Jordan Hammond is one of those enviable full-time travellers. If you’re on Instagram, you’ve probably liked some of his photographs without even realising. He’s got 306K followers and a cracking eye for a picture. But he’s not always been an Instagram sensation.
This week, TLE caught up with the Dover-born photographer to find out a little bit more about his life post-Instagram stardom.
Tell us a little bit about you?
I’m Jordan, a 25-year old freelance travel photographer from sunny Dover on the South-East Coast of the UK. I shoot for a wide range of brands in the travel industry and get to travel full-time with my partner.
How did you become so big on Instagram?
I actually started taking photos when I moved to China in 2015, as a way to document what I was getting up to so I could show my family and friends back home. I posted my photos once or twice a week on Instagram to my 600 or so followers at the time, and they started to get shared around a lot as they were of remote places in China that the Instagram community hadn’t really been exposed to yet. As time went on, and my followers began to grow, I realized that all I cared about was taking photos, and so decided to try and make a career out of it. I guess the rest is history!
What did you do before you were an Instagram sensation?
After I graduated from university, with a degree in Marketing and Advertising, I worked at my local tourism board back in the UK as a digital marketing assistant, before packing that in and moving out to China with my girlfriend to teach English there. That was honestly the best decision I have ever made, and without moving to China, I probably wouldn’t be taking photos today.
Where was the first place you visited outside of your native country?
My first holiday outside of the UK was to Spain when I was around three-years-old with my family. I don’t remember much of the holiday, but Spain has always been a place that remains close to my heart.
What do you like most about visiting new places?
I love arriving in a new place and feeling completely lost. I like the challenge of travelling, particularly to more remote places, when it’s difficult to get around, find restaurants, organise transport etc. That, for me, is the reason I travel. I also love learning about the local culture and being able to photograph that and share it with a community of people that may not otherwise have known about it. And of course, the food.
How many countries have you visited?
I think I’m currently on about 40 countries. I’ve spent the last few years predominantly in Asia, so often revisit countries again and again. I’m really looking forward to heading to some new places later this year.
Where is your favourite country?
China. Always China. I’m probably biased as I spent a year there working and exploring the country, but it is one of the most diverse and beautiful places I’ve ever been. From the desert to the jungle, the mountains to the mega-cities, China really has it all. I also love how untouched it is by Western culture, and that because it is a difficult place to travel, it makes it more worth it.
Where’s the worst place you’ve ever been and why?
I can’t really pinpoint the worst place I’ve ever visited, as I’ve had pretty positive experiences with everywhere I’ve been so far. I do, however, have a love-hate relationship with Rome, as it is just so busy and the tout culture drives me mad. I’ve had a few bad experiences in India too, but it’s somewhere I really want to go back to, so couldn’t say it’s the worst place I’ve been.
Is there a city you consider your second home?
Chongqing, the city we lived in China is definitely a second home to me, and it’s great to go back and visit every now and then when we are travelling China. We have recently moved to Bali as we spent a lot of time here last year, so I guess that feels like our third home.
If you could visit anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
That’s a very difficult question! I would probably say Bhutan. It’s a country that not many people know about, but apparently has some of the happiest people and most beautiful landscapes, so I’d love to see it for myself.
Tell us about your best experience on the road?
My best experience has got to be taking my dad, sister and brother-in-law on a two week trip through Western China in 2016. Our itinerary was jam-packed, and we used only public transport, so my family definitely got a feel for what it’s like to travel through the most remote parts of China on a budget. At one point, our bus broke down for six hours in the middle of grasslands in Northern Sichuan. Whilst waiting for it to be fixed, we noticed a young calf who had been separated from the herd. My sister decided to try and take it to the nearest farmhouse to see if they could get it back to the herd, as it would have died without its mother. She carried it for 2km to the nearest house, and I will never forget the look of the local Tibetan family as they opened the door to see (probably) the first Western people they’d ever seen, holding a calf and trying to explain in broken Mandarin that the mother had gone. I hope we will go down as a myth that is passed down through the generations there!
Tell us about your worst travel experience?
My worst travel experience was probably getting food poisoning in India. Getting food poisoning is never nice, but it seems to feel 10 times worse when in India. Three of the four of us were sick for 24 hours straight, all sharing a bathroom, and it put us off Indian food for the rest of the trip. We were also in India during the time that the government demonetised 80% of their currency, so queueing to withdraw from an ATM for hours and hours on end was also not ideal.
Have you had any near-death experiences whilst travelling?
I (luckily) haven’t had any near-death experiences, but I’ve been in some pretty stressful situations. For example, our motorbike tyre bursting whilst driving 80km on a highway in Bali was pretty scary. I also got chased by the police in China for climbing up a bridge to take photos at night, but I guess that was my fault.
What has travelling taught you about yourself?
Travelling has taught me that I actually enjoy a change of scene often, which is something that most people get tired of after a while. It’s definitely also taught me to learn to enjoy transient relationships – we meet so many people when we travel and it is impossible to stay in contact with everyone, so I think it’s important to enjoy the time you do spend together, rather than worry about how to stay in contact in the future.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about quitting their job to travel the world?
Do it, but have a back-up (whether it be money, a job etc) in case things don’t work out. There’s absolutely no better feeling than packing up and setting off on a journey with no end-date, but for the majority of people, travelling will inevitably come to an end when the money runs out, and so going home to nothing can be pretty difficult. If you are willing to put in the time and energy to sustain a job whilst on the road, then great, but know that it’s not as easy as you may think and so have a back-up just in case.
Follow Jordan’s adventures:
Next workshop: https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/pwbjourney-jordan-jordhammond