Posts tagged travel
Hitting the Road: Away Travel Carry On Review

I’ve almost always been a backpack traveler. Ever since a long trip to England with a big, clunky suitcase, I’ve been a convert to the grab and go style of travel packing. Well, that is until I decided to try an Away suitcase. 

On our last trip to London, Kim and I gifted each other with one of Away’s “The Carry On”. I’d seen a lot of friends post pictures of rolling this neat little bag all over the world and wanted to see how it matched up against my lifestyle of carrying everything on my back. 

This is not a sponsored post. We paid full price for our Away bags and have not been contacted for a review by Away. Any links you see are Affiliate links which give us the commission to help run this site if you decide to buy anything, at no extra cost to you. 

Style

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For Kim, we picked the Limited Edition “Paris” colorway that is glossy black with a midnight blue zipper and lining. I was lucky enough to get one of the Limited Edition collaborations with Star Wars in the Hoth colorway. The hard shell is a milky type clear look with a lining of probe droids that you can faintly see through. 

After I deplaned in London, I got no fewer than four comments from people on the Tube about how cool my Away bag looked. No backpack has ever gotten that type of recognition before. 

Kim’s glossy Paris colorway tends to show scratches a bit easier than my clear one so I’d recommend sticking with a more matte color. I didn’t baby my Hoth bag at all and it really held up and still looks brand new. 

Functionality

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The Away bag’s built-in divider really helped compress and cut down on our packing. Like most people, I have a tendency to put a few more things in that I actually need on a trip and with the Away bags compression system and zippered divider, it was easy to get everything in and still stay organized. 

The front side is a zippered compartment that I opted to put things like shoes, my Dopp kit and bulkier items that might move around. The main compartment is covered by a compression pocket that I used for socks and boxers with shirts and pants underneath, cinched down to save room. 

I was immediately surprised by the amount of stuff I was able to fit in such a little bag. It's designed to make it easy to adapt to a Carry On Travel lifestyle. 

Ejectable Battery

I have a tendency to get to the airport pretty early. This usually means that I’m fighting off other passengers for the few available outlets at the terminal so that I can use my phone on the plane. This is where the TSA approved ejectable battery on the Away bag came in super handy. I was able to sit wherever I wanted while charging my phone and reading The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

Once on the ground in London, it was easy to eject the battery and drop it in our day bag for a quick phone recharge while walking around the Tate Modern. I’ve never really wanted this option in a bag before but it was super helpful on more than one occasion when we spent all day walking. Definitely a plus. 

Roll, Roll, Roll

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As I carry more camera gear with me, it’s become increasingly common to carry two bags with me whenever I travel. I’ve settled into using the Peak Design 20L Everyday Backpack to carry my Sony a7Rii and accessories so any other backpack for clothes and books just didn’t make sense. 

With my Away bag and the built-in luggage strap on my Peak Design Everyday Backpack, moving from car to plane to Tube to walking has never been easier. I’m less tired since I don’t have to carry anything through the airport and switching back and forth is simple. 

My first stop in London was at Blackfriars Station. I was able to get out of the Tube, slip my backpack over the Away bag’s handle and roll right on over Blackfriars Bridge. The Hinomoto wheels on the Away bag are smooth and never once posed a problem, even when navigating cobblestones and streets. 

Ease of Use

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Coming from using a backpack almost exclusively, I was surprised by how easy my Away bag made my trip. Rolling through the airport definitely made for less tired arms and it’s so compact that when I had to navigate stairs, it was light and easy. 

During our trip, we changed accommodations a couple times (Kim changed a few more since she mostly stayed with friends) and rolling through all types of terrain was simple. The divided compartments helped keep everything in place when opening and closing and the hardshell case kept everything safe and secure. 

Customer Service

On our way back from London, Kim’s compression pocket came loose from its bracket. Away has a Limited Lifetime Warranty, so we contacted their customer service and they promptly sent us a packing slip to send the bag back in for repair or replacement. It was a simple and hassle-free process. 

When I received my Away bag, the packaging lacked a British plug adaptor for the ejectable battery. A quick Facebook message to the company and they offered to ship me a replacement to where I was staying in London so I wouldn’t miss out on a single thing on my trip. 

Every step of the way we were contacted by a real person who did everything possible to make us feel like special customers. I haven’t experienced that level of customer service in a while. 

My only qualm would be that when Kim’s bag came back from being repaired, it was a bit damaged on the outside and the box it was in was barely hanging on. I imagine that was probably UPS’ fault, but it definitely could have been handled better.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a versatile bag that prioritizes ease of use and style, I’d highly recommend the Away Carry On travel bag. Its mix of functionality and style at such a low price point is hard to beat.

I look forward to traveling with mine for years to come. Away may just have converted me from a backpacking lifestyle. 

Seeing the World with the Tipsy Gypsies

Last week we spent a few days in Austin, TX for a little gathering called TravelCon. To be honest, we were pretty overwhelmed going into the whole experience, being conference newbies and all, but the crowd couldn’t have been better.

On the second day, we were introduced to a couple who called themselves The Tipsy Gypsies. Nate and Marta Connella describe themselves as “a married couple who quit everything to go see and experience the world.” They also like to chronicle their adventures through film, photography, and adult beverages.

Nate is a pretty fantastic filmmaker and has had a few of his travel films featured on Lonely Planet, National Geographic, BBC World News and Travel+Leisure. I really love his style because you can see that he likes to get up close and personal with the culture and people. So many travel filmmakers today rely too much on cinematic drone shots and in Nate’s films you can really feel the atmosphere on the street.

Take the example below, a one and a half minute look at their time in Hong Kong. You can feel the hustle and bustle in the streets in a city that houses some 7.4 million people.

Travel and Food and Drink

There’s not much that will get you closer to a culture than by enjoying local cuisine and drinks. For a lot of people that means venturing out a little farther than most tourists and seeing the soul of the locals in their own districts. I love Paris, but if you never leave the touristy center, you probably haven’t experienced the real grittiness of the city and the people that walk its streets.

In 2016, Nate and Marta traveled through Portugal for a month, starting in the north at Porto and heading down south to Lisboa. “If a country's wealth were based solely on the kindness and character of its people, Portugal would be one of the richest countries in the world,” said The Tipsy Gypsies about their film The Spirit of Portugal.

Check it out below and experience Portugal through the eyes of The Tipsy Gypsies, then plan a trip for yourself. After all, this is a site for inspiration. Now get out and travel! And thanks to Nate and Marta for hanging out and talking travel. Y’all are the best!

Cover Photo by The Tipsy Gypsies.

A Literary Trip To Seven Continents

Can't afford that around the world ticket quite yet? You're not alone, as the average $4,000 cost for a RTW ticket an put most people off who haven't extensively planned for it. Then there's the lodging, food and, well, lots of other things. So while you're saving up to go globetrotting on the ultimate adventure, try out some of these books to help keep the wanderlust stoked. You can even put them on a Kindle and bring them with you. 


Africa

Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times writer Jeffrey Gettleman takes us on a trip into the life of an East African Bureau chief in Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War and Survival. Gettleman spends most of the book talking about his two loves; Africa and his wife Courtenay. Part memoir of a foreign correspondent and part journal of a marriage taking place at different times on different continents, you can sense the push-pull that often comes with having multiple passions. Those looking for an analytical look at modern day Africa may be a bit disappointed as Gettleman leaves his journalistic tendencies at work in favor of a more rambling, story based memoir. What you miss out on in analysis, though, is more than made up for in the spirited adventures that take place against the backdrop of Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and more. 


Antarctica

Okay so Antarctica may not be on everyone's list for a RTW trip, but it's still a continent. Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration recounts the unbelievable story of Douglass Mawson 100-mile solo journey to get back to his team at the Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1913. Throughout the book you get to experience life on the ice via some never before seen photographs from Frank Hurley. One of only three that had left the camp three months earlier, Mawson battled blinding wind, snow, and starvation as he walked for 31 days, most of that with no companions. The fact that Mawson made it back to camp alive, even if he was almost unrecognizable, is a testament to the human will to survive in even the harshest of conditions. If adventure survival thrillers are what you like, Alone on the Ice will not disappoint. 


Asia

The Asian continent is vast. Like it holds some 4.4 billion people kind of vast. In From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, Indian essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra looks at the forces and ideas that shaped modern day China, India, and a majority of the Muslim world by highlighting three people; Jamal al-Din al-Afghani; Chinese reformer Liang Qichao; and poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. A timely book, Mishra has given a beautiful and accessible account of the "intellectual and political awakening of Asia" as colonial empires fell. A great read for those that like to keep up with current events and anyone wanting to visit China, India or the Middle East. 


Australia

Ever wanted to set out on a 1,700-mile journey across the Australian outback with four camels and a dog? Well, Robyn Davidson's Tracks might be the book for you. In 1977 Davidson started her journey from Alice Springs to cross the dessert of West Australia. The motivation for her journey isn't quite clear, which may be one of the reasons Tracks is so appealing. It seems that Davidson sought adventure for adventure's sake. There's no jilted lover story or mid-life crisis, just a strong, independent woman who saw a challenge and accepted it. The fact that she spent nearly two years preparing the camels for the trip shows the shear determination of Davidson. As an added bonus, you can check out the photo book Inside Tracks: Robyn Davidson's Solo Journey Across the Outback by photographer Rick Smolan, who met Davidson three times on her nine-month journey. They even made a film adaption in 2013 starring  Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver. 


Europe

I'm a Europhile so when I found Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Venturers to the Vikings by Jean Manco, I was hooked. I've spent countless hours digging through genealogy records to find out what part of England my family is from so any book that works backwards focusing on new research to find out exactly where Europeans come from is perfect for me. As a continent, Europe is usually subdivided in genres so finding a book that represented the whole was challenging. By looking to the past and understanding the roots of where each subset of European civilization came from, we can better understand the Europe of today. Equal parts archaeology, history, linguistics and genetics, Ancestral Journeys will make you want to dig deeper into your own family history, no matter what continent they came from. 

 


North America

Enough has been written about big cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City so for a change of pace, pick up The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson. A meandering chronicle as Bryson traveled (travelled if you're British) 14,000 miles on a road trip in search of the "true America" in the late 1980s, any fan of Theroux will be right at home. With an ever changing geography in cities, small towns and rural areas may seem more familiar in Bryson's account. A native of Iowa, Bryson had lived in England for almost ten years before the epic American road-trip that became The Lost Continent. As travel writing goes, this one ranks right up there with the modern greats. It'll make you wonder if''Missouri looked precisely the same as Illinois, which had looked precisely the same as Iowa.'' It'll also make you want to gas up your car (or charge your Tesla) and hit the open road. 


South America

In The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, David Grann tells the story of British explorer Percy Fawcett in 1925 who, along with his son, disappeared into the Amazon in search of an ancient city. Grann journeys into the same rainforest as he tries to retrace the fateful steps of Fawcett and son and unravel the mystery left behind. Part Indiana Jones and part Unsolved Mysteries, The Lost City of Z will captivate you as Grann looks at new archeological evidence to find out if the city Fawcett and his son were searching for actually existed. A great read for any lover of history, mystery and adventure. 

 

 

What books would you recommend for each continent? Let us know in the comments below. 

5 Time-saving Travel Planing Apps

Planing a trip is hard work, especially if it's to a place you've never been before. To take some of the work out of it, here are 5 apps that will help you get that dream vacation planned sooner rather than later, and hopefully save you some money while you're at it. 

Image via Google.

Image via Google.

Google Trips

Billed as the ultimate travel planner and destination guide, Google Trips leans heavily on the rest of Google family of apps to create an all-in-one intuitive interface for your travel planning needs. You can organize all your trip information in one place and with its "Things To Do" section, find new experiences in your destination before you leave home. You'll have to login with a Gmail account, but the app does allow for multiple accounts to help keep work and play separate. Available for iOS and Android, you can learn more and download Google Trips here.


Image via Hopper

Image via Hopper

Hopper

Sick of checking on flights to your dream destination daily? Well why not let Hopper do all the work for you. A simple app that can end up saving you lots of money on flight bookings, Hopper asks you where you want to go and then lays out a convenient price calendar for you to see average prices. Most fare prediction apps use historical pricing data but Hopper goes one step further, analyzing current price trends to map out the best time to buy. It's available on iOS and Android here


Image via Journy

Image via Journy

Journy

Only have two days in Venice and no time to plan? For as little as $25 per day, Journy's travel concierges will plan a tailored itinerary complete with hotel recommendations and special rates, restaurant reservations, activity booking and two rounds of revisions. Journy is great for weekend getaways or short stays, just make sure your in the US, Europe or Asia Pacific as it's light on destination in the Middle East, Africa and Australia and currently has no South American offerings. Right now Journy is available online and as an iOS app. 


Image via ItsEasy

Image via ItsEasy

ItsEasy Passport Renewal

No one likes to wait in lines for anything, let alone to get your passport renewed. Earlier this year I discovered the ItsEasy Passport Renewal app that allowed me to take my passport photo right on my phone, fill out the app and pay for the whole process with my credit card. It was about as painless a process as I could imagine. ItsEasy charges $29.95 for processing forms, printing photos and shipping and it was well worth it. I even had a problem with my application and dealt with some really nice customer service people to get it resolved very quickly. ItsEasy is available on IOS here and on Android here.


Image via The Basetrip

Image via The Basetrip

The Basetrip

While not exactly a native app, The Basetrip was just too cool to leave off the list. Head over to thebasetrip.com, tell them what city or country your heading to and you'll be treated to travel info like visa requirements, what type of electrical plugs, average cost of living, weather data, currency conversion rates and even tipping instructions. If you've never been to your destination before, it's a great place to start for packing, planning and getting in the right mindset. It's a web app so just bookmark it in your browser. 


Have other travel planning app suggestions? Tell us about them in the comments below. 

Finding Your Own Travel Pace

Blame my dad, I’m a morning person. The feeling of waking up early and getting things accomplished is invigorating. When I start my day early I’m able to dictate the pace at which things happen to me. Well, for the most part. According to a 2012 Psychology Today article, early risers are “happier, healthier and more productive” than our night owl counterparts. I’m not sure I believe that completely, but I do know that when I go against my internal biology I’m definitely cranky.

My wife Kim is not a morning person. Her mind races at night and the creativity and accomplishment I feel in the morning, she feels roughly twelve hours later. None of these methods are better than the other one, just different based on our biology. Once we've found our pace and rhythm, we stick to it. This, however, is something we had to discover when traveling together.

The Steps In Cinque Terre

Our honeymoon was a beautiful affair. We flew into Rome and quickly caught a train along the coast to the Cinque Terra. Since Kim is a much better planner and events person than I, she handled a lot of the wedding while I was in charge of the honeymoon. As we got off our last train of the day in Corniglia, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the Italian Riveria. We had a small apartment overlooking the water just below the steps up to the little town. By steps I mean 382 steps. It was a piece I'd overlooked slightly but was more of an annoyance than problem. (I don't know...walking up may have helped stave off the pasta weight gain for a little bit.)

Our time in Corniglia was beautiful, relaxing and magical. We made friends from San Francisco that treated us like royalty and ate some of the finest food I've ever had. The three days in Corniglia were exactly what we needed, but I had an itinerary planned and was determined to stick to it.

One Too Many Stops

It went like this. Three days in Cinque Terre, a few in Florence, on to Venice for two days, hop a quick plane to Paris for four days and then back to Rome for two to cap off the trip. Even as I write this, that schedule makes me cringe. I was so focused on maximizing our time that I didn't take into account our style of travel. See, Kim and I both like to live in a place. We refer to it as 'local touristing' and this plan threw that out the window. Think of this method as less guidebook and more travelogue. It's a slower pace on purpose and revolves around food and experiencing culture as someone who would live there.

The more cities we explored, the more exhausted we became. Travel was turning into a chore instead of an adventure. Lauren Juliff of Never Ending Footsteps recently wrote about how she stopped traveling full-time for lots of reasons, including her health. It got me thinking about why our honeymoon turned out to be a bit more exhausting than restorative. We were gong against our nature, trying to be people we weren't. Kim and I love to immerse ourselves someplace and two days doesn't allow for that.

A Respite In Paris

The longest leg of our trip was in Paris. Kim had never been before so it was a treat to show her around a city that I once called home. The more I look back on the honeymoon, the more I realize that Paris was our highlight because of the pace we took it at. There wasn't any rushing to see sights or experience things, we had breathing room. We even left the Louvre because it was too crowded and reminded us of the hordes milling about Florence. In Paris we did what we wanted to do and not what the guidebook suggested because we had time to make decisions. The Italian legs of the trip were rushed and full of expectations.

Florence turned out to be a nightmare for us. We were in this beautiful Italian city and we couldn't see past the crowds or galleries to see what real life in Firenze was supposed to look like. The highlight of that stop was seeing Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones filming Inferno in front of the Duomo. That's how disconnected we felt.

Finding Our Own Pace

Ever since the honeymoon we've structured all of our adventures around our desire to be a 'local tourist.' It's just how we like to do things. One of our favorite trips was to a little town in England called Oundle where we stayed with friends and just lived life. Sure there was a special excursion to see Kirby Hall and a few other local sites, but it was mostly just enjoying life with people we love. For us, that's what travel is.

Our pace is slow and steady. It's what works for us. What type of traveler are you and do you find that getting out of that travel lane disturbs your enjoyment?

For us, I think we're going to give Italy another chance, but at a much more leisurely pace. Anyone up for a trip to Rome with two pasta loving Americans?