I have one photo that, for me, holds a moment that something a bit more than the rest. To the unsuspecting eye it looks like just another photo I took from my thousands from my trip around South East Asia. But this moment is so much more than that.
Just over two weeks before this moment I had arrived in China on my first solo trip and had immediately met up with the group I was travelling with. I made friends, I felt safe and secure and had the best time. When the tour ended I then flew to Hanoi, Vietnam on my own. I woke up on the first morning and felt totally alone. So very homesick and so very lonely.
But instead I got myself out and set about seeing the things in Hanoi I wanted to see. I first walked down to Hoan Kiem Lake where I took this photo. It was at this moment I realised I could do this. I had got this. I was absolutely fine being a solo traveller and being on my own. This realisation was a huge weight of my shoulders and changed the way I saw myself travelling.
After that – if I wanted to go somewhere or do something, I knew I could and nothing was going to stop me. Whenever I look at this photo it now reminds me of this eye opening moment.
With this in mind, I wanted to ask fellow travel bloggers if they had a photo that held a specific moment or memory for them. It didn’t necessarily need to be fancy, or the best photo ever taken, because often that’s not how that moment is. I was curious about how they saw their travel, if there was a defining moment and what made them see things differently.
And here are the results. A beautiful collection of photos have come together!
Mark and Kylee at These Foreign Roads
“Sitting on the balcony of an apartment in Medellín, Colombia; I’m thinking of how we actually got to this place. Far from our normal lives back in Canada.
It was in Goa back in 2011, watching some kids play cricket on the beach. We’d already been on the coast for two weeks but our bus to Mumbai left in a couple of days. It was our second several-month-long journey together. By now we’d realized that travel was part of us, we just didn’t know how much.
Not yet ready to leave, we acknowledged what we had both been thinking. Mumbai could wait.
That evening, Kylee brought our bus tickets to the beach. Sitting there, watching those kids without a care in the world, we ceremoniously burned those two tickets. As the ashes blew out into the sea, something changed.
Only buying us a few more days of freedom, the act seemed insignificant on the surface. However, the moment buried itself deep within us both. It represented something much bigger.
Upon returning home several weeks later, it didn’t feel the same. Our house felt different, our city was different. Life was different. A fire was growing within us now, lit by the flame of two slips of paper on an Indian beach. Our path, though unclear in those early days, was laid out. The freedom of the road would forever call.
Several years and eighteen countries later, we’ve sold our house and nearly all of our possessions. Now here I sit on the balcony, sipping a coffee in South America, thinking about some kids playing cricket in Goa.”
Instagram: @theseforeignroads Twitter: @markandkylee
Bella at Passport and Pixels
“I’m a travel junkie: I’ve been to over 50 countries and I’m never happier than when I’m out in a beautiful part of the world taking photos of amazing landscapes and people.
But back home I was getting to a point in where I was frustrated with my life and my career as a TV producer, and I needed a change. So I looked around for an opportunity that would not only take me in a new direction, but would also afford me the opportunity to travel to somewhere new, use my skills while working abroad, and even allow me to grow my travel blog at the same time.
I found it in the form of Child’s i Foundation, a UK charity that works in Uganda to support families in poverty so that the children don’t end up in orphanages. They needed a photographer and filmmaker to take photos and make videos to be used for fundraising and educational purposes. So I volunteered my services, and within just a few weeks I found myself living in Uganda, based in the capital, Kampala, but travelling out to remote villages to take photos of families that have been helped by the charity.
In one tiny village in Tororo district, near the border with Kenya, our presence at the family’s home caused quite a stir and we soon attracted a large audience of local children. They rarely, if ever, see white people and were keen to interact with me and have their photos taken. My eye was caught particularly by these two girls who had stopped on their way past to fetch water. I was struck by how proud they look, posing with their jerry cans – it’s hard to see what opportunities life will have for them living in poverty in a remote Ugandan village, and yet they seem so happy it makes me wonder if we in the West have really got it right after all.
I’ve had the most incredible experiences in Uganda: I’ve seen so much of this beautiful country, I’ve been doing work that is valued and genuinely useful, and I’ve met inspirational adults and gorgeous children like these two girls. Even when I’m back home in rainy London, this photo will always remind me of this amazing time.
Find out more about what I’ve been up to in Uganda at www.passportandpixels.com”
Instagram: @passportandpixels. Twitter: @PassportAndPix
Ian at The Barefoot Backpacker
“It’s not even a terribly good picture. It’s of a bus ticket, taken from inside the bus, just over 6 years ago, using a camera I wasn’t familiar with (I’d borrowed it from a friend), and which wasn’t really that good at macro type shots. Bus tickets aren’t the most photogenic of objects in any case. But it’s arguably the most important picture I’ve ever taken, at least for me.
It was the first picture.
I mean I’d been travelling before; I’d even done some small amount of solo travel abroad (tho not for a number of years). The idea of travelling has always been in my soul, but as an introvert and someone with low self-confidence, it wasn’t always easy for me to apply it. I’d come back a week early from a solo trip around Italy some years previously, because I simply got overwhelmed by the ‘foreign-ness’ of it all.
At the end of 2011 I realised I had an enormous amount of holiday to take from my job (our firm’s admin year is April-March), and I asked around my friends to see if they knew anywhere that would be historical, cultural, relatively cheap, but most importantly, easy for someone like me to get around as a solo, unassertive, traveller. This was in the days before I was heavily on Twitter etc, so it was a small sample, but they all said “SE Asia”. I looked into it, sketched out several possible routings, then committed myself by booking flights.
My first landing in SE Asia was to be Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, a country where English is widely spoken and where so many travellers go to that I figured it would be easy to find my way without being forced to ask too many questions. Despite this, on the last leg of the flight (from Dubai), I was still worried about it. Would I be able to find my way out the airport? Would it be obvious where the shuttle buses went from? Would I even be able to draw money out of the ATMs to pay for it? Would I end up lost and alone, completely confused by inadequate signage, even though I’d looked at an airport plan before I left, and be forced to ask for help? Would I even be able to cope with being in a foreign country at all, or would i just lock myself in my ho(s)tel room all day in an introspective panic?
Obviously, my worrying was all unwarranted – the airport was easy to navigate, and I got on the bus just fine.
The picture is important for me then because it was the first picture I ever took abroad in my ‘solo traveller’ persona, so it’s from here that everything since has grown. The ticket is the one from the airport to the city centre, on board the shuttle bus before it left the airport. I took the picture to prove to myself that, yes, I *could* travel solo abroad, and no, nothing bad *would* happen to me while I did it – while it seems such a simple concept to buy a bus ticket, the fact that I could do it meant a lot to me and my mental state at the time, so the pic is a reminder of that; essentially, a reminder of my abilities and what I’m capable of.”
instagram: @barefoot_backpacker twitter: @RTWBarefoot
Suzy at Suzy’s Stories
“They say a picture can tell a thousand words, and after plenty of travels and opportunities for photo-taking, I can certainly vouch for that being the case. There are countless times I remember a moment and it was so special I had to capture it; a sunrise brightening the tips of a mountain, finally reaching the summit of a long hike, visiting an entirely new culture for the first time, ticking off a personally meaningful bucket list activity… The list goes on!
A particularly stand out memory that came with a equally stand out photo, is the first time I set my eyes on the Sydney Opera House. I had been in New Zealand for 3 months, Australia for 2, but this was the first time I realised just how FAR from home I was. I was instantly in awe and incredibly emotional about being in the close vicinity of this iconic building. I finally realised that the trip I had been dreaming about was real, I had done, and it was only just the beginning.
I was at a destination I had promised myself I’d go, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride at the thought of my mum’s numerous stories of her time here too – I was honoured to follow in her footsteps! To top it all off, I was greeted (through admittedly teary eyes), with a gorgeous sunset over those remarkable curved arches. The experience truly left me with a sense of appreciation and peace.
Seeing such a famous landmark, arguably the most famous in the southern hemisphere, put into perspective the journey I had been on both physically and emotionally. I had visited countries that now hold a special place in my heart, and I had done things I never imagined I’d have the chance to do.
As a Brit, it made me understand how important seeing landmarks such as Big Ben and the London Eye are for visitors to my own country. Those familiar yet distant sights are so remarkable to behold for the first time. I’m certainly more appreciative of my own city and how lucky I am to live in such a popular and renowned place, and grateful for the chance to follow many other explorers in seeing the world for myself.”
Instagram: @suzystories Twitter: @suzystories
Suzi at Sightseeing Suzi
“I was going to send something completely different but then this happened…
I took this image yesterday, it may just seem like a horse but yesterday was the first trip I took alone after a very rough month. I’ve just come out of a long term relationship and had to move back in with my parents. I had an extra day off and rather than sitting on the sofa in my joggers binge watching Netflix and eating share bags of chocolates I thought sod it I’m going out. So I grabbed my camera and headed an hour down the road just over the welsh boarder to find a water fall. On the way up the single track road I saw this slightly soggy mare and took this shot. I finally felt okay, I felt brave and I felt like part of the old me was coming back- the independent traveller. Who would guess you’d get that taking a photo of a horse stood alone in a welsh field.”
Instagram: @suzi_m_k Twitter: @SightseeingSuzi
Stu at Txiki Tales
“Ok, so it’s a beach (Nai Yang in Thailand) and yes it’s a sunset (but a pretty good one) but what makes this so special?
There are so many reasons – this was the first trip to Asia with our (then in 2009) six year old son, Tom, and it was this experience that gave him the same love of travel that his mum and I share.
It was also a difficult trip as my wife had lost two school friends in the Boxing Day tsunami a few years earlier and it was the first time she had plucked up the courage to visit the area. The level of destruction locally was still evident all this time later.
Finally, I love the change of pace from the hustle and bustle earlier in the day when the beach was full of hawkers and the fishing boats were busy plying their trade.
It’s a photo that perfectly sums up that adventure, it’s left a permanent memory and always makes me smile.”
Instagram: @txiki_tales Twitter: @txiki_tales
How about you? Is there a moment in your life where something changed how you travelled? I’d love to hear about that moment. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org