Earlier work with good friend, Art Model, Dana © 2007 Terrell Neasley
“Don’t listen to what they say. Go see! Forget about pictures in a book. Put your own eyes on it!”

I’m going to say, short answer, YES! Of course, that’s what I’ll say. I’ve been advocating travel for years. Can everybody honestly do it? No, but for various reasons. Most won’t out of fear. Others won’t because they simply don’t have the interest. You may have health issues or concerns. People ask me this question many times over the course of my travels. Traveling around the world is not always about money. How you want to travel is also an important factor and that has to do with your specific tolerances and expectations. Stay open-minded and weigh these considerations in your plans:

How you travel

Intercity, Regional, or International…this is likely the most important factor in everything and a large determinant on the money. I am a backpacker trying to travel around the world. I have everything on my back and I try to find the cheapest means to get from one place to another. I may not always CHOOSE the cheapest means, but I always want to know what it is. I’m guilty of taking a cab or an Uber when public transportation will save me a fraction of the cost. In Guatemala, I could spend $20 on a cab from my apartment to downtown or literally spend only 30¢ to do the same thing on the public shuttle buses. You just have to deal with the crowds, may have to stand, and make sure you hear and understand the name of your stop so you know when to get off.

I will also confess that sometimes I’ll fly when I don’t need to, but usually, I will take a bus. I save more money on the bus and at this point, that’s becoming more and more important. You save time by flying, of course. But taking the bus can mean more experience and for me, time isn’t that pressing of an issue. I’ve been at this for 18 months with 5 more years, (I’m guessing) to go. Buses should be more of a priority for me unless I find a regional flight that costs no more than bus fare. That was the case from Quito, Ecuador to the coasts in Esmarelda. The flight was $80 and was 45 mins. The bus was $20, but 7 hours. I gladly hopped that flight.

Earlier work with good friend, Art Model, Dana © 2007 Terrell Neasley

When you travel

This is also a very important one. WHEN you travel can make the difference between an expensive experience or not. It can make the difference between a miserable experience or a good one. For a photographer, it can mean getting the shot or not.

For any place you go there is usually a high season and a low season. The high season is going to be more expensive. You find the deals in the low season. And that’s high and low in terms of volume of tourists that visit the same place. Just be careful, there may be a reason people visit at certain times. It could be weather-related and simply coincide with vacation times.

Weather-related considerations can make a miserable experience. It’s always hot in the Amazon, so you can go any time of the year. But there is a dry and a wet season. You may not always enjoy being rained on every day. Mosquitos are also out in mass during that time of the year. At this very moment, I am in Nicaragua because I didn’t want to be cold in Argentina right now. Summer for me is Winter below the equator which is something you need to remember. But even in Nicaragua, I was burning up in Granada and it was SO humid! I was there for two weeks before coming further north to Esteli where I am now. Far cooler and less rain in the mountains here!

And there are other factors that photographers need to consider. I was in Guatemala during the summer one year. I got some great shots of Lake Atitlan. However, when I returned another year during the Spring for something similar, I could not get it. The weather was great! But clouds settled on the far side of the lake and obscured the mountains and volcanoes I wanted in my shot! I could not capture any stars either!

Earlier work with good friend, Art Model, Dana © 2007 Terrell Neasley

Where you travel

Of course, where you go will be a big part of your decision process. Go to Paris, France and you will, without a doubt, pay a ton more than you will in Nicaragua. Iceland will be much more expensive than Central America. For me, I am starting to get to the more expensive areas on my route. So far, it has been cheap traveling in Central American countries. Then I was in Colombia and Ecuador and it was still relatively inexpensive. Peru was a different story. Going further south, the cost of travel begins to climb. From Dallas or Las Vegas, I can fly south to just about anywhere for $300, but once I want to fly past Lima, Peru, all that changes.

Are you healthy to travel

You can’t really do anything in life without checking to see if you can physically do it. Even advertisements to join a gym will throw in a caveat at the end telling you to consult your doctor before beginning any physical activities at the gym. Likewise, you have to know if you can travel abroad, or anywhere really. This is especially the case if you have medication that you need or if you have physical limitations. Many countries in the world do not have regulatory adaptions for people with physical disabilities, like ramps or braille elevator buttons.  You might think age would be a factor. In my experience, I can’t include this. The only real factor is just physical strength. I watch an 80-year old man from the US live here in Nica alone and he travels around at will.

What will you bring when you travel

What do you need to bring with you and how will you pack it around? I carry everything on my back. I do not depend on porters or anyone for help. I try to keep my physical carrying weight to about 65 pounds or 30 kilograms. That is split between my camera bag and my backpack. Camera gear and accessories are more important than clothes for me. I could likely get away with under 30 pounds total if I wasn’t traveling as a photographer.

You might need luggage with wheels and a handle. For urban spots, that won’t be much of a problem. Try doing that in the jungle and you’re going to have issues. Some places will have people to help you and others will not.

Earlier work with good friend, Art Model, Dana © 2007 Terrell Neasley

Travel Alone or With Someone

It won’t be the same for you, but for me, I NEED SOMEBODY TO SHOOT on a regular basis! That’s MY biggest hang-up. However, in general, I can’t say which is better in this case. I know I’ve traveled with someone and there were moments I looked for solidarity. There have been moments while I’m traveling alone and wished I had company… and not just somebody to shoot, but real company to enjoy a tour or scenery with you or something. There are nonetheless, benefits to both. Even if you are with someone, especially for long periods, it’s good to split up for a bit and do your own thing. You can easily crowd each other after a while, especially in small confines when you’re trying to be cheap. Don’t fear a split for a week to go in different directions and meet up again later.

Traveling alone has been a blessing for me in more ways than it sucks. I invite people all the time to come out and visit. But I have to confess, there have been much in terms of emotional turmoil that has sent me into a tailspin. A break-up and the death of a good friend of mine is one reason I’m traveling like this now. Then the death of my younger brother AND grandfather in the same month a year later smacked me on the back end of recovering from everything the year before! I’m honestly not sure how great company I was to @kayci.lee who actually come out with me for that first month. These are life shake-ups that everybody deals with. But overall, traveling alone has taught me so much. I recommend it. Don’t be afraid of it.

So yeah, it can be done. It depends on your attitude, money, and your expectations. The more flexible you can be, the better. Do your research and find out as much as you can about the area and region of the world you wish to see. If you can block out 3 weeks out of your schedule somehow, and do at least half a decent job at planning, you’ll have the experience of your life. But even when things go wrong, just remember. Nobody’s perfect and NOTHING goes exactly to plan…if you’re lucky!

Travel Safe!