On my hundreds of trips around the world, especially on media trips where I join a group of travel writers, I find that many people don’t take photos. Travel writers take notes. I am often tempted to tell them that all the information they need is likely on a website already. Since they may never come back again, the best way to preserve memories is by taking photos. Or, these days, video footage. Even cell phones have video footage now. It all depends what you are going to do with those images. A pocket camera or cell phone is fine for Facebook or Instagram or a similar disposable purpose, but if you want the moment to linger, or to use for more valuable purposes than a snap shot, you need a better camera.
I use a Panasonic Lumix. The models come and go but mine has a 24X zoom, glass lens, image stabilizer and high rez video. The photos can be blown up to be used in a glossy magazine or a full page in a newspaper. The video can be used to make documentaries for Youtube. Lots of my footage has been used on TV and even shown in movie theatres but I really need a better camera for those large image purposes. Professional photographers laugh at my equipment, but the Lumix is small and lightweight enough to carry anywhere and it works for the media in which I work.
“Memories” are the third component in my holy mantra of Anticipation, Experiences and Memories. As stated elsewhere, Experiences can be anything you choose, from a simple journey to a life changing adventure. Learning how to turn Anticipation from frustration and impatience to enjoyment and pleasure is important, and you’ll find that information in my books, courses, classes, workshops and videos. Look for more information on the Shop and Get Involved sections of this website. Memories are the final step in the process. I kick myself when I think of the many years I travelled using a cheap camera, or no camera, or inserted my wife and son in front of every photo so that it couldn’t be used for any other purpose. These days’ selfies are all the rage, and those are even less useful for the purpose of the meaningful or transformative traveler.
What I suggest is that a traveler who wishes to “make the world a better place on his or her journey through life” plan well ahead. Do your homework. Research what you are going to do when you arrive at your destination. Have contacts there ready to meet you. Know where you are going to stay and what school, clinic, sports club, animal refuge or wildlife location you are going to visit. Put your plans down on paper (or your computer) and then build a blog on which you post those plans. Then share them with everyone from friends to groups to your local media. Your blog is your fundraising and communications device. If you don’t need to raise any money because you have more than you need, great. You’ll still need that blog when you can back home with your notes and images.
What should go on that blog or website? This is where experience and testing come through. I have conducted literally thousands of interviews, whether on radio or in person, in studios or wading through swamps. I will teach you, or you can read about it in my books or on my courses and classes. What images to take, how to conduct interviews, how to shoot simple video footage, what questions to ask, how to get people to cooperate or trust you, who you should interview, what topics are taboo; there are a lot of things to learn but it’s quite easy if you are an open, honest, friendly and ethical person and you have someone to show or teach you how.
Here’s an example. I was in southern Louisiana at a factory where a well-known company makes hot sauce. They had a gift shop to help you alleviate that bulge in your wallet. Evidently hot sauce is a popular item for many people in the south; the factory had over a dozen different varieties for sale and the shop was packed. There was a picnic area outside and it was packed as well. There was a large crowd gathered outside, surrounding someone for some reason. I was curious, so I wandered over to look. Standing there in front of the crowd was one of the scariest-looking people I had ever seen. The man was huge and covered in tattoos from his head to his toes. He was a skinhead and even his skull was tattooed. He wore a muscle shirt over his bulging muscles, and leather motorcycle boots. He looked like an action figure or monster from the movies. The crowd stared at him and no one said a word, even the monster who simply stood there scaring everyone to death.
Right next to me a tiny woman pushed her way to the front of the crowd, a travel writer from my own media group. She pulled out her camera and held it up for all to see. “Wow! Great tattoos,” she said to the monster. “Can I take your picture?”
The monster smiled. That obviously was what he had been waiting for. He flexed his muscles and made a scary face. The brave little lady from our press trip was open and honest. She shot bursts from her professional grade camera. Everyone else pulled out their cellphones and clicked away. Standing at the back of the crowd, I stood and smiled. That’s the way to do it! I wish I had the sense to do the same as my colleague. If you are going to write or tell a story, you really need the proof.
No matter where you go or what you do, if you don’t have the proof then your reader or supporter may not believe you. If you are raising funds for poor children in an orphanage in a remote village, you’ll need proof of the situation. The background, setting, people involved in the photo, posing, circumstances, lighting and framing all need to be included. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” When you bring your memories back, they need a home in which to stay as much as the orphans you met on your trip. They are your selling points, the evidence needed to prove what you have done.
After posting your photos and video footage on your website, then you need to reach out to all the supporters who helped sent you on your trip. You want to create a relationship between your supporters and the people they have just helped. Such trips and adventures should not be one-offs, like a vacation. You’ve gone to too much work to stop the project now. Good results take time to accomplish. You are just getting started. You may wish to take your proof and your project to another village, a second sea turtle refuge, another school. I know of a colleague who built a school in Cambodia. He took the proof to another set of supporters and has others and now built over 500 schools in that poverty-stricken country. It’s amazing what good can be accomplished once you get started.
All too complex and confusing for you to understand or to do by yourself? You’re in luck. As the saying goes, “you’ve come to the right place.” My team and I are here to help you get started. You can even come with me on one of my trips if you like. I’ll make it that simple for you. Look for the Get Involved section of this website. I have a hankering to go back to the Caribbean and support some schools and save some more sea turtles. Want to come? Warm and sunny all year round.