The new issue of PhotoLife Magazine and Photo Solution Magazine (Quebec) is out now! It features my latest article, which includes some of my favourite images from the Canadian Rockies and Iceland. I also reached out to a couple of my favourite Alberta-based photographers (Kyla Black and Olivier Du Tre) who also have images featured within the article. Check it out on magazine stands across Canada and subscribe! https://www.photolife.com/
This is not an advertisement for travel insurance companies. I am not affiliated with any insurance company. This is just simple advice you need to hear. An alarming number of people go abroad without any additional travel or health coverage. Worse, some go without any at all. This is insane, because travel insurance that covers up to 100% of your medical expenses and travel interruptions is cheap. Whether you simply need to reschedule or cancel a flight, your hotel is overbooked, or you have an unexpected medical emergency, the top travel insurance providers offer plans that cover you. Usually it’s only around $70-100 a week for coverage. I always buy insurance, but never had to use it until last fall when it saved me hundreds of thousands in medical bills.
Here’s the story:
The Time My Pancreas and Gallbladder Tried to Kill Me
I was visiting my family down in North Carolina during the Thanksgiving holiday. I was looking forward to having some good southern food again (food that does not exist in Western Canada). On Thanksgiving Day, I had a growing pain in my upper right side. It started out dull and grew worse. I didn’t get to participate in the Thanksgiving meal. I just reclined in a chair in the corner near Grandpa’s wood burning stove trying not to groan too much.
That night I was hurting a lot. I was nauseous. My Dad took me to urgent care in the morning. The doctor told me I’d be okay with some meds. My gallbladder was acting up, but he thought I’d be okay to travel back to Canada by taking proper medication and avoiding fatty foods. Later that day the pain got much worse and I was vomiting. The pain in my guts was sharp. My folks took me to the emergency room. The rest is a bit blurry, especially after the morphine hit me (which barely helped the pain and made me feel loopy).
I still don’t know how many days exactly I was in the hospital…4, 5, 6 days? At some point my wife came down from Canada. All I really remember is watching Friends reruns on the hospital TV, complaining to the nurses that the pain meds weren’t working, and having occasional visitors. I ate nothing for several days. Apparently my gallbladder was inflamed, but the worst part was that my pancreas became inflamed as well. That was a more serious issue. They simply couldn’t remove my gallbladder until my pancreas was stable. That took days.
I had the surgery, was discharged the next day, had my first meal in a week, and began the recovery process. I cancelled my return flight to Canada and stayed with my parents in NC for the next few weeks until after Christmas. My activities and diet were limited, and I was still in pain from the surgery for several weeks after.
Eventually I began to feel normal. While in recovery I mostly played guitar, but managed to get up the strength to go out and photograph a bit on the nearby beaches. That was therapeutic.
So, Yeah…You Need Travel Insurance!
Needless to say, that was not a fun trip. Luckily, as I normally do, I purchased travel insurance through World Nomads before the trip. My wife contacted the insurance company to start a claim while I was in the hospital. The insurance covered my medical bills, which were very high. The travel insurance reimbursed me for all the medication and doctor visits and covered my hospital bills and all expenses related to treatment (like the MRI, ultrasound, follow-up appointment, meds, etc.). Ultimately, the insurance saved me almost $200,000 USD in medical costs. The insurance plan was only $100; that’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. Had I not purchased the travel insurance, it’s unclear whether my Alberta Health Plan would’ve covered much of my stateside medical expenses (likely not). I would have been responsible for thousands and thousands of dollars in healthcare costs if I hadn’t spent that $100 on travel insurance.
It’s ironic that I enjoy free healthcare in Canada, and that my first hospitalization happened in the states, but I am happy that I was in a place I was familiar with and had my family there to help me through it all. If I’d been in another country, things would have been more complicated and stressful. So, make sure you get travel insurance that covers the cost of trip cancellation and interruptions, but also covers any possible medical situations as well.
I’d recommend World Nomads, but there are other reputable options out there, so you can shop around, but wherever you go, don’t leave home without travel insurance!
How on earth can I be a photographer, especially a “travel” photographer,
and not own a vehicle?!
About 8 months ago, my wife and I drove our beloved 2016 Jeep Patriot through the Canadian Rockies and central British Columbia all the way down to Seattle, Washington. When we arrived in Seattle, we immediately sold our car to a dealership, absolving ourselves of a few more years of loan payments. We spent a couple days in downtown Seattle, then flew back home for a small fraction of the cost of gas to drive from Alberta to Washington. The drive down to the states took most of two days, but the flight back took 2 hours.
Why did we drive all the way to Seattle to sell a car when we live in Canada? Simple really. It was a U.S. car we bought when we still lived in the states. Once I got permanent resident status in Canada, I was required to “import” the car (even though it was already in Canada). This meant driving it back to the states and going through a complex and very expensive exporting/importing process, then having it registered in Canada. I estimated it would cost about $3,000 in fees. It was also very possible we wouldn’t be able to import it at all because we still owed several thousand dollars on it. So, instead, we decided to sell it and settle our debt. The reason we sold it in Seattle is that a dealership there offered us a much better price than dealerships in Montana (the nearest U.S. state to where we live).
Originally, we thought we’d buy another car in Canada not long after selling ours. I thought not having a vehicle would hinder my photography work. I thought I’d miss the “freedom” of having my own wheels. What I discovered over the next several months of not owning a car is that it hasn’t affected my work much. Sure I can’t just drive to the rockies on a whim, but otherwise, I’m not missing out. Honestly, I don’t miss having a car much at all. Before we sold our car, it just sat in our parking lot most of the time, especially during winter. It seemed ridiculous to be making monthly payments, not to mention paying for insurance, gas, maintenance, etc, for a car that only gets used a couple times a month. That money could be spent in better ways.
Pros of not owning a car:
No car payments
No insurance payments
No registration/inspection fees
No buying gas
We significantly lessen our environmental impact
Never worrying about parking
No repairs/new tires/oil changes
We get more exercise by walking
Walking and public transit are statistically safer
No stressing about traffic
Cons of not owning a car:
Hard to haul things that are too big to carry
Walking in winter conditions is tough
Public transit is not exactly world-class in our city
So how do we get around? We can walk to 99% of the places we need to go. We are centrally located, my wife works only a few blocks away, and we’re surrounded by all the grocery stores, shops, restaurants and other conveniences we need. We live in a pedestrian-friendly city with limited, but decent, public transit (it’s also pretty bike-friendly, but we’re not bike people). If it’s too far to walk, we use the light rail. If the train doesn’t go there, we get an Uber. When I need to get out of the city and into nature, I rent a car. I added up all of our transportation costs for the last 8 months (including car rentals), and they pale in comparison to what we’d have spent owning a car. We’ve literally saved thousands.
I’m not saying I’ll never own a car again (or that this is a practical way to live for everyone). It has disadvantages, but the cost savings are just too good to pass up right now. We have very little debt, and I hate owing money. We’ve looked at cars and considered buying outright, but the thought of all that cash and savings going away at once makes me feel uneasy. I’d rather hoof it and use the savings for travel and other ventures instead of owning a car.
I’m happy to announce that I finally have a selection of my work in the Saatchi Art store. Fine art prints of my photographs are now available in various canvas and print sizes. There are framing options available as well. I will be updating the portfolio frequently. Please take a moment to browse the current selection of images by clicking below!