Travel Q+A

I didn't grow up traveling - we went on some small trips to other states as a family - but my first time going international was right after high school graduation! I saved up money for a full year from babysitting and photo shoots (I was doing 4-5 a week!) to go on a trip to Fiji. I had such an amazing time on that trip and it's safe to say I got bit by the travel bug!

For me traveling isn't just about getting the shot or checking things off a list. I do it because it makes me feel alive. I love people and culture and making friends. I love seeing new sights and eating strange foods. I love growing closer to God as I put myself in a place where I need Him more often. I live for making memories that we can look back at and laugh about.

I've been to 14 countries - which may seem like a lot if you haven't traveled much - but isn't as much compared to most travel bloggers, I guess! But even still, I have learned SO much from traveling and I wanted to answer your questions + give you some tips in case you love traveling too!

What camera equipment do you use for travel/underwater?

You can look at all my equipment + what I use and why, + what I recommend to others who are just starting out by signing up for my free photo gear guide!

What are your recommendations for [insert location]?

Sadly I don’t have travel guides for everywhere I’ve been, but if you do a little digging you can find my blog and Instagram posts for each place! I also have an Oahu travel guide that shares huge detail on where to stay, eat, play, and what to do!

How did you get into photography and travel blogging?

I started out as a wedding/couples photographer when I was way young (before high school). When I moved to Hawaii I gradually started taking more travel/lifestyle photos and working with brands and companies. The more I posted travel photos, the more I would get job inquiries in that field! I landed my first ever big gig with Visit Jordan and from there got even more opportunities to shoot travel related photos. My advice to anyone wanting to get paid to travel is to create your own opportunities (aka go out and take travel photos and book your own trips) and then reach out to potential clients with your portfolio.

What is a normal day for you like? How did you come to live in Hawaii and live your dream?

My days all look kind of different but in general I usually have a morning routine of breakfast, gym, reading, and then working on the computer for at least a few hours. When I work, I am usually answering emails, editing photos, creating content for my blog + email list, interacting on Instagram or in our Facebook group. I also will go out and shoot stuff with Bryant or my friends! On the days that I don't have as much work to do, I'll go to the beach or hike!

We moved to Oahu originally for Bryant to go to school. Now that he's finishing up, we love it so much we plan on staying! Don't get me wrong - we LOVE living in Hawaii - but it's not a vacation like everyone thinks. You really have to hustle and work your butt off to live here. There's also a lot of sacrifices you have to make if you're coming from the mainland: being far from family, higher expenses, not fitting in with the locals (this is especially hard for kids), never having a nice home or car (cockroaches galore!), and just generally having to deal with island life. But, for us, it's worth it - it's the cost of living in paradise!

What place that you travelled to has been the most eye opening for you?

I think the first time I ever realized how powerful my job as a travel photographer really is, is when I was in Jordan. I got endless messages from people saying how my photos had impacted them and made them think differently about Muslims and The Middle East in general. I felt like I had positively affected people simply by taking portraits and sharing my heart and so I'd say that going to Jordan really opened my eyes to how much influence I could have in a good way!

What’s your favorite Hawaiian island and why?

It's Molokai!! But it's a secret why.. aka it's so amazing that I don't want anyone to know about it, haha. You can check out my quick guide to the Hawaiian islands if you want to see which one is best to visit based on your travel style!

How do you decide what to do when you're planning a trip?

I'm getting much less structured when planning a trip these days because usually my plans don't work out! But I will use Pinterest, blogs, and Instagram to gather inspiration and then me and Bryant will sit down and figure out logistics. We try to narrow down what we really want to do and then leave some extra room for winging it and doing what the locals suggest while we're there! This is also why I decided to create a travel guide for Oahu - I've laid everything out for you to make it so much easier!

How do you afford to travel?

Well I make all of my money online selling filters + ebooks and online courses. So we can make money while we travel as long as we keep marketing our stuff and posting online! In general though, I think pretty much anyone can travel these days - you just have to decide it's more important than say, getting a nice car or getting your hair done all the time. We live super simple and budget tons when it comes to food + activity! That way we have extra money to spend on trips! I really just think it comes down to managing your finances. I know some people have other obligations that keep them from traveling, but if you want it bad enough, I think anyone can make it happen. 

What are your best tips to save money when your traveling?

First of all, I buy flights off of Google flights since I tend to find the best rates on there! I make sure to clear my browser cookies before buying flights since rates will go up the more you are searching. You can also find amazing deals through email services such as Pomelo or Scott's Cheap Flights (my friends just bought crazy cheap tickets to Switzerland that way!). Another good flight resource is Skiplagged. While you're actually traveling, we save money by going grocery shopping for breakfast + lunch instead of eating out. So we'll eat sandwiches, fruit, and veggies for the first part of the day and then just go out for dinner. We also book hotels through or use Airbnb to find good deals. Other than that, we really sit down and try to only come up with one or two epic things we will do on the trip that costs more money and then the rest of the trip just walk around the city or do other free things like hikes and stuff! 

What's your favorite memory of traveling with your husband?

When we first got married we were way broke! We had over a month in between our wedding and moving out to Hawaii and we didn't want to just live with our parents, so we packed up our little green Corolla and drove up the West Coast all the way to Canada and back down to Mexico - in 4 weeks!! It was craziness, but SO FREAKING FUN. Some of my happiest memories were on that trip. We still laugh about it. I'll never forget how many amazing national parks we saw and the funny situations we ended up in (like camping in the middle of no where) just because we didn't want to spend all our money. Such good times.

I really admire how you are able to connect with the locals as you travel. How do you approach them in a way to make them your friend?

I actually answer some of this in my blog post all about taking portraits of strangers around the world! But basically I've learned that if you take interest in them and really try to show you care about their culture and who they are as a person it will usually be met with friendliness!

Tips for traveling like a local?

If you want to travel like a local then ask a local! We always just ask people what they love about their hometown and usually get some pretty good suggestions. Or you could always try to find blogs of people who live there too through Pinterest!

Favorite place you’ve ever been?

Moorea in French Polynesia! It’s like Hawaii times a million. So clean, beautiful, quiet, and you can really feel something special there. It will always have a place in my heart.

How do you decide where to go next?!

That's legit one of the hardest things for me!! I want to go everywhere, that’s my constant struggle. I guess it just comes down to where we can find cheap tickets or where we have connections!! I just have to pace myself and realize that I have a whole life ahead of me to hit everywhere!

Funniest traveling story:

Oh man I have literally so many. If only people knew how many situations Bryant and I get ourselves into. From sleeping in our car with wet towels trying to keep warm at the top of Haleakala to sipping hot tea next to a fire in Jordan when it was 115 degrees outside, I have to say one of the funner situations we got ourselves into was this last summer in the Philippines! We were in the middle of nowhere and finally found the most random hotel run by these two very flamboyant chunky gay men. They were amazing haha. We seriously just wanted to chill, maybe go to the beach. They wanted to book every tour and accommodate us constantly!! They seriously kept trying to arrange all these romantic dates for us and we seriously just wanted to nap haha. Anyways, they kept asking if we wanted to join them for karaoke every night (Filipinos love their karaoke) and kept saying it was a huge party and we needed to be there. So one night we finally joined them! This "huge" party was us and a few other random villagers. It was the worst singing I've ever heard. The songs were American and most of the villagers singing didn't know the English. It was epic. One of the chubby guys (his name was Niño) kept flirting with Bryant and teasing him about going up and singing. And my super shy, non-party animal of a husband actually got up and sang!! After that Niño would not leave Bryant alone and kept touching his arms and bringing him coconuts to "cleanse" him. Overall it was just a really random situation and we laugh about it all the time. 

What do you do on airplanes to keep yourself entertained?

Me and Bryant have totally different styles! He's all about the movies and I'll maybe watch one but then I also download a ton of books to read, a notebook to write / draw in, or just try to sleep. Our longest flight we've ever been on was 20 hours and at that point.. I think all you can do is die a little inside haha.

What is your favorite US state you’ve been to?

ALASKA!! I need to go back asap. It was so incredible. 

When you have kids, do you think you’ll travel as much?!

I really hope we do! I'm sure we'll calm down some of course but I hope to instill a love for travel in my kids. Especially with road trips and national parks!

Any helpful healthy snack tips when traveling?

I definitely don't eat perfectly healthy while traveling but it certainly helps when you buy groceries for breakfast and lunch instead of eating out! We always try to buy some fruit and veggies and just cut those up and eat them throughout the day. When you're ordering at a restaurant just go for the dish with the most vegetables (as long as it's a place you trust has washed their veggies.. otherwise stick to cooked meats and bread). 

I talk more about this in my blog post about how to stay healthy while traveling!

What are your tips about starting a blog?

Sounds dumb but just START! You know the saying "the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now" ? I think that totally applies to blogs. The reason blogs are popular now are simple because they started years ago. So if you want your blog to be popular in the future.. you just got to start. Try to commit to creating a post + photos for it maybe once every two weeks at least! I also try to build 80% of my content around the questions people are always asking me and 20% around just my everyday life or places I travel. Other than that, just be unique and have something different about your blog that makes it stand out from the rest.

Favorite food you’ve tried while traveling?

I LOVED the food in Morocco. Like, it was my favorite food I've probably ever had in my life. Think Arabic meets French meets Spanish with a hint of African. Just so fresh and amazing and flavorful. I still dream about it.

Do you volunteer and/or do service in the places you travel?

We have done some service in the past! For example, my trip to Fiji was a humanitarian trip, we took photos for a Charity Organization in Peru, and when we went to Morocco we taught a photography class in the community center. We did that through a program called Workaway. It's important to know all volunteer opportunities are NOT created equal. For example, as much as I loved my trip to Fiji, I have to be real with you... having a bunch of unqualified teenagers try to do construction in a rural village is kind of pointless and definitely NOT giving actual service. Think about it: those people in Fiji are more than capable of building their own bathrooms (they're poor, not stupid) but they just need the money. So rather than spending thousands of dollars on an "enlightening" trip for a bunch of teenagers, you'd be better off giving your money to a locally run organization that can allocate the money to hire actual Fijians to do the work - and guess what, they'd probably build way more bathrooms that way, too. I see this issue in mostly African or just orphanage trips in general. People go and paint a school room or play with babies. And while their intentions are good, they end up doing so much more harm than good! There's a lot of articles on the subject of voluntourism and I highly recommend doing research about the project before you go. Here's some red flags to watch out for:

- if the project is based off of what YOU get out of it - rather than the actual service of helping people.

- the project is short term. It's a hard truth to face but you probably will NOT make a true difference in a week long trip unless it's cleaning up a beach or helping to maintain a facility. Try to seek opportunities where you can actually build relationships and use your skill set to make a difference. I suggest at least a month in an area if not more. If you are unable to travel that long, accept that you would be better help simply donating your money to a local organization who can hire locals to do something more long term!

- if the project does not require any skills or education. Even if your skill is teaching, doing art, taking photos, medical skills, education or therapy skills, etc - that is something you can actually contribute. If it requires no skills: aka a construction project when you have no experience in construction, painting buildings or playground equipment (sorry but that doesn't make a difference), or playing with orphans - then the project is a bust and is more about making you feel good than actually making a difference.

- Lastly, any project that labels itself as its main goal to simply "love on people" - run far away. Fast. It's a mask to just travel to an exotic place, take photos with cute brown children, and do more harm than good. Don't participate in these kind of campaigns. They are damaging in so many ways.

- The project costs thousands of dollars to participate in and you can tell it costs more than your living expenses. This means the money is mostly going to advertising and middle men - not the people in the area. It's better to just work with direct organizations that are on the ground in the area!

So how do you find a good humanitarian program? Research, research, research. Google search for organizations that are in the area you want to go YEAR ROUND - not just a few weeks out of the year. Figure out your skills and see if they could actually contribute to an area. If not, don't beat yourself up! There's nothing wrong with going on vacation and just enjoying the country. You can make friends and help people along the way. And if you do want to help that country for the better, simply use your newfound love for the place to make donations to the organizations who are there full time.

How do you keep from overpacking for a long trip?

I'm a super light packer!! Here's what I pack for pretty much every trip (assuming I'm not going somewhere colder where I need to bring winter clothes):

(My carry-on) WANDRD Backpack: my camera, two lenses (35mm + 24-70mm), my SPL Water Housing and the two ports I have (one dome, one zoom), my Macbook Pro, memory cards/batteries, and I usually try to stuff a few clothes in that bag between my camera stuff. You can read more about the equipment I use here.

(My personal item) Small camera backpack: This is what I use as a general day bag while I'm walking around. But when I pack stuff, I just put clothes in here. My clothes usually look like this: 1 pair leggings, 1 pair denim shorts, 1 beach dress, 1 cute dress for photos, 3-4 swimsuits, 3-4 tee shirts, enough underwear for a week, Chacos (hiking sandals), and I wear a pair of sandals on my feet. I can usually rotate through that for about a week before I need to wash everything. I might also pack a light sweater!

(Bryant's carry-on) Deuter ACT Trail 30 backpack: This backpack hold pretty much everything and is perfect for traveling! It has so many pockets. Bryant packs all his clothes in here and we also pack our small bag of toiletries/makeup in here. I bring some basic makeup, deodorant, travel sized bottles of shampoo/conditioner/face wash, and random stuff like tweezers and razors etc. We also pack our Fujifilm instant camera in there because we love polaroids! Bryant also has a small pouch he hangs around his neck under his shirt that holds our money and passports.

Between the two of us, those three bags are more than enough for us to hold everything we need! The more simple you keep it, the less you have to worry about losing and hauling around.

How do you collaborate with tourism agencies when you visit different places? Do you email them or do they contact you?

I've only worked with two tourism boards but in both cases they contacted me! However this year now that we have more time to travel (Bryant is graduating!!) I actually do plan on reaching out to some companies. I think you need to have a decent following and have something to bring to the table whether it's really great photos (especially photos they can generically use on their website/social media, not just pics of you) or a video! The idea is that you want to show them you will MAKE them more money than they would be spending on you. Treat your emails like a job interview!

What are the hottest and coldest places you've travelled to?

The hottest place I've ever been is my hometown in Arizona!! It gets to 120+ Fahrenheit (that's 50+ Celcius) there in the summer. So miserable. The coldest place I've ever been was maybe Alaska but it wasn't too cold while I was there! I'm a huge baby when it comes to cold so I avoid it at all costs!! The coldest I've ever been was living in Utah through the winter and it went below 0! I hated the winter so much.

How do you and your husband compromise during your travels together and balance what you both want to do?

Funny thing is, we actually get along better while traveling! I think it's cause we're in survival mode or just so happy to be there. We probably argue more when we're not traveling. So we don't really need to compromise because we generally want to do/see the same things! We have the same style and are super in tune with what the other person wants. We always feel the same when it comes to deciding to leave or stay in a place.

Do you ever crave stability?

YES! I feel like I'm different than most travel bloggers because I actually have a home base and LOVE being home. I love both traveling and having a routine. Which is why we haven't done the whole travel perpetually thing. It sounds stressful! I would way rather go on quality trips and come home to our epic life in Hawaii than just be constantly traveling.

My final advice:

No one got to where they are just by wishing for it. Our lives are made up of daily choices. If you want to travel, start making those daily choices. Give up the daily cup of coffee and put it towards savings. Give up the nice car or the monthly manicures or whatever it is you normally spend money on and start saving. Come up with ways to earn extra side income: whether it's taking senior photos, garage sales, selling your talent or skill, working an extra job, etc. Not everyone is in a position to travel and that's okay: sometimes raising a family or getting an education is more important. And that's okay!!! Not everyone needs to be traveling 24/7. Your life isn't bad because it doesn't look like someone else's. You might be in a different chapter than them. No matter what though, I truly believe if you do the small daily stuff to work towards your goals, it will happen for you. Just keep pushing and don't give up!

Did you learn anything new? What are you best tips for traveling? I’d love to hear from you!

xoxo Heather