I am beyond grateful I get to photograph intimate destination weddings and elopements all over the world. Besides traveling for photography work, exploring new places with my husband has become a big part of our marriage and something we want to continue for the rest of our lives. My husband’s grandparents are our biggest idols. They have spent over 50 years married, traveling the world together, continuing to explore new places together. Their passion for traveling has led them to occasionally taking their entire family on vacation, most often to an exotic beach of their choice; a tradition we hope to be able continue one day in their honor.
Traveling in general is extremely inspiring and a great way to reset as a creative, particularly while hiking and camping. There is nothing quite like earning a breathtaking view, which is the biggest reason landscape photography is my guilty pleasure while traveling!! Being alone with nature and constantly breathing in the fresh air is a reminder to enjoy simplicity. It is a much needed reminder of what is truly important in our lives, versus everything we are distracted by on a daily basis. I would choose hiking a mountain over exploring a city any day. It is the one space I can completely disconnect from the rest of the world.
During dinner one evening, my husband and I were entertaining the idea of places we would like to go hiking and camping, and we both happened to mention Zion National Park. This lead to looking around for cheap flights and next thing we knew we were booking flights out to Vegas, (roughly a 2.5 hour drive to Zion) for the following month. We had nine days to allot to traveling around out west. As soon as we landed we rented a car and headed to our first stop, Bryce Canyon, then circled around to Zion National Park, followed by Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, & the Grand Canyon.
We decided to alternate between camping in the national parks and staying in hotels. Camping is always our favorite, you can’t beat cozying up next to a campfire and sleeping amongst the stars. It can also save you a ton of money. We find it best to alternate between the two for both ease and convenience. We picked a hotel right outside of Zion National Park for our first night, which allowed us to reorganize our camping gear and get a good night's rest for the strenuous hikes ahead.
We camped at Zion a couple of nights, as well as Lake Powell, and the Grand Canyon. Lake Powell was definitely a unique place to camp. Tons of SUVs and campers line the beach at Lake Powell where you can get a permit to park and camp overnight. On the weekends almost everyone in attendance is relatively local. I recommend renting an SUV or Jeep for this. Because we were in a sedan, we were unable to park our car directly next to our tent along the beach.
Zion is magnificent. It truly feels like you are in another world. I was convinced a dinosaur might cross our path at any given moment. We planned three extremely different hikes in Zion. Two strenuous hikes, Angels Landing and The Narrows, as well as a backcountry hike, The Subway (bottom-up), which required a permit. Angels Landing is known for it’s steep drop-offs and it’s chain linked fence which helps you complete the steepest and most treacherous part of the hike. The views at the top are spectacular and well worth the effort to get up there. The Narrows is a wading hike, you are anywhere from ankles to waist deep in cool water through the entirety of the hike. While I can honestly say we enjoyed each hike’s challenges, The Subway was by far our favorite.
A late summer thunderstorm led to crazy flash flooding while we were in the park. The day before we were to hike The Subway Trail, 7 people died after getting stuck in a flash flood while on the trail. Although they had started the trail in the opposite direction, and the weather seemed to be fine the day of our hike, we were still a little skeptical about continuing with our plans. After compulsively checking the weather and asking each and every park ranger we saw their opinion on the matter, we decided to follow through with our original plans.
The Subway hike requires a backcountry permit and has a limited number of slots available (typically no more than 20 per day, it is best to reserve your spot as soon as possible). These trails are typically less populated and not as well marked; the way we wish every hike could be. It was a full day hike to The Subway and back with lots of stream crossings and rock hopping. At the end there were several small pools which lead to a small cave area. You had to completely submerge yourself in the frigid cold water in order to get to the smallest cave area with waterfalls. My husband stripped down to his boxers to do it, but I decided to opt out on that adventure!! He claims it was well worth it.
There are a lot of tricks and tips to being able to travel more frequently without always breaking the bank. I am by no means an expert, but one of the most substantial of these is getting a credit card that earns you flight miles. Most award you initially with anywhere between 30-50,000 miles you can use or save up, which can typically get you a couple domestic round-trip flights and/or one international round trip flight.
Another great way to travel while being money conscious is to keep an eye out for the deals. I am subscribed to multiple airlines’ email newsletters and catch wind of some of the lowest fares. For example I just so happened to hear about an amazing flash sale Delta was having on flights to Europe in mid-November through a fellow photographer friend of mine. Round trip flights were going for around $400, less than it would cost to get me a round trip flight across the United States. Luckily my husband and I were already hoping to spend a couple of weeks in Europe next year, so quickly planning a rough itinerary was manageable. Hours after we heard about the deal, we successfully booked two round trip flights to Europe for next year for less than $950. So crazy. Next year we will be traveling through Italy, Switzerland, & Germany.
The best piece of advice I can give to those wanting to travel more is to have some flexibility and a little spontaneity. If you always have your heart set on going to specific locations, on specific dates, you are less likely to be able to take advantage of any great travel deals. If you truly want to see the world, don’t keep putting off your adventures.
Susan is an intimate destination wedding and elopement photographer, currently based in the mid-west. Her soul is ignited by creativity, intimacy, and fearless adventure. Aside from taking photos and traveling to new destinations, she enjoys hiking, camping, & rock-climbing with her husband, as well as dreaming up new business ideas and connecting with other creatives.
To view more of Susan’s work, visit her here.
My husband and I craved some sun and sand for our honeymoon. We wanted to go on an adventure together, to come back with an awesome experience and not go on a “standard" honeymoon. We were able to settle on Cuba.
The turquoise waters of the Bahamas, the dramatic Rocky Mountains, the vistas of Iceland- endless romantic images pop into our minds when we think of destination weddings. And that is why, almost every wedding photographer at some point wants to give them a go.
So we’re going to tell you how to find them, book them, and prep for them.