Samara, Costa Rica
Is photography your ticket to ride? Can photography really finance your global travels? Maybe. Are you a good photographer? Are you a good salesperson? Are you good at self-promotion and bartering? Do you make new friends easily? Are you fearless? Can you answer “yes” to these questions? If you can then photography might indeed be your ticket to ride—your passport to adventure.
I’ve travelled the world for 4-years now, and I’ve heard the complaint (excuse) so many times that I know it by heart: “I would love to do what you do, but I can’t afford it.” If you really look at that excuse it rings hollow and stinks of fear. Money isn’t the real obstacle, getting over your fear is the real obstacle. Travelling doesn’t have to break the bank.
The kids (well kids to me) have it wired. You need to adjust your “mindset” and not your bank account. Would you believe me if I said you could travel the world for only $10 – $20 USD per day? That’s right, $300 – $600 USD per month. You’re probably saying to yourself it can’t be done, instead of asking the question “How?” The proof is that I’m doing it now.
The kids (18 to 30 years old) backpack and barter. If you backpack you’re probably staying in backpacker hostels or local (cheap) hotels. These almost always include a simple breakfast. This is what I do as I travel and my target budget for lodging is $10 USD per night, but I’ve often found good accommodations at $5 USD per night (including a free breakfast).
The kids often barter their talents or brawn for free (or discounted) lodging. Working temporarily at the hostel while they visit and explore their location. This can include being a food server, working in reception or general cleanup and maintenance. Some are musicians who will entertain in the common areas at night while guests are visiting and drinking. I’ve written about some of these activities before.
Can you barter your photography? As Sarah Palin often says “You betcha.” Photography can easily be bartered for free, or heavily discounted, products and services. Everyone wants great photographs, but no one wants to pay for them (the photographer’s lament). Here are a few of the things I’ve bartered for while travelling, and I don’t even go out of my way to find these opportunities:
- Access to a private scientific research facility in Yucatan, Mexico. This actually turned into a job offer to be their unofficial “Official” photographer for a couple of years, and an opportunity to document their work with transient Jaguars.
- I exchanged a real estate photo shoot for premium cigars and world-class Scotch whisky in Guatemala. They used the photos to sell their high-end home, and I used the cigars and whisky for pleasure, consuming both in their exclusive cigar lounge and whisky bar (approximate value $350 USD).
- In Panama I bartered my services for a one-day jungle trek with a renowned local wilderness guide. He needed family photos and I needed to get into the jungle to shoot the wildlife. This particular bartering situation was also valued in the $350 USD range. Situations like these are plentiful for a good photographer, you just have to keep your eyes open.
You can barter for almost anything and everything. People want good photos of their families, homes and businesses (again they just don’t want to pay for them). But people are willing to trade, that way it doesn’t feel like spending money. You just have to see the opportunity and make the offer. You can barter for lodging, food, drinks, dental work, haircuts, transportation and the list goes on-and-on. You don’t even have to travel to do this, you can do it at home. Bartering, the new “old” idea.
READ MY ARTICLE: How to Make Money Taking Pictures at Northrup Photo
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveller