Signing a lease is a new experience for Adam Schluter. The now 30-year-old left his home in St. Louis, Missouri, more than 10 years ago in search of a new place to call home but ended up on a trip that took him around the world, across the country, and landed him in North Idaho.
“I’m really close to my family, so I would go home about every four months and see them,” says Schluter. After a few-days visit, it was back on the road again and off to somewhere else he’d never been before.
Schluter developed his love of travel at a young age when his parents took him from Missouri to California for the first time. “As soon as we got there I told myself I would be back again,” he recalls. Subsequent trips to different parts of the U.S., Central and South America only expanded his love for discovering new places. Everywhere he went he would snap photos of what he saw. On his 18th birthday, Schluter’s parents gave him a more advanced point-and-shoot camera, which was unknowingly the start of a career path.
Now, a decade after departing on this incredible journey, Schluter is staying put for the longest he’s been in one place; a whopping seven months so far in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. How he ended up settling on a small town in Northern Idaho was almost an accident. “I wanted to take the entire Pacific Coast Highway, which starts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and ends in Alaska,” he says. “By the time I hit Seattle, I decided I didn’t want to experience winter, and I met a few people who told me I should check out Glacier National Park, so I changed directions and headed east on Interstate 90.”
Schluter stopped in Coeur d’Alene to fill up with gas; he didn’t think much of the town, as he was right off the freeway, which is home to the national chain stores and fast-food restaurants. He then continued on to Kellogg. Once there, he met several locals who talked him into exploring more of North Idaho, so he decided to alter his plans and stay a while.
“I headed north toward Ponderay and was absolutely blown away by the scenery,” recalls Schluter. One of the biggest points of emphasis on his trip was to “rough it;” passing up hotels for a tent and stay at a free campsite or in designated forest land. Utilizing the website FreeCampsites.net, Schluter was able to map out places to stay all across the country, including Bonner County, Idaho. While camped out, he met a couple from Coeur d’Alene. The three became friends, and the couple eventually invited Schluter into their home to stay with them so he could explore the outdoor places that they loved so much.
In August 2016, Schluter made a decision that would halt his travel plans for a while; he signed a rental agreement and now calls Coeur d’Alene home. With no career path in mind when he first left Missouri, Schluter discovered a new-found passion while traveling new and beautiful lands; photography.
“I wanted to share my experiences and the beauty of the places I was in,” he says. “I photographed for probably five or six years on the journey before I ever thought about making it my profession.”
Honing his skills on the road, Schluter met up with art galleries all across the country who displayed his prints in their gallery collections. Today, Schluter owns Lifecast Photography, giving him the opportunity to share images from his travels and North Idaho. He also books appointments for portraits, commercial and weddings, though his passion will always remain in landscape photography.
“Everything just fell into place here,” Schluter says. “I love the scenery and beauty and not having to go far to find it.”
While many in smaller towns across the U.S. dream of heading off to New York, Seattle, LA or San Francisco, Schluter decided to do the opposite.
As Schluter says, “As I’m getting older, I’ve realized I hate big cities because I was always feeling like I was having a hard time finding genuine friends in those places. When I got to Coeur d’Alene, it was almost instant that the whole community embraced me, took me in and shared with me what they love most about the area.”
Having lived a big part of his life with one foot out the door, he is now focused on building lasting relationships in his new community. “When you’re moving all of the time it can become isolating, and the lifestyle turned me into more of an introvert. Now I’m dedicated to making lasting relationships with people here, and honestly it’s a little out of my comfort zone, but I’m working on it.”
While road tripping across Mexico to his favorite destination, Bahia de los Angeles—an ocean community of roughly 500 you come across after traveling two hours across a desert with nothing around you—Schluter met up with a man in his 70s who had been traveling alone for more than 50 years. “He told me: ‘You’re going to see so much beauty in the world, and it’s incredible, but at the end of your life, all you will have and what you will cherish most is the people you have in your life.’ And that’s really stuck with me,” says Schluter.
Considering his lack of resources and commitment to free lodging during this journey, Schluter was definitely putting his trust in the advice of strangers. He credits those early trips with his family to foreign countries to being able to trust and understand a wide variety of people. “I have a lot of trust in people when I move places. I trust people until it’s proven otherwise, which probably isn’t how most of the world does it.”
Images from Schluter’s decade-long trip show scenes of splendor and contrast from all across the nation. Peaceful mountain streams, enormous peaks and glacial lakes coincide with crowded cities, desolate farmland and still forests. Photos like these can trigger a range of emotions from people, which is exactly what the photographer is hoping for. You don’t have to be a professional to capture memorable images of your favorite vacation destination, hiking trail, scenic road or city setting. Our phones are overloaded with mundane images of our kids, food, friends and of course ourselves, but how often do you stop what you’re doing in everyday life to capture a truly meaningful moment or image? These are the photos that you’ll want to share with your family and friends for years to come.
Many would find it surprising that a man who has visited the majority of our country would choose to settle in a small lakeside community in North Idaho. While everyone’s idea of paradise differs, Schluter truly believes he’s found his. “Everyone has a different story here. I want to live here. I want to keep making friends here, and it’s awesome that I can take so many short trips to such beautiful places.”