Remember the mantra: “Travel brochure vs. reality.” Beware of stock photography!

Q. What tips would you give to a newbie who wants to travel like you?

answered by Stephen Taylor, photographer, traveler, tourist, occasional “touron”

If you don’t really care about your professional future, realistically you can travel 3 or 4 times a year, at least. Just get a disposable job, work your butt off, then quit if they don’t want to give you time off. In the restaurant business, in the U.S., you can probably find a job in 48 hours. I work part-time in a restaurant in addition to my “main” job. At that restaurant, I make about $30/hour. I could quit tomorrow and find another one before next week. At least in the summertime.

Use Google Flights. Get to know it like your mother’s face. I’m a big advocate of going to places that you’re actually interested in, but if you just want to go somewhere, there’s almost always somewhere on earth it’s insanely cheap to fly to and where there’s a lot of budget options.

If you really want to go to Norway (expensive place), then you should work hard, save up, and go to Norway. If you just want to see big mountains, you don’t have to go to Norway. You go to Mexico, or India, or Morocco, or western North Carolina… a whole list of places.

Don’t be so afraid of things. Most humans everywhere are completely reasonable, good people who will be happy to help you… if you just ask. And most people (not all, but most) who get into trouble are doing something risky.
Don’t just travel to cities. Stop focusing on museums. Once you’ve been to a lot of cities and museums, they often start to seem all the same. Obviously, Mumbai isn’t Topeka, and Prague isn’t Lima, and Oslo isn’t Tokyo. But get out and see some rural and wilderness areas. It’ll take more planning, and might cost more to get there, but it’s worth it.

My personal idea of a boring trip would be something like “European capital cities tour” or “only U.S. big cities.” I did a trip to European cities recently, and didn’t follow my own advice. It was mostly boring. I should have combined that with a trip to national parks and forests, which often aren’t very far away from cities.
Seriously consider whether the cheap price at a youth hostel is worth your sanity and self-respect. In many places, for just $10 or $20 more, you can get a hotel. Cut a day or two off your trip and spend that money on a hotel room. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Seriously consider whether staying at an AirBNB or a VRBO is worth the damage these companies do to the locals in a few cities up to their eyeballs in tourists. They’re actually at the center of a big housing crisis. Your tourist paradise is often the locals’ tourist hell. Consider whether you want to be a part of that and why, then try to reduce your impact.
Europe has some amazing things to see and some wonderful people, but it’s not the only worthy destination on earth. It’s also not necessarily a very good value. (Neither is the U.S.) Planes fly all over the world, often for the same price. How about… Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Botswana, Brazil, Cuba, Rwanda, Martinique.

Look at alternative travel. Sightseeing can get really boring after a week. It’s also extremely superficial. Have you thought about eco-tourism, staying on a farm, taking a month-long language class in a foreign city, taking a cooking class, doing house-sitting? You’ll stay in one place longer and get to know what life is actually like there, instead of the glossy facade and all the half-truths that mass tourism feeds.

Prepare for some un-romantic moments. Travel has high highs and low lows. It’s not always amazing. Sometimes, you want nothing more than to go home and sit on the couch. Get ready for that.

Basically, if travelers wrote or posted to social media about whatever it is they’re doing, every five minutes of a trip, on the dot, travel would look a lot less fun, interesting and romantic that it usually appears. Travel photos tend to be highly selective. Keep that in perspective, check your expectations, and try to stay realistic.

I’m a photographer. Trust me. Photographers are liars.

Remember the mantra: “Travel brochure vs. reality.” Beware of stock photography!

Ever notice how the same woman often shows up in stock travel photos? Be careful about this stuff. This is staged. Stock photographers make money by bending reality to market expectations. I’ve seen this woman on the side of tanning parlors in Michigan. It’s consumerism. The pictures aren’t necessarily “false,” but you’ll reduce your travel shock on the ground when you just remember that this stuff is market-oriented and highly polished. The world isn’t a catalog or a brochure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s