Travel Like a Photographer | Advice For Peace Of Mind
After my article" Travel Like A Photographer | Advice For The Soul " I felt the need to write a follow up that is focused on practical advice for travelers. Now that your soul is ready for your next journey, lets get your mind and body prepared.
Through my experience of over a decade of assignments throughout Southeast Asia I've been robbed, injured, scammed, and annoyed. That's just the bad stuff of course, my positive experiences exponentially outweigh the negative.
I want to give you some advice that will be good for peace of mind and will save you from some of the potential headaches of traveling.
1.) Secret Stash
Get an elastic band or small pouch and keep about $300usd cash and an extra credit card wrapped together. Hide this in a hidden pocket and oh by the way, buy a bag with a hidden pocket. Leave this secret stash in your luggage in your hotel room(read below about lockable luggage).
Someday this will come in handy and you will think to yourself, thank you Justin and then you will send me $100 cash as a gift for my words of wisdom.
2.) It's All About Pockets
I learned this one from fellow photographer Tim Barker, shout out to you Tim. This one is aimed more at photographers but it can come handy for anyone that bought too many fragile goods and doesn’t want to pay the crazy fees for extra kilos or pounds for my American friends. Wait I’m an American but I’ve lived in Vietnam for so long I don’t know what I am anymore, I'm so confused.
A photographer’s vest will do the trick. Here’s the deal, if they weigh your carry on bag filled with all those heavy lenses and it's overweight, simply take out your vest and pack your vest pockets with lenses or whatever heavy items you have. Once you get through security, put the lenses back in your bag. Bam, take that Airlines, in your face!
A word of caution, don’t be tempted into wearing that vest under any circumstances, trust me it’s a bad choice, look at this guy.
3.) Lockable Luggage
This is less for airports and more for you to put valuables in at your hotel. Theft happens and it happens a lot less when things are locked up, genius statement by me I know. Not all hotel rooms have safes so just throw your passport and that secret stash I already mentioned in there and lock in every time you leave your room. Get a bag with a combination, not key.
4.) Protect Your Feet
I have a pair of Timberlands that I dropped about $300, yup I'm a big spender. I love them and I beat the crap out of them and they were worth it. They’ve protected me from leeches, water, and that one time when I was in a Die Hard situation and had to walk across a floor of broken glass that would've shredded through normal sneakers. One of those above statements may or may not be truthful. The only downside to the boots is in the hot weather I feel like an idiot wearing them with shorts. Ignore what I said about shorts and boots if you’re Australian, from New Zealand or if you are from anywhere in Africa, for some reason you can pull it off.
5.) Local Attire/Traditional Clothing
You are walking past that street side vendor and you’ve had your eye on those baggy elephant print pants for weeks. You’ve seen others wear them and they look so comfortable and they are so cheap, just get them already would you.
DON’T DO IT, STAY AWAY, IT'S A TRICK. You will look like an idiot and you will regret it the first time you bust them out in front of you friends back home. This goes for just about any customary clothing you might feel inclined to purchase abroad.
6.) Back That %&* Up
Bags can get stolen or lost and computers break so travel with a small external hard drive. Keep your travel photos backed up on your laptop and on the external hard drive and keep those two devices separated when you travel.
7.) Be Scam Savvy
Be cautious of anyone trying extra too hard to talk to you or sell you goods/services. Do your homework to avoid scams. They are usually easy to sniff out with a little common sense and research.
Travel with a small first aid kit, they are cheap.
I could and will do a whole separate article on this but here are a few of my favorite airport tips. Try to stay loyal with a rewards program for one airline. The lounges are ok but that’s not why I love it. I love the amount of time I save cutting the lines, well it’s not cutting because I am allowed to do it. While I’m at it, don’t cut people, it’s rude and either myself or my fellow airport etiquette sheriffs will call you out and embarrass you if you do it.
When you leave the airport, go to an official taxi stand, never take a ride with the dude that is greeting people after customs asking if you need a taxi. Always check the going rate online ahead of time and write it down. Make it clear with your driver about whether it’s a flat rate or meter, leave no room for misinterpretation, confirm several times. Don't let anyone carry your luggage to the car even if they say it's free, nothing is for free in this world. Ok, that's not really true and I hate when people make blanket statements like that so now I hate myself.
10.) Back-Up Headphones
C'mon, earphones are cheap and bluetooth can suck sometimes so stash away an extra pair of wired headphones when bluetooth inevitably fails you and your stuck on a bus blasting Cambodia karaoke hits.
11.) Travel with A Durable Scarf
You might be thinking this is as about cliché as comes for photographers, but hear me out. A scarf is lightweight and has several practical uses. For example, it works as a towel in a pinch. I once used my krama (Khmer scarf) in a field in a remote village in Cambodia to hide my naked body from the curious village people (not those village people). Can you imagine if they saw me naked, that could’ve scarved them for life, see what I did there.
I’ve also used my scarf as a mask on the back of motorbike on a dusty road, a makeshift tripod, protection for my camera in light rain, a pillow, a hat for protecting my bald head from the sun, and oh yeah, the main thing a scarf was intended to do, it can warm your neck.
If you have any travel hacks or advice, please add it in the comments section and thanks for taking the time to read my letters organized into words and sentences.