Cameras are often ranked just behind passports as travel essentials, but the only people who should be carrying nice cameras around the world are people who love to take nice pictures.
When I first started travelling, I was a poor student and carried the cheapest camera that I could find. I didn’t really have any knowledge of photography, but I knew that a camera is one of those travel essentials.
The result: a lot of really bad photos that are hidden in a box somewhere.
On my next big trip, I still had the camera, but one of my travel companions was an amateur photographer with a nice camera. We decided that we would use his camera and share prints (this is back when digital cameras were expensive and obviously pixelated).
The result: I was a student and getting prints was really expensive, so I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a picture from that trip.
Finally, I moved abroad and had some money, so I bought myself a nice camera and learned how to use it. I spent some time thinking about composing my shots and learned to take some really nice photos. However, I realized that taking nice photos didn’t make me enjoy my trip anymore.
The result: I traded my nice camera for a more compact digital camera and since then only rarely take photos.
It took a number of years with many smaller trips in between for me to figure out that I am much happier leaving my camera at home. Since then I have learned the joys of travelling camera-free.
1. You Don’t Look Like a Tourist
Not looking like a tourist is actually quite important.
Who do you think is going to be targeted first for theft?
The foreigner walking around in casual clothes without any bag? Or the sun burnt guy with a day-pack stopping traffic so he can take a picture?
Losing the camera is an important first step in making yourself a lower-priority target for pickpockets and other thieves.
2. Cameras Are Awkward
There is a tradeoff when buying a camera.
You can either choose the heavy, durable camera. Or the light, but fragile camera.
Neither heavy nor fragile are good qualities in things that you take on the road.
If you choose the heavy camera, you will feel it by the end of a full day of sight-seeing.
If you choose the light camera, you have to be careful how you treat it.
Lose the camera and you will have one less valuable to worry about and possibly save yourself a sore neck.
3. You Will Experience More
All of that time you spent setting up the shot so that the temple sits perfectly framed by the mountains in the background could have been spent admiring said temple and said mountains.
The photographer can visit just as many sites in a day, but the time spent on photography is time that won’t be spent on soaking up the surroundings.
The lens simply doesn’t compare with real life.
Leave the camera and focus on the experience at hand.
4. You Probably Have a Camera Anyways
I am a big advocate of taking smartphones on the road which means I already have a basic camera suitable for taking average pictures.
Leave the camera at home and use your smartphone for any photos that you absolutely have to take.
5. Someone Else Probably Has a Digital Camera Anyway and Takes Better Pictures Too
Digital Cameras are so common now, that you will probably end up traveling with someone who has a camera.
Sharing photos is essentially free, so you can usually get photos of your trip without bothering with the camera.
With a bit of luck, one of your travel companions will even be a good photographer and you’ll get some pretty nice photos.
Lose the camera and let someone who loves photography take the pictures.
6. Stop Contributing to Annoying Camera Carousels
You know when you are traveling with five friends, everyone has a camera and you find an excellent shot, so everyone has to have a turn taking the same shot?
That’s the camera carousel and they are way too common and too annoying.
Leave the camera at home and save everyone a forced smile.