A rather nondescript door wouldn't you say? A simple Arabic design surrounded by a whitewashed wall. But an important milestone in my life. This was one of the first photographs I ever took overseas.
By the time I reached Africa I had already been to most of Western Europe with my parents, taking a year and a half off school to caravan it around. So I already had the travel bug but this was my first big trip away alone - a nine month adventure through 'the dark continent' from north to south.
Ever since I was a little kid I'd dreamed of visiting Africa. All I really knew of it was from David Attenborough documentaries and books on African wildlife. I still have memories of my parents waking me up in the middle of the night when I was a very small boy to watch a documentary on cheetahs in our little house in Norwich, England - at the start of our 18 month sojourn around Europe.
Now here I was with 145 rolls of Kodachrome slide film in my backpack (yes it was bloody heavy! but nice and cool in the middle of all my clothes) and my first town was Asilah in Morocco. I didn't end up taking many photos in Asilah as the day I arrived in Africa I phoned home to give my parents the good news, only to be told my beloved grandfather had just passed away. Excitement tinged with sadness, but happiness because I knew he would have been proud of me following my dreams.
Over the next nine months I saw so many incredible sights, ate so many incredible foods and discovered so much about not only Africa but myself as well that at the end of it I was a different person. The things I had captured on film (well hopefully - I didn't get them processed till I got home!), I was dying to show other people. To give them a sense of what I had seen, how amazing this planet really is.
I think at first my desire to travel and photograph was purely a selfish one. I wanted to see and do everything, meet everyone, photograph it all. But gradually as I came towards the end of my trip I changed. I wanted to share these images with as many people as possible. Maybe it was (and still is) idealistic of me but I really believe that the more we know about each other the more we break down those barriers of racism and misunderstanding.
So sitting on my parents loungeroom floor going through 145 rolls of film and sighing with relief when a lot of them turned out, (whether they were good or not is another matter mind you!) I resolved to show them to people. I had no intentions of being a pro at this stage so I organised the dreaded slide shows. I took my friends and family on trips to see the gorillas in Zaire, the Serengeti National Park, the top of Kilimanjaro and a little green doorway in Morocco. And that was, and still very much is, my motivation for being a travel photographer. To show a little bit of the world to other people and try and impress on them how amazing it all is, and how similar we all really are.
Why am I telling you all this? I had an experience a couple of weeks ago which really confirmed in my mind that I'm doing the right thing. As regular readers know I have two small boys, both of whom go to parties for their friends. I was at a party a few weeks back (it's taken me this long to calm down) where I was forced to sit for 30 minutes listening to a whole lot of bull&$%t about how bad this country was, how awful these people were and how our country was the best and couldn't be beaten blah, blah, blah. And try as I may, and protest as much as I could without ruining my son's friend's birthday party I couldn't get through to this person. And I thought if I could sit this person down for an hour or so and show them my images from all those countries he ridiculed maybe, just maybe, I could help change his mind.
And that, dear readers, is why I do what I do and why I would encourage you all to do the same. Rather than keep your travel pictures on your hard drives, offer to put on a slideshow for the local camera club, give a talk to a local retirement home or put on an exhibition. You don't need to be professional, have photographs that could win a Pulitzer or have taken them on the latest big megapixel beast. You need to be passionate about the things you have seen and be willing to share that passion with other people. And that's how we travel photographers can change the world one person at a time!