a, "🐬" if you've watched it/will watch it
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Soft curls and red lips πŸ’‹ // πŸ“·: @torrancecoombs
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Rendezvous in Paris in Pink on #TheChriselleFactor today. Direct link in bio πŸ‘‰πŸ» http://thechrisellefactor.com/2016/03/rendezvous-in-pink/
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ATL tonight 😏
had the King of LA @yg come through last night πŸ™πŸ½
If you guys saw how I looked before you would think it was magic 😩😭 My beautiful makeup for #kca by @beautybydianalomelin πŸ’«
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Eating all that sushi finally turned me into a mermaid! 😭 for @projectmermaids #saveourbeach Photography by @angelinaventurellaphoto Hair and Makeup by @ljbeauty Bra by @edwordgarcia Sponsored by @sexyhair Project Manager @crissycrissybobissy
If you know me well or have read interviews I’ve done then you know that @marthastewart has always been my biggest inspiration when it comes to food. One of my goals is to be a combination of my two idols- Martha and Andy Warhol. As a child I would dream about spending the time and care like her to prepare a table, creating something very special for people to join around and share a meal. Watching her cook inspired me to teach myself how to hand weigh ingredients, to always have my mise en place organized, how to pronounce words like vichyssoise, and her wide usage of produce variety is honestly a large part of where my curiosity for our food sparked from. With this said, I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I was told that I was one of the 25 creatives @marthastewart is inspired by in celebration of their 25th anniversary. Thank you for helping me think and dream so big Martha, I am honored to share this and to make you all of the colors. #25yearsofmartha #foodgradients
I wanted to take a moment to reintroduce myself. I’m Brittany and I recognize that I seem to do a decent job of not sharing much about my actual self here or in interviews. I prefer to keep my art about the food and not myself. This community and my photography have become the biggest part of my life, I love it more than I have words to explain but there's more that makes me who I am. So for a quick moment here’s a bit- I’m 24, a taurus, live in Seattle but grew up in San Diego, my favorite food is a cheeseburger (super thin patty, toasted bun), my favorite bands are @stygoc and @metric, my first tattoo was the one on chest- it’s still my favorite and says β€˜love your life’, something many people sadly forget. I was raised by my grandparents, I love to make small collections of items like rocks and stickers, I grew up playing a lot of sports competitively, I love Star Wars and have Boba Fett tattooed on my arm but Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is my favorite movie. Many times I have been told that being an artist β€œcan’t be a real job” and that I was wasting my time trying to do so. I smile everyday not because I proved them wrong but because I achieved a goal. Dream big, everyone.
Thought I might start this week off with a past candy photo. Here's to hoping you all have the best days ahead! #foodgradients
KΓΆln!!!! Didn't pronounce your name right on stage but... You were AMAZING. Only a couple shows left in EU-- next up, London... (πŸ“·: @annamaria_langer )
Practicing our Spanish with @tvtelehit Mexico πŸ‡²πŸ‡½
Sam wants to play Jack & Rose in Titanic but Casey's all "nah i'm good, have fun tho mang"
We drove 28 hours to get to Canada. The jeep is still runningπŸ’€πŸ˜
The Dallas episode for @heyusax is the funniest yet! Go watch it now on @go90 now!πŸ˜„πŸ˜„
Keep lookin up.
πŸ’…πŸ» #THELASTSTEW
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