I've come close to using my frequent flier miles and cash to go to the Central African Republic. In the end, I knew it was prohibitively expensive, extremely dangerous, and without the proper mindset, who knows if I would make it back or not. I'm always thinking risk-reward and going to Africa without ample funds is like going fishing without bait. What good is taking a trip if you're chance of making it home alive is piss-poor?
A few months ago I thought of going to Pakistan or Afghanistan. Something about the thought of being kidnapped and then having my head sliced off with a dull knife deterred me. For two months I contemplated going to the Ukraine, only to again decide against it. The Russians despise information gathering photojournalists attempting to tell the world what's going on, and they regularly hand out beatings, and take away camera equipment. I'll take a moderately severe beating but stealing or destroying my equipment crosses the line.
Alex, my oldest son, is now asking to go with me on my trips. I have no problem taking him to safe places but these places are definitely not places I would feel comfortable bringing him. No way. Then it dawns on me—why would I put myself in danger but not him? Granted, he's a young boy, I am not, but I don't want him getting hurt any more than he wants me hurt.
When a man is young, he often feels invincible, or at least that it won't be him. As the years pass and the injuries mount, it becomes crystal clear that life is fleeting and all it takes is being in the wrong place at the wrong time and you're a goner.
I think this is where I am at the moment. I do not have to go to a war zone or an area with conflict. I am unafraid to die, although it is the aftermath, when I'm gone, that frightens me. How will my wife and sons deal with me dying in some faraway land for what amounts to a few thousand bucks? Even worse, what happens if I am seriously injured and I am unable to take care of myself? Do I really want to take a chance that might leave me paralyzed or with a colostomy bag because I wanted to take photos in the wrong place at the wrong time?
A week or so ago I began putting together a plan to go to Israel. This is something I can probably swing financially. A month long trip to Africa would put me in the poor house and the rate of return is probably poor. Going to Israel for two weeks would only set me back $2500-$3000 and the financial return would be decent. But for some reason, and it isn't fear, I have a bad feeling about going there. I am still contemplating buying a ticket to Tel Aviv, but honestly, I'm a bit sick of hearing all the problems around the world caused by religion.
Frankly, the religion a person chooses to follow is unimportant to me—unless they're trying to push it on me. Imagine if religious zealots allowed people to be who they wanted to be and to follow the religion as they see fit. There would be far fewer problems in the world than there are now.
Taking photographs in Klongtoey is tedious and mentally strenuous. At times it can be dangerous but compared to running around the Central African Republic or Afghanistan with a couple of cameras slung over my shoulder, it's tame. This seems to be the story of my life; I am caught in the middle unsure of the path to take. I would like to follow my own advice and make a choice, any choice, but when my life's on the line, the choice becomes much more difficult. Should I stay or should I go? Is the risk worth the reward? Maybe in a few months, with more money and equipment, the risk will lessen and the reward will increase. I don't know, but in the near future, I will make the choice and head off to wherever the path takes me. Doling out advice on women to men who need it is fun but sitting on my sofa doing so leaves much to be desired.