Around the World in 80 Shots: the Journey of a #Petaluma Travel Nerd

When I stand on the deck of a ship all my problems, all my worries, all my fears simply float away. This Travel Nerd leaves them behind with wake.

I’ve always loved water and especially the sea; I learned just how deep that love runs when I studied abroad with Semester at Sea in the spring of 2012. The voyage took me to 11 countries on three continents and, despite the stress that comes with finding your way in a country where you can’t even read the alphabet, let alone speak the language, and the constant lack of sleep, it was the happiest and freest I’ve ever felt. As written by John Francis in his book, Planetwalker, “There is a certain freedom to walking and pilgrimage.”

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The four months I spent circling the globe and studying aboard the MV Explorer (Semester at Sea’s ship at the time of my voyage) certainly was a sort of pilgrimage. It taught me more then I can possibly put down here, and absolutely more than the rest of my education put together. I know it’s probably the most cliché statement one can make about study abroad, but it’s cliché for a reason. When you’re tossed into a part of the world you’ve never experienced before, and especially with people you’ve never met, you not only get the chance to see yourself clearly, you get the chance to let go of yourself. I stopped thinking about who I was and simply got to be. I was too busy to worry about anything more than catching the right bus, finding my hotel, and simply experiencing everything I possibly could.

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It was on Semester at sea that I also reinvigorated my love of photography. Armed with my then six-year-old DSLR, I did my best to capture the feel of the places I went and the people who lived there. While I saw incredibly beautiful things; the Amazon River at dusk, the sunrise hitting Table Mountain in Cape Town, and colors across the towns and cities of India; I also saw things that were terribly sad, such the shantytowns of Brazil and the results of Dioxin—still present in the youth of Vietnam. These sights strengthened my resolve to not only be a journalist, but to also spread knowledge and do good things with my career.

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As a Petaluma native who went away to college at University of Oregon, my experiences of life and people were wonderful even before Semester at Sea, with memories of hiking in the redwoods, driving out to the coast at 5:00 a.m. to watch the sunrise, and eating some of the best food you can find at local restaurants. Those memories will never change or become any less important no matter how many places I travel to, but traveling did open me up to new ideas and new ways to think about and see the world.

After graduating from UO I’m back in my old hometown, which is as lovely as ever, working odd jobs and doing photography for local publications, but now I have two homes. Petaluma will always be home but even now, roughly four years after the start of my voyage, going to the ocean still feels like coming home—every time.

TurtlesYou can find more of my photo and video work at my website,, which I created myself using Weebly. There you can also find a bit about my travels, as well as gear I recommend for both photography and travel.

Positively Petaluma Welcomes Visual Journalist Ashley K. Collingwood

Ashley Collingwood ResizeWe would like to introduce Ashley K. Collingwood an aspiring Petaluma journalist to our team of contributors. She earned a Bachelors in Arts Degree in Journalism at the University of Oregon. In 2014 she was in the top 10% of her class and recognized by the National Honor Society for Journalism.

Ashley Collingwood Resize Sunflower


Ashley is a visual journalist, photographer, videographer and graphic designer. This makes her a great fit for what we are trying to accomplish and that is to capture and share great things going on in Petaluma.  When she was a Petaluma High School student she is noted to have contributed to Teen Life blog in The Press Democrat.

Please join me in welcoming Ashley to our team of contributors and look for her articles in the very near future.

For more information about Ashley click here to go to her website.