Bluebird Chic ambassador Monika Hanley of Internationelle shares her best tips for capturing your travels, even if you are traveling solo!
For me, the best part of travel is when it’s over. And by that, I mean the coming-home-exhausted, too-tired-to-unpack, but-not-too-tired-to-look-at-photos feeling. The travel might not last forever, but the photos spark a lifetime of amazing memories. The key is to remember to take pictures and then not just leaving them on a memory card, but making something of them to keep for years to come!
The first, and sometimes hardest step, is to plan, and then execute the plan. There is no magic formula. Sometimes you snag a deal 7 months prior, sometimes three days before. Stay alert and if an unbeatable offer comes your way to, say, Australia or Iceland? Book it!
Embrace your fears. Easier said than done, of course, whether your fear is of flying, of strange places and people, getting sick, or not having planned well enough. The fact is, there is fear in every traveler to some degree, that’s why often people say you’re so “brave” for traveling somewhere. The trick is to remember that it’s a natural part of the survival instinct, and use it to your advantage! If anything, I feel that travel fears make me prepare better and be ready for (almost) almost.
Travel, especially solo travel, is about you versus you. While you might find amazing people on the way who will help you, conductors who will make trains wait for you while you scamper across tracks because you couldn’t read the correct signs, it comes down to your brain reawakening and figuring out how to survive. How to communicate, where and what to eat, is the water safe to drink, are you lost? Your brain will love the challenge.
I just completed a 9 country trip overland, from northern Europe to Greece. Mostly to see if it could be done and, sure enough, 2.5 days of sitting in buses and trains later, the mission was complete. I saw so much more than while flying and met some lovely people at 3AM coffee stops. There were definitely a lot of photos along the way.
Frequently I travel solo because “no, Monika, we don’t want to be on a stuffy bus with you for 13 hours”. And that’s totally fine. While this means that you might be in fewer of your travel photos, as long as you embrace your self-timer option you’ll get those photos!
Know that, no matter how meticulously you plan your trip, things will go wrong. Always have a plan b (and c, d, and e). There is ALWAYS a way to get to where you need to be. An hour-long flight canceled? Rent a car/hop on a bus! Just barely miss a once-a-day train? Sometimes taking another train to a different country and getting on their more robust train system is a better move. As long as you camera battery is charged and your memory card has space, you’re all set for an adventure.
A few things to keep in mind:
TIP # 1 – Capture the movement of the journey
Plane rides through the clouds at sunset, beautiful train landscape zipping by, the blur of a mountain range in the morning from a bus that just happens to pass by a cluster of trees right as you click the shutter. These are some of the loveliest photos, that allow you to remember how the movement felt. Not just the being at your destination, but the going.
TIP # 2 –Balance reality with expectation.
Instagram perfection is the bane of travel photographers. Remember why you’re where you are. For the ‘gram? Or for the memories and the experience. It’s totally ok to do both, but just remember that orchestrating an artificial experience somewhere (ball gowns in mountains, awkwardly scrunching on the ground to get a rose-bush background) is just going to mess with your memories later on down the road.
Tip #3 – Don’t be afraid to ask people to take your photo.
When I first got my DSLR camera, I was worried that someone might steal my camera. These days, though, so many travelers have one and the trick is to pick a passerby with an even nicer camera, and have them take your/your group’s photo. Chances are, it’ll be even better than what you could have done with a self-timer, and all your photos will have a different vibe! To be honest, I’m less worried about someone taking my camera and more worried about someone trying to buy my Bluebird Chic strap off of me (thankfully, I can just direct them to the website!).
Tip #3 – Get started on processing and organizing photos right away.
The longer you wait, the more it’s likely not to get done. I’m a lover of photobooks. Both the drag-and-drop ones you can easily do online, but also the ones you can do at home. Turn it into a type of scrapbook. Get your photos printed, get some fun background paper and empty out your pockets from ticket stubs, foreign receipts that are sure to be there, along with any museum entry tickets, bits of foliage you may be collected along the way, and even paper currency that you couldn’t get rid of. One of my favorite photobooks is one I made from a trip ten years ago in the Balkans. It was basically a wide-ruled notebook with EVERYTHING (including interesting candy wrappers) I got glued into it haphazardly with a cheap glue stick. I’ve since advanced, but I look at that book with fond memories. Not because it’s perfect, but because it was real, just how I remember it.
Thanks for reading and safe travels!
Founded by two travelers on a mission to both visit every country in the world and fight human trafficking on the way, Internationelle is a reminder that travel is about the drive in all of us to seek new things, places, and people; to make memories worth their weight in gold/food/sunsets; and to focus not only on what the world can bring to us, but what we can also bring to the world. Join us!