Thoughts On Being a Solo Female Travel Photographer
At the end of every mission I undertake, I'm somewhat surprised at my gall. Or maybe I'm just impressed with my inhibition to reject constraints from traveling alone. I mean, I'm a 48 year old woman with responsibilities.... 4 children and a husband, for example. But I never let the fact that I may have to explore alone prevent me from doing it. Sometimes it feels incredibly lonely, other times it feels incredibly liberating, but at the end of the day it always feels incredibly right.
It's en vogue for female travelers right now to venture out alone. Completely alone. I've written before about safety issues and how to protect yourself and trusting your gut instincts, but at the same time some of these young whipper-snappers take chances I wouldn't necessarily, as someone older and wiser, I suppose. Like posting pictures of your car parked in a lot as you're readying to go on a solo hike through the mountains. One young female travel blogger had a note left on her windshield from an admirer. I asked her how this guy knew it was her car and she said she'd posted it on Instagram or her blog. Ye gads. I mean, it turned out alright and she got a great compliment out of the deal, but I've seen too many episodes of Snapped and Forensic Files to do that. Here's the story of a young lady who was raped after giving her location on her blog...
There's also a risk in the locations I choose. I'm fresh back from an amazing journey to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon along with some other amazing places (I'll talk about that next time). At the falls in the Grand Canyon as well as Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona, there are definitely opportunities to get too close to the edge. In both cases, no rails, just a steep cliff that would surely result in your death. Here I am pictured on the edge of Horseshoe Bend.
The angle of my 10-22mm lens makes it hard to see just how brutal of a drop off this cliff is, but trust me, it's brutal. Some people who wanted a dramatic photo here would crawl on their bellies to the edge, too afraid to approach it standing up.
But one thing I WON'T do is take unnecessary risks. There were all sorts of photo opportunities I missed because I said to myself, "Nah, I'm not gonna chance it. I have kids at home who need me..." Here is one such scenario that I passed on:
I mean, that's cool, but perhaps he isn't as clumsy as I. I find that I can get "the shot" without taking "the risk" and I'm perfectly satisfied with that. That doesn't mean there is no risk involved, of course. One stumble forward or un-solid footing could well have sent me over the edge so I just have to focus on what I'm doing. This job may not be good for folks with ADD.
I'm also in love with road trips. I used to think that I had to leave the United States to have a really fulfilling assignment but this great nation has proven me very wrong. Wide open spaces, canyons, mountains, bizarre geological formations, forests, oceans, waterfalls, you name it, it's here. God did not skimp on extraordinary when he designed North America.
Road trips are part of the process. It's true, it may take many exhausting hours to get from point A to point B, and you might think they're lonely hours, but for me they're not. On my 9 hour trip back home from my last location in Moab, Utah, I filled my time with a combination of engaging talk radio, my favorite iTunes playlist and traditional Catholic hymns and chants from the Daughters of Mary. St. Augutine said, "He who sings prays twice." The Daughters of Mary really helped my devotional life along this trip.
Sometimes people ask how I tolerate the road trips or if I worry about something going wrong. Well, I love the road trips and yes, I do worry sometimes. There are a million things that could go wrong but in my experience having a solid prayer life has put me in good with God and He's done a wonderful job of keeping me and my vehicle together. So sure I worry if my vehicle with over 100,000 miles could break down...I suppose that's very possible.. so worry before hand is more of a covering-the-bases process but while en route, joy and faith take over and by the time I return home I realize He's answered all my prayers and seen me safely to the end of my journey. Which in turns builds my faith. So taking the risk of traveling alone has been a big faith builder for me as well.
I've been told I'm brave for traveling to all the places I've been, especially when I do it alone. It takes courage. And it does, I have to agree. I must have an amount of faith in my own physical and intuitive abilities, faith in God to see me through, faith in my fellow man that they are there to enjoy God's creation as I am and not there to cause harm to anyone. And yes, courage to overcome the concerns about the financial investment it takes to go on such excursions because you know how women are, we always think about our families first. Always. But in a way I can do no other.... part of my calling is to share God's amazing creation with others who may not be able to see it for themselves. I may not be saving the world, but I am finding the good and innocence in it. In the words of Samwise Gamgee from The Two Towers in the Lord of the Rings, "There's some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for."
So I've raised 4 children, stayed faithfully married for almost 27 years, submitted myself to all the correct theology even when it costs me something, and I also try to make the most of the talents that God has blessed me with. And often I have to do it alone, except I am never really alone, because the Creator goes with me and gives me guided tours. And that really is amazing.