Searching for Sero: On a Road Trip for Happiness

November 06, 2015

  • by
  • Drew Zieff

Countless outdoor enthusiasts have fallen in love with the idea: sell your belongings, buy a van, hit the open road. Kerouac meets McConkey. We’re no strangers to the allure of it; we’ve spent a plenty of time scrolling through #vanlife and salivating at the potential for unhindered adventure.

However, it’s tougher to turn those dreams into reality than polished Instagram pics suggest. We spoke with John Rathwell, a respected outdoor photographer, who is kicking his dreams into gear with a 1991 VW Westfalia and a 2-year continental road trip itinerary. Not only are John and his partner/writer, Tracy Guenard, taking off on the trip of a lifetime, but they’re also doing it for a good cause. In the wake of profound hurt, as both John and Tracey lost family members to suicide last year, they’re taking this journey in order to chronicle the moments of joy we find outside, those surges of serotonin (hence the name of their project, Searching for Sero) that provide outdoor lovers with passion, well-being and balance.

Without further ado, here’s a glimpse into the mind of John Rathwell. If you’re interested in supporting this project, read more on the Indiegogo page.

Hands up on the Ottawa.
Who said there wasn’t decent surf in Montreal?
Legendary Dane Jackson drops a big one in the picturesque jungles of Mexico.
Sending it against the clock on a time trial.
Finding a moment in the fall foliage.
John Rathwell skis at Big White, BC.
Black and white skiing shots never get old.
John Rathwell rides at Mont Ste Marie, QC.
John Rathwell poses for a portrait in front of his new 1991 VW Westfalia.
Gen Gagnon rails a berm at Camp Fortune in Chelsea QC.
Jay Leroux throws a massive tuck-no-hander at the Brose Farm in Eganville ON on July 26, 2015.
Courtney Sinclair SUP in Fort Colunge QC.
Cregg Jalbert paddles back to his car at sunset on the Ottawa River in Beachburg ON.

Active Junky: How will this photo project differ from your past work in the realm of action sports? Will your approach to the photography change?

John Rathwell: In terms of how I create my images, it will be the same. I am going to continue to aim to inspire, connect and create a feeling of emotion. What has changed is my reason for creating an image. Over the past several years, I have been very focused on commercial photography. Now, I am excited to create images for more personal reasons. It’s what got me hooked on photography in the first place.

I have a reason to create now: to create art that will hopefully change the world. To make it a better place, a happier place. I want my art to get people talking about mental wellness and suicide prevention.

AJ: What do you personally hope to find through this project? What do you hope to share with your readers and followers?

Community. I hope we can bring together adventurers from all corners of the Earth and help give them meaning and motivation to why they ride bikes or ski down hills. I hope we can use this community to get others inspired to get outdoors and play, regardless of where you live or what your physical/financial situation is.

On a more personal note, I hope this project will help bring me closure as my father, Robert Rathwell, passed away from suicide in August 2014—by helping grow a community that is open and willing to talk about mental health and make suicide less of a taboo conversation.

I’m also excited to create a coffee table photo book, from which all proceeds will be donated to suicide prevention charities.

AJ: Explain #FoundSero. Do you have a particular #FoundSero moment or activity? Is there a sport or an adventure that brings you happiness?

#FoundSero is where we hope to grow the community. A place where we can all talk about the benefits outdoor adventure has in our lives.

For me, I have always needed outdoor adventure in my life, and it started with whitewater kayaking. I moved to Ottawa just to be close to the Ottawa River. Every moment I had, I was out paddling. Since then, I have expanded into mountain biking, skiing, hiking and camping. It doesn’t really matter what I’m doing; I know I’m happiest when I’m outside. It is almost like I feel the most found (internally), when I am the most lost (in the woods). 

Thanks to John for sharing this story. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and check out the Indiegogo.

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