Of course there is a good and a bad side to every job and usually more bad than good. One of the biggest problems we had in our old jobs in the United States was our routine did not allow enough time for exercise. Another was we were not happy sitting in front of computers working for ourselves sometimes as many as 12 hours a day and 7 days a week. True we did not have to go to a job and punch a time clock but there was still something missing for us.
We have been married for nearly 20 years and have spent a good deal of that time as both travelers and photographers. We decided that was the area of our life that made us the happiest and knew that is where we should concentrate our efforts. There were less detrimental things for us to consider than many people since we already worked for ourselves and would not be giving up our income entirely. We could continue to do our consulting work on the road via the internet.
I can say that the decision we made was the best one for us and the one that has taken us on a roller-coaster journey around the world. This trip alone began in December of 2014 and as of January 2017 it is still going forward. We already have everything outlined and set up to take us through the summer of this year going from Italy through 6 countries and ending up in Estonia or Finland to try to photograph the northern lights.
Still, there are a lot of Pros and Cons in trying to become a Professional Travel Photographer and we will touch on a few of those here.
Let’s take a look here at what we think have been the worst things associated with this lifestyle. We can finish the information on the happier side.
No Steady Income
The time between your paychecks can be a few days or a few months depending on the type of photography work you are doing. When working for clients the next one will usually come only as soon as you go and find him. Unless you are one of the top 10 Travel Photographers in the world you are probably not going to get a call from Nat Geo or the like. You will have to aggressively promote yourself and your work to countless Tourism Boards, Travel Companies, and other resources to find work.
Everything Is On You
You will be the sole person in charge of doing everything. There will be no assistants to help you with work. Nobody to answer emails or phone calls. Your entire business venture will rest only on your two shoulders. The load can become exhausting over time since there will really be no downtime. You will have to work pretty much 7 days a week most of the time.
Even though we travel as a couple and have our own life together we still miss family and friends. Getting together for holidays, birthdays, special occasions etc. will be a thing of your past. While you will stay at times in places that allow you to meet other travelers, many times you will have a language barrier to overcome. We can stay in hotels, apartments, bed and breakfasts or hostels. Each has its pros and cons but the one with the biggest pros is choosing private rooms in hostels for our shorter stays. These give us the greatest chance to meet and visit with other people like ourselves.
You Can’t Have Nice Things
What we mean by this is our life is inside of a couple of rolling duffle bags, our computer, and our camera backpacks. When you live out of a suitcase you are going to be very limited on what you can have. You will be going to different climates and you will need the basics for every climate. You are limited to only 20 Kilograms or 44 pounds by the airlines. You are going to spend the majority of your time on locations, hiking or walking to get to the spots you want to photograph and you just won’t have space or weight to have nice things. Just the basics.
Medical Is Difficult
There is an upside to traveling and that is that medications, for the most part, will only cost you a fraction of the costs from back home. The downside to this is that medical care is not on par with what you have had back home. Finding a doctor can be difficult and frankly, you have no idea what you are getting when you find one. The standards vary widely from country to country and the education level of the doctors as well.
This will work against you several ways. The first is you will never have a steady routine. You can’t plan on working out on MWF since you may be on an international flight on any one of those days. You may be out walking to a shoot today but for the next two days be at the computer working and not get out at all. Last is your diet, food can be hazardous, getting a good basic diet can be downright hard when you are in some areas like Africa or Asia.
Fighting the Emotional Ups and Downs
Your life will be on a perpetual roller coaster in every way. A non-stop ride that will take you to the heights and the depths sometimes in a single day. A wonderful day taking photos on the Great Wall of China only to find you have no internet when you return to edit your work. Spending three days in Venice photographing for the tourist’s board and then the next days spending 12 to 14 hours on a bus or train to Zagreb. Flying on a widebody jet from Bangkok to Paris then a regional train for the next two legs of a journey. Day to day planning on how, when and where your next steps will be just to give you a few of your ups and downs.
You will never have a place to call your own. You will be in some sort of transitional housing and not really ever feel like you are at home. This is after a while a real problem. You have had that feeling where you want to go home, put your feet up and stay that way for the next 24 hours. That is just something you will never experience again.
Now that we have those nasty things out of the way we can concentrate on some of the things that will make you happy. Things that will remind you that you have the best job in the world.
Living Your Dream, Your Way
While it can be a stressful lifestyle at times you are given a huge gift. Being able to live your life on the terms you set can be very satisfying. You don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself. If you have dreamed of a place then you can go there, if there is a place on your bucket list you can knock it off. Being able to see the wonders of the world is simply not something you can convey to another person. You can only try to show them through your work.
The only things that limit your potential are yourself and time. You can go as far as you want, with photography there is never a cap. As you grow every day the industry you are in evolves as well. You will be on the cutting edge of every development in your field and with the internet, they are all just a click away. You can spend your life doing what makes you the happiest.
A Life Of the Unexpected
You simply will not ever know what is going to happen and not knowing can be really fun. When you live the 9 to 5 you choose whether to go out or have dinner at home. When you live on the road as a photographer you know you are going out but you simply have no idea what awaits you. You never know what you will see or try that is new. Every place you visit will have new surprises waiting for you. From the time you get up to the time you return, you simply won’t have any idea of what the day is going to bring to you.
Making a Difference
Things that you do or say can make a difference. As a photographer, you can concentrate on beautiful landscapes to make people happy. Interesting people to spark others interest and give a brief glimpse into new cultures. Unique places that people have never heard of, everyone knows of the Egypt’s Great Pyramids but there is little public knowledge of the western desert that was once the bottom of the sea. Show the need for social change through the places and events you photograph. Share the beauty of the entire world from your eyes to others who will never have the opportunity that you are lucky enough to have.
Making New Friends
We have a talent for meeting and making an impression on people. We can go to a country and set up a routine in food stops for example. We interact with all of the people we meet and we can go back next year. The same people will remember us which is an achievement since they see tens of thousands of different people during that year. Make friends everywhere you go. Be an ambassador for yourself, your country and for humanity.
Photography Can Make You Immortal
While all of us know that we live with an inner clock that is always counting down. There are still a few ways that we can outlive our own life. We can write books that will outlast us but, books and printed works are becoming outdated. We can make great social changes in the world but, after a time they will only be remembered as a few paragraphs or pages in the outdated history books. With photography, you can be immortal at least in your own eyes. You are given a way to document your lifestyle and leave that in millions of places that are accessible from anywhere in the world via the internet.
You get to use your imagination every day. Dream, picture, consider, photograph, all of these are a way to imagine. You get to use every one of these and countless more with every photograph you shoot. There is no limitation put on your imaginative process. This will make you a happier person. Using your mind to imagine things will let you escape the stress and humdrum of a day to day lifestyle.
These are just a few of the things that have come to mind for me, please leave any that come to you in the comments section below the article. I am eager to hear from you and learn what your thoughts are.