For over three decades I've been traveling at nearly every opportunity possible. I realized early on in life the great lessons to be learned, the incredible sights to see, and the special chance-encounter relationships that can be formed by embracing a life of travel. I'm not a financially wealthy person, but I've made sacrifices and embraced the "suck" at times to be able to experience some of the most incredible places in the world. And you can too. The following is intended to guide you into a wiser way of travel and hopefully the images from my travels will inspire you to start preparing for that next exciting trip.

life is a journey

Embarking on journeys to explore new destinations is an exhilarating experience that opens doors to diverse cultures, breathtaking scenery, unfamiliar ways of living, and unforgettable adventures. I’ll never forget seeing the enormity of the rockies as a teenager during a ski trip with a church group. That grandeur combined with excitement of stepping outside my comfort zone was a catalyst of me knowing travel was going to be a significant part of my life.

Ensuring a safe and resourceful trip requires planning, awareness, and adaptability. These practical tips, resources, and some insight from my personal experiences can guide you through your travels with confidence and a greater peace of mind.

Colorful hot air balloons with "Earth, Sun, Moon, and Stars" prints are being inflated while thousands of spectators.

An estimated 85,000-95,000 spectators per day visit the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Image taken during a workshop I lead for Bedford Camera & Video in 2019


Upfront research lays the foundation for a successful trip. For my personal travels I’m not the type to plan out a highly detailed itinerary, but researching travel times, local amenities, sightseeing/ adventure opportunities, transportation logistics, cultural events, and lodging options ahead of time makes for a smoother and often times more fulfilling experience.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with your destination's culture, customs, local laws and basic geography prior to your trip. There are a plethora of guide books, websites, travel vlogs and forums online to check out to do so.

Understanding the current political climate and any safety advisories issued by your government can help avoid travel delays or even potentially dangerous situations. Websites like the State Department's travel advisories and other travel forums can provide valuable insights from fellow travelers. 

Be sure to check out my events page for some travel opportunities, but first get your $$$ right...


Planning ahead also involves organizing your finances. Depending on your personal financial situation having a general idea of a budget is good idea to be part of your planning. Consider a travel planner and take note, your major expenses will be:

  • Transportation: Airfare, vehicle rentals, fuel, bus, taxi, ride share, parking fees, tolls, etc
  • Lodging: Hotel, motel, hostel, vacation rental (VRBO, Airbnb, Homestay, Fairbnb, Booking, Outdoorsy, etc), camping fees
  • Food - many tourist destination charge high amounts for food, so if you're budget minded consider going to local markets and plan on preparing your own food vs eating out every meal. I personally intermittent fast and only eat 2 meals per day in most cases which will helps cut down on the food costs.
  • Activities and Entertainment: Obviously this expense could range from free to a small fortune, so the research ahead of time will help ease your stress when coming up with a budget. Check local events pages and newspapers for inexpensive experiences to enrich your travels.
  • Normal living expenses (I'm talking about your bills at home! Have you set up auto-pay on everything yet? That's your reminder!)

While traveling consider carrying a mix of cash and credit cards for flexibility. I personally do not carry any debit cards because there’s more protection and travel benefits on credit cards. For longer cross country or international trips I'd suggest a money belt, RFID Document Pouch or travel clothing with hidden pockets and split up your cash into various places.

Take the time to actually memorize important passwords and save your bank’s and credit card 800 numbers in your phone for quick access.

Pro tip: In your contacts start the “first name” of credit card companies with CC so they’re all in alphabetical order and easy to find. For example: CC Chase Visa, CC American Express, etc. That way they're all in chronological order if you do have to call to put a hold on cards in an emergency.

Lastly remember to notify your bank and/or credit card providers of your travel dates to avoid card complications. Next up, make sure to keep in touch!

Jason on a walkie talkie looking for fellow hikers with gnarly tree crossing through the whole frame. Red rocks area.

Jason is reaching out to our fellow climbers. We were all showing signs of heat exhaustion and needing our way back to the vehicles with backup water. Good thing we had two way radio!

stay connected

Always provided details of your upcoming travel to your closest loved ones. Maintaining communication with at least two trusted individuals is a wise travel move. Share your itinerary and best contact info with those special people and establish regular check-ins. There are options for reliable international SIM card or portable Wi-Fi device to stay connected without exorbitant roaming charges. Familiarize yourself with local emergency contact numbers and embassy locations when traveling internationally for an added peace of mind especially if you choose to travel in areas with civil and political unrest.

While traveling with others set up designated meeting times and locations. Have a back-up plan if you do get separated and unable to get in touch with your travel companion.

Trey hikes into the prehistoric feeling ferns and devil's club in Alaska. Strong leading lines point toward hiker.

Trey hikes into the prehistoric feeling ferns and devil's club in Alaska.

fitness and health

An often overlooked part of planning is your physical fitness and health. Unfortunately many of us live too much of a sedentary lifestyle these days and travel often involves more movement, lifting, less sleep, and changes in normal diet than we're accustomed. Upcoming travel is the perfect reason to get into better shape (just being alive is a good enough reason already). A great book for motivation and practical information to stay in great shape is “Younger Next Year”. The book is geared more towards 50 year old and up, but I think it’s valuable to read and any age (I was in my mid 30s when I first read it). I won't go into details. Just read it. The earlier you dedicate yourself to an active lifestyle the better!

Besides preparing for the trip itself while you're traveling be smart with common sense ways to stay healthy:

Hydrate properly by drinking plenty of water AND use electrolytes. They're a game-changer in feeling well while exerting energy. If you're not a fan of the pre-packaged drink mix ones, these electrolyte tablets work well. I've been using them for many years and can feel a huge improvement in both hydration and energy levels compared to not taking them.

Sleep is critical for both recovery and immunity. As much fun (or not) as it is to stay up late and party, make sure to take the time to get adequate sleep.

Ashlee photographing the hikers heading down the switchbacking staircase along the Inca Trail headed to Machu Picchu

Ashlee photographing the hikers heading down the steep switchbacking staircase along the Inca Trail Classic headed to Machu Picchu.

Ashlee hiking with a green backpack and taking photos of a large aloe looking plant in the New Mexico.

Wise packing helps to ensure you're not carrying more than you need. Here's Ashlee hiking and taking photos in the New Mexico.

travel documents

Your passport is your most valuable possession while traveling abroad. Make copies of important documents such as your passport, travel insurance and visas. Keep digital copies stored securely online that you can access easily WITHOUT relying solely on your phone and carry physical copies in separate luggage. Additionally, invest in a money belt or hidden pouch to safeguard valuables like passports and cash while exploring. This is well worth the extra effort.


Opt for reputable transportation options to minimize the risk of accidents and scams. Research reliable taxi companies or use reputable ride-sharing apps with fixed fares. When using public transportation, be mindful of your belongings and keep them close at hand. If renting a car, familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and road conditions. Be aware certain counties will ONLY rent manual transmission vehicles! I learned that the hard way while visiting Santiago, Chile and wanting to rent a car to drive to Val Paraiso on the Pacific coast. Fortunately my grandad taught me how to drive a stick as a kid, so even though it had been many years I managed to drive the coast and back safely. Adventure!

Embrace cultural respect

Respect for local customs and traditions enriches your travel experience and fosters positive interactions with locals. Research cultural norms regarding greetings, social cues, gestures, and dress codes to avoid inadvertently causing offense. Approach new situations, places, sights, and smells without judgement. Treating people with respect and kindness goes along way in all interactions of life. Show appreciation for the local cuisine and customs, and be open to learning from the people you meet along the way. Some of the most enriching travel experiences you can ever have is immersing yourself into another people's way of life.

Young girl calmly leans on a counter at an open air market in Peru with lots of animal organs, hooves, and snouts.

I love the the little girl's causal lean while hanging out with all of the animal organs and parts. There were adults in my group who couldn't even stay in the market which highlights one of our cultural differences.

A group of travelers circled up to bring their mugs of chica together in a toast  to celebrate with smiles in Peru.

Cheers! We bring our glasses of strawberry flavored "chica" or corn "beer" is a town along the Sacred Valley of Peru in the Urabamba River Valley

be aware and blend in

Vigilance and situational awareness are key to staying safe while traveling. Stay alert in crowded places where pickpockets often operate. When indoors familiarize yourself with available exits. Avoid sharing sensitive information in public, such as your accommodation details or travel plans. Trust your instincts and avoid situations or individuals that make you feel uncomfortable.

Blending in with the local culture can help you avoid becoming a target for scams and theft. Dress modestly and observe local customs to show respect to the locals. Avoid flashy jewelry, expensive gadgets, and conspicuous displays of wealth. Be cautious of when and where you handle your cash. I personally separate my cash in to various pockets, inside my shoe or sock and even a money belt if I’m carrying larger amounts of cash. There’s a lot of travel minded clothing these days that even has hidden pockets. Lastly, learning a few basic phrases in the local language can also facilitate friendly interactions with locals.

Don't be this guy!

Show respect for wild animals and keep your distance. Don't show up on the next viral Tiktok or YouTube being a dumbass. If you want to photograph them, invest in a quality telephoto lens of 400mm or higher for wildlife photography.

Don't be this guy!

Show respect for wild animals and keep your distance. Don't show up on the next viral Tiktok or YouTube being a dumbass. If you want to photograph them, invest in a quality telephoto lens of 400mm or higher for wildlife photography.

travel smart

Traveling smart, safely, and resourcefully requires careful planning, awareness, and adaptability. By following these practical tips, you can embark on your adventures with confidence, knowing that you're well-prepared to navigate unfamiliar territories while making the most of your travel experiences.

Remember to stay vigilant, embrace cultural sensitivity, and cherish the diverse landscapes and cultures that await you. Safe travels!

Be sure to check out my events page to learn about potential travel opportunities and workshops. 


“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”

– Alexander Graham Bell


“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and vital to our lives as water and good bread.”

– Edward Abbey

Don't wait for the "right time"

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So.… Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

I repeat!

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn.  climb that @#$%#$@ Mountain.”

– Jack Kerouac