As a seasoned traveller, there are some things which I swear has to come with me when I’m on the road. In my recent trips, I’ve even became kinda compelled to document them alongside the sights & sounds of foreign (or familar) land.
So having had a chat with the talented Jon Low about a nightmare he had yesterday prior leaving for his Sabah shoot a while back, one involving him being at the airport, and his gear is not with him *gasps* – I thought I might just share what are some of the stuff that accompanies me when I’m globetrotting.
PS* I have to admit, I’ve had the same nightmare before, cept for mine, I was ALREADY in EUROPE. You can imagine my panic! Not funny. I jumped outta the bed, checking to make sure my gear was still there. Phew.
And my gear NEVER leaves/left me ever since when I’m travelling.
Anyway, enough of dreams scary enough to shatter any travelling photographer…let’s get on to the STUFF.
I’m quite a budget traveller, so that sometimes translate to cheap hostels & long haul flights in
cattle economy class, and there are some things that I bring with me to minimize what discomfort I can or to keep me sane when I arrive at destination. Some of these things became essential after some first hand & often painful experiences, so here I am sharing them on with hope you do not have to go through the same agony.
Or rather the lack of it during flight time. After experiencing more than once bloated feet after the flight, resulting in blisters when wearing shoes after I landed, I have never ever flew without my Birkenstocks anymore. You’d prolly already know they are excellent walking shoes, once broken into they are comfy as hell. And they last for almost a lifetime. Great for walking when you get into the cities, also great for flight time cuz your feet can breath. Trust me, you will thank them when you’re a million miles away & you’ve got painful feet trapped in now-suddenly-tighter shoes, or when the weather is too warm for closed toe shoes. Practical & stylish, me likey!
Also never underestimate what a good pair of flip flops/rubber slippers can do for you. Esp when you’re backpacking & have to live in youth hostels. You’d thank your lucky stars to have em while trotting to the shared bathrooms/walk around on the tattered carpets. Ugh. They’re light as nothing & takes up virtually no space, so pack a pair with you!
Now don’t get me wrong, the bit about the pair of comfy shoes still stands here. My recent acquisition of this pair of leather Converse All-Stars (see below) is so damn comfy & stylo, I love it tons! I’m one vain woman which have always cringed at the idea of wearing sportshoes while sightseeing/travelling. It’s all good if you’re decked out in your workout gear but eeeeks for sportshoes + normal clothes! *shudders*
But that’s just me. Moral of the story is whatever works best for you, but a pair of comfy shoes is as important as say, your passport (or your camera) while travelling! Missing either one is enough to ruin it for you.
2) My mobile entertainment system
Which consists of my iPod (previously) & now, iPhone which houses my music & for others, tons of games to keep you amused; a paperback novel + some pullout crosswords. One will argue why would you have all that when you’ve got inflight entertainment system?
Well, they evidently have not:
1) spent enough time transiting in airports/travel alone much
2) experienced horrible IES programs/lack of IES to begin with (think KLM, AirAsia flights & you’d know what I mean)
3) do much travelling via train/bus/car/getting stuck in impossible traffic (eg. Manila, Bangkok, Cambodia, Africa; or big cities like NYC, London if you’re unfortunate enough to be in a vehicle & not trains!)
I must say I welcome the change of reading/crosswording/Sudoku (if you’re a fan – I’m hopeless :P) from staring at the tiny screen for hours. Of course, the other thing being you don’t always have the telly with you when in places like airports/cab/tube/buses. So, good old pencil & paper works :)
3) Light jacket/shawl
I always travel with the former if I’m going to temperate climates, and the latter even if I’m in the tropics. You never know if the airconditioning in the plane/airport/car/bus/train might be a tad chilly, and it’s nice to have a warm wrap while you nap/read/chillax. Of course, if you’re going to an uber wintery place (eg. Europe/US during winter), do yourself a favor & bring along a good coat. Nothing sucks as much as arriving at your dream holiday destination but freezing your bum off, unable to appreciate the atmosphere cuz you’re busy trying not to get hypothermia. Not cool at all (pun intended).
4) Gear – for photographers, of course this means our nearest & dearest collection of body and/or glass. Depending on your purpose of travel, be it for assignment or leisure, you would probably have worried more about what lens to bring than what clothes to pack. As a Nikon user, I’m thankful to have my 18-200mm VR as companion. I virtually shoot 99% with it whilst on the road & so far, it’s gone with me to more than 10 countries & counting :) I do have my primes with me but I find the superb flexibility of range of it indispensible.
Of course, it goes without saying you should have charged your batteries, cleared your memory cards & work out storage method (if you’re travelling over prolonged period/on assignment, whether to bring your laptop or not). I also carry my trusty tiny point&shoot Canon Ixus with me as well, for those occasions where a DSLR just would not do (eg. adventure sports like river rafting, bungee jumping, hiking etc; or partying & clubbing – how do you camwhore with a DSLR in a CLUB?) – it’s fabulous & some of my best images have came from it.
“Honey, you’ve got the camera, no? It’s not IN the water I hope?”
The other area where it comes in handy is also if you’re travelling to unsafe countries. I’ve a really good friend that left his precious D700 behind & brought his fantastic Panasonic LX3 with him instead – great shots & without the worry of being possibly robbed in foreign land. Smart choice & you can sleep easy :)
5) Meds (and my Swiss Army knife)
One of the worst things that can happen to you whilst travelling is if you’re struck down by (often common) sickness like fever, cold, food poisoning & not have the easy meds with you. The other case is if you’re on prescription meds, that’s even worse as some countries might not have stock of it, or you just haven’t got the perscription to buy it. And I’ve not even got into the language & communication barrier hazards that comes along with meds buying. It’s one thing to be ill, it’s another to be ill because you got the wrong meds!
Absolute disaster. Even worse if you haven’t got travel/medical insurance…
6) Now, as much as the world being damn well travelled these days, people still scoff at travel insurance. It’s unbelievable, especially when as photographers we travel with expensive gears for one, and being struck down with no medical coverage is surely a killjoy in the quest of image harvesting, no? So yes, before you leave the country, be sure to have gotten your gear (and yourself!) insured.
The easiest way to do this is to get a All-Risk protection. It often comes with your Personal Accident coverage, so ask your agent for that. Of course, besides insuring your gear you’ve to insure yourself too. This is where medical insurance with worldwide coverage comes in handy. Trust me, having seen how effing much medical care costs in France, you WILL wanna be insured… if only just so you don’t get a heart attack when you see the bill for the treatment of say, your fever. Worse, if you’re trekking/skiing at some remote location & break a leg, requiring medical transportation. If you’re not covered, I reckon you might actually opt to just die there & then when you see the bill…
For less than RM100 (for us Malaysians), why the heck NOT? Get everything covered, these days it even includes flight delay/cancellation/lost or delayed luggage. What’s your excuse of not being covered?
Anyway, that’s in a nutshell some of the essentials I’ve got with me in the years of globetrotting. Of course, what I’ve listed is by no means exhaustive but if I list down my packing list, be assured it’d send you straight to sleep :P And everyone has different stuff they’d need to have whilst on the road.
Just remember to travel safe, to ensure a happy camper that gets to shoot in the best possible well-being :) Happy flying & shooting!
Let the journey begin! :)