Category Archives: Inspiration

How I seized the opportunity to leave my job to travel full-time

During the last two years I touched all seven continents as a solo female traveler, I saw the whales feeding in Antarctica and I jumped in 3 Celsius degrees cold water at Deception Island, I trekked beautiful places in Patagonia and I walked on a glacier, I saw the happiest people on Easter Island and the famous moai, I gazed at the clearest sky in Atacama desert and climbed an active volcano at 5600m altitude, I visited the surreal Uyuni salt flats and I rode a bike on the Dead Road in Bolivia, I flew with a hang glider over Rio de Janeiro, I jumped the highest bridge bungee in the world in South Africa, I visited villages in South East Asia, I was amazed in Japan, I jumped the highest swing in New Zealand after trekking for 8 days and much much more.

How I got the wanderlust bug (forever!)

By 23 years old I had never visited other countries except for Romania, I had a horrible job which I hated, and I was studying a Master in Applied Geophysics which was a complete disappointment and a waste of time. One day I wrote a friend of mine who was studying in Paris asking him to buy me a book I couldn’t find in Bucharest, L’ecume des jours by Boris Vian. After studying 11 years of french in school I’m at least able to read a book in french. But he said no, he doesn’t want to buy me the book, I should come there and buy it and so I can visit Paris too. And that was a good incentive for my first trip.

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From my little salary I bought a ticket with a low-cost company and I went to Paris, and as cliché as it sounds, I completely felt in love with the city and the experience of wandering alone in a foreign country. After Paris, I traveled to London to meet a someone I was in love with and visited Budapest to watch Roger Waters in concert. But my salary was too little to travel as often as I wanted. Until one day when I decided to quit and I applied for the job I was dreaming about in university.

Sailing the seven seas

At the beginning of 2012 I went to Geneva for the interview and I lived one month in Paris to be trained to use the software the company was using. I was going to work with a helicopter and I had to pass survival tests in order to do that. I was processing data on a seismic research vessel with projects around the world which got me on the beach in the Carribean, crossing Panama Canal, seeing wild reindeer in Norway, visiting the Faroe Islands and also seeing the Northern lights two years in the row. Also, I was working in five weeks rotations, meaning that after working hard for five weeks I had other five weeks for myself, for traveling. That’s when I went to Peru for three weeks and when I participated in a photography tour in India. Little by little I wanted to see more of the world and to spend more time visiting the places where I had the crew changes instead of just scratching the surface.

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This is not a story about quitting a job I hate, but about having a good job but wanting something else from life, about seizing the opportunities and following my dreams.

On the Labor Day in 2014, the vessel was anchored 1km far from the Bahamas in order to do the crew change with a small boat. I could see the beaches of Nassau and I imagined how wonderful would have been to be there. But although the vessel was taking me to amazing places sometimes I couldn’t even touch them. So I decided I have to see the world closer. Those days I was reading all sorts of articles and blogs about traveling and beautiful destinations around the world. And when the opportunity came to terminate the contract with the company I didn’t think twice. I took the salary package and I withdrew all my pension funds from Luxembourg and went traveling.

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“Never did the world make a queen of a girl who hides in houses and dreams without traveling.”
― Roman Payne, The Wanderess

Deciding to quit and go traveling was one of the most liberating things I ever did, now I could see the world on my terms. It was hard to pick the places to see and to set a budget so I decided not to make a very detailed plan and go with my feelings. Also, after checking few “round the world” tickets I decided not to buy one because that would restrict my freedom and I couldn’t change the places to visit. I wanted to start as soon as possible but first I visited my brother in Italy, my sister in Germany, I went to Moskow and broke up with my boyfriend and I participated in a photography tour in Prague. Finally, I decided for a place to start and I bought a one-way ticket to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, the place from where 90% of the trip to Antarctica take off. Also, I decided to travel alone, and that gave me even more freedom and challenge.

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Patagonia chilena

Antarctica to New Zealand

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

I chose to travel from Antarctica to Alaska stopping in each and every country on my way there for as long as I had money left. I decided to go to Antarctica first because that was the most expensive part and also the most surreal one, although I didn’t plan it in advance and I took a last minute deal from Ushuaia.

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Mikkelson Bay in Antarctica
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Torres del Paine in Patagonia
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Hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro

After many months on the road and also a small break from travels when I went home for my friends weddings I decided to postpone the idea of Antarctica to Alaska and see other cultures from other continents although I hope one day I will continue from where I left. My travels took a different direction and for the next half year or so I traveled to South Africa, South East Asia, Japan and New Zealand.

Follow your heart and your dreams!

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

Before starting my travels I was getting passionate about photography and I was participating in photography tours in India and Europe in order to learn more and practice. During my travels, I became more and more passionate about it and I learned a lot. I like most to photograph people but also nightscapes and landscapes. I have now lots of stories, photographs, tips and pieces of advice ready to be put in front of those who are passionate about traveling and photography.

To wander is to be alive!

“A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.” 
― Roman Payne, The Wanderess

There’s no better day than today to start making your dreams come true. To decide to do what makes you happiest. If you have a passion follow it! The world is big and is amazing so take your camera and backpack and go wandering!

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Bucegi mountains in Romania
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On top of Lascar Volcano in Atacama at 5600m altitude

Inspiration for the travelers – what I watch

I started to make this list while traveling because while speaking about the movies I watch and the books I read people were asking me for recommendations.

I put together here documentaries, movies, biographies about nature, different countries, history, politics, travel, physics, photography, online business, self-improvement and many other subjects I’m interested in or passionate about.

This list is about documentaries and movies, books list to follow. Far from being complete, I will update it from time to time with new doses of inspiration.

Documentaries

Planet Earth (a BBC documentary: poles, mountains, fresh water, caves, deserts, ice worlds, great plains, jungles, shallow seas, seasonal forests, ocean deep, the future): eleven episodes, each of which features a global overview of a different biome or habitat on Earth. This documentary is so beautiful, a pleasure to watch. I learned about different places I didn’t know before and a lot of facts about our wonderful planet.

Home: our planet from formation until nowadays with the goods and the bads but ending in a very optimistic way.

Samsara: it was filmed over five years in 25 countries around the world. “Samsara explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of humanity’s spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation” says the official website.

Baraka: explores themes via a kaleidoscopic compilation of natural events, life, human activities and technological phenomena shot in 24 countries on six continents over a 14-month period.

Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking: a look at the entire universe, from the Big Bang to the end of time.

Atom (quantum physics): a 3 parts documentary about the discovery of the atom, the minds behind it, the possibility of parallel worlds where different versions of us might exist, the discovery that the empty space in not empty at all, but seething with activity.

Particle fever: a documentary about the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva. The film follows the experimental physicists at CERN who run the experiments, as well as the theoretical physicists who attempt to provide a conceptual framework for the LHC’s results

Encounters at the end of the world: a documentary about the surreal Antarctica and about the passionate people spending their time studying this continent. All sorts of characters and stories, and at the end of it, you will search for jobs in Antarctica. At least that’s what I did.

Touching the void: made after the book with the same name the movie recounts the story of a successful but almost fatal climb of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. I saw it many years ago, and I found it very inspiring. Whenever I watch mountain climbing documentaries I take it as a story about following your passions.

White Carpathia (Romania – British producer, 4episodes): this is a documentary about the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, made with the purpose of increasing awareness about the natural heritage in the Carpathians in order of protecting it.

Thrive: what on Earth will it take? : weaving together breakthroughs in science, consciousness, and activism, THRIVE offers real solutions, empowering us with unprecedented and bold strategies for reclaiming our lives and our future.

Kymatica: “Will you make the tough choice to make personal changes for the benefit of all or allow the collective end of mankind to pass with a faint whimper?”

Earthlings (food industry): using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, Earthlings chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.

Fed up (food industry): an examination of America’s obesity epidemic and the food industry’s role in aggravating it

I am: is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better?

Human: a collection of stories about and images of our world, offering an immersion to the core of what it means to be human. I think this documentary is a must see, it is so touching.

“If you fast forward and think what will our future generations be ashamed of, one of the things I would be ashamed of is how we allowed poverty to exist on this planet for so long when we easily could end it.”

“Because if everyone had food at home we could think. So, we could be poor, but have the intelligence to be able to go ahead.”

BBC 3 documentaries with Stacey Dooley: a British journalist investigating the impact tourism has on poor countries, the economic crisis impact, the refugee crisis, and many more subjects you don’t get to see very often traveling. She investigates what is behind the tourist attractions. And I think is very good to know it, to see things from a different perspective and be aware of the impact you can make on the places you visit.

Movies

Tracks: very inspirational solo woman’s 1,700-mile trek across the deserts of West Australia with four camels and her faithful dog.

Wild: one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike on the Pacific Crest trail undertaken as a way to recover from a recent personal tragedy.

Maidentrip: such an inspiring movie! 14-year-old Laura Dekker sets out on a two-year voyage in pursuit of her dream to become the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone.

Into the wild: after graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.

127 hours: the story of a mountain climber trapped with the hand under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah.

Finding Vivien Maier: this one is for those passionate about photography, but not only. A documentary on the late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one of the most accomplished street photographers.

Gandhi: a biography of Mahatma Gandhi from his early days in South Africa until his assassination.

Mandela: long walk to freedom: a chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically-elected president of South Africa.

Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan: recounts the early life of Genghis Khan who was a slave before going on to conquer half the world in 1206.

Once we were warriors: “it opened the eyes of cinemagoers around the globe to an unexamined aspect of modern New Zealand life. Director Lee Tamahori’s hard-hitting depiction of domestic and gang violence amongst an urban Māori whānau was adapted from the best-selling Alan Duff novel.” Not very easy to watch but revealing a certain aspect not easy to see when traveling to New Zealand.

Rapa Nui: tenuously based on the legends of Easter Island, Chile, this story details a civil war between the two tribes on the island: the Long Ears and the Short Ears. A warrior from the ruling class falls in love with a girl from the lower class and must decide on his position in a time of great civil unrest. The ruling class is demanding larger and larger Moai (stone statues), a task which the lower class and the island ecology are more and more reluctant to provide.

Jobs: a biography about Steve Jobs which I find very inspiring because it shows how much he believed in himself and in his dreams. A true example that everything is possible.

Forrest Gump: the story of Forrest Gump, a low IQ but good hearted man.

“Forrest: Momma said there’s only so much fortune a man really needs and the rest is just for showing off. So, I gave a whole bunch of it to the Foursquare Gospel Church and I gave a whole bunch to the Bayou La Batre Fishing Hospital. And even though Bubba was dead, and Lieutenant Dan said I was nuts, I gave Bubba’s momma Bubba’s share. And you know what? She didn’t have to work in nobody’s kitchen no more…”

Oktober sky: the true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner’s son who was inspired by the first Sputnik launch to take up rocketry against his father’s wishes.

“O’Dell: God’s honest truth, Homer. What are the chances… a bunch of kids from Coalwood… actually winning the national science fair?

Homer: A million to one, O’Dell.

O’Dell: That good? Well, why didn’t you say so?”

Enjoy and feel free to add suggestions in the comments! 🙂

17 amazing travel photography tips I learned while traveling solo around the world

At the end of 2014 I had the life changing opportunity of leaving my job in exchange of a salary package which I decided to use for a trip around the world. Ever since I traveled in India with a photography tour I became more and more passionate about photography. By now, I already photographed on all 7 continents, during rains, snows, very cold or very hot weather, in dusty environments, I carried my camera when trekking to shoot amazing landscapes, even on top of mountains for breathtaking astrophotography, I captured portraits and moments otherwise gone.

Traveling solo around the world I discovered the passion for photography and travel and as I saw how they go perfectly hand in hand I decided to start over from scratch and build a life around my main passions. I dream about building a community of creative people passionate about travel photography and story-telling through photos.

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” Ansel Adams

So here are the photography tips I learned while traveling solo for last two years:

1. Learn how to use your equipment before starting your trip: you don’t want to get in front of an amazing landscape and just try to figure how your camera works and how to make your settings. Some people buy all sort of new equipment and accessories before traveling just to be sure they have everything they need, but most of the time is unnecessary. If you feel like buying a new camera for a trip, get familiarised with it before boarding your plane. In any case, always have a copy of your camera manual saved on your phone.

2. Don’t take too much equipment in your travels: I think about photography equipment in terms of a triangle of the compromise between the way you want to travel, the type of photography you want to make and how much you can physically carry with you. Of course, during my last years I experimented a lot, inclusively going to the limit of what I could carry, having two cameras, 4 lenses, one tripod, and so on. And ultimately, I decided to travel light with one full frame camera and one lens with a polarising filter, 5 memory cards, one extra battery and one shutter release cable.

3.  Always take more shots for the same subject and never delete many of the shots during the next days: many times we shoot a subject once and when we see later the photo we can figure a better perspective or composition, but it’s too late, the moment is already gone. Also, we can take many photos but then delete most of them after because we think they are bad. That’s a mistake, a photo may appear bad to you today, but if you look at it after few weeks you may have a different opinion.

4. Wake up early, be it a place that gets overcrowded at day, be it a place in nature with beautiful sunrises, the morning hours offer you some of the best opportunities for great photos: this worked perfectly for me when I woke up super early one morning in Bangkok to photograph the Buddhist monks on their morning alms walk and one of the photos from that morning was chosen for an exhibition. The best natural light for photos is during the early mornings and evenings.

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Morning alms in Bangkok

5. Make backups of your photos, at least in one place and at least once per week if it’s not possible more often: this is simple, you don’t want to lose your photos. I carry a hard drive with me in my travels and whenever I have the chance of good wifi I upload my work on my cloud account.

6. Keep your equipment clean, dry, protected: one of the advantages of using one lens is that you won’t get dust on your sensor while changing lenses. Consider buying a dry bag for very wet environment and always clean your lenses. Although you can later edit the dust spots why spending time doing that instead of forming the habit of keeping them clean?

7. When taking photos of people don’t be shy but be respectful: I missed so many opportunities of beautiful portraits just because I was too shy to ask. This was a skill I learned on the road, because I really wanted to capture stories with people, with their cultures and smiles. There are places where people are really happy to be photographed and places where they are offended, you have to be aware of their culture, their reactions and respect them if they refuse you.

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Vietnamese woman in a village near Sapa

8. When the sky is clear you better stay up late: one of my favorite things to do is night photography. Clear skies are not everywhere, so when you are lucky enough to experience starry nights with clear skies in nature you should capture them, don’t let those chances go.

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At 2505m altitude, Omu Peak, Romania – no tripod used

9. Always have your camera at hand: you might have a heavy camera and not be very inspired some days, but worse then that is not to have the camera at hand when you need it.

10. If your camera is heavy use your backpack straps to keep it tight to your chest: this was so helpful for me as my camera is really heavy and my neck and back were in pain so many times. The backpacks have those chest straps and although inspiration to do that came late it was such an amazing change, as it’s making the access to the camera much easier and much more comfortable.

11. Try different perspectives – turn your back at the most photographed subject: this one is tricky. But remember, fortune favours the brave. Of course you want to photograph the subjects you saw on postcards or on internet, the landmarks and from the most famous angles, but is so rewarding to find a different perspective and create an unique photograph.

12. Be a storyteller through your photos: the most beautiful part of travel photography is the ability to tell a story of the place, of the community, situation or person, to capture a momentary reality from the life of one person. Away from the photographic cliché of mass tourism which I dislike very much, a good photographer can serve as example and recommendation of responsible travel, where you learn about cultures, customs, traditions, but also the reality of war, conflict, and poverty. Also, make photos people will want to see many times, not just once, and without a story to make them dream is hard.

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Young lady weaving in a village on Inle Lake, Myanmar

13. Show realities not noted otherwise: don’t look where everybody looks, go away from the crowd, walk the streets and capture subjects you haven’t seen on other photos or media. Behind the nice church might be an opportunity to tell a story which will show more accurately how is the life of that town or city.

14. When people sit on your way try to use this to your advantage: due to mass tourism there are some places where is impossible not to capture people in your photos, especially when you don’t visit early. Try to use this in your advantage searching for unusual perspectives.

15. Don’t rush – there are places where you won’t come back again, if you are inspired and have ideas don’t waste the opportunity: if you rush to make a photograph because you know you don’t have time there aren’t many chances to make a very good one. Sometimes photographers are lucky, but most of the time you have to imagine the composition and wait for the right moment to press the shutter, you have to try different angles and perspectives, or different settings. If photography is your number one priority and you travel mainly for it then you can plan to go to a certain spot, and you can plan the best times to shoot.

16. When trekking or climbing mountains don’t leave your camera behind. Actually, never leave your camera behind: the camera is heavy, the backpack is heavy, but the effort is worthy when you can photograph the starry night sky, or the sunrise over the lake near your tent.

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Torres del Paine, Patagonia

17. Take candid shots: sometimes when people see your camera they will pose and it might ruin the story. While for portraits best is when people look at you, there are situations when the candid shot is the best and it adds life to your photography.

The world is full of stories waiting to be photographed, just take your gear and go out! I hope this comes as an inspiration for you!

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out nor ends when we have reached our doorstep once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.” ― Ryszard Kapuściński, Travels with Herodotus