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Joseph Spaid

After decades of creating special effects for film, tv, and advertising I chose to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional travel guide – a dream that was inspired by a realization my mother had while she and I were traveling together in Italy. My first step was to get ITMI-certified. That was followed by two years of careening across the US as an Adventure Travel Guide leading budget tours for young Europeans. These were extremely demanding, high responsibility trips, but they allowed me to learn countless destinations while accruing a huge amount of cockpit hours very rapidly.
Like many guides, I eventually assembled a roster of relationships with companies in multiple travel categories. I now work in Luxury Adventure, Round-the-World Travel, Musical Performance, and Photographic Tours. That last category is a particular delight because it allows me to combine my professional knowledge of photography with the passion that got me started as a guide in the first place: To be at cause in the matter of people seeing something new for themselves for the very first time. You know, those “Aha Moments”.
I’ve now led Photo Tours in Kenya, Galapagos, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Cuba, Scotland, Iceland, and all over the United States. While running Photo Tours I hold a series of practical workshops where, in a addition to covering the technical aspects of photography, we spend a good deal of time talking about Ways of Seeing. We examine point of view, perspective, narrative, and the relationship between photographer and subject. Experiencing a destination quite literally through a lens is a wonderful catalyst for seeing things in an entirely new light. Like I tell my guests on tour, “Just because you’ve identified a subject, that doesn’t mean you have a great photograph. What is it that you want to say about that subject? What’s your point of view? What can you add? What is the story you’re telling?”. Exploring those questions is where visual magic – and the personal discovery – happens.
It’s wonderful to see my guests grapple with ownership of their photography while I get to witness their visual acumen building into a confident, consistent point of view with a style all its own. It’s especially rewarding when guests return for second and third trips, and begin to develop an inspiring level of mastery… over their own perspective.
Honestly, when I first left TV for the travel industry, I feared that I what I wanted to do was nothing more than a pipe dream; an unrealistic goal that would never really pan out. What I’ve discovered is that I was actually born to do this work, and that my clients love working with me. Five years into this career, I have plenty of deeply rewarding work, and regular repeat clients.
As a special effects artist I had a dream job. Now as a travel guide, I’ve traded up to the job of a lifetime. Thank you ITMI for giving me the tools to fulfill my dream of combining two great passions – photographic excellence and contributing to people – into a thriving career that takes me all over the world.
Oh, and that realization my mother had in Italy…? Here’s a very short video about that:

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