with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Newsletter – Taking Your Camera on the Road – Know Before You Go

Due to many recent changes in the Internet and our lives, we’ve discontinued our monthly newsletter.

Thanks to everyone who subscribed to our monthly newsletter. With the advent of feeds and feed readers, emailed newsletters are slowly becoming obsolete and redundant. To help readers keep up with the information on our site, we have dozens of feeds for readers to choose from, covering the whole site, site comments, and a variety of categories to narrow down your reading interests.

Thank you again to everyone who enjoys our site and our information and welcome to the future of the Internet: feeds!


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VANFOSSEN PRODUCTIONS NEWSLETTER
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Issue Date: December 2003
Issue Number: 04
Topic: Taking Your Camera on the Road
VanFossen Productions: http://www.cameraontheroad.com/
Editor/Publisher: Lorelle VanFossen – newsletter@cameraontheroad.com/
Online version
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Welcome to the fourth issue of the VanFossen Productions Newsletter. This is one of our biggest issues ever! We have collected so much travel related information in this issue, we’ve divided it into three issues. We’re sure you are going to want to save these to help you make your travel plans in the future. This month, we examine what you need to know before you go, then in January, we will continue with more things you need to know including information on how security x-rays can indeed destroy your film, and the following month we will deal with how to maximize your photographic time on the road and return with the best images you can. We will also include some good tips for photo workshops and tours.

Thanks again to everyone who stuck with us while we escaped war in the Middle East. This issue will reflect a lot of what we learned, unlearned, and relearned about living on the road.

This monthly newsletter is dedicated to providing information on nature photography and editorial writing. It is ideal for the nature photographer, nature writer, or someone with a foot in both camps. We cover environmental issues, motivate and inspire your photography and writing, offer tips and advice, highlight others who are doing great things, and help you keep focused and motivated to do your best work.

If you have some great travel tales and tips to share, we’d love to hear from you at newsletter@cameraontheroad.com.

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WHAT’S INSIDE
@PERSONAL NOTE – Open Your Aperture
@FEATURE ARTICLE – Know Before You Go
@LINKS AND RESOURCES – What to Know Before You Go
@BE INSPIRED – Traveling Thoughts
@XTRA XSPECIAL TIPS – Guttenberg Press
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@PERSONAL NOTE – Open Your Aperture

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness – all foes to real understanding. Likewise, tolerance or broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in our little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
~ Mark Twain

When you think of Alaska, don’t you imagine it as the last refuge for large wild animals in the Northern Hemisphere? A place where elk, caribou, moose, and bear still wander wild and free? On our first trip to Alaska, we were sure we would return with film covered with all things wild and woolly. Instead, we found mosquitos, rain, and empty fields and mountain ranges. Nothing. By the end of the first week, rain pounding our tent, we were angry and frustrated, biting and snapping at each other. The truth was we were disappointed. We didn’t find any great herds of elk, caribou, moose, or even the wandering lone bear. Just a few Arctic ground squirrels, soggy and boring. Nothing close to our stereotypical vision of the last wilderness frontier. What a waste.

After a week of sneers and stabs, we called a truce. “We’re in Alaska!” I shouted, “Who cares about anything else!” We rearranged our thinking and changed our photographic mood to photograph what was THERE, visible to the eye, not to keep looking for what should be there. A few days later we did find some moose and bear, but by then we were relaxed and more casual about the event, ready with our cameras, our attitudes in place. We returned to Seattle with glorious images of snow-capped mountain scenes, icebergs floating on Portage Lake, fall colors on the tundra of Denali, brilliant red high bush cranberries glistening with water droplets, fascinating patterns of trees and plant life, and a few bear and moose pictures, along with a lot of Arctic ground squirrels. We returned happy, the most important thing.

We are still learning lessons about expectations, even ten years later. While we spent months preparing to evacuate Israel due to the war with Iraq, the time between the decision and the leaving was very short. We kept changing our minds about which photographic equipment to take and at last minute took only the barest minimum. We landed in Spain and decided to just play tourist, since we had left behind “our best equipment”. At first it was frustrating not to have the full range of equipment choices, regretting leaving this and that behind, ignoring some angles because we didn’t have the “right stuff”. After a while, we accepted our limitations and kept on working with what we had. Before we knew it, we pushed those self-imposed limits and started “seeing” things differently through the equipment we had instead of regretting what we didn’t have. Brent dusted off his wide angle lens and started “seeing” the world through an even wider perspective. Stuck with only one tripod, we propped our cameras up on the floor, benches, window sills, and anywhere, using coats, hats, and tour guide books to aim our lenses for long low-light exposures. We took more risks, not sure how well our experiments were going to turn out. Working with less, we opened our minds up to even more possibilities. The result, we captured our time in Spain through fresh and refreshed eyes.

Drop your expectations as you travel. Sure it’s nice to have a plan, but be open to all there is to see and photograph. Be willing to lower your camera once in a while and just enjoy. Sometimes we spend so much time behind the camera, we forget that there is life in front of it. Let your mind be an aperture, willing to open as wide as possible to let the light in. There’s a lot of world to see and learn from. Just be open to it.

Lorelle VanFossen
Tel Aviv, Israel

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
-Anonymous

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CHECK OUT OUR NEW SHOP
We have always featured an extensive list of book recommendations on nature photography, travel, writing, and the business of nature photography and writing, and now we’ve updated and expanded it to include links to easily purchase your books through Amazon.com. You can explore our book recommendations on our web site. We’ve also opened an “online bookstore” to help you add more resources to your library. We’ve also included recommendations on DVDs, videos, and music for the nature and travel photographer.

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@FEATURE ARTICLE – Taking Your Camera on the Road – Know Before You Go

We’ve been living on the road full-time, in some fashion or another, since 1996. The first four years were spent living in a trailer, pulled by our truck, criss-crossing North America, photographing nature as we found it. The last few years have been in Israel, traveling outside the country every three months to explore Europe. We are one of the four million US citizens living overseas, and among the thousands of Americans traveling overseas every day. We’ve done so much traveling, you’d think we’d seen it all, but every now and then something will surprise USA, catch us off guard, and attempt to spoil what might be a good time. We hope to help you avoid some of the missed steps and pitfalls of travel in these two newsletters and help you spend more time concentrating on your camera and pen.

WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO SEE – IT BOILS DOWN TO RESEARCH
Some people travel without researching their destination much, just seeing what they see when they see it. This is fine if you have the time and your vacation isn’t “work” for you, but if you want to pay your rent through your writing and photography while you travel, research before, during, and after. Before you go, visit web sites, pour over tour guide books, read fiction and non-fiction about the location, doing whatever you can to fill your mind with the possibilities there. The old adage “write what you know” is true for writers and photographers. The more you know your subject, the better quality the results of your work will be, as you can anticipate the action and know the story before it’s told. Seeing the real thing in action heightens the experience with familiarity.

As you research your destination and subject interest there, go beyond your main interest. If you are visiting Bosque Del Apache, New Mexico, for the snow geese, consider the reasons the area is such a Mecca for so many birds. What is it about the habitat, weather, and food sources? What makes it a safe place with protection from predators? Then look further. This area isn’t “natural”. Did you know that? Much of it is manmade, a created wetland. Was it made “just for the birds” or for other reasons? Part of the story, visually and verbally, can include this information. Go even further and deeper. Over 100,000 people visit Bosque annually. What brings them here? Is it just for the birds? A part of the story is how this area remains protected because area residents, a long way from big towns and industry, enjoy the benefits of the human visitation. Keep pen and paper near you while researching and write down your questions as well as the answers. Examine all the who, what, and where, and then really concentrate on how and why.

Why is this important? Not only will you be able to work faster within the area because you know where to find what you are looking for, you can create more opportunities for yourself. Compile a list of all the natural subjects you may find there, everything from animals to geology. Don’t forget the various habitats, wildlife and plant life you can find in the diverse habitats. Note the images you need to answer your questions. If part of the story is the number of visitors, make a point of photographing people watching or photographing the birds. Creating a good list gives you something to “check off” as you go, making sure you tell the whole story.

Be careful not to limit yourself to a subject matter like “only birds”. If you arrive and there are few birds, be open to the other possibilities. Different wildlife appears at different times of the day, so schedule your time to take advantage of the full course of the day’s events, if possible, instead of just showing up and expecting nature to “be there” waiting for you.

Weather can make the difference between a good photographic trip and a bad one, but study and learn how to make the weather work for you, no matter what the conditions. We suffer when faced with endless bright sunny days, longing for clouds, but we’ve learned to work with shadows, using fill-flash in shadows where we don’t want them and exposing for contrast when we do want them. Push yourself to work around and through the weather, using rain as a soft filter to shoot through, or allow the wind to blow the flowers around into colorful blurred patterns instead of fighting it. Accept what you find and learn how to work with it. Be ready for anything.

On our web site, we have an entire section dedicated to “going” on the road called the Going Zone. Here you will find articles on how to figure out where to go, when to go, and what to see when you get there, and how to maximize your photographic experience while there. In the next issue, Part Two, we will cover more topics to help you maximize your travel experience.

IS IT SAFE?
Living in Israel, we are faced with this question from outsiders almost daily. After four years living in Israel, we can say that it is as safe here as anywhere else. Some people living outside the United States are scared to travel within the US. After all, there are all those drive-by shootings, drugs, riots, mass murders, snipers, tourist kidnappers, car-jackings, and other wackos trying to kill off everyone. America is a dangerous place to live, let alone travel in, right? In Israel, every shop, restaurant, café, grocery store, mall, and public building has security outside checking bags for weapons or explosives. It is “normal” to wait in line to get into a restaurant or mall, holding open your purse or backpack for inspection. When we go into a mall in Europe or the United States, we get nervous when no one checks to see if we are potential terrorists. Instead we get smiles and welcomes. I would hate to see the world become another Israel with its anti-terrorism controls in place, but this could be our future. for us, Israel feels very safe. Sure things happen here, but they happen everywhere. So “safe” is a matter of perception. Part of determining if a place is safe is understanding that “perspective”.

To find out if a place is safe, begin by checking the US State Department’s travel warnings, even if you aren’t a citizen, at http://travel.state.gov. Their travel resources are extensive and fairly accurate. Pay attention to the words they use to describe the situation, from a minor “advisement” to a “warning” or “strongly recommended.” You have to determine for yourself how safe or dangerous the situation could be to you and those traveling with you. The UK’s travel bureau ( http://www.fco.gov.uk/ ) also offers information and resources for the international traveler on safety concerns, as does Canada’s International Travel Information. These sites also list health concerns as well as terrorist and criminal activities. For specific information about a particular place, check that country’s consular office or web site through http://www.embassyworld.com/ or http://www.embassy.org/. Be sure and check the dates of the postings, as some may not be current. Call to make sure the information is current.

> > > > FYI: As of September 26, 2003, the United States Government has issued a “Worldwide Caution” advising all US citizens to “remind U.S. citizens of the continuing threat that they may be a target of terrorist actions” anywhere in the world, including on US soil. Attacks against US citizens are not limited to the Middle East, and states that “U.S. citizens are cautioned to maintain a high level of vigilance, to remain alert and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.” It also states what US embassies and consulates will do what they can to help citizens living and traveling abroad, but that at any time they may close for security reasons. (We recommend you read this alert and take the precautions you need to feel safe about your travels, and then GO! Most tourists are staying home so there will be fewer crowds. But go only if you feel comfortable with the situation at your destination.) < < < <

On the Internet, there are many newsgroups and chats discussing the topics of countries and major cities from all over the world. You can find listings of some of these groups at Google’s Group listings ( http://www.google.com/ ), http://www.packback.com/, http://www.gorp.com/, http://groups.yahoo.com/, and http://www.topica.com/. Consider exploring discussion groups featuring ex-patriots (expats), citizens of other countries living in foreign countries at Dmoz’s Expatriates Resources and http://www.expatforum.com/. These people have usually spent a good deal of time in that country and are familiar with its inner workings, and very willing to share their expertise. Also check the web sites of the major travel guides for discussion groups and reports from recent travelers. Some of the most popular include Fodor Guides, Rough Guides, Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, and Lonely Planet.

When it comes to safety while traveling, use your common sense and don’t take risks. We cover this more thoroughly in our article about personal safety in the outdoors, but you know you can spot a “tourist” just about anywhere in the world. They are usually wearing “new” clothes and digital and video cameras swinging around their necks. Even their tennis shoes look new. The tourists have a dazzled sparkle about them, right down to their fanny packs and backpacks worn on their fronts instead of their backs. Brent and I have learned to wear old clothes, dull colors, and things that fade into the background. Our shoes are scuffed from wear, and all logos and signs that say “I’m expensive” are removed from our camera bags and packs. We wear our packs normally, relaxed and easy, keeping our camera gear packed away until we need it. Brent carries his wallet in a “sock” with a pocket, and I carry mine in my bra, out of sight. There are many ways of hiding your money and documents on your body that make them difficult to access, for you and for a thief. Keep only what you need immediately, or are willing to lose, in an easily accessible pocket. The less attention you attract, the less likely you are to be a target.

Women often fear traveling alone, but there are thousands of women who do travel alone and enjoy sharing their advice and tips. Journeywoman is a web site dedicated to these women at Journeywoman.com, and Mountain Woman is an online shop for the adventurous woman featuring tools and gear designed for the female body.

If you travel a lot, and especially if you enjoy traveling “light and free” rather than in the security of a group, consider taking some self defense courses. These are good for men and women, not just for the physical resistance training, but for the techniques you learn in dealing with confrontations, both verbally and physically. With a few weeks of defense training in verbal and physical resistance skills, you will feel more confident about your ability to travel alone on or off the beaten path.

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“That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get…more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. Sometimes you leave your house to go on vacation. And you gotta take some of your stuff with you. Gotta take about two big suitcases full of stuff, when you go on vacation. You gotta take a smaller version of your house. It’s the second version of your stuff.”
~~George Carlin

WHAT TO TAKE?
Deciding what “stuff” to take can make even the most experienced traveler cringe with angst. The more we travel, the less we seem to need, but then why is it so damn hard to zip up the suitcase every single time. There is always that one last thing to add that fills the bag – the thing we think we can’t live without. With today’s luggage restrictions, taking it all with you makes traveling even harder.

Before you start packing, check with the airlines to find out what your luggage restrictions are, in quantity, size and weight. These restrictions vary by airline and flight. Many European flights are now restricting passengers to one suitcase and one carry-on, calling a purse a carry-on. In the USA, in general, you are permitted two bags, a carry-on and a purse. In the USA, most airlines have a 60 pound (27 kilo) suitcase limit, with high fines for exceeding the weight limit. Many foreign airlines restrict you to 45 pounds (20 kilos) per suitcase. Carry-on luggage is also restricted now by weight. On average, most airlines restrict carry-on sizes to 22x14x9 inches (55x35x22 cm) and 40 pounds (18 kilos), though we’ve found much lower weight restrictions in Europe (one limited us to 8 kilos/18 lbs). Keep the weight scale near you as you pack and check it as you go.

Many traveling photographers are leaving the old box suitcases behind and going for backpacks, giving them maximum mobility moving from place to place. Make sure you protect yourself and your back by testing a backpack as thoroughly as possible before loading it up for a big trip. Don’t scrimp – spend some serious money on a serious backpack. Get one that will last as well as one that makes the trip, and your back, glad you spent the extra money.

Start at the store and try on the different packs with weights inside to get the “feel” of it. There are many different styles and harness designs, so try different ones. Eagle Creek, Jansport, and EMS design backpacks specifically for women, with shorter torsos and wide shoulder pads with narrow straps over the shoulders and down under the arms to accommodate the breasts. They are designed for a lower center of gravity and are much more comfortable to wear while carry heavy weights. Have the backpack specialist fit the pack to your body for the best fit and placement, and to teach you how to adjust it correctly.

Check the pack’s guidelines to determine the volume and weight limits to estimate how much it will carry. Packs open from the front, sides, and top, so check to see which loading access will work best with what you carry, while still allowing you easy access to camera equipment and water. Make sure they have a return policy, take it home, fill it with what you will be traveling with and walk around the neighborhood a few times. Professional backpack travelers recommend a pack that you can easily carry for at least a half mile without strain, though seasoned hikers and backpackers tell you it should be a least 2 miles before you need to rest. It depends upon your desired travel experience. Give the pack a bit of time to “warm” to your body, but if it is really uncomfortable, return it and try again. Find a good pack that will make your trip an enjoyable one, and use it well for years.

Do not lock your suitcases or carry-ons. In the USA, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) advises that they will break the locks without warning or compensation if they need to look inside your luggage, calling this a “necessary security precaution” in accordance with the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 ( http://tsa.dot.gov ). If they do inspect your luggage, they are required to insert a note saying that they have done so. Do your best to make it easier for them by padding things in easy-to-open materials or clear padding, and by not taping up or wrapping anything that could be considered suspicious and require a lot of effort to unwrap. With my sensitive computer equipment, I put a note on the outside of the padding and on the inside identifying the equipment and requesting that if they have to open it for inspection, would they please securely re-wrap this item for its protection. So far, so good.

While photography equipment is rarely questioned as it passes across borders, there are still some borders which give you hassles. If you are concerned about your equipment either being seized by the border customs, or taxed as an import, take time to create a detailed inventory of your equipment, including every filter and battery. List the manufacturer, place of purchase, date of purchase, purchase price and even the current market value (if needed). For big ticket items like camera bodies, big lenses, and tripods, include copies of the purchase receipt. Make at least three copies of all this information and take it and your equipment down to the customs office at any major airport (call ahead for times and directions) and fill out form CF4457, US Certificate of Registration, and attach the receipts and inventory to it. The customs officer will check the inventory list and form against your equipment and then issue the certification. The form is valid for re-entry into the country. The US Government Foriegn Entry Regulations has more information on entry and customs to foreign countries. Check your own country’s customs policies at their government web site.

Photographic equipment purchased, altered, or repaired outside of the country are subject to duty and should be declared to customs when re-entering your native country. The free personal duty exemption has been recently raised to USD$800 for returning US citizens.

Photographic film is permitted to be taken in and out of most countries without question, though you may have to show proof (receipts) that you are using the film for personal use if you carry large quantities. This is true of all types of film, unless you bought the film and had it exposed abroad. Then it “should” be counted as a dutiable item. If customs believes the film might contain prohibited material, such as child pornography, they can seize it without question.

> > > > NOTE: FILM AND AIRPORT X-RAYS – in-depth information you need to know before you go coming next month!!!< < < < <

In a series of articles called “Taking It With You When You Go”, we cover a wide range of options on what to take with you when you go. Regarding camera gear, take with you what you will need for the subjects you plan on photographing, and a backup lens and/or camera body – just in case. We’ve been carrying a 35-70mm lens for “just in case” for years and never used it. I’ve now decided to leave that one behind in the future, but I’m sure I will regret it. With the increased weight restrictions, every filter and roll of film adds to the weight and something has to come out. Put together what you absolutely have to have, weigh your luggage, and then add backups or optional equipment if you have room.

Regarding clothing, go easy on yourself. There is a lot of travel gear available today that is warm, waterproof, and made with thin, washable fabrics that dry quickly, even in low temperatures. Consider investing in lightweight travel clothing if travel and weight restrictions fill your life. Escaping from Israel, we found ourselves leaving behind almost everything except our sleeping bags and camera gear. We narrowed our clothing down to three days of clean clothes, wearable for six days if we didn’t sweat too much. Layers were the theme of the day. Skiing in Andorra, I wore my walking leggings under my cotton pants as long underwear and bought a sweatshirt for under my coat. Basic clothing is cheap just about anywhere in the world, so consider taking only the barest of needs, like two or three days worth of clothing and a week’s worth of underwear and socks, then buying clothes if you need them as you travel. You don’t need a new outfit for every day of your trip, unless you are going to show off your ability to buy stylish clothes. Keep it simple, washable, and flexible.

Like the towel in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, I recommend men and women carry some form of a scarf about a meter square, usually made out of Egyptian or Indian cotton in a neutral or dark color. This can be used as a thin blanket, cover, umbrella, coat, pillow, wrap, towel, muffler, hat, and carrying bag. When waiting in a public area, I will drape it over my camera bag, purse, or pack as it sits beside me, lowering its profile from thieves. In religious areas, it can be used to cover heads, faces, necks, and arms if the religion requires it. It can be carried in the suitcase until needed, or stuffed in a pack, or hung around your neck, ready to use. Carrying this simple kind of scarf has saved me on many occasions when I needed that extra warmth from the cold, shielding from the sun, or an impromptu visit to a mosque.

PAPERWORK
What papers should you carry with you when you go? Different countries require different paperwork, depending upon their visa and custom requirements, but in general, bring your driver’s license, an international driver’s license, passport, international health certificate (available from your doctor or health clinic), a copy of your birth certificate (to expedite replacing passports), international health and accident insurance papers and cards (for person and vehicle – if necessary), and more than one “type” of major credit card. Before you go, gather all this together and make at least three photocopies, including both sides of the bank cards. Put one copy in the bottom of your suitcase in a zip-lock, waterproof bag, and give the others to two friends or family members along with your itinerary. If needed, they should be able to fax or email the information to you anywhere in the world. Using today’s technology, we’ve scanned all of our critical information, including bank account and investment information, and stored it on a CD-ROM, with copies to our families and a good friend. Instead of a stack of papers, we can limit our weight to the most essential papers and the CD disk. For further security, access to the files on the CD can be encrypted. This is best for long term trips. If your passport goes missing or you have any other emergency, contact the local US Consulate/Embassy office in that country ( http://usembassy.state.gov/ ), using the copy of your birth certificate to speed up the process of passport replacement. Carry the embassy contact information with you before you leave home, just in case.

MONEY ON THE RUN
While traveling, separate your credit cards so you never carry all of them in one place. Divide them up between your body and your luggage. If you are traveling with someone with the same credit cards, have each person each carry a different credit card so that if one is stolen or lost, the other person can still have access to funds after the other card has been reported and cancelled, avoiding a return to your hotel or lodging. If you will be traveling for an extended length of time, bring an extra copy of at least one cash/debit card in case the other becomes demagnitized or damaged. Keep the contact information for lost or stolen cards with you in an easy-to-access location.

If you travel extensively and frequently, consider choosing a large international bank for your bank services while traveling. If you are traveling to major cities, odds are that they may have an office there. Some banks offer special services for their traveling customers. Examples include (number of countries in parentheses):

Before your trip, call your credit card company and inform them of your travel plans including the departure and return dates. Most companies track abnormal use of your credit card and can “freeze” your account if in doubt. If this happen to you, call the number on the back of your card collect, and, after proving who you are, provide them with a short list of your most recent purchase locations and amounts to confirm that these charges are legitimate. Even if you advise your bank of your travel plans, sometimes the information is missed, so if you are told by a clerk that there is a problem with your card, ask them to hold your items and if they could help you call your bank. Most are very obliging. Upon returning home, check your bank statements carefully to make sure no illegal or “over” charging occurred.

Traveling through major cities and in “modern” countries, cash machines are usually easily accessible. The need for traveler’s checks are few, and rarely are they accepted anymore, even by some of the larger merchants. Most major bank cash/debit cards can be used overseas, but not at all cash machines. Check with your bank and on the back of your card for the cash machine “system” your bank is a member of. Common ones are Exchange, Plus, Cirrus, Maestro, and Accel. Look on the cash machine for the matching name and/or logo to ensure your card will work in that machine. If not, move on to another one and try again. If you will be spending time in that country, learn which bank’s cash machines work with your card to speed up the hunt for money. We recommend that you take the daily maximum cash out, usually USD$250 to $500 in equivalent foreign money, and separate the cash around on your body as well as in your kit. In general, you should carry about one week’s worth of cash. Thieves lurk around cash machines so lower your risk by visiting them less frequently. As you near the end of your trip, pay as much as you can with cash and then use your credit card when the money gets low so you will not lose money exchanging the foreign money back. Overseas, most banks will “hold” your cash withdrawal amounts until a time in the day when the exchange rate is “good”, usually giving you a better rate than any local money exchange.

MEDICAL INSURANCE
US citizens can be left high and dry by their private medical insurance plans when they take a trip outside of the borders. While the US consulate can help find appropriate medical services, inform friends and family, and aid with money transfers, the responsibilities of payment for hospitals, treatments, and other services rest upon the shoulders of the traveler. Social Security and Medicare do not provide any coverage outside the USA, though the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) does have foreign medical insurance coverage with their Medicare supplement plans. Check with them for specifics.

There are many insurance companies specializing in travel/health insurance on a short or long term basis, but check first with your own policy to see if there is coverage or the ability to extend your coverage temporarily. Make sure your coverage includes what you think you may need. If you are healthy and in very good shape, with no chronic health problems, and your trip is short, consider only investing in accident/emergency insurance to save money.

The American Board of Medical Specialists publishes a reference on certified physicians abroad called “The Official ABMS Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialities” to help you find qualified medical professionals. The book is available at libraries and you can search on the Internet. The service is free but you must enter a valid email address to “register” with the site, and they will send you a password. For general practitioners, select “Search by Specialty/Location” and under “Specialty” select “Family Practice” or “Public Health”, or choose the specialty that most meets your needs. In preparation for a trip abroad, if you have chronic health problems, you might want to print out the contact information to have with you just in case.

STAYING IN TOUCH
Wandering around waiting for the war to start, and then end, it was critical for us to stay in touch with friends, families, and co-workers. It was also critical for us to get access to the news media to find out what was going on. Our shortwave radio helped, once we were able to locate the BBC World Service ) and other English speaking channels. Unlike when we first began traveling, we were able to find Internet cafes and access points all through Spain, even in the most unlikely places like the northern mountain village of Potes in Los Picos de Europa. With our Hotmail accounts, we were able to correspond with people, letting them know our status. This also allowed us to read the news online from Israel, Britain, and the United States.

Be aware that you are at risk when you sign onto a public computer, be it at an Internet access point or public library. Spyware and other surveillance software can “copy” your keystrokes, stealing your passwords and information, and do other things to get access to your private online records. If you are going to be checking your bank balance, transferring funds, or doing any secure online transactions, take time to read this article on preventing online attacks at public computers at Kim Komando’s computer advice web site.

If your email account won’t allow you access from the Internet and through a public computer, you may be able to have your email forwarded to a free Internet account like Hotmail or Yahoo. Check out the services of ForwardAmerica, Re-Route ), or do a search for “email forwarding”.

When we started, the Internet was still new and finding someone willing to allow us to borrow their telephone to connect our laptop brought us no end of stares and confusion. Today, cell phones can connect you instantly anywhere in the world and many cell phones permit access to the Internet through a laptop or handheld computer (PDA), delivering not only communication but instant news right to you wherever you are. While still not perfect, the process is improving all the time.

Internationally-compliant cell phones are still expensive, and few are actually compatible across borders. While it is easy to find a cell phone company that will allow you to move between countries in Europe, it probably won’t work in Africa, Russia, or South America. Consider buying an inexpensive cell phone upon your arrival if you will be spending an extended time in Europe or a similar region. Buy a GSM cell phone with an “unlocked” SIM card (Subscriber Identification Module), an easily replaced, pre-paid phone card “chip” that works within a specific region or country. You will get a new “local” phone number (and have to call family and friends to give it to them) and pay a per minute fee for outgoing phone calls, but usually all incoming phone calls from anywhere in the world are free. When you arrive in a new country, check in the local cell phone kiosks and buy a new “chip” for that country instead of buying a new phone or paying the high fees associated with roaming. For more information on GSM phones and SIMs, check out the articles at Rick Steves web site and Telestial.com.

Wireless network technology is becoming all the rage, too. Currently there are two wireless network systems that allow people to connect to the Internet through compatible wireless devices: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Starbucks, McDonalds, and other cafes all over the world are now featuring wireless network technology (Wi-Fi) for their customers to eat and surf the Internet for a fee. Bluetooth is gaining popularity all over the world, especially in the Orient and Europe while Wi-Fi is popular in the United States and in parts of Europe. We invested in a new laptop with wireless technology while in the US recently. Setting up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the home of Brent’s parents, I was able to connect to two other wireless networks for free via neighbors’ home wireless computer systems, cruising the Internet for free. In several airports, I found I could connect to their wireless networks for a small fee, pre-paid time by credit card. Spending a week in Ticonderoga in upstate New York, away from most signs of civilization, I was shocked to find it connecting to someone’s wireless network there, allowing me to once again surf the Internet and email for free. It’s amazing! A friend told Brent that no one in Israel had wireless network systems, and yet, I immediately connected without any problem to a wireless network in Tel Aviv, probably a neighbor. A far cry from when we used to string hundreds of feet of phone cord from our trailer across the campground to the payphone or a willing telephone owner.

web sites are starting to pop up listing free wireless “hotspots” where you can log onto the Internet for free with your wireless gear. WiFinder and Node Database offer international and US locales, as do others listed in our Resource Links list below.

Keeping up with the constant evolution in technology for the traveler is a full-time job. There are some very good resources on the Internet to help you keep track of the changes, so you can decide what items you need to invest in to help you stay in touch with the world while moving around it. We list some of these resources in our Links section below.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT LORELLE AND BRENT?
As one of the first nature photographers with a column in a webzine (now called “e-zines”), Lorelle VanFossen has long been a popular writer, speaker and presenter online and in the real world. Along with her husband, Brent, the two shed their urban skin to live on the road, criss-crossing North America for several years living in a trailer, and they now live in Israel, having recently survived as “refugees” on the run from Bush’s war with Iraq. Their work has been regularly featured in many magazines and online sites such as Outdoor and Nature Photography, Shutterbug, Mountaineer, PSA, Compuserve, and more. For more information on their amazing life and work, visit http://www.cameraontheroad.com/about.html.

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NATURE AND TRAVEL INDUSTRY NEWS AND MARKET WATCH
Our home page has been completely updated and now includes current news that will help you, the nature and travel photographer and writer. Our Pay Attention section is updated weekly with news and current events on nature, environment issues, travel, photography, and computer software that helps you get the most out of your creativity. We have also included a new Market Watch section to give the photographer and writer some tips on what is hot in the marketplace for nature and travel images.

Pay Attention News
Market Watch

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@LINKS AND RESOURCES – KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

GOVERNMENTS, EMBASSIES AND TOURIST OFFICES
If you have any problems or emergencies while in a foreign country, contact the nearest consulate or embassy representing your country. If you are traveling to a “third world” country or one with some travel risks involved, bring the embassy contact information with you, and leave a copy with friends and family, just in case.

WORLDWIDE CONVERSIONS AND TOOLS FOR THE TRAVELER

MAPS

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HEALTH SHOTS
The US and many countries require or recommend specific immunizations before traveling to or from specific areas. You can find information for the US’s policies for the US State Department, the UK Government, and in Canada’s Medical Services. Some countries require an International Health Certificate verifying your immunizations and health, available from your doctor. For travelers with specific medical conditions, make sure your prescriptions are up-to-date and carry adequate supplies with you. Include your doctor’s prescription and possibly a letter authorizing your use and transport of these medications, especially if you carry a large quantity (so they know you aren’t going to sell them). If you require a specific medicine, check with the country’s consulate to find out if you can get the prescription filled with your own doctor’s prescription and/or with or without a visit to a local doctor. It is always a good idea to check on the status of diseases and health in any country you are traveling to, no matter how “modern”. The recent international spread of SARS is a good example.

GOVERNMENT HEALTH RESOURCES

TRAVEL AND GENERAL MEDICAL ADVICE AND INFORMATION

HEALTH WARNINGS AND ALERTS

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TRAVEL GEAR
I admit it, I’m a travel gear addict. I absolutely love the latest and hottest travel anything. Slicko alarm clock/thermometer/barometer/timers, small sponge-like towels, collapsible water bottles, backpacks, fanny packs, sleeping bags, tents, you name it, I lust for it. So I have a lot of travel gear recommendations and ideas – some good, some just for fun – on our web site and here are some other resources for you to start building your own collection.

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STAYING IN TOUCH ON THE ROAD/TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY
There is a lot of technology available today to help the traveler travel easier and safer, and to help us stay in touch. We’ve included a variety of resources for finding Internet cafes and access points, mail forwarding services for long term travelers, travel communication resources, wireless networking information, and magazines and web sites to help you stay updated on the latest technology.

INTERNET ACCESS

TECHNOLOGY INFORMATION

WIRELESS

TRAVEL “MAIL” SERVICES

TRAVEL COMMUNICATIONS GEAR

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PLANNING INFORMATION, RESEARCH AND RESOURCES
The Internet is brimming with all kinds of travel deals, tips, advice, and information. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused. Take your time and check out a resource thoroughly before investing your money in their travel plans for you.

TRAVEL ONLINE DISCUSSION GROUPS

AIRLINE DEALS AND DISCOUNTS

There are thousands of web sites dedicated to getting you “the best deals” on air fare, and we can’t list them all here, but here are some for the major airlines featuring their online deals to help you get started. Most of these are for last minute or short notice flights and the latest listings are posted on the days of the week shown.

TRAVEL RESEARCH – GUIDE BOOKS

TRAVEL RESEARCH – OTHER SOURCES

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Information’s pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience.
~Clarence Day

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RESOURCES FROM THE VANFOSSEN’S web site
As full-time travelers, we have a lot of expertise and experiences to share. Here are a few articles from our web site.

PLANNING, PREPARATION, AND PACKING

ON THE ROAD

SAFETY

TRAVEL AND PHOTOGRAPHY

VANFOSSEN RESOURCE LINKS

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@BE INSPIRED – TRAVELING THOUGHTS

Life is not measured by the breath we take but by the moments that take our breath away.
~Unknown

~*~

Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with the experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we have believed to be the right and only way.
~Ralph Crawshaw

~*~

It was a good place for getting lost in, a city no one ever knew, a city explored from the neutral heart outward, until after many years, it defined itself into a jumble of clearings separated by stretches of the unknown…
~VS Naipaul, “An Area of Darkness” by Deutsch Andre, 1964

~*~

The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.
~Saint Augustine (354-430) Roman religious figure

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@WRITING ADVICE

TRAVELING THROUGH BOOKS

Your writing is not the only writing to be inspired by travel. Learn from others how they described an adventure or area, from the ancient classics to modern works. One source is Literarytraveler.com/ where other writers share how their travels inspired them and their writing. Here are some others:

GUTENBERG LITEGRAPHIC SOCIETY’S web site
The Gutenberg Litegraphic Society has launched Picturesandstories.org, a part of the non-profit organization’s service offerings for writers, photographers and artists. You can find information to help get published, get information on how to protect intellectual property, and help you expand your writing skills and techniques. The goal of the site, according to Society Co-Founder Bill Kilpack, is to create an “on-line community of creative minds, where writers and artists can realize dreams of seeing their works published, as well as receive feedback and guidance from professionals and their peers.” The site is open to writing, artwork or photographic submissions, and will feature periodic contests and programs. A discussion forum will help people correspond with each other, reviewing and criticizing each others’ work in order to help them improve. With the backing of many in the writing and publishing industry, this could become a great resource for writers of all genres.

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HERE IS ALL THAT LEGAL STUFF

*|* Copyright 2003-2004, VanFossen Productions and Lorelle and Brent VanFossen. All rights reserved. You have permission to share this e-mail publication via manual forwarding by e-mail to others providing that 1) the e-mail is transmitted in its entirety (that means the WHOLE thing) and that 2) no fee is charged. Information in this document is provided "as is", without warranty or endorsement of any kind, either expressed or implied, without limits. Broadcast, publication or storage, in any form, is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of Lorelle and Brent VanFossen. The user assumes the entire risk as to the accuracy and the use of this document. We will not be liable for any damages of any kind arising from the use of this information, including, but not limited to direct, indirect, incidental, punitive, and consequential damages, and just plain old meanness. We like playing fair, how about you?

*|* If you must leave USA, you can unsubscribe by sending an email to newsletter@cameraontheroad.com/ and type UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject. We’ll miss you.

*|* If a friend forwarded this to you and you are interested in getting your own copy, and saving your friend the trouble, send an email with SUBSCRIBE in the Subject to newsletter@cameraontheroad.com/ and we will make sure you get your own newsletter. Thank your friend for us.

*|* If you have a change of email address, send an email to newsletter@cameraontheroad.com/ with EMAIL CHANGE in the Subject. Hope you like your new address.

*|* This newsletter is a free service of VanFossen Productions, Lorelle and Brent VanFossen. With over 250 articles on nature, nature photography, writing, the business or nature photography, travel, and a whole lot more, take some time to visit one of the largest personal web sites on the Internet at http://www.cameraontheroad.com/ and find out what everyone is talking about.

*|* SPAM – We will never share your email address with anyone, on purpose, not only because we hate all the SPAM that fills our email boxes every day, but because it is the decent thing to do. If the time comes when we might consider it, we won’t give out your email address without giving you a chance to say yes or no. I wish others had this same policy, don’t you?

Interested in back issues? We’ve posted all our issues on our web site and this issue is issue 4 in 2003.

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