Cameron Martindell is a freelance adventure and expedition writer and photographer. He maintains his own popular blog OffYonder.com and is a Senior Editor for Elevation Outdoors Magazine as well as a contributing writer for National Geographic, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, Backpacker, Wired, Australian Geographic, Mountainzone.com among others.
What does exploration mean to you?
It certainly has two parts. There is geographical exploration, but then there’s the exploration of yourself in that environment. Getting outside of your comfort zone is probably the simplest definition of exploration to me. Anyone who pushes themselves one way or the other is an explorer. In that process you are exploring how you handle conflict, adverse weather, unexpected foods, or new cultures. In the long run, I think it’s looking for the harmony in the world and exploring how we can appreciate and recognize our differences. Getting out there and seeing things is not just the superficial surface of the geography that I’m seeing but exploring myself and meeting other people in the process.
Off Yonder is very much your project and life’s work and I am curious how you got into this line of work?
For someone like myself, the mold never fit. As soon as I was given rules or restraints, I wanted to just break through them. I would definitely credit the Boy Scouts hugely for exposing me to the outdoor industry and appreciating nature. I initially got into the Scouts because my family was living in Germany at the time. It was a tie back to my American culture and heritage but also what led me into camping, backpacking, and the outdoors.
Secondly was having a father in the air force who moved around and had experienced other cultures, you know, and getting used to moving every 3-5 years. Between having a family that moved around a lot, scouting, and that exploratory sense of no limits and no barriers is really the triad of what has helped compose me to who I am.
In College I also designed my own degree called Internet Entrepreneurship which was a mix of business, economics, computer science, mass communication, and studio art. And because of my scouting experience I loved the outdoors so I basically kept my eye open for any of the classes that had field trips which were basically all the Biology classes . So I also ended up very accidentally with a minor in Biology.
How have you managed to make this a sustainable life career?
Well I ended up doing a study abroad program in Nepal for three months and while I was there a good friend of mine decided that he wanted to propose to his Australian girlfriend and he wanted me to be the best man. Australia had a strong lure for me so I ended up with a holiday work permit, which allowed me to work and stay in Australia for a year. I ended up getting a job with Australian Geographic while I was down there. Previously I had also helped to start an online magazine MountainZone.com. We were the exclusive outlet for an Everest guide Dave Hahn – who has been credited for discovering George Mallory’s body. I also had had two internships with the Christian Science Monitor and National Geographic helping to build their web presence. Having a strong entrepreneurial internet skill set certainly opened doors to let me into these places and, eventually, into Australian Geographic. I didn’t have any biases against online media as I was fresh and young and so that has definitely been an advantage.
Just following my natural interests – that is what I tell people when they look at a career like mine – is to really be true to your heart. I had an interest in computers and technology and science and I let my heart lead me. And by being honest with myself, I was able to tolerate and take the difficulties that come with it. It’s a neat blend of business and art – you have to be able to find that one part of what you are doing has a relationship with something else, and then finding that unique blend of those two things and making something of that. And that totally transfers to the business side of things. This again boils down to a genuine exploration of yourself.
How do you see the process of documenting as altering the experience for you? Is that a creative process or something that needs to be done to share the experience with others?
It is something you have to be conscious of in terms of “do I want to just experience this for what it is and just be in it or do I want to try and document it?” I will go back and forth. It’s nice for me to find a way to occupy my thought and time and, for me, it is part of the experience and how I engage with what I am seeing and experiencing.
Where is home for you in all of this?
Boulder Colorado is home now. I moved out here from San Diego and promptly got engaged and married later that year. That makes Boulder home and again it was about following my heart. I had known about Boulder Colorado but it hadn’t quite clicked for me how perfect Boulder was for me in terms of where I wanted to go with my career. I got very shortly signed on with a magazine here, Elevation Outdoors. So I am now Senior Editor for them and do a regular column as well as try to find writers for that publication. Boulder is a mecca of freelance photographers and writers in the outdoors industry so it turned out to be so much more of a hub than I expected or realized, and it has helped my career boom. I just followed my heart chasing the girl here and it worked!
So what’s next for you?
Off Yonder is all set for me to do some self-publishing and help my friends get away from the traditional publishing industry. I am enjoying working for others at the moment and there is a neat evolution in travel video happening right now – we do Elevation Outdoors Television and are trying to find a way of making that sustainable. And I am always keeping my eye open for the next thing that is out there…for the next good trip or story.