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Q&A | Photo Enrichment Ralph Velasco (Pt 2)

By August 15, 2016 No Comments

In Part 2 of our interview with Photo Enrichment Adventures’ CEO (Chief Experience Officer) we delve into Ralph Velasco’s best travel safety advice, how he made the leap from restaurateur to world-traveling photography guide and where he caught the travel bug.Photo_Enrichment_Tours

If you’re just joining us, don’t miss Part 1 of my interview with Ralph.

When did you start traveling?

My first international travel, other than a few family trips to Mexico as a kid, was a summer I spent in Spain during high school, when I was 15. This was the first trip I ever took without my family, and I just fell in love with Europe, specifically Spain. Needless to say, I was hooked, and the next three summers after that I volunteered in Peru, then Venezuela, and finally studied for a summer in Mexico City.

“It goes without saying, but I always use common sense, and I consciously make it difficult for thieves to get one over on me.”

Where did you get the idea for guided tours?

Ralph and student in Morocco carpet souq

*Photo Courtesy of Lois Brassart

In 2003 I was running my second restaurant in downtown Chicago; digital photography was just coming into its own, and I immediately got interested. I used to go out and shoot just before the lunch rush to clear my head.

My restaurant was in a great part of the Loop, along the Chicago River, so there was a lot to see and photograph.

After a while, I started to think that visitors would love to have a local take them to the best spots around town, show them the most interesting angles, and give instruction on how to use their gear. I realized; however, that the questionable Chicago weather was probably not the best place to start this type of business if I wanted to do it year-round.

Soon after, I sold my restaurant and moved back to Southern California, where I could do photography year-round. I started teaching travel photography classes and offering one-on-one walking tours and instruction at night and on weekends.

Then came full day trips, weekend trips to Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, and four-day weekend trips back to Chicago to show them all the great places I knew, and they loved it.

Not long after I added international trips, starting with the Central European Christmas markets, but soon added Egypt, Cuba, and Spain to my portfolio of locations.

Now I organize and lead international trips exclusively. I’ve added Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico’s Copper Canyon, Tuscany, the Adriatic, Iceland, Morocco, Romania, Turkey, Central Europe, the Baltics and others to the above list.

Ralph’s top five travel safety tips

Traveling with expensive camera equipment requires some street smarts. Ralph shares his favorites:

  • It goes without saying, but I always use common sense, and I consciously make it difficult for thieves to get one over on me.
  • I don’t flash the valuable items I’m traveling with, like my camera, computer, iPad, mobile phone, passport, cash and credit cards.
  • If I’m sitting at a café or at the airport I’ll latch my bag’s shoulder strap around the arm of the chair, or put my leg through it.
  • When in public (on a plane, train, restaurant, etc.) I only take valuables out when I have to, this way no one knows what I’m carrying.
  • I never leave anything of value out in my hotel room for anyone to be tempted by, and instead I lock everything up and put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. I don’t need the maid to come in every day to turn down my bed, put a mint on the pillow and provide fresh towels. I think it’s safer if they don’t do these things and aren’t tempted, plus I truly believe it’s better for the environment if we reuse towels multiple times to conserve water and detergent.

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