Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To Worm a Book?

Setting out on your adventure, you can decide to bore through some wood pulp of a book or write your own along the way. Do you want to trod in the footsteps of those who have gone before you, or discover new gems on your own path?

Again (as is my default), it's up to what kind of adventure you'd like to have. Let's break this down, like the group or solo adventure (because let's face it: bringing a book along with you is kind of like traveling with other people too....except it doesn't talk back or get sick on MSG).

Reviewing Texts

With text-in-hand, you can readily prepare for your adventure. You can plot your adventure by using a reference, making sure you hit every point you'd like to hit. This can really save on time, if you're pressed for time (which most people in our Western Culture make themselves). You can eliminate the duds before you even reach your destination and focus on the gems.

Reading some books before you get there can save you money. You can find out ahead of time where the cheaper places to eat and stay are, and where are some of the avoidable adventures along the way ("make sure to charter with Captain Ron - he takes the same path as Captain Sue for 1/4 the cost....and he brings oranges").

I'd also like to suggest that bringing a book(s) about your destination keeps you safer. You can learn what parts of town to avoid, what time you should head inside (if you're going somewhere wild), and some of the local laws you might not be aware of. 99% of people don't like to incorporate jail-time into their vacation.

Lastly, if you're going somewhere foreign, it doesn't hurt to study a bit of language before you get there. You'll find that locals are greatly appreciative of your further interest in their culture, and it just make your journey a bit easier.

Going Text-less

Adventure. Without a map, we're given to the whims of the wind. Without text, you're forced to problem-solve on the fly, to discover your adventure moment-to-moment. This is exciting, but comes with a great level of risk - you don't have the safety net of knowledge of those who have come before you. Like I've hinted, this can be exhilarating as you talk to locals to find good gems, and you have a sense of empowerment as you discover them on your own.

Feel free to do this - it can be fun. Book your flight somewhere and let the local winds blow you. If you're a low-stress person with a healthy amount of free time for your adventure, then this method could work for you.

In My Personal View.....

I like researching destinations. Not because I like planning minute-to-minute, but I like having a general idea of what's available to do along the way and at the destination - so I can pick and choose. And it has also been my experience that no book, local, or website has ever covered everything there is to see and do - there are always surprising gems.

Simply run a Google Search for your destination, and you'll come up with plenty of resources. I recommend taking an actual book on your trip so you can make notes and reference it. You might not always have internet access on your iPhone; and I'm a traditionalist, there's something about crinkled and marked up books that make me smile.

Ive really enjoyed Fodor's to find really interesting places that are a little more expensive, but it's a good write-up.
Lonely Planet is a solid fall-back I like to read A LOT. And they update every year on their destinations, so the information is always good.
Rick Steves is a great guy for European Travel, and REALLY knows his stuff.
As an aside, I recently used this book for a US roadtrip. GREAT book!

Enjoy, and happy travels!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Riding So-Lo or with a Crew?

Whether it's a day at the beach or a week lost in Paris, there's a basic decision to be made: go it alone or bring a travel-mate. There are positives and negatives to both, enriching or absolutely destructive. Some are very tangible....while others, well, even a year meditating in Tibet may not bring easy enlightenment. Here's a quick break-down of some positives and negatives of both choices - solo or team.

Going the Distance Alone

  1. You have the chance to enjoy quiet reflection.
  2. You are independent to make your own decisions, choose when and where to go (within legal constraints - let's be good travelers now).
  3. You are empowered in your independence.
  4. You are more flexible to sudden changes in the environment or travel plans, since only one person's situation is changing.
  5. You'll sound cool when you come home and tell your story - that you were able to go it alone.
  6. You have the opportunity to focus on the exact themes of your trip you enjoy (if you want to visit the symphony in every town you visit, no one will argue otherwise).


  1. If something emotionally or tragically disastrous happens to you, you don't have back-up to call on. Check out the trailer for the new movie 127 Hours.
  2. Missed opportunity. Without a second, third or fourth mind thinking of tons of opportunities, you may miss chances to try new/exciting things you hadn't considered or researched.
  3. Potentially higher personal financial costs, as you're not sharing on rooms, campsites, group-trips, food or gas.
  4. You'll never get to say "can you believe that?" By nature, humans are a collaborative and sharing society (plenty of arguments, please just go with me here). If you're alone, you can't appreciate and analyze experiences with others.

You +1, +2, +3.....


  1. You have someone to appreciate the environment with, to comment and analyze.
  2. If an emergency happens, you've got someone to help you.
  3. There are other brains to help you plan and execute, on your trip, to provide more opportunities to explore.
  4. Shared wallets can lower overall costs on sharable items such as gas, housing, food and group events.
  5. If all goes well in the trip, it's a great opportunity to strengthen relationships with friends, family or partners.


  1. If your relationship is not strong with the person(s) you travel with, and all does not go well, a group trip can destroy a relationship.
  2. If the disaster is large (not just you getting sick on bad food), the well-being of multiple people is now compromised.
  3. You lose the independence you loved of traveling alone: if you are being fair, group consensus must focus on group desired destinations/events.
  4. Naturally, you become somewhat dependent on your travel partners. Making sure they're ready to go or are accounted for; or conversely, you're always catching up to them.

When it comes down to it, it's really about what you want to get out of your adventure. Peace and independence or collaboration and shared appreciation? The journey is yours to decide....unless you share it :).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shoot Your Vacation

When you go on a vacation, whether it's to Auntie Mildred's deviled egg cook-off up the road, or tacking back and forth across the Turkish coast sipping Pino, you want to create some memories. The challenge, when you return, is expressing to your friends, family, and that guy over in HR with the Dwight bobblehead why those memories mean so much to you. So you take pictures.

The problem is, and sadly it always will be, that the pictures will never truly justify the exhilaration of looking out over the forested valley, the feel of salty wind in your hair or the taste of that first pierogie you found on the Spring-laced cobblestone alley. BUT, it's a start, it's something you can launch a story from.

You do not need to be Reza to shoot a great image that captures a wonderful time. Here are a few simple tips for the amateur photographer to capture your adventures beyond the soles of your shoes.

3 Types

I like to break the types of photos I shoot into three balanced categories. You want to mix up the
diversity of your shots to really paint a good picture of what you experienced, and these are as follows:

1. The Texture Close-up
This is a close-up image of something that existed on your journey, and so detailed you can tell if it was dry, wet, rough, saucy, sharp or smooth...maybe even cold or hot, if you're good. This provides alm
ost a visual hands-on of something you actually touched or
experienced...and the ability to engage an extra sense in your viewer when they're actually only engaging one (i.e., they look at something but KNOW what it feels like) is exceptional. (These are hearty salsas at a San Diego open market)

2. The Character
People paint our planet, and it's often the people we share our memories with that make them truly lasting. Whether its a friend, baby, grandmother or someone wearing an INCREDIBLE costume on Bourbon Street, the person is a reflection of our own interest. (This would be a guitarist named "Toasty" at a bluegrass festival)

3. The Scene
The rich jungle, endless ocean, sprawling beach or waving fields of
wheat. When you looked up (or way, way, way down into a canyon) what did you see? Give the whole field of view so we SEE your world. (Bahamian sunset on Great Exuma)

A balance between these three when traveling is great, but imbalance loses the picture. If it's all people, we wonder if you ever ate, experienced art or went outdoors; if it's all scenery, we get no intimate impressions of your personal experience...we feel like an ant in a front lawn; and if it's all close-up objects, we have no setting. Balance, a ying-yang would show.

3 Easy Tips

You don't need to be a shooting master to accomplish these three easy tips to help instantly improve the quality of the pictures you shoot, and avoid shouting, "CRAP!" when you finally get them developed and notice your mistake.

1. Watch Your Thumb
Far too many beautiful pictures have been ruined by a misplaced relationship between a finger and the lens. Check your viewfinder before you click, or at least review after you snap to make sure your digits were out of the way of your digital. (Ruined sunset photo at Burning Man)

2. Charge Your Battery
Overnight and/or bring a spare (same for film and memory cards). You've spent a day at the beach, snapping photos of tanned locals strolling here and there, giant crashing waves and arching palm trees. Then suddenly, a Leatherback baby turtle pokes its head out of the sand, followed by 30+ more, and they make their way to the water in a desperate attempt for survival. You grab your camera to capture this once-in-a-lifetime moment, and you get "out of memory" or no battery. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN. Be prepared if you want to catch the good stuff.

3. Make Friends
All too often we snap and snap and snap and get tons of great pictures of other people and places; but when we go to show others our photo album, they ask "were you on the trip?" Don't be shy to ask people to take your picture with things you REALLY enjoyed, or feel free to set your camera on a level surface and set a timer, and jump in. The race to make it in time is fun and so is capturing that moment of you being there.

Lastly, when you go to compile your album, make it a good story. Story-crafting is hard, so make sure to stick with the highlights. If you try and show everyone EVERY picture you took, they'll get bored (no matter how beautiful it was) and tune out. Highlight a few pictures from each event that REALLY impressed you, varying your shot types among the three, and show off some of your best shots. A short, sweet and IMPRESSIVE gallery is far more memorable then leafing through hundreds of images that feel like WORK to look at.

Those are this week's tips! Happy travels and happy shots!