First impressions: an Easterner's new life in the West

  • In June, I prepared for my first move West. High Country News had offered me a job, and within weeks I wrapped up my old New England life, filing my final set of photographs for my former newspaper. I packed my car with essential items for a new western life -- cameras and sleeping bags, snow shoes and skateboards -- and set out from Maine for Paonia, Colorado.

    Andrew Cullen
  • I had scarcely seen the West before, but my native states had begun to feel constricting. I wanted a life of small discoveries; open space to span before me; to live in daily wonder.

    Andrew Cullen
  • The waypoints were all new, and maps became constant companions as my friend Emily, another recent East Coast transplant, and I tried to find names for what we saw on our frequent excursions.

    Andrew Cullen
  • In the West, we found that nature and human history were less at odds than back home, where builders of the great cities had demolished all but the faintest traces of the outdoors. In Crested Butte, Colo., the sky seemed to invite itself inside.

    Andrew Cullen
  • It was easy to feel giddily awestruck in the heart of the Weminuche wilderness, where the moose wandered, ignoring us, miles beneath the towering peaks of Arrow and Vestal.

    Andrew Cullen
  • The West, I learned, is the kind of place where the nearest Thai restaurant includes big game on its menu -- except when it doesn't.

    Andrew Cullen
  • In the canyons and deserts, Emily and I found smaller wildlife, which was no more impressed with our presence than the moose had been.

    Andrew Cullen
  • Not long ago, the other world that is Utah seemed a planet away. Now, it's a weekend drive.

    Andrew Cullen
  • As my first weeks in Colorado passed by, single, perfect aspen leaves began to turn gold.

    Andrew Cullen
  • And then whole forests of them.

    Andrew Cullen
  • In the canyons of Utah we left gifts of newfound acquaintanceship: small patches of skin torn from our hands and knees, and fabric from our pants.

    Andrew Cullen
  • After six weeks in Colorado, I'm no westerner yet. I've managed to explore just a tiny sliver of the region, and I hope it remains fresh to my Eastern eyes. When those open-air cathedrals no longer inspire me to stop the car and revel in their arid, craggy glory, I'll have to move on.

    Andrew Cullen


Photographer Andrew Cullen used Instagram to document his summer 2012 move from Maine to Colorado, capturing Western scenes of surprise, wonder, and delight. Click on the gallery view to see the images full size.

Dawn Wilson
Dawn Wilson says:
Oct 02, 2012 02:32 PM
Andrew - you will always be inspired by the beauty of the West. Every sunrise presents a different perspective to a new day, and each sunset brings the hope of another day filled with new discoveries. You will continue to stop and reflect in the glorious beauty the West has to behold. This week marks my ten-year anniversary of moving to Colorado - a transplant from New Jersey - and I still make a point to stop and enjoy the scenery on a daily basis, usually with a camera in hand. Enjoy your new home!
Trudy DeCantu
Trudy DeCantu says:
Oct 02, 2012 07:48 PM
Ditto, a transplant from Maine to Utah, with camera in hand.
Peter says:
Oct 03, 2012 09:56 AM
It's always great to see an Easterner moving to the West and sending the word back home of the beautiful landscapes here. With states in the West doubling in population every 30 years or so, it's so exciting to see the faces and perspectives of those transforming the landscape into something more familiar to them! I just wonder if people like Andrew realize that their home states were once as wondrous and wild as those in the West?
Stephanie Paige Ogburn
Stephanie Paige Ogburn says:
Oct 03, 2012 10:09 AM
@Peter, none of us are natives to this place, and the United States -- particularly the public lands of the West, where many of these images were taken -- belongs to all of us to explore, love, and live in.

-Stephanie P Ogburn, online editor.
Heather Hansen
Heather Hansen says:
Oct 03, 2012 11:55 AM
Rousing photos, Andrew. They've rattled me from complacency. Looking forward to seeing more of your work. Welcome to the West!
Mike Roddewig
Mike Roddewig says:
Oct 03, 2012 09:06 PM
True Stephanie, but that doesn't make the unfortunate reality of population growth any easier to accept.