Welcome to the “Why I Became a Nomadic Photographer” series, Part 1. Here I share my top 3 reasons for choosing the nomadic lifestyle over a sticks and bricks base, my initial expectations for photography, and the reality of this lifestyle.
There are many posts and videos that glamorize full time photography travel so let me share the realities of this life. Let’s begin by looking at my top 3 reasons for pursuing full time travel.
Reason 1: Pursuit of a Portfolio
The primary reason I chose to become a nomadic photographer was to accomplish a goal of expanding my image portfolio to include nature and travel images of beautiful places in every state in the United States.
I named this my “Mountain to Sea Photo Journey”
A contributing factor to my decision was that fact I am older and needed to photograph certain locations while I was physically able to do so now, not years later.
Reason 2: Searching for Other places to Live in the United States
The secondary reason I decided to travel full time was to explore new places to live in the U.S.
I have spent most of my life in Florida but also lived in Colorado and North Carolina. Although I loved both states, I did not feel I had yet found a new place to call home.
Maybe I had moved to the wrong cities within these states, I was not sure. I just knew I needed to spend time exploring other places to gain a better understanding of what I was looking for in a home base.
Reason 3: I was a pet mom
Another important reason I decided to travel full time instead of making short trips for photography was because of my cat, Boo.
As a young cat, Boo decided I would rescue him from his abusive home and become his new Mom. Once I took him in, he became incredibly bonded to me. After all he had been through, I could not stand the thought of leaving him for weeks at a time with pet sitters.
It was decided, he would go with me on my travels.
Note: I did not decide to travel full time for the nomadic/RV lifestyle. My focus was and is still purely for photography purposes.
Expectations versus Reality
Reason One- Portfolio Growth
Initially, I thought, by traveling full time, I would be able to photograph a large portion of this country in a short period of time.
The reality was it was much more time consuming to constantly travel and photograph places than I had expected. Also towing an RV greatly slowed my travels.
Here are some of pros and cons of trying to develop a portfolio as a full time traveler. By no means does this list address all the issues of a full time nomadic lifestyle.
To learn about the Pros and Cons of traveling as a photographer in an RV, be sure to check out : RV Living as a Photographer.
Examples of Places I have photographed to date:
Here is a link to my current Portfolio.
Goal 2-Deciding Where to Live
Initially, I thought traveling to different cities and states, would help me find that picture perfect town. The reality is it does not exist. However by traveling full time I learned what size cities I was comfortable in, what amenities I needed, and what types of terrain most inspired me as a photographer.
Goal 3- Traveling with my Cat
My expectation was that traveling with a cat would be challenging initially then become easier. This was only partially true in reality. I was not prepared for certain ongoing challenges such as how to handle rapidly changing temperatures in the RV while I was out in the field photographing.
In fact, there are too many issues to cover here that I have decided to start a category in this blog called Boo Bits all about traveling with a cat. Focus will be on issues RV. Please check back by spring of 2024 for posts.
Overall Thoughts on Full Time Travel as a Photographer
Full time travel has allowed me to photograph a number of great locations that would not have been possible otherwise. However, I now question if I have sacrificed quantity for quality at times.
The challenges and tasks associated with living full time on the road take significantly more time than I expected. This was particularly true since I travel solo.
My best images are produced when I know a location well and photograph it a number of times which directly conflicts with frequent traveling to new destinations.
Cell and Internet access were terrible at many places making it difficult to work and research future photo spots.
Weather, in particular wildfires, were a constant and major problem at many of my photo destinations. Because of this I left a number of amazing photo locations with few, if any good images.
What I would do differently?
In hindsight, I believe I could have done a much better job photographing destinations if I had kept my photo travels to a smaller radius. For instance, instead of trying to photograph everything from Arizona to Oregon in a 6 month time frame, I would have been better served staying in Arizona and possible Utah for that same period of time.
I should have scheduled blocks of time for tasks such as vehicle maintenance, website upkeep and other non destination specific chores instead of trying to fit everything in while at photo destinations.
There is nothing I would do differently as it relates to my reasons to travel full time in search of a new place to live or as it relates to traveling with my cat. Full time travel was the right decision.
Lastly, I should have reached out to local photographers in the areas I was planning to visit for insider tips and networking. Relying on information on the internet was not very reliable.
I would love to hear from fellow photographers who are also traveling a significant part of the year on what works and does not work for you.
final Thoughts on Being a Nomadic Photographer
It is my belief that road travel is still a great way to photograph this country but maybe not full time. Also, in the future, I will incorporate the things I would do differently into future travel plans.
Speaking of things I would do differently, I would also travel in a different type of camper. Although the Lance travel trailer was a good camper, it was not made for full time travel nor did it meet some of my photography needs.
While on the topic of RV’s, be sure to read why I chose an RV for my full-time travels and also my thoughts on what I now consider to be the Perfect Photographer’s RV. (is there such a thing?)
Overall, the best parts of nomadic travel so far have been meeting so many amazing and interesting people and the exposures to the different cultures in the United States, not the photos.
As always, thanks for joining me today!