How an intense divorce helped one travel photographer find her calling

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.

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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.

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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?

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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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