Meet Julie Lovegrove, a professional photographer with a passion for travel and a mission to combine them both to help us improve our photographic skills. Here Julie shares how volunteering in Africa sparked her love of solo travel, her top tips for solo woman travellers starting out in mid-life and her own solo travel style.
Tell us a little about yourself and what’s your mission?
I’m a 58-year-old professional photographer who specialises in photographing women and babies. That’s the day job. However, my passion is travelling abroad and recording those travels with my camera. My mission is to expand on this to do two or three trips a year and take others with me. The main emphasis of those trips would be to concentrate on improving their photographic skills as we go, with some dedicated ‘classroom’ sessions followed by plenty of practical practice.
Why are you passionate about this?
Whilst I seemed to be a natural at capturing great moments and scenes, it took me a LONG time to learn the technical aspects of how to get the best out of a camera. I had to be drip fed information from my very patient husband, but if I was in a situation with other photographers I lacked the confidence to ask questions for fear of appearing stupid or not knowing what I was doing. I want my clients to be able to enjoy a ‘judgement free’ trip where everyone is supportive and like-minded and feels l that they can ask for help over and over until they ‘get it’.
Did you have to change anything in yourself or your situation to be able to go down this path?
I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to start the process, and the first step was actively telling the manager at a volunteer lodge in South Africa that I’d like them to consider me as a photography tutor. The next step was less than a year later, saying ‘yes’ to three months working there, leaving my husband and 17-year-old daughter at home. Repeating this on two more different occasions gave me the confidence to start organising and leading trips myself.
Tell us about your solo travel adventures and how you got started travelling solo.
My husband and I like very different experiences, and as we work together (so are together all the time) we decided that we should each go and do the trips we want rather than compromising all the time. It was actually my son who got me started on going alone, as he found a volunteer project in Zimbabwe that he thought I’d like. Despite it being on a Gap Year website and me being convinced that I’d be the oldest one there, I went and absolutely loved it. After that, I knew I’d do a lot more on my own, and must have done over 10 volunteer projects where I’ve not known anyone before I went. For me, ‘solo travel’ means that I go where I want, stay where I want, and do and see what I want without having to compromise or accommodate anyone else’s likes and dislikes.
What do you like about solo travel? Dislike?
Ooops, I’ve mostly answered that first one by rambling on above – I like not having to compromise. I also like the new friendships that can be made by meeting like-minded people. I don’t think there is anything I dislike about it!
What are your favourite destinations for solo travel?
Anywhere that has wildlife not found in the UK!
What’s your solo travel style? Backpacker, boutique hotel, resort?
Resorts don’t hold a lot of appeal for me, but nor does a backpacker hostel as I do like my own quiet space. Whilst it’s lovely to have some nights in a boutique hotel, a cheaper place buys me more nights. AirBnB can be great, and I’ve also stayed in very basic volunteer accommodation for extended periods, standing in buckets to shower in then flushing the loo with that water, or only having a hot shower if somebody lit the fire under the water heater. Providing I can get a good night’s sleep I really don’t mind doing ‘basic’.
What do you think are the 3 most important things for a solo woman traveller starting out mid-life?
1: Start with a short trip of perhaps a couple of weeks to see whether you actually enjoy travelling on your own.
2: Get friends and/or family on board with the idea so that you feel you can contact them for reassurance and moral support if you’re having a wobble whilst away.
3: Trust your gut instinct. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation or place, do something about it.
What is your top solo travel tip?
Ignore what you see in the mirror; don’t be scared that younger travellers won’t want to know you because of your age. If you integrate with them you’ll often be pleasantly surprised.
Have you had any solo travel disasters you’d care to share? Anything learned from that?
No disasters luckily, just inconveniences such as luggage not arriving until a couple of days later. Even if I don’t have a connecting flight when things are most open to going awry, it’s best to pack a change of clothes and a couple of pairs of undies in the hand luggage. Another couple of ‘near miss’ inconveniences have been due to not having enough transit time at international airports – immigration queues and security checks can be SLOW, and in order to make my connection I’ve had to be tough and queue jump on several occasions whilst apologising profusely to other passengers!
Do you prefer to keep visiting the same places or do you like the adventure of somewhere new? Why?
I’ve been back to the same place in South Africa several times for work, and because several of the staff are always there it feels like my second home. For holidays though I like to go somewhere new – there’s a big world out there with a lot still to see!
What’s your view on eco-tourism and overtourism? What can we all do to help?
There are SO many supposedly eco-tourism holidays available. In fact, I just Googled the term, and had 33,500,000 results! The trouble is that they are not all doing ‘what it says on the tin’ and we can help by doing a lot of research into possible choices before booking anything.
A good example of a trip that balances eco-tourism and overtourism very well is seeing gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda. Visitor numbers are strictly controlled with a finite number of very expensive permits issued. The habitat and wildlife is therefore preserved and the money goes into the local community.
Regarding overtourism, the world is much more accessible these days and we see fabulous destinations on social media such as Instagram and Pinterest etc. This can result in there being far too many tourists in certain places, yet it can also work in a positive way and redirect travellers to other destinations that they would not have even known about previously. If we really want to go somewhere massively popular, we can help by going outside of peak season and spending our money with the locals rather than a big hotel or food chain.
What one thing do you want the readers to know/remember?
It’s never too late to learn a new skill and if you can do it whilst having a great experience then all the better. If photography interests you then do get in contact and tell me where you’d like to go. As you’ll have gathered I’m particularly passionate about Wildlife, but am open to all ideas.
Julie has a travel blog full of photos here: https://juliesadventures.co.uk/
You can contact her here: https://juliesadventures.co.uk/travel-with-me/
Like my Facebook page Deborah Ives, Solo In Style or join my Facebook group Solo In Style: Females Over 50 Travelling Solo & Loving It
You can follow all my travels on Instagram