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Friday Feature - Max Gonzales

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

This feature Friday highlights a friend of mine I made while traveling in Colombia. We met in Medellin and ended up being roommates during a three-week Spanish-salsa-yoga retreat in Cali, Colombia. He's a skilled photographer and an avid traveler. I asked him some questions about himself and his lifestyle.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

My name is Maximille Gonzales and I am from the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up playing a lot of sports, music and spending the majority of my time exploring the outdoors of California. I went to UC Santa Cruz where I continued to swim competitively, studied fine arts, and discovered my love for photography. My love for traveling came when I decided to travel after graduating.

I met you in Colombia but can you tell us a little more about your travels? Where did you go and how long were you gone?

Growing up in California made it easy to fall in love with a sense of adventure. I've traveled, hiked, and camped all over California. I even took a seasonal job leading adventure road trips all over the US for foreign travelers, which allowed me to see a lot of the states. My first international trip was to Oslo, Norway back in 2013. I extended my original trip from 2 weeks to 3 months, where I covered most of western and central Europe. When I returned to the US I quickly established my new routine: work, save and travel. Since then I have backpacked around Europe for a total of 9 months and have been to 30 countries. When I first came to Colombia, I had the idea to spend 2-3 weeks there before making my way to the rest of South America. Five months later and I still hadn’t left. The food, landscape, people, and warmth of the country left me breathless. Colombia is by far my favorite county yet and I will be most definitely be returning!

How long have you been doing photography?

As a child, I had always liked to take photos with my dad’s camera. I couldn't afford a more professional-grade camera until after college. I quickly fell in love with capturing all the moments, amazing places and beautiful people I have been lucky enough to experience. I bought my first camera in 2013. I have been freelancing since 2016 and I continue to sharpen my photography skills daily.

When did your passion for travel start?

After graduating from college, I was drowning in student debt and was working an unhealthy amount. My mindset was set to work in industries I am passionate about; swimming, outdoors, health, wellness, and working directly with the public. But as many know, there's not much money to be made in these industries and every career path I took was beginning to look like a dead end. In 2013, I was working and freelancing seven jobs simultaneously. I went more than 6 months straight without a single day off. I broke. I had to do something. My mind was telling me to leave the country, meet people who don’t speak my language, figure something out. Go to places I’ve always wanted to go to. I bought a roundtrip ticket from Norway to Paris and my perspective completely changed. There’s no way to put it into words. This feeling is something I knew I needed in my life. I extended my return flight 3 times and went to places I had no idea existed, met amazingly inspiring individuals, and experienced cultural traditions that would reshape my life in ways I never expected.

What are some of your favorite things about photographing while abroad?

As cheesy as it sounds and as much as I like to get those stunning shots in foreign countries, the reactions of friends and family will always inspire me to shoot while abroad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in trouble with my mum because of the places I went to or the sketchy, dangerous things I’ve done while globetrotting. Many of my friends don’t understand why I chose the nomad life (really, it chose me). People question why I risk going to dangerous places or to countries where the only suitable form of communication is hand gestures. I love adventure and photography captures the rawness and authenticity of my travels.

Have you been able to use your skills to travel and/or be location independent?

Luckily, I have found my photography quite useful while traveling abroad. Typically I’ll collaborate with hostels to shoot some hospitality style photography in exchange for accommodation or restaurants in exchange for meals and drinks. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet locals and other travelers and shoot beautiful portraits and adventure shots for their personal use. Having a portfolio ready has led me to everything from shooting behind the scenes for a Bogota local rapper to connecting with families who will take me in for multiple nights while I capture portraits as my payment. Pushing a skill like photography allows me to be free from restrictions; there are no limits as to where I can take this skill.

Traveling for long periods has its ups and downs. What are some of the negatives and positives?

The positives are endless. I love meeting the locals, finding the hidden gems and experiencing the city or country as the locals do. The negatives are the real deal. The things people always leave out on the IG or blog. Maybe you’ll hear about the little mishaps, an airline switching your window seat to isle, or the Airbnb host was late to deliver the keys. But you don’t often hear about the scares of losing your passport, getting your phone robbed at knifepoint, bed bugs, missing the last overnight train in Poland and having to sleep outside the station because all hotels and hostels are completely sold out. (True story.) But these situations are what make you strong. They make the positives truly worthwhile. Do your best to stay safe and travel efficiently but always keep the chin up because, with every lost phone, a new beach is close by.

If you could buy a plane ticket tomorrow where would you go to?

Cuba for several I’ve always wanted to go, the architecture, the positive vibes of Latin culture, the music and salsa. I’ve studied Cuban salsa for 2 years and would also like to continue practicing my Spanish. As a photographer, Cuba seems like a dreamland with the colors, classic cars, and Cuban smiles of the locals.

What’s some of the best travel advice you have received and/or you can give?

Roll your clothes when packing, it saves so much space! Ok, no. There isn't one thing, so here’s a few of my must do’s when traveling: Try to learn the basics of the language. Locals will adore you for simply trying and it’s a sign of respect to their culture. Don't forget your hat, sunnies, reusable water bottle, and cutlery. Talk to the locals, ask them for advice on what to do and see. But most important, soak in the adventure. Things happen that are often beyond your control. Don't fret the setbacks and turn that coal into a diamond.

Some of the most beautiful aspects of traveling are the people you encounter along the way, the friendships you create, and the memories you share. I'm thankful to have crossed paths with Max and love these Friday features because they showcase people uniquely navigating through life. It sheds light on the endless paths we can choose to take and celebrates creating your own way of doing things. Thank you, Max, for sharing a bit about yourself and your journey.

Be sure to check Max out, below are some links to get linked!


His travel company website:

Photography website:

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