Just booked yourself on a once-in-a-lifetime volunteering trip? Kerry Law, founder of responsible travel website Goodtrippers, shares some tips on the best ways to capture an experience that could be the start of a great blog, book or even travel career. And at the very least your memories will last longer than your suntan...
Image courtesy of Paxson Woelber
I thoroughly recommend allocating a couple of pages of your notebook to recording costs, whether you’re budgeting or not. Jot down the price of any tickets, activities, food and drink (plus the exchange rate of the day). This is the kind of information you’re likely to forget but is crucial if you want to write an informative blog post or plan another trip to the region in the future.
2. Capture the view
No one needs to be reminded to take photos on their trip but your camera will be your best friend. Encountering all the new sights, new friends and new places you probably won’t be able to stop clicking away. But don’t just snap the obvious pictures of landscapes and famous landmarks. Sometimes the devil is in the detail so get familiar with the macro focus function on your camera and photograph objects close-up. Also, try taking shots at different angles, not just face-on, for something more unusual. If you find yourself spending many happy afternoons in your favourite hammock, take a casual picture of what’s above you as you lie there – it may not make the best photo but it will take you right back there every time you look at it
Image courtesy of Carmen James (Frontier Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtle Conservation)
3. Maps, signs and wildlife
Your camera isn’t just for taking pretty pictures – reference photos may look dull but they’re not meant for showing off to friends and family when you return. I always take a few shots purely for reference – of maps and location signs so I can confidently tell one photo of a beach or mountain range from another; and of tourist boards outside attractions which are often a wealth of information. Wildlife can also be identified more easily when you get home – just ensure you capture any interesting markings, colours or other identifiers.
I’ve also been known to take photos of menus and the accompanying food – trust me, it makes it a lot easier to write a food travel piece, or even seek out your favourite dishes when you get home! And if you’re lucky enough to be staying with a great cook, ask if you can write down the recipes to some of the tasty dishes they’re creating.
Image courtesy of Jasmic
It’s not just about the words and the visuals – some of the sounds you’ll hear around you are unique to that place and something you won’t want to forget. Whether it’s the sound of gibbons calling in the Thai jungle, the insect buzz of African plains at night, or the chatter of locals in a market, use the video function to record sound on your camera and don’t worry about the picture. You’ll have a very evocative audio record of your travels.
6. Tools (during your trip)
You are more than likely to be volunteering somewhere remote with limited or no access to electricity, let alone the internet. Don’t rely on electronic gadgets or social media platforms to record and share your memories – I never leave home without a notebook and pens/pencils: it’s old-school and low-fi, but is always available and never lets you down! Even if you do track down a wifi connection when you’re away, if you’re staring at a laptop screen, uploading photos to edit and share, or (more likely) constantly seeking out recharge points, you’ll end up missing all the amazing real life around you!
Image courtesy of Infodad
7. Tools (when you get home)
Now you can get online and put all of your material to good use. Facebook is an obvious place to upload and share pictures of your trip, but I find Pinterest lends itself perfectly to the travel world. ‘Boards’ allow you to curate your trip anyway you like, such as pictures of ‘People’, ‘Wildlife’, ‘Food’ or ‘Favourite Views’. If you run a travel blog (or want to start), writing blog posts full of all the useful information you’ve collected on costs, opening times, transport and locations will make it much more attractive to readers.
Following these tips will ensure you have a great record of your trip. But don’t get too caught up in documenting everything or you won’t really be there – the best records are your memories...
Goodtrippers is the ‘eat / sleep / do’ for responsible travellers. Visit www.goodtrippers.co.uk for recommended eco accommodation, organic restaurants and cafes, and volunteering projects. You can also follow us on Twitter @Goodtrippers. And if you have your own responsible travel recommendation for Goodtrippers, become a guest blogger – for more details visit www.goodtrippers.co.uk/guest-blogging.