Let me just start by saying, what a trip… This is the furthest and most I have ever traveled in my entire life. Going across the country for work always seemed like a great time but that word “work,” can really stick with you. All together, this was an eye opening experience for me in every way I could imagine. I had the honor of seeing and experiencing both of these new cultures, yet still after spending about a week in both places, I am happy be home America.
So how was the trip?
Many of you who don’t know me, may not know that I am very into drones. This trip was not something I did for leisure, in fact I risked a lot of time I could have been home working along with a good amount of money to make this trip happen. My life has been crazy the past three years since I started my business with Vin and I am always looking to find new opportunities that can give us a chance to move the business in a more positive direction. I was hired by Choppershoot in Dubai to go on a one week Safari in Tanzania for a company by the name of X Dynamics Global. We would be creating content for one of their new drones, giving them marketing material to help promote their product. I was allowed to bring one extra person with me and since Vin and the rest of the team were busy with some jobs, I decided to bring Martin (Zekedrone) along for the ride because of the passion he has for droning.
Funny that Instagram has done so much for me. I always think about this stuff. I met Martin (Zekedrone) through there, I met Hatim (Choppershoot) through there and I’ve gotten some pretty big jobs and opportunities from there. Instagram has in a way become a resume for photographers and businesses. It’s become easier than ever for people to follow one another to see who does what type of work. After being in touch with certain people for long enough on the platform, messaging them back and forth, answering comments and staying in touch, I found myself lucky enough to be saying I was going on a trip like this.
Diving into things
I needed to make sure I would pack enough clothes and bring all the right materials out there for this project. Since work played a big role in this one, gear was first. I needed to make sure I had all the cameras, drones, memory cards, chargers and accessories to go along with those things. Secondly, a computer and hard drive to keep up with all the content we would be transferring over would be crucial to have. In the end, I was able to pack one bag full of electronics sacrificing some weight to be confident everything was in one place. Big shout out to Polar Pro for the bag I used, it was very durable and easily held everything I needed to bring in an organized way.
Once I had an idea of the gear I was bringing with me, it was time to pack my clothes. This was a bit harder because I had to pay attention to where I’d be and how long I’d be there for. Dubai is very hot a majority of the time, 100 degrees or more where Tanzania would peak around 85 degrees with the sun blaring, yet go down to about 50 degrees or so at night. I stuffed my bag with enough clothes to last the whole trip and after taking the trip, I lost one sweater and ended up wearing pretty much everything I brought aside from a pair of sweats and some boxers. So cheers to me for accurately packing :)
Getting through the airports actually went a lot smoother than expected. My biggest tip for any international travel carrying a lot of gear would be to get there early. Sometimes the gear and other luggage can become a big mess and being organized with it is certainly key.
My favorite airline was Emirates, they seemed to do everything the right way for those very long flights. It was a 12 hour 30 minute trip from Newark to Dubai and 14 hours from Dubai to Newark on the way home. The toughest flights were the ones from Dubai to Kenya then Kenya to Kilimanjaro then the trip back from Kilimanjaro to Dubai at the end.
I have wanted to go to Dubai for so many years. In fact, I actually had a photo of the Dubai skyline on the vision board in my office. To me, Dubai seemed like such an advanced, futuristic place that is constantly growing. Living next to one of the biggest cities in the world, NYC, Dubai was a place I knew I had to visit within my lifetime. At 24 years old, I was able to make it out to this incredible city to see what it’s all about. To be honest, I was very impressed with certain aspects of the city. The architecture is absolutely stunning and they appear to have the ability to build whatever the hell they want. This was my favorite part of Dubai and it really inspired me to make it a goal of mine to travel to places like this with SVP to shoot some of the the amazing architecture that continues to go up.
On my flight to Dubai, I wanted to learn as much as I could before arriving, so I sat there listening to a podcast about the Dubai 2020 expo on the flight there. This did absolutely nothing but motivate me to become something better in this world. With cities like this becoming more and more popular all over, there is endless opportunity for us to travel and create content showing why these buildings are made the way they are.
Aside from all the newer buildings going up, I earned such a high level of respect for Dubai because of how strict their rules are. In NYC, we have some pretty strict rules and regulations yet we still have so much chaos and so many people who break the rules. In Dubai, the rules are the rules and for the most part, everybody seems to know them and follow them very well. As a cultural thing, I thought that was amazing because I just can imagine that system working as well as it does there as it would over here.
After spending six days or so there with Martin, it began to feel like home. We used a lot of our free time to explore the city and take trips to places out there we wouldn’t get to see in the US. Meeting Choppershoot, going on a few jobs with them and seeing their office and gear they use to shoot certain jobs, was something I could never experience through Instagram. I owe a huge thank you to Hatim for making this trip possible and opening my eyes to what my future can hold.
When I used to think of Africa, I really didn’t know what to expect of it. I assumed that like NJ, it would have some parts that are nice and some parts that were not so nice. That was the case, however, their culture and way of life was so different from what I had pictured. It’s a weird feeling being a minority out there and it was also the first times being white actually made me feel like I stood out more than usual. A lot of people would approach the car looking to sell their goods or trade them for other items we had. Here in the US we are not used to haggling but out in other parts of the world that seems to be a common thing for cultures to do.
Landing at the Kilimanjaro Airport, we started making our way to Arusha. We spent one night there before making our way towards the Serengeti where we stayed at another lodge about two hours from the main gate. At the lodges, there was little to complain about and the hospitality was nothing but above average.
As we made our way into the Serengeti, I had to put my full trust in the drivers hands. When I say that we were in the middle of nowhere, I really mean that we were in the middle of nowhere. You literally couldn’t see anywhere that appeared to be a safe place to stay because we were such a small thing compared to the vast area we were in. Turns out Emmanuel was the man. He has been driving these roads and doing tours like this for six years now. So while we would drive endless miles on bumpy, dirt roads in the middle of nowhere, he was the one that got us to our camps and guided us through the parks safely.
Staying in the Serengeti was something I had to adjust to quick. This wasn’t a hotel where we spent the day relaxing by the pool and sitting on our phones. It was a place for us to sleep and clean up for the day to come. The showers were manual, meaning that every time we wanted to shower, we would have to ask so they could bring over a bucket of water to pour into our shower. From there, you would turn on the water to rinse off, shut it to apply your soaps and all, then turn the water on to finish washing off.
Charging our gear was one of the hardest things to do, especially because of all the gear we brought to take care of the work we had to do. As far as electricity went, inside the camps in the Serengeti, they had lights but you could not charge anything inside the tent. The only place to charge was typically at the lodge but only during hours that solar electricity was available. We are so lucky that the car had a power strip and that we were able to use it charging throughout the day. If it weren’t for the truck having that, we wouldn’t have been able to get much done.
My favorite part about this whole experience was the fact that it was planned out so well. The trip had its ups and downs for sure but for the most part, having a schedule really kept us on track throughout the trip. From the day that we got there to the day that we left, everything was planned out and ready to go.
Each morning we would wake up around 6am to get ready. We would would have breakfast around 7am and pack everything up into the truck by 8am to head to our location for the day. Each day would consist of 1-3 hours traveling to our location, a few hours at that location exploring and seeing the wildlife and enjoying lunch in the park. When we were done shooting for the day we would travel anywhere between another 1-3 hours hours to get to our next lodge or camp we were staying at that night.
During our days on the safari, each camp would pack us a fresh lunch that always ended up being very satisfying. Some of the best things we had were the fresh fruits and vegetables that these places would grow. When we arrived it each lodge/camp, we were greeted by a warm, damp hand towel to wipe down and the staff would show us to our rooms. We would then eat dinner between the hours of 7-9pm and stay up organizing files till around 10 or 11pm when our computers were either be dead or low on battery.
Doing the math we probably averaged out having 15 hour days on some of the craziest terrain I have ever driven on. There was really no such thing as downtime aside from little bit of time we would have at night to use our laptops and cellphones on the slow wifi or service we just barley got. I remember telling my friends and family to check out my stories on Instagram before I left for this trip, but that almost became something that was impossible to do with the service we had out there. So to my friends, family and clients, I apologize for my heavy lack of responding during my travels.
I guess one of the first things I personally need to mention is how fortunate we are here in the US. After getting a taste of both these different places, it’s hard for me to come home and complain about some of the things I do. I’m normally a pretty humble person and like to keep things to myself but that all changes when you experience things for yourself in other parts of the world. Here in America, we are blessed with so much opportunity that living your dream is should seem nothing shy of possible.
As a business here in the US, I realized the struggles of working internationally. Traveling can be very rewarding but when you break things down from a work perspective, everything needs to be done right or a lot can go wrong. Film permits were an essential on this trip along with drone permits to be flying in the parks. Traveling with gear is another big one, I was able to pack light but for future work, I don’t really see SVP traveling “light” with the gear. In order to put out the best work possible I realized the importance of a lot more things than just going somewhere or working with someone. It is more about having a team you can rely on to provide your client with an amazing product that helps them.
This whole trip was one of the best things that has happened to me in a while. I am very thankful for this opportunity and appreciate all the help and support I got from everybody. I’ve always wanted to see travel as part of my career and in a small way, I feel like we will be able to get there :) Here are a few photos from the trip before I share anymore from the project!