- December 16, 2019
Executive: Colette Eddy, 71, is the president and founder of Tampa-based Aerial Innovations. The company captures a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on in Florida, using planes, helicopters and drones to provide aerial photography and video services for clients. Those images and videos are then used for things like marketing materials or documenting a project’s construction progress. Eddy doesn’t spend as much time in the air these days as she once did, but the longtime photographer still enjoys meeting lots of different people and watching how the state keeps changing. “We get to see the growth in Florida,” she says.
Diversion: Traveling. Eddy has visited 88 countries so far and would love to hit 100. “Travel is an addictive experience that just opens your mind,” she says.
Next stops: Eddy has a trip to Uruguay and Paraguay on the books for April, a journey she was supposed to take in spring 2020. She’s been to Uruguay before — “They have beautiful beaches there and it’s extremely modern,” she says — but this would be her first visit to Paraguay. If she’s able to check that off her list, the only South American countries she hasn’t visited yet would be Venezuela, Suriname and French Guiana.
Tell the tales: One thing Eddy loves about traveling? The stories. She’s been locked in a bathroom in Marrakesh, met a shaman in Bolivia and had monkeys ransack her room in South Africa. “What I love about travel that makes it highly addictive are the people and the stories that come with the adventures and the uncertainty,” she says.
Future destinations: Eddy hopes to attend the Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia and visit Greenland. A recent 60 Minutes piece also introduced her to Fogo Island, offshore Newfoundland, Canada, and Labrador, a remote spot with a long fishing heritage now home to a unique new inn. “That put Fogo Island on the map [for me],” she says.
Successful setup: To get the most out of your travels, you have to approach it with the right attitude. “You can’t go in there pretending you know everything,” Eddy says. “You have to go in there with a mind that’s open like a kid’s and go, ‘Oh, look at this.’ It’s a potpourri, in a sense, that you can either grab from or you can be a grouch about it and not experiment with anything and leave with a bad trip.”
Past highlights: Places like Bhutan, between India and China in the Eastern Himalayas, and Easter Island, in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, stand out. “I did hike Kilimanjaro, and that was mentally challenging; the mountain will test you within all of your limits,” she says. Reading an article about goat racing in Tobago in the New York Times once inspired a somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip to the Caribbean island. “That was unbelievable,” she says. “The goats were the size of ponies and they had jockeys that ran beside the goats. The prime minister showed up, and everyone was smashed on island rum. It was insane, but it was goat racing in Tobago!”
Must-pack gear: “You get very ritualistic, because if you’ve done this enough, you just know what to put in a bag,” Eddy says. One must-bring for the photographer? A small Lumix camera with a Leica lens. “That goes with me everywhere,” she says. Other must-haves include running shoes, travel socks, KIND Bars, lip balm, a wrap that can be used for warmth and dozing and a nightlight (“because you never know how dark a place is going to be”). Black clothing is also a versatile option. “You never know what you’re going to spill on you, and black covers up mostly everything,” she says.
Safety matters: Eddy takes precautions to stay safe when traveling, whether that’s letting others know where she is in the world and when she’s expected back or checking the credentials of a potential driver she might encounter in a destination. “As a single woman traveler, you can’t be stupid,” she says. “You have to vet people you don’t know.”
Remember the good times: “I’m always taking pictures, and then usually I like to bring one thing home,” Eddy says. A favorite souvenir: a little alpaca statue she bought during a trip to the Atacama Desert in Chile. “I look at this thing every day now, and it reminds me of the good time we had in the Atacama,” she says.
Close to home: During the pandemic, Eddy has rented beach cottages in spots along the Gulf Coast and explored Florida a bit. That’s given her a renewed appreciation of her home territory. “We’ve got some beautiful stuff right here, everything from our beaches to our parks to our waterways to our restaurants,” she says. “Sometimes when you’re doing all that international travel, you have a tendency to forget that we also live in paradise.”
Lingering effects: Eddy says her travels help spark creativity when she’s back home. She’s inspired by the different colors and other elements she observes in the places she visits. “I’m a visual person; that’s my gift,” she says. “So just the colors of the markets [in different destinations], that gets me jacked up. I make sure to hit a market in every city I go to.”