10 of my All-Time Favorite Travel Photos (and the story behind each one)

What captivates me so much about the world that I feel compelled to capture moments? It might be the curious expression of someone with an intriguing look. It might be the collision of colors in an unfamiliar landscape. It might be the opportunity to convey perspective on everything “out there,” then bring that back to share with friends and family.

In any case, my favorite photos over the last few years each tell a different story, either about that experience or perhaps a memory from my own life that was happening at that time that is now attached to that photo. This little peek into my archives gives me the chance to share with you some of my work that I refer to regularly just because I love it. From the winding bright blue alleyways of Jodhpur, India to the exotic beaches of the Caribbean: here we go.

1. Isla de Pasion, Cozumel, Mexico

West Caribbean Beach

I was on assignment for the Daily Meal writing about Carnival Cruises’ latest ship, the Sunshine, when I caught this stunning beach. During our stop in Cozumel, I went on an excursion with my mom to Isla de Pasion where we lounged on the sands together sipping margaritas. When I look at this photo, what makes it special to me? Just days before the trip, I exited a long-term relationship, which was really heartbreaking. Then, I came across this silent moment on a beautiful beach where I watched the waves ebb and flow against the driftwood and for a time I felt, everything flows, everything comes to peace, everything can just be. I felt hopeful and also filled with the feelings of wonderment as I thought about what would come next. There’s always so much beauty waiting for us in the days that come beyond our personal storms.

2. Pushkar, India

Indian Mustache Man

When I was a teenager, I used to read National Geographic magazine as often as I could get my hands on it. Each issue took me around the world, across many destinations, but for some mysterious reason certain destinations got lodged in my mind. I began living with a curious amalgam of world places meshed in my brain that I hoped one day I’d get to visit. One of those places was Pushkar, India, specifically for its annual Camel Festival. I love this photo because it was such an unexpected moment. The camel festival, as it turns out, isn’t just about camels. There are lots of strange and entertaining happenings, including a mustache contest where men who have spent the whole year (or longer) growing and shaping their mustaches line up and contend over who has the best facial hair. It was a blast, and when I left Pushkar, I felt a deep sensation of satisfaction knowing I had checked one of my life missions off the long list.

3. Jodhpur, India (the Blue City)

Stroll Through the Blue City

Jodhpur, India was another of those places I couldn’t get out of my head. When I heard from a friend about a town on earth that glowed of brilliant blue buildings, I made a note. This was somewhere I had to see. And in fact, if you haven’t been there you probably should go. It’s so inspiring! The whole town feels like a maze of blue and even though the concept of walking around a strange blue town for hours is simple, I would surely do it again. To catch great images, there are times when I find great backgrounds and lighting then just stand around and wait (and wait and wait and wait) for the perfect subject to pass through the scene. That’s precisely what happened here. Well worth the wait.

4. Salta, Argentina

Gaucho Rodeo

A little-known factoid about yours truly: I used to live and work on a horse back riding ranch in Argentina (also known in Spanish as an Estancia). Every few weeks, the region where I lived would host Domas or rodeos where hordes of people showed up to watch the Gauchos ride bucking broncos. This shot was from some of my earlier work where I was experimenting with visual storytelling, or what it means to tell a whole story with a single picture. I wasn’t working with long lenses back then, so I was literally standing right there in the action when this moment happened, which was probably pretty dangerous, but also really fun.

5. New Delhi, India

Portrait of a Slum Sister

When I travel outside of work, I try to find unique ways to go about it. I don’t just willy nilly and hop from one tourist site to the next. Instead, I assign myself a mission of meaning — this just brings an extra layer of purpose to my life and makes my journey feel more intentional rather than aimless. When I went to Delhi, I volunteered for an educational NGO that provided schooling for children that lived in the city slums. This was my first experience with poverty unlike any I’d seen before. I thought I knew poverty from places I’d been in South America (where people lived in very basic houses), but that was very different to the people in Delhi I met who literally lived in a dump in structures they assembled out of trash. This beautiful girl was such a light in that darkness, so full of life, so gleeful, so willing to look beyond what was immediately there and celebrate the things she had: family, education, companionship. She never stopped smiling. She might be one of my greatest inspirations in life to keep going.

6. Wakaya Island, Fiji

Fijian Church Ceremony

If there’s anything I love it’s kids and candid moments. At a traditional church service in Fiji, I’m watching the choir sing when this little boy decides to shove his finger up his dad’s nose. Why he decided to spontaneously do that especially when everyone in the peanut gallery was watching? I have no idea. But talk about turning a moment of reverence into a moment for a chuckle. Even though his dad didn’t find this too entertaining, it made me smile. If there’s anything most sacred in the world, it’s the innocence of children and their playful, albeit at times mischievous, spirits.

7. Wadigi Island, Fiji

Just Caught a Fish

In your lifetime, whenever you come across someone who says, “hey, want to see me catch a fish with my hands?” You simply must say yes. On Wadigi Island, one of the staff at the resort was bragging about how he could just jump into the ocean and catch a fish, so I put his claims to the test. We took the boat out and as we cruised along he hung his head over the side and peered at the surface of the water until suddenly he hollered, “stop!” Suddenly, he leapt off the edge of the boat, dove to the bottom of the shallow ocean, then emerged with this puffer fish in his hands. Simply amazing. Don’t ever doubt someone’s claims, just put them to the test.

8. Jaipur, India

Seeing Through it All

I might call this a stolen moment, or those instances where the perfect frame comes into sight and you capture someone doing their everyday thing in a captivating way. What I love most about this shot is the patterns. I love photographing people not just straight on, but sometimes either through something or at odd angles, just to add a little extra layer of intrigue. I do pose people a lot (yep, I get ballsy and ask people to do things when I’m out and about), but this one happened naturally.

9. Bali, Indonesia

Sunset on its Side

In Bali, I met so many unique people, including a fellow photographer who was from Argentina. The best part about meeting unique people in Bali is they know the best spots to see incredible things. This man, for example, told my friends and me that we had to experience sunset from his backyard. I tend to believe photographers, so I was pretty quick to jump at something he said was amazing. Out the back of his house lie an incredible expanse of rice paddies, which had recently been picked. After a thunderstorm the barren land filled with water, so at sunset the scenery reflected the sky, and the moon, and the clouds, and the sunset, and the trees. Despite the swarm of mosquitos gnawing at my skin, I felt alive. Bali has some of the best sunsets in the world.

10. Bali, Indonesia

Peek-a-Boo Moment

Captured: another stolen moment. A mother and her son sat in the passenger seat of their car just making funny faces at one another while laughing in hysterics. They didn’t seem to mind me showing up with my big camera because seeing them laugh also made me laugh. It lights me up beyond belief to share these kinds of moments with strangers, where we are just with each other sharing a common human emotion. I still laugh when I look at this image, so much joy.

Bonus Shot: Santa Barbara, California

Sunset Surf Sesh

At the end of the day, your passion does not need to be complicated. To be a photographer, you don’t have to wait until you have the opportunity to travel to take pictures. In fact when it comes to being creative, it’s better not to wait for opportunities to come to you but rather to take action in any way you can. When I give myself permission to do this, I’m always surprised by the results, as is the case with this photo. I took it just down the street from where I was living at that time and I often refer to it to remind myself that art is waiting just around the corner.

No matter where you are in the world, I hope you continue to create. Just start somewhere, just do one thing because it’s these little steps that keep you moving forward in doing what you love. One day you might find yourself out on the road immersed in special moments with curious people from around the world. Either way what I hope for you, whether you are a photographer or artist of any kind, is that you create, create, create. Let others celebrate your essence by making something that feels true to you and keep it simple. If you’d like to share in the process, leave a comment!

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