Adventure Adventure Photographer Karl Shakur’s Road-Tested Travel Tips

by Karl Shakur | June 13, 2019

I’m writing this in the back of a cab on my way to the airport to catch a flight to Namibia. This is not unusual for me.

As a travel photographer, I’m away from home about six months out of the year, and hardly in the same place for long. Living day-to-day out of a suitcase can be challenging, but the exhilaration of connecting with new places makes every mile trekked worth it.

Here’s my guide on how I reach each destination feeling refreshed and make the most of every adventure.

How I prep               

Research is such a big part of my trip preparation. I study the landscape, temperature and climate of wherever I am going. That way I know what to expect and what to pack. I like to keep my clothing as simple as possible.

If I’m not in front of the camera, I’m usually in all black. However, I pack bright, solid colors for photos I appear in — I think about what will pop against the landscapes and features of the destinations I visit. Pro-tip: I look at the social media feeds of other travelers to get a sense of the color palette of a place and to find the most breathtaking spots to photograph.

What I pack in my carry-on

I like to arrive ready for adventure, which is why a pair of swim shorts and my camera are always packed in my carry-on when I fly.

Essentials, like moisturizer, go in my checked bag — air travel tends to dehydrate, so I drink lots of water in transit, and replenish my skin with moisturizer once I claim my bag. I also swear by packing cubes to keep my luggage organized. The soft zippered pouches help you reduce clutter and consolidate similar items for easy access.

Karl Shakur photographing a waterfall

How I stick to my travel budget

The more you travel, the more important it becomes to outline and follow a spending plan. Keep track of expenses digitally — there are several apps that can help you stay within your limits for certain expenses, like food and lodging.

One trick I’ve learned on road trips is to plan out all the refueling stops. I use apps that track gas prices to locate the most affordable gas stations — over the course of a long journey, the savings can add up.

For some, the feeling of freedom that comes with travel may lead to impulse purchases. I have found that a good safeguard against this pitfall is to sleep on a decision to buy any big-ticket items, that way you know you’re not spending because you were caught up in the moment.

Karl Shakur purchasing food form a street vendor

What I splurge on

For me, travel is more about gathering positive experiences than things, and my spending reflects that. I recently took a group of friends out to dinner at a place where none of us had dined yet. It was an opportunity to spend time together and enjoy a unique experience. I picked up the tab, and it was well worth it — we had the best time, made even better by the wonderful company of my friends.

I’ll also spend a bit more for a good night’s sleep. I’m a big believer in taking care of yourself while traveling. The more rested you are, the more you are going to enjoy your trip — especially on a long journey. Booking nicer accommodations is one way to savor a small splurge that can be extremely rewarding — the extra comforts allow you to deeply recharge.

Karl Shakur taking a group selfie with friends

How I photograph with feeling

I snap a lot of photos as part of my work. But when it comes to personal photos, the ones that memorialize my travels for myself, I actually do the opposite. It’s advice I recently picked up from a fellow traveler who wisely said to find that scene that’s meaningful and take one or two photos. Then set your camera aside and take the time to soak in your surroundings for a full sensory experience of the sights, the sounds and the smells.

After your trip, those one or two photos will trigger stronger, richer memories and allow you to revisit that deep moment in your mind.

Karl Shakur photographing a city from a tree lined vantage point

I look at life as one non-stop adventure, and as I hit my next destination (ready for take-off), I invite you to follow along: @karl_shakur.

Karl Shakur

is a Midwest-based adventure photographer and visual artist. He specializes in travel, lifestyle and aerial photography — as well as influencer work with a growing online audience to help brands big and small tell their story through unique content creation. Follow him on his adventures: @karl_shakur.