View Poll Results: Where in the World Should I Go? [help me choose my 6 month+ travel launching point]
- 22. You may not vote on this poll
Another vote for China.
I just moved out of China, having traveled to/from and lived there for the past four years. Out of all the countries I've visited (20+), China has the best opportunities for street and documentary photography (in my opinion, and based on my travels).
There are some specific things that make China especially appealing given your circumstances:
1. China is inexpensive. Even if the RMB is revalued in the near future it will still be inexpensive. Subways and taxis in the major cities (e.g. those over 500,000 people) are cheap; buses for local transportation are cheaper. Trains and buses for long distance travel is a great value. This means you'll be able to move through a city, and between cities and provinces without using a huge portion of your budget. Food and lodging can be ultra expensive, or incredibly inexpensive but still with quality service.
2. China has every type of environment imaginable for photography. Street photography in 500 year old neighborhoods? Got it. Incredible landscapes? Head out to Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan or to Tibet. Documenting the intersection of modern life and ancient traditions? Go to almost any city in China. Ability to photograph more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country (I believe) in the world: yep. And, of course, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Terracota Army in Xi'an, Huangshan's (Yellow Mountains) famous peaks, Tiger Leaping Gorge, the terraced rice paddies of Guangxi. All are amazing.
3. The Chinese love photography. Travel to other countries and one might/can hesitate before taking a picture of a stranger on the street. In Chin,a people will see you with your camera and be excited for you to take their picture. In the years I worked there (and did photography as my primary hobby), I only had one individual (a foreigner) get upset when I took his picture on the street. You'll even be approached by Chinese asking to take their picture with you.
4. The Chinese love photography, Part II: Photography is a huge business in China. While digital is the big seller, I've never seen as many film photographers anywhere else I've traveled. When you travel to China you will know with absolute certainty that you will be able to replenish your film supplies--and replenish it with almost any/every brand, speed, type you can imagine using. Beijing along has a wonderful photography "market" that I would wonder through on occasion. Yeah, the 50+ stores have digital, but they also have large format, medium format, 35mm, unique and custom cameras, enough lenses to stock an army of photographers, etc. Other cities have similar markets.
5. While the cost of film is similar to that of the U.S., the cost of processing (good, quality processing) is dirt cheap. Processing a roll of 35mm 36 exposure black and white: $1.25; scans of the entire roll: another $1.25. Color E6: $2.70. I didn't do medium or large format, but assume the prices are comparable. Try to beat that in Europe.
6. Lastly, in China (as in some other countries), should your budget get tight you can just tutor English for a bit during the morning to earn money, and then hit the streets with your camera in the afternoon. Learning English is a huge business in China, with the vast majority of urban parents enrolling their child into a private part-time tutoring program, or hiring a tutor directly. You don't need to speak Chinese, and as long as you are caucasian (Chinese parents won't hire a Chinese-American or Chinese-Canadian, even if their English is native) you'll be able to find as much work as you want.
Hope the above helps. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send me a private message.
If you end up in the Russian speaking world, I would be happy to give you tips and directions as I have spent much time there and have travelled a lot. I recommend it highly, also for the great opportunities to do documentary and journalistic photography. So many untold histories, so much history. However, Russian language is an asset when travelling there. However, it would help you get out of your comfort zone, so why not trying?
First of all i want to let you know that i do hate you (come on ! i'm joking) . Wandering around the globe is my lifetime dream and i do not know whether it'll never come true.
Suggesting the main destinations depends on the person you are. If you are one hating public transportations not being on time, delays and similar problems than forget the country where i leave (at least centre and south of it).
If you are a bit adventurous then Italy is your country. I would recommend the south of the Nation. from Rome up to the north many things are well known around the globe (Florence, Venice,Pisa,etc..). Down south there are many fantastic places and life, in general, is much cheaper. Just to make an example eating a pizza in its capital (Napoli) may cost the half of what you would pay in Florence. And the quality is at the very.
top. Archeologically speaking the south of Italy has many resamblences with Greek world. The ruins very similar to those in Athens. Everything mixed with ancient Roman stuff and medioeval architecture. In the case you decide for our troubled country (we have many kind of problems....) do not hesitate to contact me. I'll be very glad to suggest an itinerary that fits the person you are. Italy has all kind of beauties. From food/wine to cities, architecture, archeological ruins, persons, seasides, mountains. I'll be glad also to list the photo shops you may need.
Here is my email address: fausto.testa at ericsson.com
P.S. I have a very close Canadian friend who lives here since 1995 and has never stopped criticizing us (Italy and Italians). To some extent he
is right. But he's still here and i think will stay for long (He got maried with a Woman from the south)
James - My advice is to just pick a country that intrigues you and go, someplace exotic, someplace romantic. Don't worry about the language, a smile gets you a long way and you'll pick up the language fast once you're totally immersed. If you're in Belgium on Tuesday and Germany on Wednesday you won't see or learn anything. Don't worry about not having a driver's license, hitch hike, rides are easy to get and you'll meet people and see things you otherwise wouldn't. If you're fit, think about buying a used bike when you get to wherever you get to. Aside from a camera bag, get a medium sized backpack (If you're thinking of biking it, substitute saddlebags) and a down sleeping bag in a stuff sack. Whatever you do, keep it comfortable, don't load yourself down. Comfortable hiking boots, a pair of flip-flops, 2 pair of jeans, shorts, 6 pair of socks, 6 pair of underpants, 6 shirts, a sweater, a sports jacket, a poncho, a bathing suit, and a tooth brush, period.
Save your money and don't bother with hotels. Stay in a hostel or pension the first few nights in a new location. You'll be surprised how friendly people are. Families will invite you to eat or stay with them. The rest of the world is not like the US or Canada. You'll have a ball.
Travel light. Take 1 or 2 35mm cameras that are rugged and reliable like an M-series Leica with 28, 50, and 90mm lenses and a Canon F1-N 2 or 3 prime lenses up to 200mm plus a 1.4 or 2x doubler. Protect each lens with a 1A or UV filter. A polarizer and graduated neutral density filter are handy. If you're shooting B&W, medium yellow and light green filters are useful. Bring a small strobe that uses AA batteries (they're cheap and plentiful). A monopod like a Manfrotto 3016 isn't heavy and comes in handy in low light and with a long lens. Everything should fit in a Domke F-7 bag with room to spare. Then fill all remaining space in the bag with film. Don't forget an LED flashlight that uses 1 or 2 AA batteries, a note book, and pen. Ah yes, get yourself a money belt and carry most of your money in traveler's checks.
Save yourself a lot of money. Hitch hike to a port area in Canada or the US and then hitch a ride on a freighter or tanker to China or Morocco or wherever you fancy. You can do it, I did and I spent less that $5,000US hitching around the world for 6-1/2 years and was in every continent except Antarctica, had a ball, was never hassled, and made a lot of friends. DO it to it! Full speed ahead, damn the torpedos!
Lots of luck,
PS: James, I forgot, sew a Canadian flag on your backpack. Paul
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Originally Posted by PHinSD
Something to consider, but rather than be a tourist for your entire time why not find a volunteer project in a place you're heading to to donate a couple of months of your time? The photographic possibilities from these really are a step above what you'll experience as a tourist, especially one that caters towards helping disadvantaged children. From simply playing football with children in the streets of Argentina to just spending time with kids in Nepal whose parents are in jail. The best programs are the ones you don't have to pay to do too, so remember that. Volunteer tourism is unfortunately pretty big business these days but there's still a lot of places out there just looking for a donation of time.
Throwing my two cents into the jar though, if I had 6 months free reign I'd be heading straight to India with no plans of leaving it's borders (plans are good, but I would probably end up heading back to Nepal too). The culture is simply so, so vast, as in the landscape (Himalayas are something else). My second choice would have to be somewhere in Africa. With that much time probably a north to south journey. But I still think you'd really benefit from digging your feet in somewhere for a couple of months of your trip to really experience a culture and way of life on a more day to day level.
You'll be happy to know I do have a bit of experience hitch-hiking through beautiful Northern Ontario and I couldn't agree more that it's a fine way to meet people. I've definitely been considering picking up a Leica M3. I'm super comfortable with my current light meter and know I would put that camera to plenty of use. I also must admit to all of you that I was considering tying in a decent digital camera (I had my eye on a used M8 to be specific) as I want to keep an online photo journal regularly updated while shooting medium format film only when I've thoroughly scouted an area in different light and figured out some promising compositions (first shot d*g*tally...as reference work and quick digital publication.) And yes, my maple leaf will wave everywhere I go...but I'll try not to be too cliched about it
Thanks for the info - when I first started thinking about this Southern Italy and Southern Spain were my some of my early leanings, but this was before I decided to consider places outside of Europe (which, to be honest with you, took a couple of days to get to.) I definitely have romantic visions of these locations and certainly will keep them in mind as I'm certain I would thoroughly enjoy such a trip.
jhenry, Andrew K, and other China promoters,
Definitely near the top of my list - the plane ticket out may run me some more but the prospect of taking on work as an English tutor is interesting and promising to think about - I wasn't sure if I could afford to stay in a Chinese metropolis but pursuing work of this sort would certainly help keep me around there for a bit. I'm also interested in China since I would like to 'plant my feet' to an extent within a landscape of varying but simultaneously linked cultures across a wide area - I don't know if I could handle a repeated culture shock at the beginning (touring swiftly through the Mediterranean/Middle East, for example.) I'm certainly not making a decision yet but I will keep China in my sights.
Thanks for the open invite! Well I have to say the flights to Finland run around the same as to Heathrow so you definitely have that going for you and it would be a lovely place to start a journey in my opinion. I do feel that I would have to move swiftly from there, however, as I feel I would lean toward landscape photography and, though I realize the beauty of your land up there, I feel my experience in the open spaces of northern Canada to be a bit too familiar for this trip. I'll still pass word should I happen your way!
naugastyle, johnnywalker & keithwms,
Thanks so much for all of your info! I feel a bit of a late bloomer with this traveling life I'm about to start but I'm literally just realizing what I want to do with my life (and just happened to have some opportunity land in my lap) and it looks like travel is going to be a big part of it from now on into the foreseeable future. I actually have been to Mexico a couple of times when I was a youth (11 years old the first time, 14 the second time) and found Spanish to suddenly 'make sense' on my second trip - I feel very comfortable with the grammar shift and would hope that in not too much time I could pick up what I need to get along. Thanks once again for all of the shared experience, I appreciate the suggestions immensely and you've given me ideas that I probably wouldn't have considered otherwise.
Definitely a sound approach. About the driving: yeah, I probably shouldn't. I've never been great with vehicles and an early driving instructor of mine suggested I avoid it Seriously though I probably wouldn't have the time at this point to get a license here at home so unless I drive illegally abroad it's probably not going to happen....my pedestrian-ism is strong though...hitch-hiking experience saw me walking 35km/day rather regularly and were I to say I'm athletic in ANY way it would be walking long distances without much fatigue (provided I don't smoke too much.)
Great, concise advise. Yes, galleries are of huge interest should Europe play a major role in this venture - paintings and sculpture are still hugely inspiring to me and I have visited many of the galleries here in North America...mostly focused on the works from the other side of the pond.
Thanks to all of you for your responses!! I'm overwhelmed and am certainly printing off everything you write and keeping it in my 'travel files' that are building up as I continue to prepare. I'm going to see if I can add a poll to this with some of the most often mentioned destinations to pick from - I can't say for certain that I'll choose based strictly on the results of such a poll, but as I still have no real decision on this yet one way or another the results will certainly be seriously considered.
Please keep the experiences coming - I'm finding I'm learning a tonne from these stories and am beginning to narrow down in my mind where I'd like to spend some time.
I'll continue with updates as decisions are made.
Thanks once again to a stupendously-generous community!
For documentary photography, I would go where not many people go and bring some insight back from there. I'd say Mongolia for the shear beauty of the land, the chinese and russian influence. Going to big cities or tourist places put me off in general. There's another place that would also be very relevant for today is the Aral Sea, but then you will need to deal with russian administration for permission. Still, worth a shot.
I wouldn't say that the Aral Sea is too hard to reach. There are great travel agencies in Tashkent that can handle all necessary beuracracy, no problem. You'll find the same in Alma Ata if you travel through Kazakhstan.
I have spent two years in Central Asia, and the region will never leave my mind. The views are breathtaking, and so is the hospitality.
If you follow the link you will find a short photoreportage from the magazine Ogonek that catches some of the beauty and sheer remoteness of a Central Asian valley. (Just click the photo.)