As a modern photographer, seek to travel light.
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Our motto as modern traveling photographers:
Mass is the enemy.
My biggest inspiration in cars are cars which have a high power to weight ratio. For example, the new McLaren Senna doesn’t have the highest horsepower, but for the weight — it outpunches anyone in its class. Or consider Bruce Lee, extremely powerful for his size and weight.
The reason I like the Ricoh GR II— It has an APS-C sensor, in a tiny compact camera. In terms of image quality to weight, it is a champ.
I think this philosophy can be applied to almost anything —
What is the maximum power or utility you can get from something, with the minimum weight or mass?
For example, I recently bought an iPad Pro (10.5, Black, 256GB), and it has transformed my travels. I can literally do 99% of my work on it, and the power to weight ratio is phenomenal. At around 1 pound, it is better than any laptop that exists. For editing pictures, just get the Apple Lightning SD card reader, and use the default Photos app to select your photos, and use the Lightroom CC app to profess your photos, add filters, or just use VSCO.
Or to be super lightweight, just bring your phone and leave other devices at home.
Lightweight travel clothing
To travel light, wear Merino wool. Avoid cotton.
Merino Wool: lightweight, doesn’t stink, and you only need 2x of them. For example, 2x Merino Wool t-shirt (all black), 2x Merino Wool socks, one pair of Merino Wool leggings. For boxers I recommend exofficio boxer briefs. For a warm and lightweight jacket, I recommend Uniqlo Ultralight down hoodie.
For bags, just carry a school backpack — NORTH FACE probably makes the best ones.
For toiletries, get the smallest Muji traveling toiletries case.
For shoes, NIKE Flyknit is the way to go.
Why travel light?
The benefit of traveling light:
More energy, less stress.
The heavier your shit, the less mobile you will be. The heavier your stuff, the less you will enjoy your travels.
The fear of “What if?”
Don’t bring everything you think you will need.
The rule is, if you think “What if I will need ‘X’?” (Like an umbrella)— don’t bring it. You can always buy it while you’re traveling.
For camera equipment, just carry one camera and one lens. If you are worried your camera will break or be stolen while you’re abroad, you can just shoot with your phone or buy a new camera at a local camera store. Trust me, with less camera equipment, you will shoot more, and be less stressed.
Make it fun
Traveling light is fun. It’s a fun challenge. I always try to pack 25% less than things I need. The benefit — you learn how to live simply.
Even after 7 years of intense global travels, I still overpack. Every time I travel, I try to pack less.
The reason I overpack: Fear. Fear that somehow you’re going to be in a negative situation by not having everything you (think) you “need”.
But consider, when you travel, consider it like “simulated poverty”— you realize you don’t need much.
Coming back home
Whenever I come back home after traveling, I look at my closet full of all my shit and ask myself,
Why do I need all of this shit?
Traveling is good for me, because it reminds me to be less attached to my physical possessions, for me to live lightly, and focus on what is important to me — making stuff (Making blog posts, making photos, and making new connections with people).
Traveling ain’t the solution
Traveling won’t make you a better photographer, or happier. However, traveling will expose you to new ideas, experiences, and cultures which you can learn from — and hopefully ideas you can integrate to change your behavior once you get back home.
For example, after a month of living in a tiny Airbnb in Kyoto, I realize — I prefer smaller living quarters.
After traveling to Beirut, Lebanon — I realized how important family is (they treat family as the most important thing).
What if I can’t travel?
Also as a fun exercise, when I get back home, I try to life minimally — like I were still traveling.
Live in your own home like you were traveling.
For example, when I settle back at home, I try to keep up my travel lifestyle — only wearing two outfits (all black) and not opening up my closets.
And when I’m traveling, I try to treat my Airbnb as my home. I cook at home, visit local grocery stores, and make coffee at home.
Travel photography tips
Ideas to travel light:
- Creative constraint of one bag. Just travel with one bag (small). Make it a fun challenge to have less.
- All Merino Wool (black) everything, and don’t bring more than 2x articles of clothing. Wash your clothes every evening in the shower with shampoo, wring it, and hang dry it. This will save you 80% weight.
- One camera, one lens for your travels. Treat it as a fun creative constraint to remember — your travels ain’t just about your photo taking, it is about experience making.
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