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Cliff Roles with Kadri and Anu Tali relaxing at a fish pub after a day of touring Estonia. Photos courtesy of Cliff Roles.
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 4 years ago

Where are they?: Photographer takes flashy trip abroad

by: Mallory Gnaegy A&E Editor

A walkabout is typically an adolescent male’s nomadic excursion into the Australian bush for up to six months as a way to connect to his Aborigine roots. For 60-year-old photographer Cliff Roles, it was a solo two-month traveling trip to visit places he’s never been. Mostly, he just wanted to prove to himself that he could do it.

On July 20, Sarasota became a little quieter when the beloved Brit, known to gallivant around Sarasota’s black tie and community events while wielding a camera, left town. But, for his 3,543 friends on Facebook, things were about to get exciting.

Roles set off with a backpack containing two shirts, two underpants, two socks, a Ziploc bag of toiletries and his camera bag (he’d stop for new undergarments, socks and T-shirts at every third town along the way). His starting point was his nephew’s wedding in Malta. He had two photography gigs along the way, all the way down south in Israel for The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, and all the way north in Estonia for Sarasota Orchestra.

He’d visit places everywhere in between (and collect a refrigerator magnet at each new place). Roles would go three days without talking to anyone and he says you develop certain paranoia when traveling alone.

“I would have gone insane without people on the other end,” he says, speaking about his Facebook friends.
He’d put up a photo from his day and instantly receive an encouraging response from one of his friends.

The highlight of his trip, or “a most memorable day,” was getting to spend time with Anu Tali, the new music director of Sarasota Orchestra, and her family in her hometown, Tallinn, Estonia. She took him on a tour of the town, including a glass-blowing shop where she blew glass for Roles. She also showed him where the Germans used to have fortifications and stood with machine guns to prevent people from fleeing to Finland.

“It’s lonely,” he says. “It’s daunting, definitely exciting. You don’t have to worry about anyone or anything; you can get up in the middle of the night and work, or be your own master and do what you want.”

He returned home to Sarasota Sept. 11, tired and, as he says, “feeling like a 75-year-old.” He missed his wife, Maria, and his cockapoo, Sam. He proved he could do it, and he’s already decided on his next walkabout: Alaska, Australia and New Zealand.

But, for now, he’s still recovering from the first one. “That’s a wrap, Sarasota,” he says.

By the numbers:

53 — days of travel
18,000 — miles traveled
1 — camera (Nikon D4 with an AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm 1:3.5 to 5.6G ED VR lens)
15 — countries visited
23 — cities visited
2 — shoe insoles purchased
12 — flights taken
3 — ferries taken
20 — hotels slept in

Places visited: 

- Malta
- Brasov, Transylvania
- Sicily
- Santorini, Greece
- Heraklion, Crete
- Telaviv and Jerusalem, Israel
- Sofia, Bulgaria
- Warsaw and Krakow, Poland
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Bucharest, Romania
- Vilnius, Lithuania
- Riga, Lativa
- Tallinn, Estonia
- Helsinki, Finland
- Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin, Germany

To see all the photos from his walkabout, visit, and to see a full map of his journey, visit

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