Traveling as a photographer brings with it a unique set of challenges that set you apart from the normal traveler. While there are a vast myriad of travel tips around the internet, most of them are pathetic and cater to the wannabe travelers. People like you who are reading this piece are adventurers and have never owned a money belt. Have you?
Here are five travel tips that have come from the experiences of my photographer friends and myself over the last decade.
1. Be cool
There are situations that you’ll find yourself in, especially with the TSA, or in foreign countries dealing with foreign bureaucracies that will raise your ire. Hold it together. As soon as you get angry the whole dynamic of the situation loses its flexibility. Every problem has a solution, and the people that are best positioned to help you find that solution are usually the ones that on whom you might want to focus exasperation. If you’re cool, most people will be cool in return.
2. Black out your gear
We’re photographers, we hang expensive metal from our necks while we walk around. Throw some black tape over the the bright white logos. Or do what I do and blacken them out with a black sharpie. Also, in the same vein, use a plain black camera strap. There’s no reason to attract attention to your expensive tools.
3. Get the heck off of the beaten path
I know this seems exceedingly obvious, but you would be shocked how many people avoid it out of fear of what might happen once they have their boots on the ground in an unfamiliar destination. Your instincts do not abandon you when you travel. If some place looks or feels like a bad situation waiting to happen, act appropriately. However, the most interesting things I’ve experienced have been down side streets and back alleys.
The one time I was held up at gunpoint was in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in San Francisco. The other close calls that I’ve had while traveling are when I knew I was playing with fire. Every other back street I’ve explored has always yielded something fabulous.
4. Eat the street food
Some of the best food in the world is proffered by street venders. It’s delicious and cheap. I always run into people who say that street food is dangerous. Do you see any corpses in the vicinity? Then you’re probably fine.
5. Don’t use a money belt
Do you do this in your own city? Neither do I. Running around your town or any other town requires that you have access to your cash and credit cards so you can pay for things. Partially undressing to buy a cappuccino is just silly.
6. Scan your passport
When I travel internationally I have a scan of my passport online in a password protected directory on my server. There’s all kinds of other ways to do this as well. If I lose my passport, I can access it at the American embassy on a computer, or if for some reason I go missing, my family can use the image and the details in an emergency.
What’s your best travel tip for photographers?
photo credit: GlobalCitizen01/Flickr