As Australia’s first professional instagrammer, Lauren Bath is a freelance digital influencer and travel photographer who uses Instagram as my main platform. With 360,000 followers on Instagram, I have a highly engaged online community who follow my travels through the photographs I post.
My work takes me to some pretty amazing places. I’ve swum with turtles in the Whitsundays, manta rays in Fiji and dolphins in Bunbury.
I’ve travelled the sky in every size plane and helicopter known to man, including a tiger moth bi-plane.
I’ve jumped out of a plane for work twice! I’ve seen Tasmanian Devils in the wild and sailed the Solway Lass. Every experience is unique and wonderful.
I love inspiring others through my work and some may even say that my own journey to becoming a professional instagrammer is inspirational.
Finding Instagram unlocked a new passion and a new life for me. Two years ago I was a chef, working in a job I hated. Before that I had never even used an SLR camera.
Now, I can’t imagine life without waking up early to shoot a beautiful sunrise and scouting out locations to capture that perfect shot.
Travel, photography and Instagram are my life. Through Instagram I found photography and through photography I found travel.
As my work and business continues to evolve, I’m broadening my skills to public speaking and educating others.
I’m also becoming more involved in project management, connecting influencers to destinations and using my knowledge to conduct successful social media campaigns.
Helping to build an industry of social media influence in the world of tourism has been incredibly worthwhile and I hope to continue doing what I love in an industry I helped to create.
Lauren Bath’s Instragram Trips
Canada – Alberta
What can I say about my first trip to Canada? I visited Alberta during fall, on an Instagram campaign run by Destination Canada.
Of course, I knew that Canada would be beautiful, but nothing prepared me for my first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.
Rising majestically from the ground, the mountains gave me reason to pause and exhale.
I had never seen anything more beautiful than the tree-lined road leading to the Rockies on our way out of Calgary.
I insisted our guide, and fellow photographer, Jeff Bartlett, stop so we could spend half an hour shooting this first sight, even after Jeff repeatedly told me that the view would get better.
Of course, I didn’t believe him and had to pinch myself when his words came true.
Beauty upon beauty assaulted my eyes and not a day went by where I wasn’t able to capture a favourite photo.
But to this day, my first images remain my favourite and when I’m asked how I captured such stunning photos, my answer is that the scenery was so beautiful you could use any camera to get these amazing photographs.
Canada simply is an incredibly beautiful country and I look forward to many more visits.
The words that come to my mind to describe Alberta are majestic, mystical, wild, spectacular, otherworldly, tranquil, vibrant and, best of all, untouched.
I don’t remember what road we were on but this was my first glimpse of snow on the faraway peaks.
It was my first time seeing so many beautiful trees and I couldn’t have asked for fluffier clouds or a more strategically placed jet trail.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I came upon this mystical place. Like most photographers,
I’ll take a cloudy and moody day over clear skies any day.
The grey clouds and surprise rainbow over Peyto Lake provided me with the opportunity to photograph some of my most “liked” images that I’ve ever posted on social media.
I can’t imagine another place in the world instilling as much awe in me as this place did the first time I saw it.
As if Alberta isn’t impressive enough with the sheer beauty of the landscapes, the province is also a Mecca for Canadian wildlife.
We came across a pack of mountain sheep on our first day in the Rockies and this was the first shot I snapped.
I didn’t think I’d ever show it to anyone because the road is visible in the photo. Later, I realized that was exactly what I liked most about the scene.
You don’t know what the word “spectacular” means until you’ve seen a view like this.
This is the view from the car park of my hotel and to capture this image, all I had to do was point my camera at the scene and press the button.
The blue water, winding road and snow-capped mountain combined to create an image that is unforgettable.
When I say otherworldly I mean it.
The Athabasca Glacier, just outside of Jasper, looks like nothing I’ve ever seen in the world.
I knelt down in the coldest place I had ever experienced and photographed the Rocky Mountains scene in wonder.
The water that you see pooling near the corner of my shot is the sweetest and purest water that’s ever passed my lips and I didn’t even feel the cold.
Amongst all the jaw-dropping sights, I also experienced a view so tranquil I could peacefully shoot for hours.
Every new angle was more beautiful than the last.
Moraine Lake is a real photographer’s dream spot with the still waters creating beautiful reflections and the boat sheds providing a colourful and interesting foreground.
What can I say about the colours of the Rocky Mountains?
The water is like nothing I had ever seen before and the mosses zinged with vibrant greens.
The earth felt alive and I felt connected to nature.
Believe it or not directly behind me was a gushing waterfall but I found myself so drawn to this scene that I ignored the obvious attraction.
When I say “virtually untouched,” I think of this photograph that I took on my way out of Jasper.
The narrow stretch of road shows you the tiny impact man has had on this vast and incredible wilderness.
You can see the tender touch of fall on the trees and a baby puff of cloud well below the height I was shooting from.
Since this trip, I have had the pleasure of revisiting Alberta and the Rocky Mountains and experiencing many other destinations through my work but nothing will ever compete with the wonder of my first time in Alberta.
I was already addicted to travel before I visited this land but coming here has increased my desire to see as much of this beautiful world as possible and to recapture the feeling of my first trip to Alberta.
Canada – Quebec
My first French adventure occurred in the strangest place and in a destination that I’m sure not many people from my part of the world would even think to travel to – Quebec in winter.
When I was approached to visit Canada again, not too long after my first visit to the country, I jumped at the chance.
But I soon realised Quebec would pose a new set of photographic challenges.
You see, in the early days of my travel career I actually believed myself to be a landscape photographer.
I felt most comfortable surrounded by nature, with my bag of photography equipment and a sturdy tripod.
In Quebec, I soon learnt I could expect to spend more time in cities immersed in culture and history, which I was afraid might be a bit of a nightmare for a landscape photographer.
Despite my skepticism, not only was Quebec more than worthy of my lens, the visit to this French Canadian province was also a turning point in my career.
It was the beginning of my transition to becoming a destination and social photographer.
And I barely had to pick up my tripod!
I spent a lot of time reflecting on the things that jumped out at me when I visit new destinations and trying to capture them in a series of images.
My revelation was it’s the little things that locals take for granted, such as fat squirrels in the park, ice-canoeing on the river (no I did not partake!) and hot chocolate clutched with gloved fingers.
Seeing snow in the city was a particularly magical sight for me.
Quebec City is not the kind of city I’ve ever known
I went on a photo walk with a local and had a wonderful time experiencing my first taste of rich history.
Actually, being hip deep in snow within city limits was a very strange experience.
I couldn’t resist attempting my first snow angel and took countless photographs of the city surrounded by the white stuff.
Huh? The Lawrence River in Quebec City is filled with crazy people!
I rubbed my eyes and tried again to focus on what I was seeing.
A canoe full of (obviously) escaped mental patients who alternatively rowed and walked the icy river.
This is something that I had never even heard of let alone seen.
It was worth waiting patiently for one hour for these crazy athletes to get close enough for a decent shot.
Quebec City is a city alright, but not as we know it!
Stunning Charlevoix reminded me of how to use my tripod
After a few amazing days in Quebec City, my group headed to Charlevoix for some rural action.
I dragged out my old tripod and discovered what it was like to take photographs at -20C.
It was a very interesting challenge.
We had travelled to this region by train, which is something I would recommend to anyone.
Dog sledding – in French!
One of the stand-out experiences of Charlevoix was the dog sledding.
Since I love animals anyway, it wasn’t a stretch that I would love to see a very happy pack of animals doing what they love.
The best part?
Well, these guys speak French.
So, as well as learning how to dogsled we also had to learn a few French words in order to tell our pack what to do.
Much comedy ensued.
The Quebec Ice Hotel is otherworldly
No trip to Quebec would be complete without a visit to the Ice Hotel.
You’ve never slept in a building made of ice, on a bed of ice and drank cocktails poured into glasses made from ice? Why not?
The ice hotel, just outside of Quebec City, is a must-do. You’ll get a surprisingly good night’s sleep too. Pictured is Emily Schreck, room buddy, occasional model (for me) and one of my travel companions.
The snow is fun
Unlike my previous visit to Canada, when I was focused on the landscapes, Quebec gave me a chance to concentrate on the little things.
On this day, we pulled off the road to photograph an abandoned barn and ended up making snow women and sinking into soft drifts of snow.
I had so much fun I rolled backwards down a small hill, giggling wildly.
There are lots of cool things to do in Montreal
Montreal is cold, there’s no doubt about it.
What struck me the most about Montreal was how the locals embrace the cold.
There are outdoor festivals, like Igloo Fest, public ice skating rinks and seats with amazing white winter views.
In Montreal you just rug up and get with the program.
After a few mulled wines and a dance at Igloo fest you won’t even feel it.
The wildlife in Canada is wonderful
This is a photo that taught me a lot about travel.
Squirrels are everywhere and are sometimes considered a nuisance to the locals.
But for visitors, like me, they are wonderful.
I loved reading all the comments that this shot attracted. They remind me that we should never take our home countries for granted.
The world is beautiful and everyone should take the time to look around and appreciate that fact.
This big, fat, pest is as wonderful to an Australian as a kangaroo might be to a Canadian.
Canada – Yukon
The Yukon in Canada, a destination that I thought for sure was out of my league to work in, recently got ticked off my bucket list.
I don’t know if it was good luck, good timing or divine intervention but fortunately for me Destination Canada was keen to bring an Instagrammer to the Yukon.
It gave me the chance to photograph this Yukon winter wonderland.
After much anticipation, preparation and excitement I was finally on my way to this fairytale destination.
I rocked up to the airport in my “not-good-cold-weather daggy travelling wear” and had to run (not walk) from the my pickup vehicle to the hotel foyer.
As you have probably guessed, the Yukon is cold in winter. That’s it.
But I was very organised with my layers of clothing so I was comfortably warm throughout my stay.
That’s a key point to keep in mind when travelling to the Yukon in winter.
Just remember there’s no such thing as cold weather just inappropriate clothing, especially if you’re planning a Yukon hiking trip.
On night one I went out with my wonderful guide Sheena for some Aurora Borealis spotting. Well, at least that was the plan.
Unfortunately there was too much cloud cover to see if anything was going on.
But I still enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for the northern lights to appear, the chats with Sheena about tourism in the Yukon and the bags of snacks I’d been presented with.
My favourite was the yoghurt-covered pretzels. So yum!
Being so far north in winter has some definite perks including late sunrises.
I had a lovely little sleep in, as the sun wasn’t set to come up until after 9am.
Day two was a bit of an everything day.
We visited Fish Lake Drive for some higher vantage points and Café Balzam was our lunch choice.
I had deconstructed poutine, which was basically poutine only better and it was vegetarian. I was pretty happy about that.
Afterwards it was just a quick jaunt to the nearby Wildlife Preserve for my special tour of the many native animals housed here.
Although I had a media pass that allowed me close-up access to the animals, 90% of my photos could have been taken on a regular tour by anyone with the right camera gear.
With my Olympus OM-DE-M1 and 300mm prime, equivalent 600mm, I got very close to the action!
I spent the entire afternoon with the animals until it was too dark to shoot anymore.
As an animal lover, I’m in love with them all, especially the arctic foxes and little red fox “Buddy”.
That evening I was staying at the Northern Lights Resort and Spa, which is a quaint little boutique resort.
Although we had lucked out again with the Aurora Borealis, I had a fun evening eating home-cooked German fare and talking to the owners of the boutique resort.
We chatted about The Yukon challenge (jumping out of the hot tub and rolling around in the snow), the Dawson’s “Sour Toe Cocktail” (Google that one) and the Aurora Borealis in it’s many shapes and forms.
On day four, it was time for some action.
I was going dog sledding and my home for the night would be a giant cabin in the woods run by Muktuk Adventures.
First I was treated to a day of random Yukon adventuring, which basically consisted of Sheena driving until I yelled “stop” and the inhaling of many yoghurt covered pretzels.
My favourite stop by far was Carcross, where we found some red train tracks, a yellow kayak and a pool of exposed blue-green waters.
These were colours I desperately wanted to photograph against the pristine white snow.
We arrived at Muktuk before dark and I fell asleep knowing I had a full day of dog sledding adventures ahead.
What can I say about dog sledding? Some people do it professionally. Check out the Yukon Quest.
If you haven’t done it before I can’t think of a better place to try it than in the Yukon.
The Yukon is a winter wonderland, more like Narnia than any place on earth that I’ve visited.
With the dogs barking excitedly and kilometres of pristine frozen river to traverse, I had cameras at the ready as I didn’t want to miss a single moment.
I spent four nights in the Yukon, not enough by half and yet enough to know that this is a place I desperately want to visit again.
There are so many things filling up my Yukon bucket list.
I want to capture that quintessential Yukon Aurora Borealis.
I want to see my mate Buddy the fox again and I need to (maybe, possibly, kind of?) have a sour toe cocktail in Dawson City.
I also can’t stop thinking about those yoghurt-covered pretzels and imagining how great the place would look in Fall.
Yukon, you can have me back anytime.
Sunset in Whitehorse on a clear Yukon winter day
This year I was a part of a little campaign called the Helloworld RELAY. Who am I kidding? Helloworld RELAY was actually the biggest social media campaign I have ever been a part of.
Basically, instagrammers all over the world were hired to promote World Tourism Day for a massive Helloworld initiative.
We were tasked with photographing sunrise through to sunset and posting up to 12 photos on Instagram throughout the day, one every hour!
Since I was already working with Helloworld I was offered the chance to choose my destination. I was quick to pick a place on my bucket list – Oman.
Why Oman? To be honest Oman was not a country that was even on my travel radar until last year, when I had the pleasure of meeting Mona Tannous, manager of the Sultanate of Oman Tourism for Australia and New Zealand.
After talking to Mona, it was like I couldn’t escape from hearing about Oman.
There must have been 50 people mention the destination to me. Shortly afterward, I visited the United Arab Emirates to run a campaign with Dubai Tourism.
My first taste of the Middle East was so mind-blowing that Oman jumped right to the top of my bucket list.
After my positive experience with HelloWorld in Vietnam, I was all too willing to trust them to hook me up with an amazing work trip to Oman.
Besides the RELAY day itself, I spent a further four days in Oman.
Four days was not enough! But despite the whirlwind trip, I fully immersed myself in the destination and think I can offer some great insights on visiting.
Because Oman is still considered a relatively new destination I was stoked that Helloworld were involved in the trip too and we actually had lots of great chats on the road about the benefits of booking travel through a travel agency.
Here’s a recap on my days in Oman.
First up was RELAY day. Shooting, editing and posting a photo an hour for 12 hours is every bit as crazy as it sounds!
Accompanied by my ridiculously awesome guide Salim and my equally awesome host Ben, from Oman Tourism (Australian office), we hit the road early to shoot sunrise in the mountains.
I would love to spout a whole bunch of trip logistics now but to be honest I was super preoccupied with my race to get photos and had to leave all that work to Salim and Ben.
All I know is that I went from Jabal Shams to Bahla to Nizwa to Al Hamra to Misfah where we wrapped up with a sunset Instameet.
The benefits of covering so much ground in one day is that you cover so much ground in one day.
By day two, I felt like I had been in Oman for weeks and was already wrapping my mind around the destination.
Salim, Ben and I were just about bonded for life at this point after such an intense RELAY experience so the rest of the week was super relaxed and fun!
After waking up at the uber luxurious Alila Jabal Akhdar, my reward for the exertions of RELAY day, we went on a mission to find a pomegranate farm and a sunset in the mountains.
I had my “pinch me” moment amongst the pomegranates, told you I’m strange.
I don’t know why but sometimes I get an idea in my head that I really need a particular shot and on this particular day it was a shot of a pomegranate on a tree.
Once I finally took that photo I hated it and it will never see the light of day but I did have a very cool time getting to that point. And it goes to show that all the planning and money in the world can’t create magic travel moments.
You just have to be open to them.
We had just discovered that all the small pomegranate farms were fenced and locked when Salim ran into some local boys who offered to show us their dad’s patch.
They led us up a narrow (treacherous) alley and into paradise!
Pomegranate trees as far as the eye could see, laughing boys pushing each other around in wheelbarrows and the sweet smell of ripe pomegranates in the air.
That is a moment in time that I will never forget.
The next day was all about the Muscat Fish Markets.
I’m sure I did other things that day but they pale in comparison to my dawn experience on the harbour.
These are the sorts of activities that you would never even hear about unless you have local knowledge or a great travel agent and it was honestly another highlight for me. Omanis are so AWESOME!
I always feel very self-conscious about taking photos of locals but I soon warmed to it because everyone was so nice.
Nobody said no, nobody was in any way fazed by my camera and – for the most part – everyone just stayed authentic for my lens.
I walked away with some of my favourite people photography of all time.
Finally, my last day dawned. I had been in Oman for seven months, I mean five days, and I was not ready to leave!
Luckily the best had been saved until last and I was told little more than there would be swimming and a nice sunset.
Um, it was only the best swim of my life and one of the best sunsets of my life!
Firstly, we drove on the best road ever. I was constantly asking why big Hollywood blockbusters aren’t filmed there.
Then we rocked up to a car park near the coast to check out some sinkhole that was the BEST THING EVER!
I was actually mad at Ben and Salim for completely downplaying this place.
I could go to Oman and spend a week just hanging out and swimming at the sinkhole.
Perfect temperature, super gorgeous and clear and fish to nibble your toes.
I stayed in for far longer than we had time for and I’m definitely #sorrynotsorry.
By the time sunset arrived we had made it to Sur.
I spent my last evening in Oman sitting by my camera being served local tea by Salim to the sounds of the call to prayer.
It was a short trip but a memorable one and definitely one that wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of Helloworld and Oman Tourism.
I ended a recent social media post with these words …
Go to Oman
Book with Helloworld
After dabbling with travel in New Zealand last year on two short jobs I was more than ready to get over for a longer period of time.
The perfect opportunity presented itself when I was invited to the South Island for a ski campaign and to make things even better I was asked to select a second “instagrammer” to accompany me. (I chose my best friend Garry Norris) The stage was set for an epic adventure.
New Zealand is beautiful, I don’t really know how else to say it.
The country is stunning but even better is that beneath the surface lays cultural beauty, the kindness of strangers and a thriving tourism industry.
Maori influence is alive and well and evident in the respect New Zealanders have for the land and it’s visitors.
From our very first morning Garry and I noticed how much nicer service staff were, how civilized the highways and how clean and well-maintained public areas looked. Not a bad undertone for the trip.
In nine days Garry and I had five ski days on four mountains, witnessed multiple sunrises and sunsets in some of the best light I’ve ever seen, cruised around Lake Wanaka in a vintage tiger moth, stopped the car for road shots more times than I can count and jumped out of a perfectly good plane.
All this while photographing and sharing our experiences online. If you’re thinking of “doing” New Zealand then here are my top tips.
Ski! There seems to be a mountain to suit every type of skier in New Zealand and I should know after skiing family favourite Mt Hutt in Methven, boutique Roundhill in Lake Tekapo and Lake Wanaka options Treble Cone and Cardrona.
On the South Island everything is so CLOSE, we didn’t drive for more than a few hours in any stretch and we set up camp in Christchurch, Methven,
Lake Tekapo and Wanaka. I would definitely recommend hiring a car or campervan and getting to as many spots as possible.
Sightsee! Sightseeing is easy in New Zealand just open your eyes! Ha-ha.
In all seriousness I found all of the locations I visited extremely scenic and I am someone who has been to a lot of scenic destinations.
Some highlights for me included Taylor’s Mistake in Christchurch, the Rakaia Gorge (do the Jet boat tour), Lake Tekapo including stargazing at the Mount John Observatory, Lake Pukaki and the entire shore front of Lake Wanaka, especially that Wanaka tree!
Adventure! There are adventures for all ages in New Zealand from snow tubing at Tekapo Springs to a bi-plane adventure in Wanaka to skydiving in a number of locations. (I jumped in Wanaka).
In all scenarios I found the staff to be extremely competent with safety a number one priority.
Watching Garry jump out of a plane for the first time was a trip highlight for me, especially since it was my fourth jump.
Eat! If you love to eat then you’re in for a real treat in New Zealand! I am notoriously fussy with restaurants having been a chef for 15 years and now a vegetarian.
I can’t think of a single instance where I was unhappy with my meal! Some highlights included Café Primo e Secundo in Methven (home style meals, great coffee and all in an antique store), Run 77 in Lake Tekapo (for the love of god eat the caramel slice!) and Francesca’s Italian Kitchen in Wanaka.
Just trust me on all of these, I know my food.
Relax! If all of the above sounds absolutely exhausting then you’ll be happy to hear that there’s lots of relaxing options in winter too.
My all time favourite was Tekapo Springs with their three thermal pools of varying heat, super awesome after a day on the slopes.
I also found the Wanaka tree a great place to sit and relax, I would have loved to have a picnic there.
Finally it always pays to ask the locals what’s going on, in Methven we were invited to go ice-skating on a natural ice rink fringed with fairy lights and crowded with eccentric locals.
My nine days passed in a flash and I’m already looking forward to my next trip to New Zealand.
As much as I love winter I really want to experience Autumn, Spring and Summer in one of my new favourite countries. Ah damn it, just move me there and I’ll be happy!
Even though I have been incredibly lucky to be able to make a career change from chef to travel photographer, I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s necessary to make your own luck.
So that’s exactly what I did when I approached Tourism Finland and asked them to hire me.
Cold pitching, as I call it, can be intimidating to anyone. It’s especially daunting when you’re involved in new media.
But fortunately for me, Tourism Finland was keen to have me visit.
I wanted to photograph wild bears, see Lapland Finland and find out exactly what huskies do in the summer.
We developed an itinerary that would show me the best of Finland, with a diversity of regions and activities.
Finland has always been of interest to me, yet it’s not a place high on most people’s bucket list.
I decided I would attempt to persuade more travellers to visit by trying a new style of photographing destinations, telling a story piece by piece to uncover exactly what makes a place so special.
As with my first trip to Canada, I now get lots of comments about how much people loved my photographs of Finland.
I believe this because of my genuine love of the country, how well-suited the itinerary was to my style of photography and the freedom I had to explore and shoot as much or as little as I wanted.
Like most creative people, photographers thrive on freedom and trust. Visit Finland gave me both in spades.
Did you know about the Sámi people?
Finland is home to an indigenous population known as Sámi and these guys know how to party.
On Midsummers Eve, under the midnight sun – jet lagged to the eyeballs – I joined a Sámi pop concert in Lapland.
The energy and vibrant atmosphere inspired me to make it my mission to shoot some Sámi portraits.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to look much further than my guide.
On my second day in Inari-Saariselkä Lapland, I took a midnight hike up Pyha-Nattanen.
In Lapland’s midsummer, the sun never sets but it does get quite low and produces beautiful light at around midnight.
We set off on a meandering path through the forest. In Finland, the locals often use the expression “in the nature”.
I loved to wander around “in the nature” and was especially impressed that there’s nothing at all that can kill you out there.
When I think of the things that surprise and delight me about a new destination, it’s often the simple things that locals take for granted.
In Lapland, many Sami families own reindeer.
To a local, seeing reindeer is ordinary and can be annoying when they hog the road. But for an Australian, reindeer are magical.
They conjure memories of feeding Santa’s reindeer at Christmas time and childhood stories. This guy was the goofiest animal I’ve ever seen and I fell in love with him.
Husky Love – The beautiful Lady Grey
Without a doubt, my favorite Finnish experience was visiting Tervahovi cabin with Routa Travel in Wild Taiga.
In 24 hours, I met an entire pack of huskies, took a traditional sauna complete with vihta (bunches of birch leaves for skin stimulation, hehe) and slept in an old cabin with two warm dogs on my bed.
I am an animal lover and this was such an heart-warming experience. My host Aki was so obviously proud and caring of his pack.
The sauna, the lake, the jetty
For the Finnish, there’s nothing else that represents summer more than a lake. And spending summer at a lake house is a national pastime.
In Finland, people spend many happy hours alternating between a steamy sauna and the cool water of the lake.
At Tervahovi cabin, there was a traditional wood sauna right by the lake. It was the perfect spot for long relaxing afternoons.
Fields of Flowers
I’ve travelled to many destinations that promise summer wildflowers but never in the summer time, until Finland.
I had my head out of the car window like one of the huskies just panting for the roadside flowers. Later, I found something even better, a field of waist-high wild flowers as far as the eye can see.
Yep – A bear
Did I mention I saw some animals in Lapland Finland? It’s a little-known fact that many Finnish operators run bear-watching tours close to the Russian border.
You are served a massive meal before being holed up in a bear hide where you spend the entire evening watching for bears in the forest.
From the warmth and safety of these forest cabins, you can view and photograph wild bears through camouflaged holes in the walls.
How close did I get? Close enough to hear them breath!
And I didn’t forget to mention that Finland has squirrels too. I love them!
India is a destination that has enticed and enthralled me for ten years, ever since I read Gregory David Robert’s epic novel “Shantaram”.
People I know came back from trips to India full of stories of exotic markets, palaces and forts, intriguing people and a staggeringly rich culture and history.
Yet, my trip to India was the biggest culture shock ever.
I discovered India for myself – at last – and I did it differently to how I ever would have expected, for one I was working as a travel photographer, I went on a group trip!
Intrepid believe in giving a balance of activities and free time so you can get out and find your own adventures like I did here with one of my travel companions.
You see I’ve always considered myself a pretty savvy and adventurous traveller, bravely throwing myself into the public transport system of Bangkok, eating street food with my hands in Bali (that one landed me with salmonella) and poring over well-thumbed copies of Lonely Planet to research the latest scams.
After all, why do we travel if not to experience new cultures and otherworldly craziness?
I didn’t need help, you see. I was a strong independent female traveller. And yet I took the job because I really wanted to see India and I read some great literature on Intrepid’s travel philosophy.
Why not, I thought, let’s see what this group travel fandangle is all about.
Wow! What a trip. Imagine a cool destination with great sights and a wicked itinerary and now add in a group of like-minded travellers and minus 99% of the stress of navigating a new destination and you’ve basically got an Intrepid tour.
Our guide was not only experienced and professional but super cool, I gave him the nickname “Indian John Travolta” because of his swagger and confidence on the streets.
At times he felt like my dad and at other times another cool travel companion, the perfect mix!
Learning about local ways helps to prepare you for sights you might not be used to seeing at home, like stray dogs.
Having a guide, and a local guide at that, made the everyday challenges so easy.
I didn’t have to think about how much to pay for public transport, what is safe to eat on the streets (no salmonella this time around), who to tip and how much, what is fine to take photos of, the list goes on and on.
One of the other things I loved about the tour was that Intrepid pride themselves on ethical and sustainable travel practices and this includes educating their customers on the destination.
The itineraries have plenty of time for you to do your own thing but they’re super flexible so you can all stick together if that’s what you want.
I travelled on an “original” tour, Intrepid’s mid-tier standard, and I found the accommodation and activities absolutely fine. (And believe me, I’m accustomed to some pretty luxurious travelling, ha-ha)
I loved experiencing the same tourist sites that the locals visit, such as the Agra Fort in Agra.
Let’s talk about India!
I did the Golden Triangle route, which takes in Delhi, Jaipur, Karauli and Agra.
Delhi was the first culture shock it’s so busy!
Our fearless leader Badam successfully navigated the group through old Delhi, the spice markets, delicious street vendors and the public transport system.
This is not an easy feat with eight clueless tourists in tow but I always felt confident and perfectly safe.
Travel is all about experiencing and there’s no greater experience than laying eyes on something for the first time.
Jaipur was such a fun stop because we not only explored ancient forts but we also caught a Bollywood movie, the best of both worlds!
In Karauli we experienced rural India and had the pleasure of being swamped by curious children during afternoon prayer at the temple.
Finally, we reached Agra and saw the Taj Mahal, possibly the coolest structure I have ever seen.
I never felt rushed throughout any activity, there was always time to digest and enjoy the trip.
Indian food won me over on day one; if you’re a vegetarian like me you won’t be displeased!
If you’re like I was and want to experience India, or any destination really, I would recommend considering Intrepid.
My job is to take pictures with no obligation to verbally endorse my clients but I have felt compelled to spread the word since I came back.