Meet Shoestring Warrior and Photographer Chris Pickens

When we first met Chris Pickens on a Shoestring Adventure in Havasupai, he was about to undergo a big life change. As a trailer editor in the film industry, he found himself increasingly frustrated to be stuck in an edit bay 50 plus hours a week, so he traded in his day job for the unknown. Since then, we have enjoyed watching his journey unfold.

I decided to start living for me and to start achieving my dreams today instead of someday.

Chris discovered his love for the outdoors only about 4 years ago after a breakup, when he began hiking as a form of therapy. Snapping photos during these hikes, he also discovered his love for photography. As a solo traveler, Chris is not afraid to step into the frame, allowing us to follow him around the globe quite literally and inviting us deeper into the moment through his honest storytelling.

Learn more about our friend Chris in the interview below, including his advice for Shoestring Warriors considering a similar life change, as well as tips for perfecting your self-portraits!

Shoestring Warrior: Chris


Durant, OK

Current Location:

Santa Monica, CA


Freelance Trailer Editor/Photographer

What are your passions outside of work?

I mostly enjoy being outside as much as I can – surfing, hiking, camping, and photography. I love reading books and discussing movies with friends. I’m always planning my next travel destination

How would you describe your level of camping experience?


Shoestring Adventures Trip Completed:

Havasupai 2015

Tell us about yourself!

I was born and raised in Oklahoma and moved to Los Angeles about 10 years ago to pursue a career in the film industry. I’m a bit of an introvert; which is perhaps part of the reason I chose a profession where I found myself alone in a dark room most of the time. It was only about 4 years ago that I discovered my love for being outdoors and seeing the natural world. I was going through a break-up and decided to go on hikes around L.A. as a form of therapy. I began snapping photos during these hikes with my phone and my love for photography began.

Photo by Chris Pickens

A year ago, you made a big life change. Can you tell us about this change and what inspired you to take the leap?

I chose to pursue a career in film because I’m a cinephile at heart but I increasingly found myself frustrated to be stuck in an edit bay 50 plus hours a week. I wanted to travel more and wasn’t happy relegating my travel time to weekends and holidays. I had a long conversation with my dad and he mentioned that he had had many plans to travel and see the country when he retired, but now, due to his health, he was unable to pursue those goals.

So with my recent bouts of unhappiness with my work and my dad’s regrets lingering in my mind, I decided to start living for me and to start achieving my dreams today instead of someday.

Photo by Chris Pickens

What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself over the past year?

My resilience. More often than not, things don’t go as smoothly initially planned. Especially when venturing on a new path. I went to SE Asia for 3 months last year and it was full of ups and downs but I took each bump in stride and learned from it to hopefully be better prepared for the next one.

Photo by Chris Pickens

Do you have any advice for adventurers considering a similar life change?

Prepare first then you just have to go for it. The timing will never be perfect. I wasn’t quite sure what the future was going to hold but I wanted to be semi-ready. I saved up money and cut out unnecessary expenditures to live more minimalistically and frugally. I knew that I wanted to take at least a year off so I budgeted and calculated what I would need and I discovered that it actually wasn’t much especially when I cut out most of the luxuries that I had initially thought were necessities in life.

Prepare first then you just have to go for it. The timing will never be perfect.

Photo by Chris Pickens

Do you have any tips for solo travelers wanting to take self portraits?

Always carry a tripod! I love introducing a human element in my shots for a bit of scale or intrigue so I’m constantly stepping into frame since I’m often by myself. There’s always a chance you can find a branch or rock to set your camera on but having a tripod is almost necessary if you want to take shots of yourself on your trip. I typically explore an area a bit, looking for angles and composition, then once I have my set-up I decide where I will stand and set my camera’s focus on that point. At this moment, I usually set a timer or use a remote and I almost always have my camera to burst mode so that it can take multiple shots which comes in handy when you’re so excited to be outside that you find yourself jumping for joy. Now, I have a camera with wifi that syncs to my phone via an app so I can use that as my remote and see exactly where I’m standing in frame.

Photo by Chris Pickens

What is your favorite piece of gear to bring on your travels?

I go on a lot of road trips and I never leave without my ChargeIt Jump portable power pack. It’s small (3”x5.5”) but has enough juice to jump a car if you or someone is stranded on the side of the road while also having 2 USB ports to charge devices and a built in flashlight. The best part is that you can charge it in your car’s outlet while you’re driving.

As a trip alumni, can you share your favorite Shoestring Adventures memory from Havasupai?

My favorite memory was the post-trip lunch we had together after we made our final, grueling hike out of the canyon. I didn’t know anyone on the trip but after a few days of hiking in the desert heat, swimming in turquoise water, and cooking some amazing meals around camp I felt like we had all been friends forever.

Photo by Cameron Gardner in Havasupai

Where to next?

I have several international and domestic trips in the works for this year but the next immediate destination is New Zealand. I’m slightly stoked.

The perfect s’more (or other campfire dessert)?

While it may be sacrilege, I’ve never been a huge fan of s’mores. However, I always pack a little bag of Reese’s mini peanut butter cups.

Follow more of Chris’s adventures on Instagram!

Photos © 2017 Chris Pickens

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