Note: This blog post was originally written and published for The Huffington post. You can see the original article here.
I have been fortunate enough to do a bit of traveling in my life. Starting with my first international trip in college, armed with my camera and a curiosity for the world, I took an immediate liking to travel photography. Over the few years I have been traveling and taking photos I have come to a few realizations about the world around me.
People are inherently good
It’s easy as Americans to sit here and assume that the rest of the world hates us. Watching the news can start to make you feel as though the outside world is a mean, scary place. But guess what? If humans are so horrible, civilization as we know it would have imploded a long time ago. If travel photography has taught me anything it’s that people all over the world are inherently kind, and care for one another. I have a long list of instances where people have come up to me on the streets and offered to help because I looked lost, or confused. They seemed to genuinely care; even in places where we are constantly told the natives are not welcoming (I’m looking at you, France). So don’t be frightened to travel, the world isn’t as terrifying as it might seem on TV.
Photography can be an excuse to engage with culture
Photography can be a great excuse to engage with the culture you are visiting. The thing is, this work doesn’t require you to travel to some far-flung corner of the earth, it could mean engaging with the people at your local Little League game. Photography can give you an excuse to talk with people you may not have otherwise, or visit locations or events you typically wouldn’t have. Photography can be an equalizer. Many of us all over the world enjoy taking pictures. It gives us a common talking point, or if there’s a language barrier it opens up the opportunity to communicate visually. The point being, don’t use the camera as a device to hide behind, use it as a conduit to engage with what is in front of the lens.
Life tends to repeat itself
I’m consistently surprised at how life tends to unfold in front of me in repeatable ways. When I get back from a shoot there are at least a few photos that remind me of photos I have shot before. It doesn’t matter if I am in China or England. Yes, this could partially be because of how I see the world, but I like to think of it as something slightly different. I like to think the reason life repeats itself in my photos is because there is a commonality we all share as humans. Elderly people sit on park benches together, people kiss in the street, parents hold their child’s hand as they walk down the sidewalk—all of these things happen over and over all around the world. The beauty of travel photography is that it forces you to slow down and look. Moments like these may pass you by if you aren’t consciously looking; photography requires you actively observe. Below are images taken in different countries on two different trips that I found to look oddly similar.
Travel allows you to continually fall in love with the place you’re from
Over time people can become disenchanted with the place they live. When you’re shoulder-deep, day in and day out, with life’s struggles, you can lose perspective. I have found that travel photography not only gives me a new perspective on the place I am visiting, it allows me enough space to rediscover what is great about the place that I come from, whether it’s as simple as the beautiful topography of the northeast Iowa countryside or the unlimited free refills of water at restaurants. Traveling always feels great, but I’d be lying if I said that coming back home doesn’t feel pretty fantastic after being away.