Reflecting on the Life of a Traveling Model: A Look at Five Years

By: Abby DivDate: April 7, 2020

It's been five years...

Five years of travel. Five years of photography. Five years on the road. Like most things there is a beginning, middle, and eventual end. With the historical landmark in my traveling career, instead of ending I've decide to pivot. Do not worry, though, change is not bad.

The decision to retire from travel in 2020 was long time coming. The last five have been a roller coaster from a completely unknown startup to somewhat familiar name in the independent circuit. Fast-forward to today and it is normal, stable work. It is easy forget, though, that the choice is not the typical one. Nor is someone yelling your name down a subway corridor because they recognize you online.

Based in New York City, I had the unique challenge that public transit is widely available in the most densely populated city in the country. To have a car is not necessary for most day-to-day activity. This is not the case in the greater continental USA. Americans are used to stepping outside of their houses and directly into a car.

The logistics challenge to become a national touring model required, therefore, use of an unpredictable means of transportation, both on the ground and in the air. The network of planes, trains, and buses has covered most of the continental USA since mid-century when the Eisenhower administration established the national highways (thanks tenfold Dwight). But some areas have no means of transport i.e. not even a bus goes there.

Looking at the long list of trips, interesting trends in the data started to appear. Being a creature of habit, this did not come as a challenge to parse. Major transportation hubs like Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco were common on the list of destinations. Less populous locations like Santa Fe, Little Rock, and Jacksonville were less frequent and correlated directly with photographic activity.

What did come as a challenge was turning the data into insight, as there were so many points of interest. There were many variables to consider in making a tour: namely margins, hosting, and accessibility. Over the last five years I have taken nearly 100 tours, all of them were data-driven. There was no random blindfolded pointing at a map, although I would like to think it could have been that easy.

While no lover of buses, they accounted for over half of transportation on the trips. I would certainly have chosen to fly any day, but budgeting made ground transportation more attainable, especially at the beginning. This changed as time progressed to a point where routes become further and the desire for comfort trumped the cost savings.

I am often asked what is my favorite location to visit. This is a particularly difficult question to answer as enjoyment can be found almost anywhere if there are the right conditions. A different way of seeing it is what do you need to be comfortable. I traveled to Washington DC over 25 times in five years. It was close, convenient and the studios were well-equipped. Austin was also high on the list with almost a dozen visits, all of which included a stop for authentic BBQ.

As traveling became more routine, territory also expanded to regions at further reaches of transportation networks. Tours in the southern United States increased by 33% while tours to the Midwest decreased by nearly 40% during the three years, 2017-2019. The Northeast, the region closest to NYC within a three hundred mile circumference, remained consistently a third of total routes. The West received the least frequency though with only 10% of trips.

So what is next? It's a continuation of the creative journey to new NYC-based ventures. The focus has shifted to the study and exploration of sexuality. Le Sex Lab, an experimental media lab founded in 2016, started as an event series. Propelled by the series' success, it is expanding to explore the market's most innovative products, topics, and trends.