Travel

The 7 Wonders Of The World (according to Instagram).

We all know about the 7 wonders of the world. We also know that there are many different versions. The 7 ancient wonders of the world, the 7 natural wonders of the world, the 7 modern wonders of the world.. The list goes on.

With Instagram being a huge source of travel inspiration for millions of people around the world, I think it is about time someone took note of the most shared and most desirable locations around the world based on what we see on Instagram as a platform.

So here are The 7 Wonders of the World: according to Instagram.

Coming in at Number 7

We have the The Faroe Islands

This beautiful and remote archipelago is the home to many iconic viewpoints filled with geographical drama and humble living situations. Whilst the weather may toughen you up, if you can push through you will certainly get some shots to amaze and inspire.

Photos from @giuligartner

Number 6 Lake Bled - Slovenia

Often referred to as Fairytale Lake, when you see shots like these it is easy to see why. The church on the island makes for a intriguing shots in almost any condition and the forests and mountains provide a perfect frame for these serene location.

Photos from @Jordhammond

For Number 5 Horseshoe Bend - USA

A must see road-side stop for anyone in northern Arizona, just a short walk over a sandy hill and you could be in another planet, the sound of the highway disappears and in-front of you it this visually stunning canyon formation. No photo will ever do justice to the sheer scale of it.

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Photos from @oliver_wheeldon

Going back to the cold for Number 4... Iceland

The true land of ice and fire has been growing increasingly popular over the past few years, as an island packed with waterfalls, volcanic beaches and great opportunities for the Northern lights it makes sense that so many photographers are flocking here.

Photos from @henry.nathan

Into the final three we’re staying up north for Number 3 with The Lofoten Islands - Norway

Again as a location combining dramatic mountainous coastline with small abodes, Lofoten has been a photographer favourite for a long time, competition tightly with Iceland as a northern lights hotspot it just inches ahead because so many shots are seen from a smaller specific region.

Photos from @henry.nathan

This spot had to be on the list and so high because the same shot is so common, for Number 2 its St Johann Church/ The Dolomites - Italy

Bringing back the fairytale vibes of Slovenia, this spot combines a beautiful church in a pristine rolling field with a dense forest and one of the most exciting mountain ridges in the world. A spot that works in every season and time of day, it was a no-brainer for it to feature so highly. 

Photos from @guerelsahin

Finally, the big one. The US takes it with Yosemite National Park - California.

Yosemite has been iconic for decades, with several viewpoints that provide their own unique photography opportunities there are so many unique spots with their own natural wonders, from the incredibly high waterfalls that to half-dome and mirror lake. Yosemite is also home to the John Muir trail which takes you up the valley even more waterfalls. Yosemite had to be number one because of its endless possibilities, its timeless presence on everyones feeds as one of the greatest natural environments that people visit year round giving people such different experiences. 

Photos from @oliver_wheeldon

Runners Up

Ubud Light Rays - Bali

These shots always crop up in our feeds as they are featured time and time again, whilst it might not be one of the most popular destinations, when instagrammers go, they get so many killer shots it had to get a special mention.

Photos from @Jordhammond

Moraine Lake - Canada

This was originally an old favourite for number one, but the reality is it just isn’t as popular as it used to be, whilst still an iconic destination, it clearly isn’t attracting the instagram crowd like it used to.

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Painted Mountain - Peru

Similar to the Ubud light rays, as a more remote destination it isn’t as popular, but when people do go the photography opportunities are incredible. 

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Dubai - UAE

I wanted to give this city credit not only as a hub for photographers so often passing through from Europe and the USA to asia, it has become a favourite destination in itself for not only its truly unique cityscapes, but the wilderness adventures that can be had just an hour outside the insane metropolis.

Photos from @henry.nathan

That Wanaka Tree - NZ

Again originally a clear favourite for the list as such an iconic and recurring view but again it just isn’t being seen as much as it used to be. 

Photos from @ianharper

Have any questions? Do you agree with our list? Want to add something? Leave a comment below ↓

The Ultimate Travel Guide To Bali

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You may not like Bali at first. Especially if you’re coming off a plane after having spent the last 24 hours travelling, arriving just after midnight with a massive, almost impossible to be moved 30kg suitcase, wearing a completely unsuitable outfit for the boiling heat outside, and the taxi driver who’s giving you a ride from the airport to the hotel hasn’t got a single clue where your hotel is (and not using a GPS either.) You won’t like Bali too, if you don’t fancy street dogs, cats, rats and bats, and massive traffic all day, every day.

Even if you decide to do a quick meditation in the taxi to release the stress and focus on some positive affirmations, it may still come as a bit of a shock to you when the taxi driver pulls the car over, explaining in broken English that the traffic is too much (at 1am on Sunday!) and he is not able to drive you to the hotel (which, he is still unsure exactly where it is situated). Welcome to Bali!

Yeah, as I said, Bali is not a love at first sight. But it’s this kind of love that lasts forever.

Do I need a visa for Bali?

Depends on where you are from. If your country is in this list, then you’re allowed to stay in Indonesia for 30 days visa-free. You also don’t need to pay any tax when you arrive or depart the country, as the airline companies include the fee in your flight purchase.

Where can I exchange money?

My advice here is always to exchange money in the country you’re visiting. It was quite a struggle for us to find Indonesian Rupiah in the U.K, so my boyfriend and I exchanged a little amount at the airport that would do us for the first couple of days. Don’t do it! (Obviously, unless you really don’t have any other option!) The commission is over the top, the exchange rate is awful, and it’s simply not worth it. When we arrived in Bali, we found out that there are Money Exchange desks at pretty much every corner and the currency rate they were offering was even better than the official one stated on Internet! Here’s a pro tip - don’t exchange all of your holiday budget at once. At least not in Bali! Do it in parts, otherwise you might end up coming back home with a lot of Indonesian rupiah left. Everything in Bali is amazingly cheap! 

Where to stay in Bali?

When it comes to accommodation in Bali, the choice is great. You can stay the night in a hostel or motel for as little as £6 per night. Or go to an average to nice 3 or 4-star hotel for £13 per night. There are also incredibly fancy villas and spa resorts with private beaches for the people with the finest taste (and fattest wallets). There is a trick here though! Most of the cheap places (including the “average to nice” hotels I mentioned above) are not always as great as shown in the photos and described on the Internet! So here is my tip - when you’re booking your holiday online, book only one-night stay regardless how long you’re visiting for and when you arrive, if you’re happy with the place, you can always extend your stay. If you’re not happy though, as I said, there is plenty of choice around. We personally used www.lastminute.com but I probably won’t use them for our next trip.

What to do in Bali

Everything! You can literally do everything! From exploring the culture by visiting temples, museums, coffee and rice plantations, and indulge yourself with spa treatments, such as massages, manicure and pedicures, ear candles, and anything you wish really. To surfing, bodyboarding, skydiving, jet skiing, scuba diving, river rafting, safari and breakfast with elephants, sacred monkey forest, and turtle conservations. The list is never-ending, guys! My personal advice is: rent a scooter for a week (it costs about £25) and explore the island for yourself! There is so much to be seen! Little villages with local people doing their daily activities, women carrying massive baskets with fruits on their heads (so impressed by the body balance they’ve got!), hidden waterfalls, stunning private white sand beaches, magical sunsets and sunrises, and so much more.

What are the best beaches in Bali?

It really depends on your personal taste. For example, if you’re all about surfing, you’ll love the Kuta beach. If you’ve never done in before, but always wanted to try, here is some good news! The price for a surfing lesson with instructor and board is just under £9 per hour!

On the other hand, if you’re like me and looking for something rather Instagrammable, like blue waters and white sands, but don’t have a big budget to spend, then I’d recommend visiting the Nusa Dua Beach. There is no entrance fee for the public side of it and I was surprised to find out that there were barely any visitors, despite the fact the beach was so nice and fully accessible.

If you don’t mind spending £20 and want something super chic, go to the Dreamland Beach! Come back to thank me later! ;)

What to eat in Bali?

Similar to the activities, I was amazed by the choice of food in Bali! The island offers cuisines from all over the world. Italian, Spanish, Mexican, American, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, traditional Indonesian, British, French, Greek, Russian… the choice is unlimited. We personally had a really lovely dinner at this Greek restaurant called Warung Souvlaki in Legian, Kuta. Something very important to mention here is - don’t drink any tap water in Bali and be careful with the fresh fruits and salads in the restaurants in general. Unless you don’t mind spending your holiday on the toilet, I’d advise using mineral water, even when you’re brushing your teeth!

What are the secret spots in Bali?

Here is my list. The description and address of the places are under each photo!

1)      Jl.Pantai Gumicik, Ketewel, Indonesia - stunning black sand beach!

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2)   The Dream Museum (DMZ), Kuta, Indonesia

3) The Stones Hotel, Legian Bali (Psst, the rooftop pool is free entry not only for hotel guests!)

4) Jalan Raya Tegalalang, Gianyar, Coffee Plantation (It's entry free and you get to try a complimentary set of different coffee and tea flavour shots, whilst enjoying a magnificient view!)

5) Gianyar Bali, Indonesia - Rice Plantation

What’s the best thing about Bali?

To me personally, that would have been the energy in the air, the vibe of the local people. There was something so calming and magical about this place that had nothing to do with the environment or the weather… Let me tell you a little story. 

On our second day, we met this Indonesian guy called Roberto. He was working on the street as a promoter. He told us that his biggest dream was to work in a hotel. I have never met such a passionate, honest and warm person as Roberto. The simplicity of his dream was so inspirational! He didn’t want to conquer the world, have a 7-figure income or be well-socially known, approved and admired by everybody. All he wanted was to earn just enough so he can be able to support his family (as he shared with us, he was the oldest brother) and to find a girl that he can make a family with. As simple as that. He seemed so happy! He also seemed more passionate about his dreams than most of the people I am surrounded by, and surely happier than all the successful (and wealthy) people I know. That made me seriously rethink a lot of my values, but that’s a subject for another post.

To summarize, the best thing about Bali for me was indeed the whole experience with a completely different culture and a different code of behavior, and way of living. This energy coming from the people was so pure and relaxing in a way, that it was making you forget about everything you already know and believe, and completely change your mindset about life. That, together with the breathtaking views and places we visited, will surely leave Bali in my heart forever.

Have any questions? Leave a comment below! 

Top Insta Spots In The Philippines

These are our Top tips for Instagram snaps from our trip around The Philippines!

Manila

Our first stop was the capital city, Manila.  We were not there a very long time, just over 24 hours, but it was just enough time to get a little bit of a flavour from the city.  We enjoyed exploring the city during the day, in particular the Intramuros part of the city and the old buildings there.  However, our top Instagram spot from the city was heading to a rooftop in the Makati district for sunset.  The views over the city are stunning and offer lots of different options for sunset photos.  Happy sunset snapping chaps.

The Carmoan Peninsular

Next up on our trip was the beautiful Carmon peninsular.  It is not the most accessible place we have ever been to - but that merely adds to the experience.  We flew from Manila to Naga, then had a bus transfer and then a boat transfer and then another bus!  But it was worth getting there.  Unfortunately we did not get the best weather when we were at Gotta Village (where the TV show survivor is filmed) but our top recommendation would be kayaking around the white sand beaches or island hoping and getting the drone up.  There is so much potential here for stunning imagery, we hope to return some day and get luckier with the weather.

Cebu & Oslob

Easily accessible, Cebu is a bit of a hub in central Philippines for flights connecting people to other smaller islands in The Philippines.  Our main highlights were the waterfalls, particularly Tumalog Falls and Kawasan Falls.  Tumalog is impressively tall but can get quite busy, so for photography we would suggest getting there as early as possible.  A suggestion for Kawasan falls would be to try the canyoneering that is on offer there too.  We went with a guide and he was happy to carry our 1Dx Mark ii up with us in a waterproof bag, which meant we could take snaps along the way too.  The scenery at canyoneering is almost as stunning as the final waterfall and is not too busy considering.

Bohol

Head to The Chocolate Hills!  For photos and drone shots try be there for sunset or sunrise, obviously, as the light is softer and it is not as busy.  But during the day it is equally fun hiring a couple of ATVs and exploring from a different, faster perspective.

Siargao

The surf hotspot in The Philippines was well worth a visit and we found it one of the best places for drone photography from our trip.  The surf at Cloud 9 is very consistent and is perfectly lit at sunrise.  Moreover the fields of palm trees by the coast also offer some interesting compositions with the drone.  If you have time, we would also suggest heading to the south of the island for some stunning blue waters, lagoons and islands off the coastline.

Camiguin

The White Island on Camiguin is a relatively undiscovered slice of paradise that is easily accessible for the day and surrounded by some of the bluest and warmest water we have ever experienced.  This would be our top snapping spot, enjoy.

Have any questions? Or want to leave some feedback? Drop a comment below ↓

Best Places in Sydney For Taking Photos

Best Places in Sydney For Taking Photos

Deb Carr

www.sydneychic.com.au

Sydney is full of interesting buildings, diverse cultures, amazing restaurants, things to do and fantastic places to photograph. Whether you are looking for Harbour views, beaches, city night lights, people, marine life, bird life or culture, you name it; we have it.

Having been the publisher of a Sydney Lifestyle blog for over five years now, I’ve certainly found plenty of interesting photo opportunities.

Here are my favourite places to discover awesome subjects to photograph when visiting Sydney.

QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING

If it is beautiful architecture you like to capture or stained glass windows then this is one building you must bring your camera to.

Designed by George McRae and completed in 1898, the Queen Victoria Building, now commonly known as the QVB, was built as a monument to the long reigning monarch.  The Building has four levels plus the basement that leads to Town Hall Train Station. It is an elegant building with plenty of photo opportunities.

THE STRAND ARCADE

Similar to the QVB The Strand Arcade exhibits its own charm and beauty. I’d highly recommend exploring photo opportunities at the Strand Arcade. I particularly like the tiling, the boutique shops and the view from the upper levels down and across the whole arcade.

THE ROCKS

The Rocks is full of Sydney history with its sandstone buildings and cobble stone paths. The Rocks houses lots of unique boutique shops and various markets. What I love about the rocks is the little nooks and secret pathways you come across when you explore this area. The Rocks is close to Circular Quay, and Millers Point so the area is certainly worth spending some time exploring and finding that perfect photo.

As well as the amazing historical subjects, the Rocks offer plenty of foodie opportunities.  There are some interesting bars and hotels in the area offering a range of ornate features and architecture to capture.

SYDNEY EYE TOWER

You will need to pay to get to Sydney Eye Tower but it’s worth every cent. The building has 360 degree views of Sydney up to the Blue Mountains and over past North Head to the Ocean. On a clear day, you will be able to see one of the most spectacular cities in all its glory.

THE ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS

I can’t count how many times I’ve had my camera out at the Royal Botanical Gardens. For those who love to photograph botanical subjects then this is the place for you to visit. As well as the acres of gardens, the Art Gallery is nearby which makes for a great photograph.

The Gardens are next to Sydney Harbour, and there are plenty of opportunities to get the camera out here. Views include the Opera House, The Harbour Bridge, The Harbour, Visiting Ships and much more.

Close by is Andrew Boy Charlton pool overlooking Woolloomoolloo and this is also a nice scene to capture. Continue to walk along past Andrew Boy Charlton Pool and you will come to the famous Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and the photography opportunities here are awesome.

DARLING HARBOUR

There are plenty of photo opportunities at Darling Harbour including the Pyrmont Bridge, which used to have traffic but now is only for pedestrians and cyclists. The water views at Darling Harbour are great to photograph, and at night the lights are stunning. Opportunities around this area are Barangaroo, China Town and the Chinese Garden of Friendship. The Chinese Garden of Friendship has delighted me many times with interesting things to photograph. Darling Harbour and Barangaroo are a foodies paradise, so if it’s food you like to photograph you might find some great subjects around the area, plus you will get to eat it too!

RUSHCUTTERS BAY

Rushcutters Park and Rushcutters Bay are about a 10 minute walk from Potts Point. This is where the famous Sydney to Hobart Race starts.

Here you can photograph the marina and the park. The Park is fabulous on a clear day at sunrise and sunset. For those who like to capture yachts this is certainly the place to visit. A walk along to Darling Point is also worth taking the camera, you will get a great view of the Harbour, including the Harbour Bridge.

MANLY

Manly has plenty of photography options including the Corso, Manly Wharf and the Beach itself. The walk from Manly to Shelly Beach forms part of Cabbage Tree Bay, a protected marine reserve that lies adjacent to North Head and Fairy Bower.  You will see plenty of people snorkeling in the bay due to the large variety of marine life, which can be viewed in relatively shallow water. For those photographers will underwater cameras and diving skills this will be a fabulous opportunity for you.

If you like nature, you will most likely spot water dragons lazing in the sun and parrots and other birds to photograph. Further up the hill from Shelly Beach, you will discover a lookout that displays the ocean in all its magnificence and between July and November you may be lucky enough to spot Whales migrating.

Continue up the hill for an amazing bush walk and an old relic sandstone wall. Which is another fantastic subject for photography. Climb through this wall and you will discover a billabong on top of the hill! This truly is a photographer’s paradise.

You may also wish to visit Q Station. Q Station is full of history, with a sad story behind it because it was once used as a Quarantine Station where people with diseases such as Small Pox or Scarlet Fever were sent to recover, and of course many died. Q Station has lots of interesting sandstone buildings, views and bush walks to photograph. Some even believe it is haunted! I have to say when I stayed there I did experience something weird!

Five Reasons You Have To Visit Iceland!

Iceland has become more and more popular over the years and there be won't be a day without you seeing photos from Iceland on Instagram or Facebook. Have you ever thought of packing together your things and hitting the road to visit this amazing country? No? Well, here is 5 reasons why you definitely should consider doing so.

But first some history about this fantastic place. Iceland is actually, compared to the rest of the world a young island. It started to form in the geological era of Miocene (about 20mio years ago) due to a series of volcanic eruptions on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. That's where the European and American tectonic plates conjoin. The formation of Iceland is also attributed by a hotspot, the so called Icelandic hotspot, which is an abnormally hot portion of the earths mantle. Icelands landscape was then formed and brought into shape by the different ice ages. While the island was covered in ice, fjords, glaciers and valleys were created. 

 1. THE INCREDIBLE LANDSCAPE AND NATURE

Of course, one of the main reasons to visit Iceland is the amazing nature the country has to offer.  To me, since I am not too much a lover of the heat, this island got it all. Weather you want to see mesmerising waterfalls, enjoy incredible fjords, spent a cozy afternoon in one of many natural hot pools, go on a glacier hike, visit an active volcano, see one of the most incredible birds: Puffins, go on a whale watching tour, pet the Icelandic horse or just want to relax at the beach, this might just be the perfect country for you to visit. In Icelandic you can find some of the nicest hikes I have ever seen. Especially taking a little detour into the Icelandic highlights is a must. But be aware, to go into the highlands you need a 4x4, as rental car companies do not allow you to drive the roads in normal cars. Top tip for a hike: Landmannalaugar

2. THE PEOPLE

I have been to Iceland a few times now and must say, what really made the trips a unique experience were the people I have met. In a lot of countries the people are annoyed by tourists`, but from what I have noticed, it is all different here. Ever since Iceland existed, their strongest source of income was fishing, but in the recent years it all started to change and nowadays the tourism sector has taken over. All the people visiting from all over the world have brought them new opportunities and so it comes that a lot of people work in the tourism sector. When in Iceland make sure to connect with local people! They have incredible stories to tell! For example I  met a guy who offered us to stay at his home for free during an incredibly cold night. One time I was shown around the whole region by a guy who was living in the area and discovered many unknown secrets, that no one would have ever guessed.  My top tip to connect to people is to go into a local swimming pool. They can be found in almost every village, even if there is only a couple of houses there. Here you will definitely meet locals to talk while enjoying the warmth of a hot pool. 

3. MIDNIGHT SUN AND NORTHERN LIGHTS

Depending on when you visit Iceland, you can experience two very different, but also very magical things. Firstly the Midnight Sun, something I personally have not witnessed yet, but from what I have heard it must be absolutely mesmerising. Between May and August you can witness almost 24 hours of daylight every day, with the sun setting just before midnight and coming back up over the horizon just after midnight. During the longest day, the 21st of June and a few days after and before, you can experience the actual midnight sun, with the sun shining at midnight. Crazy right? If you love shooting sunsets and sunrises, this is the time for you to head over there, I mean it will be more than 12 hours of golden light. 

Secondly you can experience the northern lights (aurora borealis). Between September and April the northern lights can be witnessed in Iceland. A few things to consider: The night has to be as dark as possible, so a full moon will dim the colors and brightness of the lights and of course, when it is too cloudy you will have a hard time seeing them, too. As well, since Aurora forecasts are on the level that weather forecasts were 100 years ago, it is very difficult to predict when they are going to happen. But when you are in Iceland around that time, I recommend setting an alarm every hour, and quickly check if anything is happening. You definitely don't want to miss a true northern lights display, as it is truely magical!

4. THE FOOD

The food is definitely something I look forward to. Since Iceland is a fishing nation, they have an amazing variety of fish. There is all sorts of different fish from dried to cooked to battered. Also, when visiting Iceland, you will quickly notice how many sheep there are. A famous dish is Hangikjöt, which is smoked lamb. Lamb generally is reputed to be of top quality, which due to how the sheep are farmed. The sheep are free to run around the vast and open Icelandic landscape in summer, without any supervision. One of my favourite dishes is Kjötsupa, which another traditional lamb dish. It is a soup cooked and boiled for several hours with carrots, onions, potatoes and herbs. Then there is the famous Skyr, a yogurt, which isn't actually a yogurt and more like a soft cheese. It is then mixed with milk, sugar and fruits such as Icelandic blueberries or international strawberries. It has a rich yogurt-like flavor and it has been my everyday breakfast for all my recent trips to Iceland. I loved it so much, that I have even started purchasing it in Germany. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to taste the same. Iceland is definitely not a cheap country, but if you are on a budget, I have also got something for you: The famous Icelandic hotdog Pylsa, cheerful and cheap and also available almost everywhere you go!

5. THE ICELANDIC EXPERIENCE

Last but not least, the experience you take with you. In recent years a lot of hotels have been built in Iceland and I recommend, if you want a true Icelandic experience,  you shouldn't go anywhere near these. Iceland is the 3rd windiest country in the world. The weather can be unbelievably rough. It can change within minutes from warm temperatures into the craziest snowstorm you have ever seen. While visiting iceland, I have always stayed in a tent , however it went down to -19 degrees Celsius (-2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) one time and another time my tent flew away in hurricane force winds, but this is what this country is all about. Located in the middle of the Atlantic, close to the arctic circle, conditions can be tough and can make your life hard. I just came back from Iceland, and due to heavy and prolonged rain, a major road got closed (Ring Road), because a bridge broke. I had to take a detour of 1400km (869 miles) to get to a place that would have normally taken just 30min, if the bridge was still standing. Of course, you can have a luxury holiday in Iceland as well, but for me Iceland is not a typical holiday, it is a true adventure!

You have any question or you've got something to add? Just leave me a comment down below!

Our Top 5 Insta Spots New York and Washington

Our Top 5 Insta spots New York and Washington

1.     Fly Nyon (New York)

Number 1 is easy and it’s also not for the faint-hearted. We did this on our second night in New York, and it was one of the best and most mental experiences I have ever done. So, what happens? A company called flynyon, (Instagram - @nyonair), create an incredible doors-off helicopter flight over New York, and you literally cannot believe it is actually allowed. We had a sunset flight departing at 7.30 pm, but you need to arrive at least an hour before. If you do try this out, make sure you leave a comfortable amount of time to get there as its quite hard to find and lies in the outskirts of New York, a 10 minute Uber from Journal Square. As you can see from the photographs, the helicopter literally has no doors, your feet will be hanging over New York city flying at speeds of 60 knots - it is crazy! It is also the best experience you can do in New York and you will capture pictures irreproducible anywhere else, meaning an Instagram that will really get everyone’s attention. I can’t recommend this enough, so if you’re in New York, it’s a must do. I know it’s expensive, but it’s definitely worth it!

 

2.     Brooklyn Bridge Park (New York)

This spot is for any photographers out there, wanting to capture an epic picture of New York. The park lies just over Brooklyn bridge, and is located along the East River in New York City. It is a really nice park, so just coming to hang out with friends is worth doing, but it is also amazing for photos. If you go at night you can take breath-taking images of the New York skyline shimmering over the river. This is exactly the photo @henry.nathan managed to shoot, available for sale here.

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3.     United States Air Force Memorial (Washington DC)

The next spot is moving on to Washington. This memorial is slightly less well known than the classic ones and lies slightly outside Washington in Arlington, Virginia. It was only built 10 years ago, under George Bush and thus develops a very modern appearance. It contains three spires ranging in height from 61m to 82m, and symbolises the image of flight, creating a very artistic image. It is great to go to for the history and in remembrance, but also allows for amazing photographs. The shot we have featured, is actually taken on iPhone. The angle from below really emphasizes the image of flight, the memorial tries to create.

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4.     Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Hill (Washington DC)

This is one of the most well-known spots for a shot in Washington. Pennsylvania Avenue, runs from the white house to Capitol Hill and it’s amazing to see the long street leading up to such a grand building in Capitol Hill. I would suggest the best place to see this, despite not being amazing for photographs, is up the Trump Tower. From this, you get an amazing view of the whole city and especially of Pennsylvania Avenue leading up to the Capitol Building. In terms of a tour of the actual Capitol building, I am not sure it is worth it as you don’t get to see that much. However, one very sneaky trick, which I did (not on purpose) is to lose a personal item in the building. It is likely to get picked up by police security there and when you go back to pick it up, you will get a tour of a lot more.

5.     Bar 54, Hyatt (New York)

This is must go destination for pre-dinner drinks if you ever find yourself in New York. It is just off Times Square, at the top of the Hyatt Hotel.  My brother, Henry, met a friend up here for drinks one night and assured me it’s one of the coolest spots near times square. The bar features awesome cocktails, but the view is the best part. It is sometimes difficult to find great spots for photographs over New York City, other than from the obvious locations (Rockefeller Centre, Empire state etc.). However, this really fits the bill, and you can have a nice drink with friends whilst you’re at it and avoid the tourist hustle and bustle.

If you have any questions about this blog, please leave a comment below!

Five Reasons You Have to Visit Jamaica.

Five Reasons You Have to Visit Jamaica.

 

1.     The People

I think one of the best reasons to go to this amazing island is because of the people. They all make you feel so welcome, and there seems to be a genuine wish to show you their island. Not only is there an authentic welcoming atmosphere, the locals are some of the funniest people you will meet with a remarkable sense of humour. It seems somehow that no matter how cool you think you are, every tourist will always seem very uncool in Jamaica. I don’t know what it is, but I think the combination of the laid-back aura of the locals, combined with their vibrant personalities makes them very unique. Therefore, if you do find yourself staying in a hotel in Jamaica, I couldn’t advise you any more to get out of the resort and go meet people, you won’t regret it!  

 

2.     The Culture

Next on my list is the culture in Jamaica. Out of everywhere I have been in the world, which includes a lot of countries, no culture has ever outdone Jamaica for me. It seems so different from back home but yet still engaging and loveable. The music has got to be one of highlights. Every year in July, they have a festival in Montego Bay called Sumfest, and if you can I would recommend trying to work this into your holiday. They have two nights; dancehall night and international night. They are different but equally great. If you want to experience some real Jamaican culture, music and dancing, it’s a great place to go. My next point about culture, may not been seen as a benefit by all tourists. This the laid-back approach to life in Jamaica. It means Jamaica is an amazing place to relax and become inspired. However, it also means not everything will be on time, or perfect. The phrase ‘mi soon come’ is customary around Jamaica. I can see how this might be annoying, but you have to embrace Jamaica with all its ethos, and then you will really feel at home.

 

3.     The Beaches

The Caribbean is known for its beaches, and Jamaica does not disappoint on this front. Most hotels and resorts will feature their own private beaches which are likely to be very nice. However, there is little point me telling you about these private and exclusive beaches when there are so many. I will tell you about a beach we visited this summer though on my last day. It features on the north side of the island, about an hour east of Montego Bay and is called Leroy’s. It’s a public beach and when we arrived, I was astonished by its beauty. We must have been the only people on the beach, and suddenly you feel so distant from all the massive hotels, the tourists and just really in the heart of Jamaica. The water was glistening blue and so clear you could see every detail through it. The sand was so silver, only normally existing on postcards and I couldn’t believe we were the only people there. I’m not going to lie, I’m not a big sand fan. I like looking at it, but I’ve never quite understood people who just lie in it after a swim. However, there I was lying wet in the sand and enjoying it. The beach must have been special! It felt like a hidden haven, and I hope it stays like that for as long as possible. So, even with your own beach at a hotel, it’s always worthwhile venturing out to experience something very different.

 

4.     The Food

Caribbean food is one the things I most look forward to when visiting Jamaica. Often when hotels serve mainly international food, it’s hard to experience the real Jamaican cuisine, so I urge you to get out and try it. The main dish for breakfast that Jamaicans have is salt fish and ackee. I could lie and say I love this but I won’t. Not a big a fan myself but I would still recommend giving it a try and deciding for yourself! I do love Jerk Chicken with rice and peas though. You may have already had this without visiting Jamaica but make sure you get some if you do visit. I would recommend scotchie’s in Ocho Rios and Montego Bay to anyone wanting to try some jerk food. Curried goat is also a delicacy in Jamaica, and again it’s very nice! A final note on food, is it’s a great idea to stop off at a fruit stand on the side of the road if you get a chance. Not only does this feel like a very cultural experience, but the fresh local fruit is amazing!

 

5.     The Experiences

Finally, and I think my favourite things about Jamaica is the experiences and activities available. I could write for pages on things to do in Jamaica, and if you want to know more, just drop us an email. However, I will just tell you about one day on our recent trip which I hadn’t experienced before. We headed off to just outside Negril to try out a blue hole we hadn’t been to before. It’s a bit off the beaten track so watch out for signs directing you. When we arrived, it was a very cool, relaxed place with a hole in the ground featuring a natural spring at the bottom. You could jump from anywhere at the top, and some of the lifeguards there attempted crazy jumps from trees above this hole. There was ladder leading all the way down, so you didn’t have to jump and could get out of the blue hole. Not only was this an awesome place to visit, it’s also a perfect place to capture some amazing photos. @henry.nathan got some epic shots, with the use of underwater protection provided by Aquatech Water Housing (https://aquatech.net/). From this, we headed off for lunch at a hotel in Negril called The Rockhouse. This is one of my favourite hotels on the island and really encapsulates Jamaican culture. The lunch and cocktails/juices were superb and then we explored the hotel. Again, this was a great place for some photography. The hotel was filled with secret little caves and cliffs to jump off. It was a lot of fun and we got some great shots. If you can stay here then do, but if not make sure you give it a visit. 

If you have any questions or comments on this blog, don't hesitate to leave it below! :) 

5 Things You Will Get Addicted To In Asia

5 Things You Will Get Addicted To In Asia

It may not seem a lot from surface but once you immerse in it. You won’t want to leave!

Asia includes 48 countries and today I want to share with you 5 things you will get addicted to in Asia. You will also find out why it is one of the favourite continent to work and play for digital nomads and start-up entrepreneurs.

2014 Thailand trip. It was on that trip that I knew I was born to travel, addicted to it and from that journey on, if I hadn’t been traveling then the hole size of China who exists in my heart!

Without further ado, Let’s begin!


1. Eating out A LOT

Food needs no introduction. Food is life. Asia is diverse with different cuisines.

Within each country there are many ethnicity and under those hundred ethnicity there are other hundreds sub ethnic people with their own customs, food and traditions. Imagine trying all those thousand different types of food in each Asian country! I know I will never be bored with variety of local food in Asia and its intoxifying smells.

I also believe Food is what brings people together and when you are traveling, it becomes a major factor. That one meal you shared with a stranger could lead to a source of information for next leg of your trip or solution to your current problem or even a good friendship, brotherhood/ sisterhood you name it. It could happen while devouring local phat Thai in Ko San Road in Bangkok, Guillin noodles in remote china or munching over Banh Mi in Vietnam.

Food is power and if you have lived in Asia for a while you know how easy it is to strike a conversation over food. Well you could do the same in your home country. I hear ya! But Shit ain’t that easy in first world countries. I have friends who have gone back to their countries from traveling and every time they try to have conversation with random stranger, all they get is a bitch face. So, yeah… Perhaps people are only friendly while away from home in a foreign land because no body wants to be alone!

Anyway, back to food. In some Asian countries, you don’t even have to worry about closing time. Hungry at 2am? No worries just walked down the street and plenty of choices. Asia is sort of food heaven that opens 24 hours (in some cities), affordable and has food that tastes way better than McDonalds takeaway.

2. Being surrounded with Nature
World’s tallest mountains are in Asia, some of World’s best beaches are in Asia, heritage monuments can also be found here and nature’s unique creations. Lucky Asia! But it’s not only that, its more about how it makes you feel when you are being surrounded with nature. Remember that inner calmness and clarity?

I walk two minutes from my room and there is a beach waiting for me. In another Asian country, I open my window and there are mountains to be climbed and beautiful places to be explored. Landscapes untouched, nature breathtaking. It is hard not to fall in love with Mother Nature in Asia. Plus the weather is probably better than your home or last country you were in. No wonder many digital nomads and travellers folk back to Asia time and again just to be around those amazing nature.

3. Checking out or Participating in Festivals
Another benefit that comes with all those thousand ethnicities is they have their own festivals, occasions and traditions to celebrate. However, holidays for those celebrations could be nationwide or state only. Just to give you an example: In one calendar month, there are more than 5 festival celebrations in Kathmandu, Nepal. It is crazy I know. It is such a vivid experience to see communities coming together for different occasions in one month.

This is something that doesn’t happen often in other parts of the world and clearly why most travellers tell me how plain life is back home. Only festivals to attend were Music or food festivals  – fun but this is interesting in different level, tasting cultures through festivals. It is definitely a fun and easy way to understand its history and people of the country too. No surprise many nomads plan their travels around the festivals.

4. Cheap Thrills (cost) of living
Weather it be rooftop terrace with beautiful sunsets view or bedroom overlooking stunning city view. You can have them all between $300-400 p/m. And some even come with FREE Maid Service. What is laundry! Combine that with full English breakfast for less than $10 or dinner at a fancy place for 2 under $50. It is affordable to live in Asia unless you go above and beyond your budget and go out drinking every night. Even then some cities like Hanoi you could buy beer for 25c!

You can have the Queen or the King life in Asia that you can only dream about in your own country. Life gets on the way when you pay ridiculous rent to live in shoebox with no sunsets view. Same with the food price, taxi fares and everything else. But you could have all this and more for a reasonable price in Asia.

5. Friendly people
Travelling on your own to one of the Asian countries? Fear not! Making new friends at the hostel means always having someone to throw back shots of tequila with. Fellow nomad friends made from teaching English, online business or at the bar? Consider them family. We are talking real conversation here not just some small talk. No better feeling than finding your type of people in a foreign land. When was the last time you tried finding new family members at the hostel or at the bars?

Asia is addictive and I can’t wait to run back to it!

Want to experience this adventure yourself? But you have no strong support, no accountability partner, no idea how to? I’m only an email away. Better yet, you can leave your name and email by clicking here. I can help you travel the world and experience life in a different way that will speak to you and lit that fire within you.

For more amazing pictures, check out Instagram @annasherchand and if you are active in any of the other social medias my handle are for twitter @annasherchandfacebook and YouTube @annasherchand

Hope you get a kick out of it.

Happy travels x

Vietnam: Part 1

Vietnam: A four stage stopover

Stage 1, Hanoi: Having crashed into Hanoi the day previous, all I wanted to do was relax and get some headspace having finally packed-up the day job in London. At first glance, this might seem impossible in the city of Hanoi – it is a hive of activity with every nook and cranny commandeered by the entrepreneurial folk that call this place their home. Shop fronts bristle with items for sale, bars and restaurants appear every few yards, and the roads swarm with over 4 million motorbikes.

But by taking a little stroll up to the spacious Hoan Kiem Lake, you are able to pause for a moment, take stock of the situation, and suddenly the pace of life seems to become a lot more manageable. The lake stretches as far as you can see, and the stillness and coolness of the water will completely absorb you. It is no wonder that city-dwellers assemble at this lake each morning to perform a daily ritual of Tai Chi.

The city is truly a welcoming place for a foreign visitor, even for a visitor with no experience of Vietnam or even of South East Asia. Folks seem enthusiastic to great you, and there are an abundance of places to take a moment to yourself or to enjoy the supreme delight of a Vietnamese coffee.

I happened upon just such a place on the return leg of my walk around the Hoan Kiem Lake. The café was named the Banh mi Ngon Pateta and I would highly recommend it to anyone passing through the Vietnamese capital. Sitting on their wooden veranda I felt so far removed that I may as well have remained standing by the peaceful lake. In reality you are overlooking a busy cross-junction right in the heart of the city, but with an iced coconut coffee and a freshly baked Banh mi (a kind of baguette stuffed with sweet chilli tofu and fresh herbs) in my hand, I found it a wonderful place to relax.

One last thing to mention – As night descends in Hanoi, the most unusual thing occurs; and the streets become almost entirely empty. This is a seriously surreal thing to experience as contrast starkly with vibrancy of the streets by day. Standing on an arterial road that leads straight through the city, I may as well have been on a quiet country-lane in the depths of rural Vietnam. There is a well-respected curfew that draws most inhabitants back to their family homes as night descends. I came to learn that this is a mark of the cities’ close association with the communist values. But whilst strolling through the capital in the calm of the night, I was not dwelling on the heritage of this Communist state, but instead my mind was occupied with thoughts of the overnight train I had only an hour to board!

 If you have any further questions about this blog, give it a comment below

If you have any further questions about this blog, give it a comment below

Our Top 5 Insta Spots in New Zealand

Last month our team headed down to New Zealand for an epic eight day adventure.  Here are our top Instagram spots!

1. Sunset at The Wanaka Tree; it may be a little cliche and obvious.  But sunset at The Wanaka Tree is stunning and really does live up to the stunning shots that litter Instagram.  Bring your tripod and a few lenses and experiment with what works best for you that particular day.  When we were there the water level in the lake was so low we could capture reflection shots with a 16-35mm, that look a bit different.

2. Sunset at Piha, overlooking Lion Rock; perhaps not as classic, but we were really impressed with how stunning but rugged the West Coast is.  And just 1 hour from Auckland, we think it should be on everyone’s list.  There are great hikes around Piha, as well as surfing opportunities!

3. Sunrise in The Bay of Islands was another surprise highlight from our trip.  It was unbelievably peaceful but there were such vivid colours all across the skies.  And if you can stand the cold (depending on the time of year) you can even go for a dip in the water.

4. Helicopter views over Queenstown.  If you have the chance to see Queenstown from above, you should go for it!  It is the ideal way to grasp the scale of the town, the lakes and The Remarkables.  It can be a little scary though if the wind picks up.

5. Capture the adrenaline!  Sky dive or Bungee.  New Zealand is the place to go for it when it comes to adrenaline.  We opted for a bungee jump whilst in NZ and although we were so scared before, we would now say it really is a #NZMustDo!  

If you have any further questions about this blog, give it a comment below .

Favourite Insta Spots From Our Trip To California

1. Hawk Hill

The first spot on my list features just outside San Francisco and if you’re ever in the area, it’s a place that can’t be missed. You will need a car to get there, but it’s certainly worth the drive. The ideal time to go is just before sunset, so we headed off at 6:45pm as it was summer. We drove from San Fran, over the Golden Gate Bridge and about 5 mins up through the hills. There are signs to point you in the right direction, just look out for Hawk Hill. When we arrived at the top, the view was overwhelming. If you looked to your left, you could see the imperious Golden Gate bridge below, with San Francisco city behind shimmering in the sun. To our right was the coastal hills, with the sun setting in the background, and a scenic road leading through. To our amazement, there were also whales to be spotted splashing in the sea below to top it all off. This is a great spot to catch amazing photos, as we did, as well as just relax with friends over an amazing view. So, if you ever find yourself in San Francisco, be sure to not miss this lookout.

These photos are edited with our very own preset pack available here

 

2. Bixby Creek Bridge

This is a slightly harder spot to visit, as it sits about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Therefore, the best way to do it is a road trip between the cities. This is exactly what we did, renting a convertible Ford Mustang and it was one of the best trips of my life. When doing the drive, make sure you take the coastal route up Highway 1, so not to miss out on any of the scenic spots. Bixby Creek Bridge, is along this coastal route and is positioned just outside Monterey. Driving over it is great, but the best part comes when you park just beside it. Once you’re out, the images you can capture will be epic. Luckily for us, we had a drone which makes the experience all the more fun. If you have a drone, I highly recommend flying it out beside the bridge and you will capture some incomparable shots. The whole coastal route between San Francisco and Los Angeles is an amazing experience but this spot is arguably the highlight.

3. Griffith Observatory

This is a slightly more popular and touristy location, but it is still definitely worth a visit. It lies in the hills of Los Angeles, and is easily accessible by car, taxi or if you’re really in the mood a hike. We headed up by taxi on 4th July, to see the view. When we arrived, it was a rare experience. I couldn’t quite believe we were still technically in the city of Los Angeles. It is one of the original charms about the place, you can take a short taxi ride to the hills and suddenly, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. It is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of city life in LA. From the observatory, there are many mapped out hikes around the hills and we set off towards the Hollywood sign. As it was getting late, we couldn’t make it all the way but we set up in a spot overlooking the sign and the city below. Once again, it was a great place to get some amazing photographs, and footage for our travel video. It is also an ideal spot to go and chill with some friends. As it got dark, we headed back down to the observatory, and experienced a whole new viewpoint. The sun had set, and now all we could see were the stars in the sky and the lights of the city below us. Additionally, due to it being the 4th July, we were lucky enough to see a myriad of fireworks throughout the city, which really was a one-off experience. I know most people like to celebrate in different ways on this date, but if anyone does get the chance it’s a very cool place to go on July 4th .

These photos are edited with our very own preset pack available here

4. Urban Light

It is situated at the entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As you will be able to see from the photos, it is a forest-like display of lampposts and therefore is ideal to view at night. It is very cool to just walk through the installation, as well as taking a step back to appreciate it from afar. You can get a lot of nice shots of people in between the display and you should definitely visit it with friends. The display has been featured in many Hollywood films, and therefore is perfect for any photographers or videographers trying to get some really great content. 

These photos are edited with our very own preset pack available here

5. Joshua Tree

This is one of the best spots I’ve been to in California and it came right at the end of the trip. It covers an area of 1,235 square miles, which is larger than the state of Rhode Island. Entry into the park comes at $25 per vehicle. I arrived at around 4pm to meet a friend and drove all the way through the park from the east entrance to the west entrance. The sun was low in the sky, as we drove past continuous Joshua trees and the distinct rocks that make the park so unique. I met my friend just outside the park at Noah Purifoy’s outdoor art installation. It’s a very unusual exhibition and I would recommend checking it out if you do go to Joshua Tree. We headed from the exhibition to pick up some snacks for a picnic at sunset. The national park is spoilt with various different spots to set up for dinner, and we chose one close to the west entrance facing the sun. This time of night, from 7-8pm is perfect for anyone trying to capture a striking shot. The sun sets slowly over the rocks, as the park gains a golden light. The unique rocks glimmer amongst the countless Joshua trees creating a rather surreal environment. I would highly recommend photographers or anyone looking for a quiet, naturally picturesque place to visit Joshua Tree. You can camp at their incredible camp grounds amongst the rocks for $15 a night, as well as use motels nearby. There are also numerous scenic hikes around the park, one of which leads to a beautiful Oasis.

If you have any further questions about this blog, give it a comment below

Why We Travel and Why You Should Too

Why We Travel and Why You Should Too

Written by Brian Callender | Photography by Julie Boyd

www.boundtoexplore.com

@boundtoexplore
 

Without question, we live in a pretty incredible time period in human history. Thanks to technological advances, the world is at its most interconnected, making travel accessible to the masses. Much like it has been since people first roamed this earth, the world can also be a dangerous and scary place. Turn on the evening news and there are no shortage of everyday incidents, from those that affect our neighborhoods, to events that can impact our entire existence. At times, it can seem like there is no sense in leaving your home and putting yourself at risk. But travel is an essential part of understanding one another and learning that, despite our differences, we are all the same. Here are some of the reasons why we travel, and why you should too.

It’s a Beautiful World Out There

Julie and I are fortunate enough to have both grown up in California, a place with many beautiful natural features. You can lie on the beach one day, and hike through stunning mountains another. It’s a place that’s pretty incredible, and one we could spend our lifetimes enjoying. But there is so much more to the United States than California, and more to the world than the United States. Every trip that we have the privilege to take, opens our eyes to another amazing destination. Getting outside of our own backyard and expanding our horizons helps us grasp just how much there is to offer through traveling.

In our five years together, Julie and I have visited stunning lakes, enormous (and receding) glaciers, waterfalls, snowcapped peaks, vibrant cities, centuries old buildings, and more. Each place we visit, continues to fuel our desire to see and do more. The memories we make and the experiences we have are invaluable and help shape who we are as individuals and as a couple.
 

Our Similarities Are Endless

When the world gets crazy, as it seems to be more and more these days, it’s easy to think of isolating oneself. But as long as there have been people on earth, danger hasn’t been too far behind. Humans have always fought and conflicts have barged into every day life. Though we now have news and social media that show us the realities that exist out there, travel is as important as ever. When we travel, we see just how similar our fellow men and women are. At our core, we need the same basic things: water, sleep, air, food, shelter, etc. Although we may have our differences, we hold these same fundamentals to be true even if it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of this.

As we travel, we see the world and how people go about their daily lives. We all strive to reach similar goals; providing for our families, living comfortably, and being good to one another. When you travel you become significantly more aware of just how vast the earth is and feel more connected as you explore each new place.
 

A Lifetime of Stories

In 2009, I studied abroad in Oxford, England for ten amazing weeks. I wholeheartedly credit that trip with igniting my passion for travel and further expanding my mind to different cultures and ways of life. One of the takeaways from that trip that I hadn’t fully anticipated, were all the stories, memories, and connections I came home with. I could now engage in conversation with others who had studied abroad and share my experience. If I met someone from France, I would talk about the week I spent in Paris, roaming the city streets alone, exploring its history. When I walked into my current big boss’ office to interview with him, I stopped to talk to his assistant who grew up in England. Her office is decorated with English photos and I felt an immediate connection thanks to my time spent there. And when it came time to speak with the boss, a Canadian, we could chat about my time visiting Alberta over the previous summer.

Easily one of the best byproducts of traveling is the way in which you can connect and bond with friends or complete strangers over shared experiences. As we expand our travel portfolio, we become more well rounded individuals, something I believe we should all strive for in this competitive world we live in.


Eating Around the World

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention food, because let’s face it, we love to eat! One of our favorite parts about traveling is after a long day of hiking or exploring a city, indulging in some of the local cuisine. If you’ve never eaten a Belgian waffle in Belgium, or had Swiss chocolate in Switzerland, you are missing out! Mark it down on your bucket list immediately, because trust us, it’s worth it!

Food is something that bonds us all together at our most primal levels. We all have to eat, so why not make it something delicious?

Making the Most of Time Off

With full-time jobs, Julie and I have to make the most of our time off to see and do as much as we can. While we typically aim for two big trips a year, this means we need to pack in as much adventure and sightseeing as possible if we want to explore the world. This is one of the reasons why we will often laugh when we think of the number of relaxing vacations we have taken in the past five years (the answer is 0) because there is so much to see and do! While you certainly don’t have to follow our exact path, we hope that some or all of these reasons will help convince you to get out there and travel. Move outside of your comfort zone, and we promise you won’t regret it!

Sahara

This is a story of the most insane display of nature I have ever seen, it starts deep in Morocco, beyond the Atlas mountains towards the Algerian border. We pulled up to a house made of local stone, it seamlessly blended in with the land  around it, the only fault in it's camouflage being the narrow strip of darkness that was the threshold to it’s cool shadowy interior. With the desert sun pounding down, we waited in the 4x4 as a man emerged from the house with a large sack, our guide went to collect it and we set off once again, leaving this small settlement behind. I remember noticing the end of the electricity pylons, they just stopped, clearly because there was nothing else ahead. The unsealed road gradually crumbled to dust and dirt and we eventually made it onto the sand. 

Our guide gestured to the package he had just received, saying it was bread, food for dinner, but he wanted to make sure there was extra food for this journey.

There have been times when travelling when I have felt like I am on an alien planet, these are my favourite moments, when in crazy landscapes like Antarctica, Death Valley or Sedona, nothing seems familiar and everything is extreme, the Sahara desert was another. With strange bushes and patches of dirt and and sand, I could have been on Mars. 

Our guide spoke little English and would occasionally stop and get out to check the path ahead, this was unnerving for two reasons: firstly cutting the engine meant the AC stopped, opening the door was like being pounded by an atmosphere sized hair dryer, and of course the more fatal concern of us being lost or stuck.

After 4 hours navigating sand banks, dust bowls and even an oasis, finally the mountains where on the horizon with the rolling hills in front, but these were not hills, the shimmering evening sun struck hairlines of light across the occasional sharp ridge, these were the sand dunes we had been looking for.

Pulling up to camp we had a generous tent for the two of us with a separate tent for dining. It initially seemed too comfortable for our desert experience, but that is when everything went a little crazy.

The clouds were moving at such a pace in the sky, I headed to a distant dune to set up a time-lapse hoping to catch the rays of light dancing around the landscape. However, eventually the clouds filled the sky and our chances for a dramatic north African sunset or star gazing where looking pretty slim.

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Then it started to rain.

I knew I was typically unlucky with the weather, but for it to rain in the Sahara desert within hours of my arrival seemed like another level. I didn't even think it was physically possible! But there we were watching the droplets land on the sand. Only to be sucked down immediately in this desperately dry place.

As the weather continued to change, a small gap in the cloud opened westward and a streak of golden light cascaded through, giving us our last glimpse of light before being left to the complete darkness of this remote place.

Except that didn't happen either.

Whilst taking some final shots as the last light faded, everything was illuminated by a bright flash, then another, as if the paparazzi had arrived but on a colossal scale. 

I turned around to see that the light rain shower had grown into a thunderstorm and it was headed our way. I ran to find an interesting dune with wind patterns to be my foreground, deciding I didn’t have time to head back to camp to get my tripod, I used a part of my bag to prop up my camera and left it facing up the dune to the sky, taking a series long exposure shots to ensure capturing at least one flash of lightening as the storm came towards us.

After taking some other shots with my second camera body I was told we would have dinner soon and so I knew I had to head back out amongst the dunes to retrieve my first camera. It was now pitch black, with only the occasional flash of lightening to illuminate the way. I had my powerful flashlight in my hand to help find and then literally retrace my footsteps back to where I had left the camera. Just before setting off to search our host of the campsite told me not to go, he said “My friend, do not go out there, come and have dinner” I remember this distinctly because at the time I thought he was simply referring to me ruining the schedule. I replied saying I’d be back quickly, I was just retrieving my camera and I headed out into the dunes with just my flashlight to guide the way.

Finding the camera was not an issue, I had a look through and was very excited to see what I had captured.

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I couldn’t look for long, the wind had picked up and sand was blowing up the crest of the dune into my face and onto my camera. I deciding to head back immediately so I threw the camera into the bag compartment I had left it with and held the lid shut, with one hand over my face as the sand continued to blast into me.

When I turned my flashlight on again I could see the full scale of the situation. To my left was a brown cloud headed towards me, the wind that had been blowing was just the warm up, a sand storm was about to hit and when it did, everything changed.

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I couldn’t walk forwards, the force at which it hit meant that I had to cover my face, but I also needed my flashlight to see. In desperation I knelt down, bending away from the wind to protect my eyes and I took of my shirt, wrapping it around my head leaving the tiniest gap for my eyes to see through. I held it secure at the top of my head with the hand that also held the flashlight, keeping my face protected and the light always pointed forwards. Whilst my body would get thrashed it was nowhere near as sensitive as my face, I could now run back to camp to get in shelter. But when I started to run along the crest of the sand dune I had to stop again because my old footprints had gone.

In the pitch black with the light revealing only a few feet in front of me, I did not know how I would find my way back to camp. This is when fear set in, I could not stand being in this pain much more, it felt like tiny shards being shot across my skin and without knowing which direction camp was, I could wander in the wrong direction and get lost. I didn’t want to wait it out either, this could go on all night and I didn’t have any water on me. 

I took my best guess, following the dune I was on, hoping it would lead me to familiar ground, but without sunlight everything looked so different. Eventually on the horizon I saw a faint light, whatever it was it wasn’t natural so I headed towards it in hope of finding shelter, running as fast as I could I found it was our host, standing on the crest above the camp waving his phone in the air. I was so relieved and so grateful, if he had not been there I don’t know what would have happened. I then realised his warning to me earlier was because he knew the storm was coming in, but didn’t know the words to explain it to me.

With the storm still raging. It felt like a scene out of a Hollywood movie, as we had our candle lit dinner inside the tent with people diving in and out looking like they had been in beaten up outside. I looked the worst off, sand stuck to my skin in strange places and my hair was all over, I must have looked like I had seen a ghost. I remember feeling a sense of great fortune, that I was lucky to be alive and couldn’t believe how comfortable this tent felt, out of the storm with amazing food was a stark contrast to the situation I was in just 10 minutes before. As our tents seemed like they wanted to take off, flapping and fighting against their tethers and the sky still swirling with angry clouds, it did not seem like there would be any chance of star gazing tonight. But with only one night there, I wanted to be certain, so I used my phone to see where and when the milky way would be at it’s best in the sky and set an alarm, to then settle in the for the night, attempting to sleep in the intense heat with the walls whipping around us.

I must have only gotten a few hours sleep, but when I woke, I looked up at the tent entrance, the vigorous flapping had stopped, everything was calm, everything was silent. Through a small crack I could see a black sky, not one grey with cloud! I got out of bed and headed outside. 

Above me was a perfectly clear sky, the clearest I had ever seen. In the dry air of the Sahara with no light around for miles there was nothing to obstruct the view. I grabbed my cameras, tripod and gorilla pod and headed back into the dunes, careful not to use my flashlight and ruin the adjustment to the darkness my eyes had done. It took a while to find the milky way, but I caught it just before it descended below the horizon.

After capturing what I could, I set up some time-lapses and lay down on the top of a dune, now cool against my skin, the sand was more comfortable than the damp bed I had tried to sleep in earlier, and it had a far better view. 

I must have been there for a couple of hours, just watching the stars move in front of my eyes, I lost count of the shooting stars that I saw, it was a magical moment and I get emotional remembering it even now. I couldn’t have been more lucky, the storm had continued through the night, blowing away all clouds to give us this vast window into space and it was just me alone in the desert seeing it. 

The next morning I finally got to experience the beautiful light of golden hour, although admittedly I didn’t get up for sunrise as I had planned! I had stayed up so late watching the stars, only going to sleep when they started to fade because of the sky lighting up before morning.

I knew this time of day would be amazing because the harsh angle of the sun would create such a golden glow and deep shadows that would really help the incredible shapes of the dunes to stand out. 

We had a little exploration back into the dunes, hiking up the huge banks to get views over the rest. The light was spectacular and it was such a peaceful scene, now able to see where the sand had settled after the storm. It was heating up, as the morning sun continued to rise we could feel that all too familiar blast of heat from driving in the day before during the day. We packed up our kit and got back in the 4x4 to head back to civilisation, my time in the desert had come to an end, but it had given me so much.

A Contemporary Stay At The Savoy

As I walked into The American Bar, the best bar in Europe and the second best in the world, I asked; What makes it this bar so special?  The answer was, the menu, the feel, but ultimately, you'll see for yourself.  And as I sat at the bar sipping a refreshing cocktail from their new Coast-to-Coast Menu, and made conversation with my attentive white-jacketed barman I was beginning to understand what made the bar so unique.  But then the barman, Martin, said, I have worked here 2 years, 5 months and 19 days.  You never forget the day you join The Savoy.  This moment stuck with me during my stay; the excitement of the guests and staff is contagious.

Other highlights included a tour of the 'back' of The Savoy.  Realising that the incredibly high standards at the front of house are equally high behind the scenes was remarkable.  Each meal is checked, double checked and triple checked whilst being prepared to ensure nothing but excellence is delivered!  And having eaten at Kaspar's three times I was pleasantly surprised at the extensiveness of the vegan menu.  My personal favourtie was the Samosa to start and then the gnocchi!

However, my highlight was the roof access.  The hotel is in the heart of London, to the left there is The London Eye and Big Ben, and on the right St Pauls and The City.  During a pleasant summer's sunset it was genuinely one of the most stunning views I have ever seen.  Climbing up a steep ladder and then opening an old door and then being presented with the view brought back memories of the surprise at Sun Gate, Peru.

Thank you for a memorable stay and excellent experience.  I look forward to returning one day soon!

Maldives - Lux Resorts

We set out early in the morning heading for the Maldives. It was my first time visiting this part of the world and I was excited to see if the photos lived up to reality. It started differently to usual holidays when we took a sea plane to the Island - South Ari Atoll. Despite flying on countless helicopters and planes, I still find flying irrationally scary at the best of times, so I was little anxious about this sea plane. However, it turned out to be absolutely fine and landing on the water at a tiny beautiful island was an amazing experience. 

I was travelling with my friend Ali (@nikon_photography_) which helped to capture some great shots. As for equipment, I shot with a canon 1dx mark II and used the following lenses: 16-35mm F2.8, 35mm F2.8, 24-70 mm F2.8. This allowed me capture both great photographs and create my travel video of the island. 

 

As soon as we arrived at LUX resort, I was blown away by the natural beauty. The water was crystal blue surrounded by white sand. We spent the first two nights at LUX beach front villas and the next three at the classic Maldives water front villas. My personal preference was in fact the beach front villas. I felt the novelty slightly wore off the water front villas and nothing beats waking up by the beach. Having said this, I'm not being fussy and they were both of a very high standard. 

 

We spent a lot of time shooting and chilling on the beach. However, we did do some pretty cool activities. Most mornings, I would wake up and waterski which Ali filmed on his phantom 4 drone. I learnt in Jamaica but waterskiing in the Maldives was so flat, as can be seen in the shots. I also had a phantom 4 but accidentally knocked it in the water. A bit of an error. I tested it the next day and caught some footage of it going a little crazy. Happy to say it has recovered and works perfectly now. I am used to water sports but fly boarding was a first for me. I was pretty confident going in to it, thinking waterskiing would help me. It was genuinely so difficult but luckily I eventually got the hang of it. I definitely wouldn't claim to be a pro at fly boarding but the trick is the balance of your ankles and then it becomes much easier. 

 

Whilst I felt we were creating some great content, it needed a little extra spark. As good as me and Ali were at getting the shots, we aren't the greatest models. Luckily we bumped into a couple through Instagram. Alda (@aldapajor) made contact with us and with her help we captured some fantastic shots. We also tried to see some whale sharks, whilst we were out there. I was pretty excited to see these animals and capture them for my video. Unfortunately, we had no luck. A whale shark was not to be seen. You win some, you lose some. We did, however, get some great shots of water turtles and swam with them which was quite an experience.  

 

To finish this blog, I'll talk a little bit about the hotel. Honestly, it was stunning. I thought I may get bored in the Maldives, being so isolated on a tiny island. I underestimated how picturesque it was going to be though and would love to go again. We were given privileged access to see LUX resort's new villa. It was called the LUX villa and it was crazy. They had a see-through floor in the lounge so you could see the sea-life below. Maybe an unnecessary feature but so cool nonetheless. It had an amazing view of the incredible Maldives sunsets and anyone who had the opportunity to stay there would consider themselves very lucky. The resort had 7 restaurants but the Japanese was my favourite. The local sushi and sea views were a perfect combination. So, thank you to LUX resorts for letting us stay, I would highly recommend the resort and the Maldives to anyone thinking of going.