Just like personalities, we all have a preferred travel style. Some may know theirs, while others may not. In an upcoming article series, I will be walking readers through how to plan a photography trip and it is vital, before any planning is done, that you know what your travel style is for the best trip.
As photographers, we are usually willing to make some compromises in comfort to get a shot, be it wading in freezing water for a magical winter waterfall image or sitting still for hours waiting for the light and position of an animal to be just right. However, have you considered compromises such as “If I sleep in my car I don’t have to get up as early and can extend the trip by a day due to money saved,” or “If I stay at the hotel, I can get better sleep and have breakfast waiting for when I get back from the sunrise shoot but I have to get up an extra hour and a half early.”
Its questioning what compromises you are willing to make in other aspects of your travel versus those directly tied to your photography that can shed some light on what type of travel style you prefer.
The High Roller
I am going to go on a limb and say this will not be the category that most of us fall under. These travelers rarely have to make compromises as they can afford to have the best accommodations, hire drivers, and basically just shoot whatever they want to, where ever they want to. The compromise: they are going to be paying big bucks to make it all happen.
For everyone else, there are several other travel styles that cover a gamut of preferences.
For those who would rather leave the planning to someone else, who may not be comfortable going it alone, and who likes meeting new people, the Tourist is one who prefers to travel with tour or club groups.
While making lifelong friends and only having to plan minimally for trips can be very nice, the compromises come in the form of shooting the same area as many others, not being in charge of the shooting timeline, and potentially always being on the go when all you want to do is rest. Make sure that the tour meets your comfort standards for accommodations, as well as any physical activities such as hikes that are included.
From a budget standpoint, the Tourist usually knows most costs upfront and has limited out-of-pocket expenses while on the road. This can be a big positive for those with a limited disposable income as tours/group outings come in all price ranges. However, not all locations are going to have lower budget accessibility through tours, so Tourists need to be flexible in shooting subject and location if budget is a priority.
As a Comfortist, you are someone who is willing to do things to make the day-to-day living surrounding your shooting more comfortable. Things like booking hotels rather than camping or hostels, paying extra for the flight upgrade for more leg room or more luggage, or eating out most meals rather than making meals while on the road. Most often seen traveling with a significant other but can be someone who travels solo or in a group of friends. There is even some overlap with Tourists here as many tour operators gear their trips based on this travel style. The difference here is that the Comfortist chooses to forego the guided tour for the more personalized self-planned trip. Many photographers fall under this travel style, I dare say.
It can be done on a small budget if need be, the compromise being that the smaller the budget the less time a Comfortist can be on the road as it is more expensive than some other styles. However, when done carefully, many times this style allows for customized travel, full of flexibility, at the same price or less than most group tours. The compromises being that you lose out on instructor/local knowledge and certain activities such specialized guides outside the photography itself (glacier walks, whale watching tours, etc.) can be more expensive when not with a group.
A cross between the Tourist and the Comfortist, the Cruiser is the photographer who prefers to cruise between destinations. For those who are not prone to seasickness, who want to have access food at all times, and be able to leave their belongings in one place while seeing many, it’s an ideal way to travel.
The compromises come in the form of what ports are available, how long one has in each port call, and pricing. While there are thousands of ports around the world, not all are going to be accessible in all seasons. If your only time off is during winter holidays, cruising to Alaska might be out of the question. Also, depending on the cruise line, many port stops allow passengers off the boat after sunrise has already happened and Cruisers must be back on the ship before sunset, limiting the amount of time a shooter has to work with in terms of preferred light. Since cruises tend to be almost all-inclusive, they are not necessarily budget friendly.
So, this is the guy or gal who packs light (as in a backpack), travels on a tight budget, and uses places like hostels and cheap AirBnBs. They spend most of their time out in the field chasing light and see accommodations as just a place to catch a few hours’ sleep so why pay more.
Staying in community type lodging can be great when you want to meet new people or network in small doses while still having time to yourself while out and about. The compromise is that you share your “living” space with anywhere from three to nine other strangers potentially. And they are not always going to be all the same sex either as mixed dorms are common.
Budgetarily, this form of travel is usually cheaper than that of the Comfortist or Tourist. Hostels are cheaper than hotels, and many backpackers supplement their daily meals with store bought energy/granola bars versus eating out. Due to being able to carry everything with them, they are also more apt to be able to take mass transit to get places rather than rely on a taxi or rental car. The compromise for Backpackers is there is more planning that goes into transportation schedules, finding cheap accommodations that also have security in some form for high value electronics, and finding these within proximity of areas the Backpacker wants to shoot.
Maximum flexibility and minimal requirements, the Camper is another popular travel style for the nature photographer. While this style typically has the advantage of being able to be either on site or very close to shooting locations, the compromise comes in comfort. Not everyone can or is willing to sleep in their vehicle or on the ground in a tent and sleeping bag. Meals for Campers are usually made in the field by camp stove, fire, or cold prep. Campers can be solo or in small groups. Those that travel in groups to non-developed camp areas just need to be aware of their environmental impacts.
Having all your gear with you (or at least a walk away) can be a real boon in situations where you leave your gloves in the car rather than a 20-30 minute drive back to a hotel. Yet, carrying all your gear in one place can lead to certain security concerns to some. Another factor that campers must take into consideration is the investment in proper gear and if this is in fact a viable travel style for all locations/seasons. Campers need to keep personal safety in mind more so than others as they are more at risk against the elements since they will be out of in them the majority of the time with little room to escape them.
This travel style can also be very budget friendly since all that is really needed is a vehicle, cooler, and possibly camping fees. It gets cheaper the more minimal the gear as the initial investment is smaller as well. However, camping also comes in all sorts of forms so each Camper’s expenditures will vary.
Each of these is a bit of a generalization and not everyone will fit into the same style every time they travel. But its good to keep in mind which you tend to be most comfortable with so that a Cruiser’s trip isn’t marred by having to sleep on the ground when traveling with a Camper or so that a Backpacker isn’t sticker shocked when trying to keep up with a Comfortist.
Personally, this author is pretty hard-core Camper, but has been known to go Comfortist when traveling with her significant other. Which do you relate to the most based on your past travel history?
Often the solo adventuress, Alyce Bender roams the globe, exploring Earth's natural beauty. Her images have been featured in galleries from New York to Florida, while her work as an international artist has been recognized from Japan to the U.K.
Bender is happiest in the field and passionate about sharing unique animals and environments from around the world in hopes of connecting people to the planet through imagery. She believes that connection is key to promoting environmental awareness and protecting vulnerable species and their habitats.
To see more of her work and articles, please visit: www.abenderphotography.com
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