A Leave of Absence

Author

Hans Kleinschmidt

Photographer

Hans Kleinschmidt

Camera

Canon AE-1

Film

Kodak Tri-X 400

A Leave of Absence

Finding new perspective among Northern Europe’s modernist architecture and soaring natural terrain

A Leave of Absence

Author

Hans Kleinschmidt

Photographer

Hans Kleinschmidt

Camera

Canon AE-1

Film

Kodak Tri-X 400

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Hans Kleinschmidt is a Portland, Oregon-based photographer. Follow him on Instagram.

I’ve never been the type of person who loves to get out of their comfort zone. I would say that a good portion of my early life decisions were based around debilitating anxieties, playing it safe, and living up to the expectations of others. After working for an advertising agency in the Midwest for a couple years, I felt like my life and career weren’t going anywhere. In hindsight, the uneasiness I felt with my surroundings is what eventually pushed me out of my comfort zone.

So, I quit. I sold my furniture, put my things in storage, and was sent off by my close friends with notebook full of polaroids and well-wishes. I was determined to clear my head—to immerse myself in someplace new to gain a fresh perspective and outlook. Backpacking alone across Europe felt like a great way to start over.

I bought a ticket to Paris, a Eurorail pass to easily travel on the train, and several rolls of Tri-X 400 35mm film. Over the next month, I went from city to city taking photos of cityscapes and landscapes, new friends and strangers. It was important to me to document my travels on black and white film. To me Europe captures an important contrast—ancient and innovative, familiar and foreign.

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While I would spend most of my nights in hostels and Airbnbs in larger cities across Western Europe, I spent my days taking trains into the wilderness and wide open spaces. One of these days consisted of taking a local train to a small village in the Swiss Alps called, Grindelwald.

I’ll never forget getting off the Grindelwald lift at Kleine Schleidegg and breathing in the cool November air. The Swiss Alps towered above and around me, and I was speechless and alone. My eyes watered as I took in the scene and all of the anxiety that I felt about leaving home and starting over someplace new seemed small in comparison.

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From there, I went north. I took the train through Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, stopping through cities and small towns along the way. I ended my trip by flying from Oslo into Reykjavik to meet up with a close friend that found a cheap flight out of New York. We rented a car, spending a few days on the western side of the island and finished our travels on a horse ranch in the southern region.

It worked. I came back reset, with a new perspective and a strong sense that everything was going to be ok. More than the fresh confidence, this trip ignited a new sense of adventure in me, and I’ll be chasing that feeling for the rest of my life.

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Published 02-12-2019

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