Juan Martinez Camargo is a Colombian traveller, photojournalist and blogger. “As a former contributor for Deutsche Welle in Germany and a freelance photojournalist for BBC Travel, I learned that storytelling can make a huge difference in how we all see the world and the impact that we as travellers are doing” — says Juan.
Lac Abbe in Djibouti
Juan, please tell us something about yourself. Who are you, where do you come from and how did you start travelling in the first place?
My name is Juan Martinez and I’m a Colombian living in Berlin, Germany. There I work managing a small online marketing agency, as well as a travel writer and photographer. Travelling has always been a passion of mine. However, my very first big travel was at the age of 18 when I moved to Germany. Before that, I’d never been abroad.
Elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya
You are a brilliant photographer. You make a masterpiece even from a simple location. What influenced your development as a photographer?
I grew up watching Anthony Bourdain, and other big travelers and reporters for networks like National Geographic and BBC Earth. I always had a fascination for travelling and unlike many kids who grow up wishing to be football players or singers, I wanted to become a person who travels for a living.
Completing 100 countries with a Colombian passport in Eswatini
Which traits of your character help or interfere when travelling? Tell us about your personal travelling style, please.
I think it is important to keep calm at all times. Travelling can be very rewarding, but also very stressful if you don’t control your emotions. I’m a person open to any situation and every encounter, good or bad, is taken by me as an opportunity to learn.
The more I learn about wildlife, the more I can predict uncomfortable situations. The scariest encounters I have had, have been due to misinformation or not having the knowledge to understand how to behave with a certain species. The same goes for difficult places or in dangerous cities – the more I understand my surroundings, the more comfortable I feel.
Alps in Liechtenstein
Could you share some travel stories with us, the ones that got stuck deep in your head and heart?
My favourite stories have not been about a place but about its people.
One of my favourite anecdotes was in Cairo, Egypt. I was going to have a 5-day layover before going to Ethiopia and I was researching things to do in that country while on my flight. Shortly after my arrival, I remembered a man that I met 5 years before who went to Ethiopia and got amazing photographs. I contacted him on FB and asked him how to get there and with whom he talked.
After a quick chat of pleasantries, we started to catch up. He informed me he was in Cairo arranging a visa for Sudan. We were not only staying in the same city, but we even booked the same hotel.
This experience showed me how small the world is.
A Touareg in Mauritania
What is it about the travel that gets you excited the most and what keeps you going even when it is tough?
I get excited when I see something new. My job brings me to the most remote places in the world and there is nothing more magical than seeing the wonders of the earth. I become very emotional while photographing a tribe dancing when I have an animal encounter with an animal I’ve never seen before, or seeing a landscape that simply leaves me speechless.
Driving from Djibouti to Hargheisa in Somaliland
How did you change as a person since you started travelling?
I learn to understand how life is not white and black. It is not always good and bad, but hundreds of shades of grey. I learned to hear both sides of the story and to try to sympathise with everyone I encounter.
Uyuni in Bolivia
Which culture/country is the closest to your mentality and which is the most alien? Why?
I’ve been living in Germany for almost half of my life now. My Colombian friends considered me a fake Colombian and my German friends tell me I’m a fake German. I guess I have influences from both countries and I call them both home and the closest to my heart.
On the other hand, I feel very distant from my Colombian roots as well. There are behaviours that are simply too far away from me but are considered very normal in Latin culture. I feel that I belong to South America, but at the same time not.
A friend and I watching the stars in the Namib desert
Tell us about not so popular but valuable places to visit in your motherland.
I would recommend the region where my father is from, Cesar. It is one of the most underrated places in Colombia. I never understood its beauty and cultural importance until I went there on an assignment for BBC Travel and was able to talk about my own family. It was a very personal piece for me and let me appreciate more where I’m coming from.
Me in Masai Mara, Kenya
What are your most recent trips and your travel plans for 2022?
I’m writing this interview from Rwanda (March 2022) and in the days after I will be in DRC and Burundi. Furthermore, I will be in Mali and Burkina Faso in June and my favourite project of the year will be an assignment where I will join on a mailboat in the Bahamas and learn more about the lives of those who deliver mail in this country – a different kind of Bahamas trip, I guess.
Melgar in Colombia
Finally, our signature question – if you could invite any 4 people to dinner, from any period in history, who would your guests be?
Anthony Bourdain, David Attenborough, Barack Obama and my grandfather who travelled a lot in his youth as a Navy officer.