documenting solo travel

I don’t think it’s any surprise that I love photos – taking them and being in them. All through college I was unofficially designated as the group photographer and carried my camera with me everywhere. This lead to a LOT of photos (for which I know everyone was secretly grateful, even if they did make fun of my constant camera wielding). Some people even say – HEY, why don’t you just enjoy the moment? And I’ve said this before, but capturing photos honestly enhances experiences for me. Beyond the obvious memory saving, it gives me that creative outlet I am always seeking. Point being: I love taking photos. And I’m not planning on slowing down any time soon.

But because I always had to be the photographer, I wasn’t actually in the photos a lot of the time. Even though I can get over my self consciousness at snapping my camera in front of people’s faces, it’s been much harder for me to have the confidence to ask people to take photos of me. I don’t want to seem vain or like I’m putting someone out or wasting their time. And also, to be honest, though I try to focus on making everyone look good and taking correctly composed photos, etc. etc…not everyone else does. Can I ask again if the photo is blurry or they captured too much background noise? Basically just a hassle all around (this is something I’m training my husband to do, haha).

And what happens when there is no one around to take the photos but yourself? Do you not take them? Do you have 100 photos of the landscape or your hand outstretched in a selfie? Those can be fine, but too many is too many, and they don’t really place you in the scene. I knew going into my Europe trip, especially while traveling solo, that I’d have to figure something out to rectify this situation.

Mounted my GoPro to the GorillaPod and set on time-lapse to take a whole sequence of photos.

Enter: the Joby GripTight GorillaPod – XL. Of course, I am not going to lug a full size tripod around. I also wouldn’t want to set one of those suckers up. So before our trip, I purchased one of these to use both with my phone and with a GoPro tripod attachment, and it is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. You can stand it like any regular ol’ tripod, or – the magic of it – you can wrap the legs around ANYTHING. It’s not an exact science – once you mount your phone or GoPro, you just finagle the legs until the tripod is balanced and isn’t going to fall over (or off a tree, for instance). It’s also super light, which is key when traveling and not wanting to carry a lot of weight.

Now this is where I threw caution to the wind – taking the photos. Of course, it’s going to take me a minute to set up the GorillaPod. Of course, it might look strange when I’m hanging it on a tree or around a bench. Of course, I’ll probably have to wait as strangers walk by and get out of my frame and see this random girl setting a self-timer and posing for photos by herself. But you know what, who cares?! Would I rather go without having photos of myself in Europe? No. If you ignore your insecurity about it, you’ll be just fine. No one will stop and say anything. You will never see them again. You’re traveling – you’re on vacation – I promise there are other tourists looking just as crazy (if not more) as you.

Mounted my phone to the GorillaPod and wrapped around a tree branch.

So on my phone I’d set a self-timer. On my GoPro I’d set it to time-lapse, so I could take several photos at once. I did the same thing to record video and just didn’t care what others might be thinking. This resulted in so many photos and footage that I treasure, and quite frankly – people won’t even know you took them yourself (they will of course know if you take a selfie). In fact, I’ve gotten so many compliments on the photos and questions about who took them.

If all else fails, if there’s not a good place to prop your tripod (or it’s raining, like it was in Paris), just ask someone to take a picture. You might run into people who (somehow) still don’t know how to use a camera, but I’ve never had anyone say “no” to me. If you feel really weird about it, offer to take a photo of someone who looks like they need it, and they’ll return the favor. I try to set up the frame for them and say, “Just hold it really still and snap several”.

I asked a stranger walking by if she could snap this photo real quick, and it’s one of my very favorites from the whole trip.

Anyway, now I’m getting all nostalgic for Europe and traveling (though I’ve been so fortunate to do a lot of it this year). Where are you going next? Will you brave taking photos of yourself?

-wonderland sam

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actress/texan kickin' it in los angeles. always searching for my next pizza. cia agent in another life.

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