I purchased quite an expensive digital camera and objective (200 mm) a few months ago, and it has helped me tremendously so far to just get out on every occasion I have and take photographs of everything - from buildings to people to wildlife to nature to airplanes (plane spotting). It also somehow distances myself from my environment.
Equipped with this camera I feel confident and detached from my surrounding. Having the camera is like the ultimate legitimation to get up and close. Also, people around you start to worry they might look stupid if they accidently appear on one of your shots, which gives me a little relieving schadenfreude :P
It simply feel (concerning SA) safe behind my camera. It also allows me to trespass virtually everywhere (I am kind of an urban explorer) without raising eyebrows. People just assume I was taking photographs legitimately.
E.g. on one occasion someone took a street that was closed for cars in the forest (protected area even), and when he spotted me, he was extremely worried I might take a picture of his license plate - as I looked like working for the forest service (GPS in my hand and all) :P
Only thing missing is a shirt saying "PRESS". ;-)