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Travel Regrets – Over The Years I’ve Had A Few

Over the years I’ve had my share of travel related regrets, but one of my greatest in almost 20 years. Was the decision to not take my SLR camera on a trip to Cuba back in 1999. After carting a cumbersome SLR with a couple of lenses and umpteen rolls of film. Non stop across half the planet over the proceeding 5 years. I just wasn’t up to taking such a big and bulky camera along on this particular trip.

Cuba – Havana’s Buildings in Decay

I’ve always been a traveler first and a photographer second, and for this reason. I feel that maybe the decision was also due to a little burnout after many years of travel. In reality I was just fed up with taking pictures.

I Am Always A Traveler First and A Photographer Second

I wrote a post quite some time ago regarding the greatest piece of travel advice that I could offer, and that advice was quite simple. Document everything, or over time your memories will fade and you will forget. I still stand by this 100%, and the theory can be put into practice with my Cuba trip.

Looking through the images from various travels I’ve done, memories still come flooding back. Although when flipping through the thirty odd images I have from Cuba (I only shot one roll of 36 slides), I sometime scratch my head and struggle to remember a great deal about that trip.

Without those images to spark my memories all but the most vivid are starting to fade. I did bring along a small point and shoot film camera, but I’m not sure why as I hardly used it. I did capture one decent image as per what you see above, but I didn’t chase that elusive perfect shot as I usually do whilst traveling today.

Cuba Was One Of The Most Photogenic Countries I’ve Visited

To add further salt to the wound. Cuba was one of the most photogenic countries I have visited to date. The street scenes were timeless and the people were welcoming, which makes it easy to obtain nice portraits. (This is something that I struggle with in my photography due to my introverted personality and subsequent reluctance to approach people to take their photograph).

To consistently capture great images time and time again requires a fair amount of effort. Not only to lug the gear around, but you need to work at photography. At times it’s not easy, although some people make it appear so. I just wasn’t up for it on that particular trip, and still regret it to this day.

Your Thoughts and Comments?

Has anyone out there been through a similar situation? Maybe you’ve had regrets with your travel photography, or maybe with another aspect of travel entirely.

A Little More About The Author

Jason has traveled the world extensively during the last 20 years, with overland journeys on six continents and across over 90 countries. This site serves as a chronicle of the images and tales from these journeys, as well as offering advice and general information for other like minded travelers.

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  1. I agree Jason: “I’m always a traveller first and photographer second”. As you know I recently dumped 2kg – my DSLR + lenses; excluding a separate video camera that went earlier – for a simple 500g all-in-one camera, with no regrets. As constant nomad (like Dave) I get really pissed-off with a heavy load on my shoulders.

    Regrets: close to zero so far – as I always go with my whims, being the hedonist that I am.

    BUT ONE HUGE photographic regret is Cambodia in 1994. Well, I had two film SLRs and shot Angkor as it was back them (un-crowded, quiet, militarized) but on the road trip across the war-torn countryside back to Phnom Pehn – 12 hours by taxi – I didn’t shoot pics of military checkpoints, militias with Ak-47s + RPGs, blown-up bridges – bridged by huge mud embankments, military escorts on motorbikes with heavy machine guns, etc … sights and images so different from my subsequent trips back to Cambodia. Alias, a by-gone era not recorded as I remembered it.

    • Jason says:

      Hey Michael, I admire and understand your decision to ditch the SLR and lenses. For someone such as yourself that has been wandering the earth for many years. I feel your pain carrying the extra weight and hassle that an SLR brings.

      I do feel that the images you can produce with an SLR are still worth the effort, but from the lastest collection you’ve shot from Central Asia. I am beginning to wonder if the future of the SLR is starting that slow path to obscurity. Maybe not to far into the future, only the true pro’s will carry these types of camera’s.

      I hope it’s not to soon, as I feel I’ll have another regret on my hands. That is recently buying a Canon 7D. The 5D was out of my price range, but I do like what the 7D can produce so far, as I mainly shoot in good natural light.

      As for your regret of not shooting those militarised scenes in Cambodia. I’m sure there are countless times where we’ve both witnessed this type of thing. If we had the small pocket camera’s of today, then it would be a whole lot easier to get shots in those situations.

    • I reckon the 7D will be great for many years; but yeah DSLRs will be only for purists … eventually, as quality camera lens get smaller and the firmware/software inside, smarter.

      If I didn’t carry my house on my back: I’d still have a DSLR (and I may return there, yet …) But for now the liberation of an all-in-one is very freeing.

      Yeah, I get kinda nervous photographing military – cos world-wide they usually get septic / aggressive on such things (with very few exceptions it’s definitely a global-no-no) but on this trip I was in a taxi with tinted windows – so I could shoot without fear. But I just got stoned, with my recent-travel-friends in the taxi all journey, instead …

  2. Dave says:

    I don’t believe in regrets. I believe that if there was something we missed out on, then it was a valuable lesson learned.

    In this case, bringing the big camera whenever you go traveling. At least you’ve known to take it everywhere every since!

    Things I’d like to have done but didn’t? Sure. Western Turkey. Greece. Ukraine. That beautiful girl in … only kidding!

    There will always be things you’ll want to have done but didn’t. It keeps us hungry.

    • Jason says:

      Hey Dave, I like your outlook towards this but I still struggle with my decision. It’s funny, as it was a decision I was happy with for many many years, but as I’ve gotten older I realize the opportunity for some stunning photography I missed on that trip.

      As I pointed out above, I’m always a traveller first and photographer second but after working on this blog for a couple of years I just wished I had taken the SLR with me. One other regret I have that comes to mind was to not climb Kilimanjaro when I was in Tanzania many years ago. I don’t dwell to much on these decisions but yes I do in a small way regret them looking back.

      I agree with your comment in that things like this keep us hungry, and I do see allot of truth in this. As they say in the classics, ‘Live and Learn’…

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