Photo Wanderlust – Part II: Preparing for a “Country Hopping” Photo Adventure

First, prepare your mind for travel. The departure seems so far away, yet it’s coming so fast. Stress can be normal, but if your start thinking ahead and key in on small details and questions well beforehand, that stress will dissipate.

The logistics and timetables are part of the fun and a well planned prep will pay off in less surprises and more success. Then make a list and “check it twice”. Soon you will be on the plane and the sweet taste of adventure will take over.

Photo of Boracay Beach, Southern Philippine Islands by Ron Veto
Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved. Boracay Beach, Southern Philippine Islands Boracay is one of the most beautiful Islands in the world–a true paradise.


“Is there anything as horrible as starting on a trip? Once you’re off, that’s all right, but the last moments are earthquake and convulsion, and the feeling that you are a snail being pulled off your rock.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Aside from the normal chores of turning off the gas and stopping the newspaper, travel issues need to be addressed before your departure and upon your arrival in a new country. Here I will get the traveler ready with pre-travel guidelines and try to keep you out of harm’s reach by highlighting potential dangers which can suddenly confront a new visitor in country.


Call your banks to notify them of your plans. Make certain each credit card is valid and won’t leave you hanging. Remember, no money, no funny!

Register with the Bureau of Consular Affairs

Log on to the U.S. Department of State and register yourself, your emergency contacts (friends & family), and your itinerary as best you can.

Then check out the various details to consider regarding your travel destinations. Listed will be updated warnings for each country about possible diseases, such as malaria or flu, and either political or military activity, and what precautions are both recommended or required for entry.

All will help you make reasonable plans. Know where the U.S. embassies are in each country and keep that information with you while you travel. During my journey I keep in contact with friends through the ubiquitous internet cafes.

“There is no such thing as good photography, only good photographs” -Ansel Adams

Photo of Howrah Bridge, Calcutta India by Ron Veto
Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved. Howrah Bridge, Calcutta India Early warm light is beautiful as this photo captures the city waking up to a fresh new day. This photo was taken with a Nikon 300mm f.2.8 using a Christian Dior #10 stocking net behind the rear element. The net adds a soft feel and helps to blend the light.


Photo of Kio Phi Phi Island, Thailand by Ron Veto
Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved. Ko Phi Phi Island, Thailand Afternoon light is great to shoot striking silhouettes and sunsets. Using the mid-day to rest or scout for the afternoon locations ahead. Both offer dramatic effects.

Travel Insurance

This is a must! After you have booked your travel/airline tickets it’s time to book your travel insurance. It is easy to obtain, takes about 10 minutes and is a bargain without question. I obtain mine thru Lonely Planet’s. It covers emergency evacuation and hospital medical costs. It’s comforting to know you are medically covered. Act as if you have no insurance–would you really be taking those unnecessary risks?

Important Documents & Medications

Do the homework and check out the requirements for each country you plan on visiting. Some countries like Singapore, Cambodia and Israel will deny entry to foreign nationals if your passport expires within 6 months. Renew your passport early. Why stress about receiving it back in time for your departure date? To rush a passport doesn’t guarantee anything and is stressful and expensive.

Depending on the countries you intend to visit, bring extra passport photos for visas. Some countries require multiple photos. Many times during land border crossings, getting photos isn’t possible at the last minute.

Make multiple photocopies of your passport, credit cards and any hard to replace documents. Also photocopy prescriptions and have a duplicate supply of any medications (such as Malaria pills)—this could save your life. If traveling with a buddy, exchange each others information and medications.

Having available duplications will expedite replacement documents, getting you on your way again.


Your destinations will determine the vaccinations required. Just do it! Some vaccinations require multiple doses that need to be administered a couple of weeks apart, so plan accordingly so these can be completed prior to your departure. It’s also safer and easier to be home should you encounter any negative or allergic reactions.

My Friends Tale of Woe

My friend and I once went thru an intensive battery of vaccinations required to travel into an infected area. My friend, who was 60 lbs. lighter than me, received the same dosages–all the heavyweights for Typhoid, Meningitis, Cholera, Hepatitis, etc.

We waited the required reaction time of 20 minutes at the office and then walked across the street to have lunch. Not five minutes into lunch, complaining of nausea, he excused himself. He walked across the street to the steps of this large Catholic Church where he sat down to rest.

I glanced up and saw him laid out squirming in agony on the steps. He went into a seizure, which lasted thru the night. The infusion of all that medication was too much for him. No matter how unpleasant it was at the time, he was a trooper, and we were able to move on into the South of India.

It was a good thing we had planned ahead and had taken care of medical business.

Fun Travel Preparation Ideas

During my travels I’m lucky to make friends and photograph many unique and exciting characters of the world. During my prep I’ll print up picture cards with my name and e-mail address only. I pass my cards out to those I photograph so we can remain in contact.

After our interaction I’ll just walk up and hand them my contact card–a great ice breaker. If they speak English and are internet savvy, I let them know that if they contact me I will happily send them a copy of their image.

It keeps it simple and when I return home and receive contacts from all over the world, I once again get to relive my trip and it’s very rewarding to send them photos of our brief time together. If I said it once, I’ll say it again, it’s fun to be nice!

of girl in desert of India by Ron Veto
Jaisalmer, India Capturing that moment of eye contact can make the image. This Indian girl from Rajasthan made it easy. The low light always helps make dramatic, color saturated images.

Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved.

Photo of wedding couple in Hanoi, North Vietnam by Ron Veto
Hanoi, North Vietnam Walking across the old French Bridge I discovered this young couple taking wedding photographs. The subject is universal and we all enjoyed the moment. Bridges and railroad tracks always produce great opportunities for photos. This is traveling.

Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved.

Photo of boy and goat in Srinigar, Kashmir, India by Ron Veto
Srinigar, Kashmir, India Black and white is still beautiful. Here this Kashmiri boy is having an awkward moment with his goat. Hunting for “fun” photo moments are what it’s all about.

Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved.




A personal tip: While traveling thru India many children would beg for money. But I noticed many more children were just begging for a pen. “Give me pen” they would all ask. I always try to bring along extra pens just for the kids.

Photo of beach hut in Ko Phangan, Thailaind by Ron Veto
Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved. Ko Phangan, Southern Thailand My 5-Star Hotel: Beach bungalows are the best rooms ever. The fresh trade winds, delicious seafood and the genuine feel of travel is at ground level. It can’t be beat!

Bugs Be Gone

I always carry Avon’s “Skin so Soft” as it helps my skin after a long beach day and is an anti-mosquito repellant for the evening. Pesky mosquitos love ankles because the veins are close to the surface. Some beaches are notorious for mosquitos, so you must be prepped beforehand, especially if your plans include enjoying a bungalow experience.

For extreme mosquito problems a stronger repellant may be needed. The active ingredient of “Deet” does the job, but is a last resort because of its strong chemical properties. I prefer the softer Avon lotion for most areas.

First Aid & Utility Kit

In a small container, put together a basic utility/medical kit–band aids, gauze, a 3 oz. plastic bottle of alcohol, topical anti-bacteria cream and aspirin. Perhaps some motion sickness medication or sleeping pills.

I usually add a small roll of duct tape and some backpacking hooks/clips. They can hold together most anything in a pinch. And I include a few safety pins to keep my clothes from blowing away while drying outside those bungalows.

Music Soothes the Soul

I love my I-Pod for music on those beautiful Southeast Asian tropical nights. Bring along a back up charger with an adapter for 220v with Asian pin configuration.

I also have an auxiliary battery pack for the I-Pod which never lets me down. It uses 2AA batteries found anywhere.

Tip: Be sure to check what electrical adaptors are required for the countries you are planning on visiting.


Photo of woman in Hong Kong by Ron Veto
Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved. I kept trying to photograph this woman in Hong Kong but she would lower the umbrella down to block her face from the camera. So the lower she went the lower I would go. After a bit we both found it funny and laughed. The social contact is what makes shooting so much fun.
Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved. Enjoy the prep. I add small tabs with tape, marking pages in my travel book pertaining to cities and countries I planto visit. Also a sleeve made with tape for a pen and my reading glasses. On the road it really helps having quick reference. 

The entire journey is a work in progress to get ready for that next move, so check and confirm any loose ends.

Look Presentable on Entry

Some border crossings in the world are more sensitive than others. By screening visitors, the border patrols have some control over who is entering their country and how long they plan to stay. The last thing they want is to have extended stay visitors who have plans to live on the beach and establish a life begging and hustling.

You may need to prove that you have sufficient funds and have an onward ticket out of their country.

Note: Not so long ago having long hair while crossing from Malaysia into Singapore was a mistake. The on-site barber would quickly remedy the long hair problem or you would be denied entry into country. You would be tagged with a “hippy” passport stamp. This passport stamp would follow you during your trip as a potential trouble maker or undesirable.

Tip: Wear long pants with a shirt. It is respectful to officials.Be confident and smile, yet be assertive. Never lose your temper!

Know the Location of Where You’re Staying

Once you’re ready to explore a new city or area there are a couple of things I do before I leave the comfort zone of my hotel or guesthouse.

Before leaving your hotel for the first time, stop and ask the front desk to write down the hotel address in the local language and mark it on your maps—always nice to get back with ease.I try to find maps with both English and the local language.

Trying to explain a location on a map to Chinese taxi driver is useless because he generally can’t read English. It can actually be quite comical to watch but very frustrating to experience. Use the local map instead.

Once outside try to look for landscapes to build a sense of North/South. Get a feeling of where the river, bridges or railroad tracks are. Being aware of distances helps to gauge taxi and transportation fares. By taking notice of these small details you will save money, while quickly gaining a feeling of security. Now you can enjoy the city with more confidence.

If you are in an area without street maps, learn as much as you can about the local area and pay attention to where you’re going, where you’ve been and where you are.

My Tale of Woe: Think Before You Act

It was 5 am and I was biking down the Vietnam coast to catch the sunrise. I was loaded with gear and it was dark. I wasn’t certain on how far or long it would take to find the perfect sunrise over the fishing village. The sky started to show some color which is like a shot in the arm, ramping up my senses. I started to petal faster and faster looking through the coco palms to find that perfect shot.

Once I commit to a location I have to go for it. I jumped off my rented French bike and leaned it up against a palm tree. I was smart enough to lock it but not smart enough to take notice of exactly where it was. I was off. I ended up walking perhaps 2 miles, having a blast and getting great shots.

Once the sun had become too high for photos I wrapped up for the morning and was looking forward to a nice breakfast of banana pancakes and tea. The problem was it was dark and I was in a big hurry when I arrived at my location. I didn’t remember where I had left the bicycle. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Everything looked the same.

The jungle was the jungle! I ended up walking another 3 miles back and forth before finally seeing it by that coco palm. It was a long ride back and my feet hurt. I had a late lunch instead!

Stay Healthy & Stay Safe

Health and safety are your primary concerns while on the road.

The easiest way to catch a stomach illness is to drink contaminated water or ice cubes. The safest thing to do is to drink bottled water only–no ice. Even then, roughly 30% of travelers come down with some sort of minor stomach bug. I always looked forward to that initial bug just to get it out of the way. As time goes on the immune system will get stronger.

Fortunately, I have never gotten sick from eating from a street food stall. Eating your way across Asia street stall by street stall is the cheapest and most delicious way to experience the culinary delights that await the adventurous traveler.

Look for a busy stall, with a cook and cart that appear clean and healthy. I love them, but remember it’s always a gamble dealing with street food anywhere.

Tips: Always keep your hand sanitizer handy. Try not to touch your nose, mouth or ears more than necessary to reduce the risk of contracting some very nasty germs. 

Photo of woman fishing in Mui-Ne, Vietnam by Ron Veto
Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved. Mui-Ne, Vietnam The beautiful early morning light of the South China Sea reflects another day in this fisherman’s life.


Tip: Do a little research or check with the locals–what creatures may reside in the countries your visiting?


I’ve seen and had close contact with rats from all around the world. Some are as large as small cats! Stories about rat encounters are always entertaining because they happen at the strangest times–in restaurants, bus stations or even in the buses.

Even the finest hotels have rats. I suppose you can regard them as an odd travel perk that can always leave you with memorable moments and funny tales to tell.

But, suffering a rat bite in your bed isn’t a funny story. Any open wounds caused by anything can be very serious in a humid third world setting.

Tip:Prep a small plastic container in your utility bag to hold a few common utility items. I carry 6 -10 foot pieces of mason cord along with 6 small metal wood screw hooks. I’ll use four hooks and four pieces of line to suspend the four corners of my net. Just screw the wood hooks into the bungalow walls.

Hanging a net checks the bugs and deters the rodents. The extra utility lines and hooks also come in handy to use as a clothesline or hanging system for your flashlight reading light. Don’t forget to take them with you when you leave.

Creatures of Southeast Asia and India

Be prepared for interaction with wildlife. I think wild street dogs in Asia are a very real danger for the traveler. I addressed the subject in detail in my “Packing” article, but along with dogs you must also beware of snakes, scorpions and spiders.

If you enjoy the surf, watch for jellyfish and be aware that sharks can lurking beneath. If you decide to explore tidal pools or swim in coral reefs bring along water shoes for protection. A small cut from a piece of coral can become infected easily. The list goes on…..

Photos of monkeys at Pashupatinath Holy Site, Nepal by Ron Veto
Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved.

Pashupatinath Holy Site, Nepal

The Monkey Temple in Kathmandu has loads of monkeys. Most of these are cute and harmless but always be on your guard.

The Monkeys of India

Monkeys are cute and smart but also dirty little creatures. Even getting poked in the eye by what appears to be a harmless pet, can put a real damper on your trip. They’re strong and unpredictable as well. Once they get agitated, get out of their way. Sometimes just a glance can set one off. After one freaks out the entire group will follow in the chaos. A pack of 40 hysterical monkeys is frightening!

A Traveler’s Tale of Woe: Monkey Thievery

I was in Western India visiting the desert palaces, when a commotion erupted. A German tourist was just relaxing under a tree, enjoying her afternoon with a cool drink in hand. All of a sudden this wild monkey mugged her and stole her purse.

He quickly scurried off and carried it all the way to the top of the palace walls where he examined the contents piece by piece and then tossed them off either side of the palace wall to the ground 60 feet below. As she watched her camera and each item falling to their demise, it provoked a series of screams from this poor woman’s mouth.

There was nothing more she could do but pick up the pieces.

Tip: Protect your gear whenever these critters are around. They will actually pick your pockets while you’re walking and not be shy about it. Don’t fall victim to the thieving monkeys.


At home I try to pay close attention to my immediate surroundings. Don’t forget to stop during your travels and take in the vibes around you. You can sense danger. Always be sensitive to your “inner voice”.

The airline safety briefing before a flight has been implemented for a perfectly good reason. It helps make you aware of the emergency exits and procedures. The same applies while in any new situation or place.

Take a second to take notice of fire exits in buildings, the vibes of the people and any potential dangers. For now, this is your new home. What would you do if? Check things out yourself, keep in tune with the new world —be aware.

Should something occur, you will more easily make a cool and calm decision. The person who’s best prepared will have a much better chance of survival. When bad things happen, nanoseconds count and it could mean life or death.

Do your prep work and life on the road will just fall into place. There will always be snags and unforeseen issues out of your control, but you can make those obstacles your friend. Being prepared will make finding a backup plan much easier to discover.

You’ve done the homework, asked the right questions and now it’s up to fate. Enjoy the fact that you’re heading to a wonderful part of our planet to have an experience of a lifetime. It’s all downhill and shady. And now we begin…

Copyright © Ron Veto 2010 All rights reserved. Mekong River, South Vietnam

Lines, reflections and deep shadows are what make this image.
I used a sepia filter, which creates a softer and more simplified view of her world.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James A. Michener

See More of Ron Veto’s ‘Country Hopping’ series here

by Ron Veto

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.