Whenever the topic of my upcoming travels come up in conversation, I always get asked- “But how do you afford it?”. I wish I could sit everyone down and explain that over the years, I’ve spent money frivolously, in the pursuit of happiness without ever actually understanding why that money spent never filled the void of meaning and purpose in my life.
In February of 2016, I had a revelation. I had just purchased a desk, a mirror with LED lights, and spent $300 on makeup to build myself a new makeup vanity. I was so incredibly excited and after it was all put together- buyers remorse hit me hard. I sat at my vanity and looked at myself in the mirror- this was not what I really wanted. I’ve always wanted to travel, and yet I always made excuses as to why I couldn’t. I always quieted my bursting soul, saying: “you’ll go once you have the money”. That’s when it hit that I was never going to have the money if I continued to purchase things like makeup, clothes, home decor, and bar crawls all in the name of a pursuit of happiness. A few weeks later, I started putting money aside for a trip to Italy and Greece. A month from tomorrow, I will be on an airplane to the journey I’ve always dreamed of, and I’ll be gone for almost 3 weeks. Every dollar invested completely overshadows any desire I have to spend money on anything else I’m convinced I need or deeply want.
How do I afford to travel often? You tend to find a way if you believe there is a way. When you’re grateful for the path you’re headed down, and you’re so passionately engrossed that you tend to heed no mind to anything else that may be considered a distraction. Don’t analyze people’s actions or how they’re able to achieve something that you feel is out of reach, focus on how you can make it a reality. I’m not here to stand on a soap box to explain how your actions are poor or how my actions are somehow better. I’ve chosen my priorities and they bring me fulfillment in ways I couldn’t ever have previously fathomed.
We choose our priorities; there’s no universal key to happiness, just the power of choice and thought.
If you’re looking to improve your photography game, in the context of travel photography- you came to the right place. Here are some simple tips I’ve learned along the way that can be applied and practiced with any photographic device- including your cell phone!
1.) Be Shameless:
When I say be shameless, I’m talking about how you position yourself while taking a photo. Great photographers know that standing up straight and taking a photo rarely gets you the best image. Get down on your knees in the mud, on the concrete, or stand on top of a boulder and do it shamelessly. Angles are key in beautiful composition of a photo, find one that works for your subject.
2.) Grab a Wide Angle Lens or Use your Panoramic Function:
Everything you’re trying to capture is often so massive, that you will need this. My trip to Olympic National park was a personal reminder that I needed to invest in a wide angle lens, but I made due with my cell phone or I stitched photos together. Before a trip I usually reach for a 20-30mm lens for my full sensor DSLR, while you might want a 16-20mm for a crop sensor. I would research wide angle lenses for your camera body, if you’re unsure. If you don’t want or have a camera with wide angle capacity- your cell phone probably does! Use the panoramic function on your cell phone for a wider angle frame. You often don’t need to use the entire track for the panoramic function, to get everything you want: the photo won’t look a mile long if you don’t want it to! See photos in the slideshow below taken on my cellphone, during my trip to the Olympic Peninsula, showing the clear difference it truly makes.
3.) Framing your Photo:
Composition: this is combining all the important aspects already noted to capture a great photo. I think all rules are meant to be broken in photography, but a good one to practice and get familiar with as a beginner is the “rule of thirds”. Often, if there’s very little going on in the frame- it doesn’t always look nice having your subject smack dab in the middle, but often to the side or in the corner of the rule of thirds grid. In the aspect of landscape or travel photography, you often don’t want the horizon to fall right in the middle of the frame- meaning, you want more of the sky or more of the ground in the photo- with your subject being in the middle or even other areas of the frame. This is up to you, just be open-minded as to how you would like to frame the photo- don’t just point and shoot- be creative with your framing. Your phone cameras often include the rule of thirds grid; get out there and practice this now!
Often people think that photography is an inherent skill. You’re either gifted or you’re not, and that is not true. Anyone can become a great travel photographer, you just have to practice and get familiar with the resources you have.
I hope you found this useful- I would love to know if these tips helped you at all. Please comment below or tag me in your photos you post on Instagram, giving me feedback! Happy Travels!
On Saturday April 29th, 2017 thousands of people gathered together for the People’s Climate March in the United States Capitol City- Washington, D.C. All protesters in support of different causes, banded together for one core belief- Climate Change is real and dangerous. As a sea of protesters walked the streets of the capitol, they truly embodied the towering engraving of the First Amendment on the Newseum- leaving myself truly speechless.
***WARNING-THE WORD SHIT IS USED MANY TIMES IN THIS BLOG***
Being told I have a kidney infection the day before I’m supposed to get on a flight to visit my best friend in El Paso, TX wasn’t exactly the type of news I wanted to hear. Positive Marie was thinking how lucky I am that I found it before it got too terrible as I’ve had one once prior that almost turned very ugly. I headed to my nearest pharmacy to pick up the prescribed antibiotics- thinking this was the peak of my bad luck.
This trip was my birthday present to myself. Oh universe, thanks. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARIE! REMEMBER THAT ONE TIME I GAVE YOU PINK EYE ON THE DAY OF YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY IN THE 4TH GRADE.
The next day I arrived at the airport at 3:30AM in attempt to make my 5AM flight. Walking into the terminal, I browsed through the 12 emails I got that morning, one of which said: “Sorry, we cancelled your flight- please use code “SHITOUTTALUCK” to book a new flight.” As it turns out, Las Vegas had some insane winds and they were cancelling flights into McCarran for the entire day. My luck wasn’t all bad though, as I was able to get a flight into Dallas and then into El Paso- instead of an arrival time of 9AM, I was going to get into town at 6PM.
My flight to Dallas was as smooth as one could hope, even having the entire row to myself. Surely things were looking up, right? WRONG. I wish the shit ended there, as my flight into El Paso was another story. Turns out those winds in Las Vegas decided to follow me to El Paso, my flight wasn’t cancelled though! As we were descending to land, the turbulence was pretty rough, it started to get worse the lower we got. The plane would shake, DROP, shake, DROP. The pilot tried to descend, but he then aborted landing (multiple times), then speeding up the engines to try again. After doing that a few times, the pilot’s voice came over the intercom: “OK, guys make sure those seat belts are on, it’s really important they’re on right now. The turbulence will get worse the lower we get.” I had never in my entire life heard a frantic pilot- this pilot was legitimately frantic. After 12 hours (or so it felt) of deep breathing from me and the crew attempting to land, we finally made it to solid ground. As the pilot’s voice echoed over the intercom, you could hear a sigh of relief as he explained we were flying in 60 mph winds right there. I didn’t die that day and I suppose that’s something to be positive about.
The day of my actual birthday was overall a normal day. My friend and I headed to the annual poppy festival in El Paso, which unfortunately there weren’t any poppies! After the festival, we headed to a local Mexican restaurant where I bonded with our server as it was her birthday too. After our late lunch I was super exhausted and took a lengthy nap (I don’t nap, ever; probably that kidney infection) and we relaxed the rest of the evening.
Sunday, we drove 3 hours to New Mexico in attempt to hike some trails my friend had recommended. My friend wanted to bring her two Rhodesian Ridgebacks with (exercise them and they aren’t alone all day- win-win). Unfortunately, 30 minutes into our hike, her poor pups got their paws attacked by fire ants. Their pads started to swell and we didn’t want to risk skin being rubbed raw, so we turned back on the trail and drove another 3 hours home. Le Sigh. Universe – 3, Marie-0.
Thankfully, the universe decided to give me an experience that didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth making the last day exactly what I needed. In the morning we made our way to Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, TX- no dogs. Just the two of us, my camera, the blue sky, and simply beautiful weather- it was the perfect way to end the trip. My flight that evening did end up cancelled again, unfortunately. It was bittersweet, but I got to enjoy a few margaritas and a little more laughter in the company of my best friend for one more night- a few more memories to cherish.
Trail Recommendations for Franklin Mountains State Park-The Upper Sunset Trail: Fantastic views and a hike all along the peaks of the Franklin Mountains.
We hiked the Aztec Caves Trail, it was not a long hike, but it was very steep incline up to the caves and the trail was made of gravel which I was not used to.
“Head in the clouds, feet on the ground” is often the phrase I repeat whenever planning a new adventure. I’ve painfully learned that having my head in the clouds, without my feet firmly planted, that my wallet tends follow suit in experiencing weightlessness. No one likes buyer’s remorse over a vacation. With social media having a greater presence in sharing our lives, it’s hard to not envy those that seem to travel often, because “how do they afford it?”. Well, outside of using credit card points- as that’s always going to be the best option; here’s a few ways- most of which involve planning.
What if I told you that travelling luxury can be much more affordable if you enter with that mindset “head in the clouds, feet on the ground”. It’s OK to dream and to want the best, I’m going to give you some insight to having a successful vacation with your budget in mind- you don’t need to shut down the idea of travel all together. Don’t put off that vacation because the cost seems overwhelming- plan to be successful instead. Here are some tips I’ve learned:
Luxury Travel 4 Key Points:
1.) Plan. If you’re planning your dream vacation and the costs are generally high with where you would like to go, start planning no less than a year in advance. This is a key in luxury travel becoming more affordable for you and accommodating your budget. If you want to go right now, you might have to compromise your budget or your experience.
2.) Book accommodations/hotel BEFORE your flight and as soon as the idea of travelling a place pops in your head. Why? 1.) You can usually hold a room/accommodations an entire year in advance. 2.)There’s often a cancellation clause where you will not be held financially accountable as long as cancelled within a certain window. That being said, I’ve often booked the nicest hotel I found within my budget and have often ended up cancelling it due to finding an even nicer hotel that has a special going on. If you don’t believe me, here’s an example:
I’m going to Santorini, Greece this upcoming early October- I have been planning this trip since April 2016. I was able to snag an upgraded room on special at the Volcano View Hotel, located in Imerovigli (not quite Oia)- a 5 star hotel at a rate of ~$120 USD/nt – Important note: breakfast is included too. Rates at this hotel can easily exceed over $200/nt. You might say $120/nt still is expensive, but Santorini is known as one of the most beautiful islands in the world and the costs are generally there to support that claim with the supply/demand that’s present.
Often you can also get great deals on hotels/accommodation by waiting last minute as well, but this is a risk you must calculate.
3.) Travel SHOULDER season to your destination to get good prices and an often pleasant experience. Travel OFF season for the best prices, but you may potentially be gambling with your experience depending on your travel expectations. Research the peak, shoulder, low seasons of your destination to see what is best for your experience in mind and also you budget. Reverting back to Santorini for this topic, with credit to Santorini Dave on this one:
Santorini’s PEAK season: Late June to Early September. Santorini welcomes you with warm and pleasant weather and is often crowded. With prices that support that demand is high/supply is low. If you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation full of water activities and swimming, this may be the best time for you to visit Santorini.
Santorini’s SHOULDER season: May, June, September, and October. Often still warm weather, but getting in the sea water may not be possible
Santorini’s LOW season: November to April. Santorini’s low season has unpredictable winter weather, but offers the best prices. In this season, you’re unlikely able to island hop as many other islands will be closed and some stores/shops in Santorini will be closed as well.
Check out Santorini Dave’s blog, if you’re interested in more information on Santorini’s weather and the best time to visit: Santorini Dave’s Blog
“Head in the clouds, feet on the ground”
4.) Stay away from restaurants near tourist locations- these are often the most overpriced and often (not always) deemed as poor quality food choices. This truly gives you a false sense of the cost of travelling to a new place, if you’re spending half of your budget on poor quality and overpriced food.
Ask the locals of where you are where they would recommend, they often will direct you to affordable and delicious food choices. This rule also applies to shopping/boutiques.
The most important key in forming a budget for luxury travel- identify what experience you want from your travels. Do you want to relax with a nice view, do you want to eat/dine out a lot, and/or do you want to go clubbing? Often, when you adopt a “YOLO” concept to your spending habits while travelling, you tend to think travelling is more expensive than it truly needs to be and you then are afraid to travel anywhere outside of your comfort zone. You should come back from your travels feeling as though you came out to accomplish what you meant to, not that you maxed out your credit card unnecessarily all in the spirit of adventure.
See here for my current travel resources (none of which are paid endorsements):
Below are a list of the resources I use to find deals on travel. I will update accordingly. I personally do not recommend Expedia, Priceline, etc for finding or booking any accomodations for your travel.
Skyscanner– they also have an app (some carriers are not listed)
Momondo– they also have an app (some carriers are not listed)
Google Flights – My absolute favorite flight resource. If you’re looking for last minute vacation ideas with cheap flights or looking to go anywhere- as they have an everywhere option which populates the cheapest flights within a time frame chosen from your home airport.
Hotel Tonight– I often don’t even use this for last minute accommodations, but to scout out any deals/specials at hotels going on currently.
My mother gently held her hands behind my back as the water beneath me splashed up under my chin and ricocheted into my anxious eyes. Learning to float was such a tedious task. In every attempt, she always reassured me I’d be OK- my lungs full of air would keep me afloat. In that moment I internally denounced any level of trustworthiness she had. In my mind, trusting my lungs to keep me afloat, sounded a lot like trusting my legs to keep me upright when they often gave me blunt reminders of the existence of gravity. As she spoke to me softly in attempt to calm my nerves- my wet hands gripped around her neck for dear life as she counted down to one.”THREE, TWO, ONE… I SAID ONE… LET GO!” The moment I let go, I hyperventilated while synchronously splashing to the nearest pool wall. It took weeks of patience practice. Then the day came that my mother told me if I truly learned to float, she would buy me ice cream. Due to the fact I was am very food motivated, I took the time to calm my nerves and bear the courage to do it. I needed that ice cream and in that very same day, I learned to float. Whenever this past memory comes to mind, I’m truly reminded of the power of food thought.
The first step in overcoming fear is acknowledging our fearful thoughts. Acknowledge that all thoughts are truly temporary. Societal norms and ideas are often adopted in our lives as a concrete view or the epitome of how to live our entire existence. The true beauty of life is that most ideas and thoughts are completely subjective- take control of how much power is given to an idea or thought. You have the choice every day as to how to spend your time. That choice paired with controlling how much power is given to a thought, we’re truly capable of overcoming our fears and turning our vision into a reality.