After I spent weeks of serious head-scratching trying to decide what to write about in my very first travel photography column for Outdoor Photographer, the universe didn’t just nudge me but rather gave me a swift kick. My awesome friend and fellow traveler and photographer, Phil, passed away, and I was crestfallen upon hearing the news.
Phil never complained about his cancer, the pain or the inevitability of his dire situation. The man was a champion; the kind of person I strive to be and to surround myself with. He was a beacon of positivity, the kind of person who radiates kindness and sincerity. He may not have known just how much he connected with the people who he touched in his life, but he sure did it well. Those of us who were blessed to have any connection with Phil know full well that we are better off for the experience. Phil made me appreciate the moments on our travels where we stood in awe of majestic and beautiful sites but also the subtle moments where we shared a laugh, a great meal, a fun drive and the appreciation of how fortunate we are to travel.
We connected wherever we went.
Travel photography is all about connecting with people, places and, most importantly, yourself. When planning the idea of this travel photography column, my intrepid editor and I brainstormed about what it should be called and decided on “Making Connections,” as it has several meanings for a traveler. For one, it can certainly mean hopping from one plane, train, bus or boat to another. Alternatively, it can mean connecting to my readers, photo tour guests and all of the people I meet on my travel journey. Another connection can be made with the place that you’re in, and that can be an enriching experience for a photographer looking to give meaning to his or her images.
The last kind of connection, and the most important one that I have found, is connecting with yourself when you step out of your comfort zone, travel to a distant land and live some unique adventure that moves you and changes you in a positive and rewarding way. That is the spirit of travel for me. The photos I take on this incredible journey are a powerful way to create and preserve cherished memories.
So, at this time, I’m going to try my best to suck it up, fight the tears and look back at the photographs Phil and I took on our adventures—and smile. That’s a great way to honor his memory; to be happy that I had such a good friend who influenced me in so many positive ways.
Phil knew how to do this travel thing right. He had good reason to travel now, right now, but then again, I think that applies to all of us. My first bit of advice that I would give anyone regarding travel is to book those plans as soon as possible because you’ll quickly find an excuse not to do it if you overthink it. I often hear people tell me that they wish that they had traveled when they were younger, but I never hear people say that they regret a trip, tour or travel adventure.
I know that every time that I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and tried to do something challenging or scary to me, I have never regretted it. The universe seems to have been watching me and rewarding me with incredible life experiences whenever I have taken chances. To follow my dreams to travel more, I’ve moved from Canada to the U.S., traveled solo all over the world, started writing about photography, commenced public speaking at photo conferences, and launched my own photography tour company, Discovery Photo Tours.
The payoff for taking chances has been extraordinary. In 2019 alone, I was able to travel to Norway, Tanzania, Japan, Italy (with Phil), Tanzania again, Jordan and California, and I’m heading to Antarctica in a few days. I now get to share my passion for photography and travel with hundreds of wonderful people on photography tours all over the world and continue to make meaningful connections with them and the places I visit. The more I do this, the more I also connect with myself, and by doing so realize that what is essential for me in this life are the connections I make, however you wish to define that word.
My objectives now are to continue to travel, make more connections, build beautiful memories, and be more like Phil.