So halfway through my life and 35 years into my career I find myself embarking on a photo adventure that will carry me to the other side of the planet to the Kingdom of Bhutan. Oh, and traveling alone and with three cases of gear.
Today we must wear many hats and be adaptive enough to take on such heady assignments.
Here's my advice.
*Plan, research and prepare in advance. Yes there were several days of my own time to check customs, fill out Carnet/Cert of Registration, select, test, pack, weigh my gear and organize large portions of this trip from ground transportation to estimating cash, local currency, time differences, culturally acceptable attire, advance weather, food types and tipping protocols. It's extremely important to review each airline's baggage and carry-on rules. I found Qatar Airways allows certain items in the cabin on the way out of the USA and forces them to be checked on the way back into the USA. Interestingly, Druk Air has two different weight restriction up into the mountainous airports vs returning from that remote locale. Something to do with runway length and altitude. But highly important and non-negotiable.
*If you are not an early bird, it's time to become one. Better to spend three hours at the gate relaxing then barely making it or worse, missing that flight.
*Try to get your Customs stamps the day before to reduce that drama of a closed office or long line. That paperwork means more to coming back to the USA than it does travelling abroad. The fines, taxes and hassle of missing a stamp on your paperwork is costly.
*Plan on Wi-Fi over your cell. Sim cards are good too...but use them as back up. Discover "What's APP" for free texting and in most cases photo posting. Paying for wifi abroad is usually money well spent.
*Have a name and number on the other side. It is hugely helpful to have somebody English speaking and knowledgeable available to step in when the snafu hits.
*Plan on being wiped out and overly burdened as you move through the multi-legged intinerary. I try to stay awake as long as possible to get at least half way onto my end points sleep clock on the first day. Insist on at least three hours of "alone time" upon arrival into your hotel room before going to work. I use this time to reassemble my gear, check for damage, charge batteries, decompress and if necessary, take care of hunger, medications, message to home and simply to exhale and recenter yourself on your own terms.
*Leave your "angry eyes" at home.
Stay calm, be the good American who smiles and is patient and who reminds the world that we are a good people who do care about others. Much of the world moves slower outside of home, so embrace it by leaving way early and rolling with it. I try to be a "good will ambassador" for American business and American people when overseas. Ideally in my wake, locals are thinking, "what a nice American boy."
*Finally, share these wonderful destinations, cultures and amazing people with all the world. Everytime we share these stories through our lenses we make the world a little smaller, a little more accepting and a lot more grateful for this big beautiful place called Earth