Monthly Archives: August 2014

One of Seven & the Big Six-Oh

Strong wifi is a bit of a rarity here in Zimbabwe. So while I’ve got it I thought I’d provide a brief update on my travels in lieu of the normal, full-fledged posts of witty, brilliant travel insight that I usually write.

Yesterday morning my wife and I visited Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world (I’ve been to three others as well: the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, & Harbor of Rio de Janiero). The face of the falls totals about a mile in length, so it is impossible to capture the whole thing in one shot, even if there wasn’t so much mist in the way. Like everything else I’ve experienced in Zimbabwe, this was far better than expected. My advice for seeing the Falls is the same as for seeing the country: just come.

After touring the falls, we took a tour of the Victoria Falls Bridge built some 109 years ago. To do this, we had to enter into Zambia which is now the 60th country I’ve visited so far. Walking the catwalk allowed us some more great views of the falls and the impressive Batoka Gorge which it straddles. Again, pictures just don’t do justice to what the scene is really like. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

So that’s it for now. This morning we’re off to Botswana because I’m ready for number 61.

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Categories: Destinations | Tags: , , ,

Confessions of A Luggage Anorexic

What weight limit?

What weight limit?

I remember the days when the only weight I had to worry about was my own. Now, due to unbundling and surcharges courtesy of the airline industry, I’ve become a luggage anorexic. And it’s not images of thin suitcases that have me paranoid. It’s the sometimes hefty fees that loom over me like a cobra waiting to strike if I’m a milligram over the limit.

Yes, I know the basic principles of aviation as well as physics. I know that more weight equals more fuel equals greater costs to the airline. But can anyone deny that there isn’t at least some (read: almost completely) attempt at boosting profits here?

I know there are those who were ‘abusers’ before the nickel and diming began. My youngest sister would check in a suitcase that could comfortably house an immigrant family of four on several trips, so I get where the airlines are coming from. But that doesn’t mean that most people would do so, and by most people I mainly mean me.

The worst case I ever encountered was on the budget airline Virgin Blue. My flight from Cairns to Sydney had a stop in Brisbane with a change of planes. Not only did I have to pay excess baggage fees for being past their weight limit of 12 ounces (slight exaggeration) but they charged me again when I changed planes! So to avoid (unsuccessfully) this absurdity, I opened my suitcase and began stuffing all my pockets with balled-up clothes and souvenirs (If someone asked: “Is that a digeridoo in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” I could honestly respond, “It’s a digeridoo.”).

That sort of weight-related trauma eventually morphed into a paranoia. Now I try to re-use as much clothing as possible, hoping for a laundromat onsite at my destination, not only for my comfort but for those seated next to me. I even closely calculate the number of pairs of underwear I bring, since I know my wife would never let me flip them over and use the other side. And if push comes to shove I’ll drop them in the trash and go commando if it means I don’t have to pay another $75.

Air travel was supposed to be about escape, adventure, and the good life. Now I’m reduced to gutting my bags and fighting the temptation to eat an entire cheesecake so I can gain a few pounds just to spite the airlines. So if you’re seated next to me on a flight and I smell a little ripe, have pity on me, and just know that my name is Ben and I’m a luggage anorexic…and most likely I’m not wearing any underwear 😉

Categories: Anecdotes, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , ,

How To Make Your Travel Photos So Interesting That People Won’t Paint Their Toenails

Keep "selfies" to a minimum

Keep “selfies” to a minimum

Invariably, when I’m about to leave for a trip, I get all sorts of advice from my friends and family. Be safe. Have fun. Call me when you get there (usually just my parents). And of course: Take lots of pictures.

 

While all are well-intentioned, that last one always seems to me to be a bit of a platitude. It implies that anyone who tells you that actually wants to see the aforementioned ‘lots of pictures’. And while I’ve found that there are a select few who would like to see ‘some, but not a lot’ of your pictures—regardless of their quality—the majority are content to skip the slideshow portion of your trip review in favor of doing something more interesting, such as painting their toenails for instance.

 

I can understand where they’re coming from. The last thing anyone wants to do is spend an hour looking at snapshots of other people having a great time, eating great food, or taking a selfie in front of something famous that you haven’t been to. Travel photos bring out the inner narcissist in all of us, and while we might find ourselves the most interesting thing in the world, others usually don’t feel the same. Therefore, the trick, I’ve found, is in how you present your travel photos, and I’ll briefly rundown the key elements to keeping people interested.

 

It’s Not All About You

 

Keep the subject interesting, such as here in Chinchero, Peru

Keep the subject interesting, such as here in Chinchero, Peru

Yes, as hard as it is to believe, what you saw, what you ate or what you stood in front of is of limited interest to others—even those who love you. So when taking “lots of pictures” be sure to include some of scenes that would be of interest to others: particularly striking landscapes; interesting locals; architectural nuances; funny signs and things of that sort. Ask yourself if what you’re taking a picture of is something you would want to see when others show you their photos, and you’ll have a general idea of what works and what doesn’t. So please don’t take this the wrong way, but that picture of the ham sandwich you had for lunch just ain’t going to cut it, so please spare us. (That goes for Instagram as well!)

 

Edit Yourself

 

In the age of digital photography, technology has freed us from the limitations of traditional film. No longer are we hesitant to snap off multiple shots for fear of using up our remaining rolls. Gone are the multitude of small black canisters with the gray tops—each holding a precious roll of film that may or may not contain the images we hope for. However, such technology is both a blessing and a curse, because with an endless amount of shots available, there’s the tendency to take–and here’s the problem–keep, more shots than are reasonably necessary. So if you take a shot and see that it is blurry, crooked, photo bombed by an oblivious pedestrian or anything else that means you or someone else would have no interest in looking at it, then please, trash it. I know your electronic storage device has more than enough space to preserve that shot of the armrest of your chair when you accidentally hit the button, but the age-old adage applies: Just because you could, doesn’t mean that you should.

 

It’s All In The Presentation

 

Showcase your best

Showcase your best

Now that you’ve made sure to keep your subject matter interesting and have culled your thousands of jpegs, it is time to go through your photos once again and move the best into a separate file. At this point, you can use any one of a number of online photo services to create your trip’s ultimate showpiece: the photo book. With leaps in print-on-demand technology, you can now create your own printed and bound hardcover book for about the price of having prints made and stuffing them in a three ring photo album. While there are some variations, most will allow you a number of options that allow you to customize your cover, mix and match templates, backgrounds and borders, as well as add captions and special effects. My own personal favorites are http://www.winkflash.com and http://www.snapfish.com. Either way, handing your audience a beautifully bound book with your own artistic flair is a whole lot more interesting than pulling out your smart phone and swiping for twenty minutes.

 

I know that I’m in the rare minority of people that actually do want to see other people’s travel photos. But even then I have my limits. So keep it interesting, choose your best shots, and present them well. Otherwise I’m going to go paint my toenails.

 

Do you have any advice to keep your photo albums interesting?

Categories: Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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