Welcome!

Well hello there! Welcome to The Adventures of Rob & Lauren. We are two professional photographers from Canada with a passion for art and adventure. This blog follows our journeys around the world as we seek out incredible people and places. We also try to share as much knowledge as we can with our amazing readers!

Feel free to poke around the site. There’s a lot of great resources and articles regarding photography and travel. And make sure to use an RSS reader or check back frequently. We promise lots of hilarious antics, super cool photos and exciting stories! 

Peruvian Dalmatian

Adventures is sort of in hibernation right now as we’re right in the middle of our busy season for portraits. Still I’ve been scanning a lot of film, and can’t wait to share more :)

We found this pup while wandering around the streets of Cuzco in Peru. Shots from the Holga make this place seem even more dreamlike. Lauren and I honestly can’t wait to go back. 

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Holga: The Amazon

Today I’m sharing some of the Holga Rob shot while we were in the Amazon region of Peru!

First up, some vultures/buzzards. Not sure which one! Rob found these birds quite interesting, and took a fair number of shots. They are just so iconic.

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Sunset over the river, in Iquitos. 

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We were in love with the architecture in Iquitos. Colonial, colorful, with a bit of gritty age.

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Hope you enjoyed these! They are probably some of my favorite shots from Peru! Something about them just gets me so excited about art. I think maybe it’s the fact that with a good eye, even shots from a $20 plastic camera can be incredible. The gear is very very secondary!

Lauren :)

Holga: Cusco & The Sacred Valley

Apologies for things being slow on this blog! Rob and I have been working on a new educational website called Photography Concentrate, and just launched our very first offering yesterday: a video tutorial all about RAW processing in Lightroom! It’s taken up a lot of our time, and other things (like posting here!) were pushed aside. But we still have so much to share from Peru, and want to start writing more articles here as well, so there’s lots of fun still to be had together!

Rob scanned some colour Holga film yesterday, and you should have heard my reaction! I believe it was along the lines of “wowowowowowow”. There’s just something about the colours and feel of these images that gets me really really excited. It helps that Rob took some really great shots, regardless of what medium! 

I’m really excited to share these with you guys! We’ll start with some from Cusco and the Sacred Valley, and then later this week I’ll share some really great ones from the Amazon. 

Hope you enjoy! Drop us a comment and say hello!

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Street Cuisine: Hamburguesas

Whenever we can, we try to ask locals for restaurant recommendations. When we stayed in Iquitos, the owner of the hotel we lodged at had been living there for years (and spoke English) so we could easily get lots of suggestions from him!

He mentioned a great place for a late night snack. A hamburguesa (hamburger in Spanish, obviously!) stand just around the corner. 

One night we strolled over there, not knowing that this would be another simple yet wonderful experience with street cuisine. 

The setup was simple: hamburgers, hot dogs, and other easy foods served up over a hot grill. Round one: Rob gets a hamburguesa, Drew and I go for the hot dogs. You can see our “hot dogs” over on the right. They just cut them into slices, and put them on a hamburger bun. An interesting, and effective strategy! It was certainly the first time I’ve ever had lettuce on a hot dog!

The menu. The price for one of these tasty creations? Less than a dollar for most. And the variety was awesome. See that “Mixto” option? That’s a hamburger, with egg and cheese on top. Yummmmm. That was round two.

So simple, and so delicious. It was little things like this that made us strongly consider moving here. I mean, you walk down your street, chill out in the warm jungle air, and enjoy a simple burger for less than a dollar. Paradise? Pretty sure.

I got a bit emotional during this experience, to tell you the truth. And it was because we were so lucky to be sharing our simple meal with regular Iquitos residents. This young boy and his grandmother sat down right across from us, and you could tell he was having the night of his life. He probably got to order his favorite dish, enjoyed some Inca Kola, and everything was grand. And we got to sit with them, essentially, and do the same. We were part of the culture at that moment, and I loved it. I took this photo really stealthily, with the aid of live-view on the 5DMKII so I didn’t have to bring it up to my eye. It’s certainly not going to win any awards, but it reminds me of that night, and how wonderful it was to be there. 

Walking away from our hamburger stand. The parting wasn’t permanent, however, as we were lured back there again the next night! And if I could, I’d go there right now.

Do you have a simple experience that makes you enjoy traveling immensely, like me and my street food?

Lauren :)

Belen Market

I love shooting markets. Just love it. It’s not only my adoration of food in all forms that causes this affinity, but also the amazing insight into a culture that they provide. Here you won’t find a WalMart supercenter anywhere. This market is where everyone goes to get their fruits, meat, clothes, household items, and even just to socialize and have some lunch. It’s a hub of humanity, and that makes it an incredible photography experience. You are right in there with the locals, experiencing the same sights, smells, and tastes as them. It’s immersive and overwhelming, and completely eye-opening. Wherever we go, we look for the local market, and make sure to shoot it. I could spend all day in these places! 

Belen is the main market in Iquitos. It’s a loud, crazy, bustling place. When locals saw us walking towards the market with our cameras, they seemed quite concerned for us. They would motion for us to keep it in our hands, and put the strap around our wrist. I don’t think this is at all indicative of there being lots of “bad people” in Belen, and it’s important to not get scared when photographing things like this. Yes, busy places are the highest risk for having something stolen. But remember, common sense always prevails. We never let go of our camera, ever. It’s in my grip, with both hands if possible, and I use a tight hand strap so that if someone wanted to get that camera, my hand is going right along with it. It’s not just hanging around our neck, or over a shoulder. That’s a very easy way for someone to quickly grab it! We shot here three times, and never once had an issue. Shooting in other countries isn’t something to stress about, you just need to be smart, and aware of your surroundings.

With that little travel tip in mind, let’s take a peek at our first trip to Belen!

It was a rainy day when we first got there, and the market was winding down. That was perfect timing for us, as we had a bit more room to maneuver, and could take our time a bit more, without feeling like we were holding everyone up. 

Due to pure luck, we happened to just begin strolling down the “Jungle Medicine aisle”. So many things that I didn’t even have a clue what they were, or are used for! 

These were quite impressive. All sorts of drinks for all sorts of purposes. I tried a few different kinds, and even bought a bottle of one. More on that little adventure later… :)

These plants were used as dyes, and I believe are what our faces were painted with when we visited the Yagua tribe!
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This is a skull of a caiman, a member of the alligator family. Huuuuuuuuuge. 

Many types of bark and roots were on sale. 

And this is apparently “Jungle Rogaine”. Or maybe this was the one that cured cancer….I can’t remember. Apparently both exist here.

They really are big on hand rolled cigarettes here. These things were enormous. I honestly don’t know how anyone could manage to smoke that whole thing!

Many more adventures in Peru to come! I was looking through all our images today, and can’t believe how many are left to post! Yay!

Lauren :)

A Few More Holga

Just wanted to share a few more holga images with you today! The scanning process is coming along slow and steady, and it’s been so fun to see these images just appear on the computer screen. It’s funny how we, with so much advanced digital technology, get so impressed by analog film. I suppose that’s just the way things go! I mean, right now gearless bikes and vinyl records are all the rage again. It’s nice to just enjoy simple things, when we’re so bombarded by complex gadgets and gizmos.

I’ll stop with the philosophical blabbering though, and let you enjoy those holga images!

 

To stop intruders, they place broken shards of glass from bottles into the cement on the tops of walls. Along with barbed wire, it’s makes a pretty formidable sight. 

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A vulture in Pucallpa. 

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 Iquitos street scene. 

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Wonderful lines and textures in Iquitos

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Another street scene, and more broken glass. Iquitos. 

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Have a great weekend everyone! 

Our Top 10 Favourite Travel Movies

We’re big movie fans. We like them. We like the funny ones, and the serious ones, and the ones that make you worry if your doors are locked. 

We especially enjoy movies about travel. Whether they give you insight into the travel experience, or transport you to another land, they can help you understand a little bit more about the world without leaving your sofa! (But seriously, leave your sofa every once in a while as well.)

So, without further ado, our Top 10 Favourite Travel Movies! (For the record, these rankings are somewhat arbitrary. I love all these films, and all are absolutely worth a watch.)

10. Indiana Jones, the original triology. 

temple.jpgThe original travel movies. God, I love Indiana Jones!

I’d say my favourite is Temple of Doom. He starts off in China, then travels to India, and gets into all sorts of exotic hi-jinx! For the record, we were never made to eat monkey brains while we were there. 

In Raiders of the Lost Ark you can see him go to Peru and Egypt. 

In The Last Crusade he is in Utah, Portugal,  Venice, and ends up in Germany. 

I’ve tried twice to get through Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but have yet to succeed. Anyone think it’s even worth a try?



9. Whale Rider

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This movie is just incredible.

Released in 2002, it’s an older one, but really got a lot of attention when the leader actress  became the youngest ever to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress.

If you haven’t seen this one, run out and get it! It not only makes you desperately wish to visit  New Zealand, but also provides some fascinating background into Maori culture. 



8. Nowhere In Africa

africa.jpg I actually haven’t seen this one, but Rob assures me it’s excellent.

 The Oscar win for Best Foreign Language Film supports that fact, I suppose!

 The story of a Jewish family who moves to Africa to escape the Nazi regime, this film gives  insight into living in a foreign place, and the magic of Africa. 



7. The Beach

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When I first saw this movie, I thought it was strange. Downright odd. “Messed up” so to speak. 

Then I actually spent a long time traveling away from home, and I definitely started to relate to what the main character goes through. No, I haven’t gone totally crazy while traveling. But, well, you can really feel like you’re losing your mind a little bit. Just a little bit though. Don’t worry :) 

The book was indeed better than the movie, but it’s a fun watch, and some good insight into the mental trip that you can experience in a strange place.

If you travel to Ko Phi Phi (the setting of the film) you’ll see The Beach played at every restaurant, every day. If you prefer to watch it in the comfort of your own hostel room, worry not. It’s widely available on bootlegged DVDs on every street. And if paperbacks are more your style, counterfeit copies are also an option. Just check to make sure it has all the pages first. I learned that the hard way. 



6. Slumdog Millionaire

slumdog.jpgAh, the dark horse that won the Oscar. The movie that literally had all of Twitter talking. 

We’d consider this to be a really good insight into what it’s like to travel India. Bollywood films, while unbelievably entertaining, gloss over many of the more difficult aspects of being there. Slums, garbage, poverty: these are not easy things to be confronted with for the first time as an affluent Westerner. I have heard of many travellers leaving India after a few days because they were completely unprepared for what they would face. That’s a very sad fact.

India is an incredible place. Don’t get me wrong for a moment. It completely captured our hearts, and I know we will return many times in our lifetime. But I think this film was brave in it’s honesty, and I hope viewers of this one will see the radiant beauty of the country and people, even in the midst of the slums. 



5. Seven Years in Tibet 

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We watch this movie at least once a year. That means we have to put up with an extremely questionable accent from Mr. Pitt. But it’s worth it.

Tibet is one of those places that still remains clouded in an air of mystery for me. The landscape, the people, the way of life all seem so wonderfully different. It’s a destination that I know would truly change me after journeying there. For that reason, I’m desperate to go. One day. There is so much in this world to explore!

This movie is touching and fascinating, most notably because it is indeed based on a true story. If you haven’t seen it, we highly recommend it. If you have seen it, watch it again. It’s a great one. 



4. The Motorcycle Diaries

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This is the story of a motorcycle journey that Che Guevara took with his friend when he was a young man. They traveled through South America, hitting up Chile, Peru and Venezuela along the way. 

This film is not only visually stunning, and incredibly entertaining, but it really hits at what we find to be such an important result of traveling; the way a foreign land and people can completely change the way you see yourself.

The tagline says it much more succinctly: Before he changed the world the world changed him

This one will also make you want to visit South America. Note our recent return from Peru :)



3. Into the Wild

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Based on the book by Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild is the story of the life of Christopher McCandless, a young man who left behind his “regular life” to hit the road and explore the world around him. 

He travels around the United States, crosses Canada, and explores the incredible landscape of Alaska. Even though he doesn’t jet off to exotic countries, he still experiences all the ups and downs of travel. You really don’t need to go far. 

This one really shows the beauty of a life of travel, and how much you can learn from those you meet. Make sure to give the book a read as well. 



2. The Painted Veil

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Such a truly, truly beautiful film. Set in China in the 1920s, it tells of the story of two young Brits who travel across the world to being a new life in a foreign land.

This movie gives you a glimpse into life in China. Though it was set a long time ago, I suspect there are places that haven’t changed all that much since then. People still grow their rice in paddies, and weed them by hand. They still somehow survive without high speed internet. Once you leave North America, and realize that our utter dependence on technology isn’t a necessity, you start to *need* it a whole lot less.

This movie also deals with the issues of traveling as a couple, and how the hardships you face can bring you together. 

I think I’ve made it sound boring, but it’s anything but. This is a fantastic film, no matter if you’re a traveler or not. 



1. The Darjeeling Limited

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This is probably my favourite movie of all time. It’s totally my style. Quirky, weird, silly. and witty. I actually get confused when people say they didn’t like it, but I suppose I just like it a bit too much. :)

In comparing this one to Slumdog Millionaire, it certainly gives a less realistic view of India. Instead, it captures the magic of the subcontinent, for India is truly magical. Somehow, amidst the pungent smells, the deafening noise, the pollution and overwhelming crush of humanity, India manages to capture the hearts of so many people from every walk of life. It’s bold, and unabashedly so. And it’s proud in such a energetic way as to make you proud as well, even though you aren’t even the least bit Indian. 

Watch this movie. I probably will within a few days now that I’m thinking about it again. And then go to India ;) Just don’t expect your train to look anything like theirs!!



What are your favorite travel movies? Tell us in the comments!!

Holga: Cusco and Puno

Rob finally got a free moment to scan some more of his Holga work from Peru! We are both totally in love with the images it creates, especially on this beautiful black and white film. If you want more details on the film he uses, where he gets them developed, and other Holga-y goodness, check out this previous post!

All of these were taken on a Holga 120 CFN on Fuji NP400PR black and white film. 

First up, the scenery of our bus ride from Cusco to Puno.

 

Street scene, Puno. 

 

Architecture, Cusco. Taken at night. 

 

Inca architecture, Cusco. Taken at night. 

Gear Reviews Part 1: Packs and Clothes

A very important part of travelling is having the best gear for the situation. We spend a lot of time researching and experimenting with what works for us and what doesn’t. We’ll be posting our reviews here as much as we possibly can, in the hopes it might help you choose the right gear for you!

Today I’m going to go over the packs, clothes, and some organizational tools that we used in Peru. We’ll be going over all our camera gear very soon, so stay tuned for that!



Day Pack

Never underestimate the importance of a great bag. You’re going to be using it all day, every day, and it will either drive you bonkers, or you won’t even notice it. I’m still looking for that pack that I won’t even notice!

For us, the top priority is our day pack. This is what will get used the most, and will carry around our cameras. We prefer to use packs, rather than camera bags, as they blend in a lot more. They also have space for you to toss in other things, like guidebooks, jackets, etc. We’ve found camera bags to be focused on cameras only, and not really all the other accoutrements that come with travelling!

In Peru we used the MEC Alpine Crag Daypack

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Our views on this bag are mixed. 

First up, in build quality, it was great. We’re pretty tough on our gear…scratch that. I’m pretty tough on our gear, Rob’s much more careful! The drawstrings did break on both, so those could use some better construction, but everything else was really solid. Great zippers, great buckles, nicely padded straps. etc.

As far as size, it fit Rob really well, but was waaaaay too long for me, which ended up being pretty uncomfortable. I think these would be perfectly suited to someone going hiking for a week, as it can hold a TON of stuff. We usually didn’t even have it close to full, day to day, but when we were moving from place to place, we could fit so much in there it was insane. 

As a camera bag, it wasn’t very efficient. It’s a top loading bag, which means a lot of hassle opening and closing it. When we’re going in and out of it all day for our camera, it became a big frustration. Next time we will definitely be going for a zippered pack to put our cameras in! 

Pros: 

  • Great build quality
  • Top lid has a zippered pocket for quick access to frequently used items (this is where I kept our guidebook, maps, hand sanitizer, etc.)
  • Holds a ton of stuff!
  • Padded straps were nice and comfy
  • Was inconspicuous. Didn’t scream “I have an expensive camera in here”

Cons:

  • Top loading style was cumbersome for frequent access
  • No way to lock it up
  • Possibly too big for a day pack
  • Extra padding tended to soak up sweat, which got smelly. Gross, I know, but something to think about!

Bottom Line: Seems like a good pack, but not for a photography bag. 

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Shoes

It’s very very very very very important to have comfortable shoes. Very important. Did I mention it’s important? Good.

Your shoes will be on your feet constantly, and in unpredictable situations. Here at home we have nice sidewalks to go everywhere. We lead a soft, cushy existence. In Peru there were sometimes sidewalks, sometimes not. Sometimes we were climbing up muddy hills, sometimes we were traversing broken up, uneven pavement. Sometimes there was a nice old hole in the road that my feet inevitably managed to find. I guarantee I would have sprained by ankle at least twice if I didn’t have proper shoes on. 

We both used multi-sport Merrell shoes. We hear there’s a bunch of debate over whether or not Gore-Tex does all it claims to do, but from our experience, our feet never got wet in these shoes, including during those torrential rains in Cusco. 

These are Rob’s shoes, which are the Moab Gore-Tex XCR. I had the Siren Sport GTW XCR. Mine never got smelly, Rob’s got very smelly, but he washed them with some CampSuds, and they were dry the next day, looked brand new, and the smell was alllll gone. We loved these shoes, and can’t wait to use them again. 

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Pros:

  • Insanely comfortable. Great arch support, and ankle support
  • Kept our feet warm and dry during the whole trip
  • Quick drying and fairly easy to clean
  • Decently breathable

Cons:

  • Not very stylish. They look like every other hiking shoe. I would LOVE if they tried to make a more stylish looking one that still had all the great features. 
  • Rob’s laces came untied frequently. That was annoying.
  • Fairly pricey, but we did find it was worth it. We also got them on a sweeeeet sale :)

Bottom Line: Great shoes all around, so so so glad we invested in high quality ones. As for the looks, well we certainly weren’t going to be winning any fashion awards no matter what shoes we had on! 



Pants

Yep. Pants. These pants were awesome enough that we wanted to make sure we wrote about them. I had a pretty simple pair from MEC, and didn’t find them all that awesome. But these beauts from The North Face that Rob wore were outstanding.

And for the life of me I can’t find them online! 

But I’ll still tell you about them, and keep searching for their name. 

First up, these pants are tough. Great build quality, and all the zippers were smooth. Never underestimate the value of a great zipper. They also had some soft material around the waist band, which was a nice touch. They were lightweight and breathable, which was key for the heat of the jungle, and loose enough to wear a base-layer underneath for the chilliness of the Andes.

One area where these pants kicked my pants butt was water-resistance. In Cusco we were out every evening in the pouring rain. Even a short run to the nearest restaurant left my pants soaking wet for hours. I’d leave them to dry overnight and they would still be damp in the morning. Rob’s pants, on the other hand, barely showed any rain, and dried really fast. That was so valuable, I was intensely jealous.

These pants also looked good, for travel gear. I can’t even begin to tell you how much we dislike the look of “convertible” pants (zip off legs that convert the pants into shorts). And they seem to be everywhere! As multi-purpose as they might be, we just can’t bring ourselves to wear them. Finding a good pair of pants that weren’t “convertible” was very very difficult. 

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An extremely handy feature of these pants were the zippers. When we travel, we always keep our passports on us wherever we are. But putting them in a backpack isn’t the safest, because those can easily be grabbed. We’re not fans of money belts. We have them, and have tried them, but find them to be very uncomfortable. We also find that some people use them, but in such a blatant manner as to completely negate their stealthiness. They reach down their pants, pull out their money belt, take out some bills from a huge wad, and then stuff it back down their pants, all right out in the open!! Common sense will always triumph over a piece of gear that is meant to keep your valuables hidden. 

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that these pants were the perfect solution for us. Rob kept our passports and other valuable documents and money in his pants pocket. Normally that’s the last place you’d want to put these things, but not with these pants! As you can see in the very handy little sequence below, these pockets have a locking mechanism. 

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I think The North Face calls them “pockets with infusion”. Basically, you take the zipper pull, tuck it into the pocket, and push the zipper all the way to the side. It ends up hiding under a little piece of fabric, and becomes completely locked up. There is really no way someone could pick that pocket unless you were unconscious. It takes quite a while to get it open yourself, which is exactly what you want. When it comes to passports, inconvenience is the key. These pants had 5 zippered pockets that locked, which is incredible. So so so useful. 

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Pros: 

  • Durable and well-made
  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight enough for warm weather, but substantial enough for cool temperatures. Loose enough to wear a base layer underneath
  • Look good for travel gear
  • Locking zippered pockets!! There were 5 of these. Two hand, two thigh, and one back pocket.
  • Belt loops, for all the weight you end up loosing while traveling
  • Water resistant and quick-drying 
  • Didn’t show dirt, or get smelly

Cons:

  • Pricey (we were able to get them on sale though)
  • Can’t find them online!!

Bottom Line: Awesome pants if you can locate them. I’ll be getting ones for myself if I can find them!!



Medical Kit

If you’ve read our articles, you’ll know all about our obsession with our med kit. We really want to be prepared when it comes to our health. I also tend to get sick pretty easily, so I use this stuff allllllll the time. We made our own med kit, rather than buying a pre-made one, since we like to tailor what we bring to our own needs, as well as the location we’re going. It’s possibly cheaper as well, but I haven’t worked it out. Whatever works best for you! 

What makes it awesome is the sweeeet First Aid Bag we found at MEC. It’s brightly coloured, and easy to spot among all your stuff. The international First Aid symbol is so useful as well. If you can’t help yourself, someone else will instantly know where to find your meds. 

We got the Medium size, which is perfect for the two of us, and the large amounts of meds we bring along. They also have Small and Large, so you can get whatever works best for you. 

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The clear windows make it easy to find what you’re looking for, and there are enough spots for a bit of organisation. I always try to take meds out of their box, and then cut the instructions part of the box out, and bring that along as well. Saves on space. 

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Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Obviously a Med Kit
  • Clear windows make it easy to spot what you’re looking for
  • Lighweight
  • Durable
  • Multiple sizes

Cons:

  • Have to get all the meds yourself (thought that’s kinda nice, since it’s a good idea to know exactly what you have!)

Bottom Line: When it comes to something important like medications, be organized. This little bag is pretty much essential. 



Organizers

Being organized while travelling is the difference between frustration and smooth sailing. The more we travel, the more we find investing in little bags like these makes our life waaaaay easy. 

First up, a mesh organizer from On Sight. We tried both their mesh bag, and one with a clear plastic window. We found that the one with the plastic window ended up getting kinda foggy/murky after use, but the mesh one stayed in great shape. These come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and we’ll definitely be picking up a few before our next trip. Rob used this one to keep our large camera accessories organized. I had a small mesh bag in my pack that I kept my batteries, flash cards, and other small things I’d use every day together. 

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And this little guy was one of Rob’s brilliant ideas. It’s going to sound kinda simple, but trust me, it’s fantastic. 

This is our flight bag! It was actually a toiletry bag from MEC, but we didn’t think it would fit all our stuff. Rob then started packing the things we always use on a plane into it. Our inflatable neck pillows, eye shades, ear plugs, Gravol, Tylenol, and earphones. Instead of always having to keep my whole backpack with me, taking up all my foot space, I’d just grab this little guy, and be set for the whole flight! We ended up taking quite a few flights, and this was so so useful. 

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Organizers are all pro. Cheap, you only need a few, and they make your life easy. Do it up.



Water Bottle

Carrying a water bottle is really essential when you travel. We always had to drink bottled water, but tried to buy really large bottles to cut down on all the plastic. Having your own reusable water bottle lets you take just as much as you need for the day. We also brought along some powdered drink mix, and having a water bottle let us use that. 

We used a large, wide-mouth Nalgene bottle for our trip. They are indeed super durable, and the little hook on the lid was useful. We’d clip it with a small carabiner onto the outside of our packs, so that it didn’t have a chance of leaking onto our camera gear inside the bag. 

One big problem with these that we had, however, was that they really soaked up smells. By the end of the trip they were really bad. We had washed them numerous times, let them soak with soap, but nothing got rid of it. The wide mouth also resulted in me spilling water all over myself on so many occasions. 

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Pros:

  • Durable, even with you drop it on the ground like me
  • Lightweight
  • Clear, so you can see if you have any water left
  • Hook on lid lets you clip it to the outside of your bag
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Soaked up smells that we just couldn’t get rid of
  • Wide mouth made it hard to drink from without spilling
  • Always screwing the lid on and off got a bit tedious 

Bottom Line: We’re going to look for another bottle for our next trip. It just got too frustrating to have to deal with smelly water every day!



Rain Jacket

The best way to be adaptable to weather is to layer. Layer, layer, layer. So the best way to approach prepping for a trip is to get some different jackets that can work alone, or in concert. When getting ready for Peru, we knew we would be experiencing cold, rain, and heat. And there’s nothing worse than being cold and wet. So first up was getting a good rain jacket.

We both went with the MEC Hydrofoil 3 Jacket, which comes in both a ladies and mens version. (You will soon find that Rob and I usually get the exact same of everything. We have the same tastes, and get jealous of the other one if they have something better! :) ) 

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This jacket was really fantastic, and did a good job of keeping us dry. It wasn’t perfectly waterproof, and after a lot of rain we’d see it ever so slightly soaking in, but we weren’t wet. If we weren’t wearing a fleece underneath, it did tend to get clammy against our skin. But I can assure you we looked a whole lot better than the majority of people in Cusco, who had to buy a cheap poncho to stay dry! 

Pros:

  • Kept us dry, even in a lot of rain
  • Ventilation zippers under the arms were great
  • Looked good
  • Decently priced, though not cheap
  • Velcro on the sleeves made sure that the wind didn’t get in
  • The hood had a draw-string that let you fit it perfectly so that it wasn’t in your eyes, but still kept the rain off your face. Built in brim was great.
  • Super lightweight and packable. Easy to just keep in a pack for any situation.
  • Long enough to cover your bottom! 

Cons: 

  • Needed to wear a fleece underneath or we’d get clammy

Bottom Line: Great jacket, for a reasonable price. Anything that is easy to pack and lightweight gets extra points for travellers!



Fleece

These fleece jackets were probably our favourite pieces of clothing we got for this trip. We wore them constantly. In Cusco, when it was cold, we just wore them all day. They were thin enough to easily layer under our rain jackets without getting bulky. Every time we had a flight, we’d wear them to combat the chilly air they pump into the planes. And even in the jungle, when the air con was on all night and we’d get cold, we would put these on and be nice and warm. 

We each had a MEC Watchtower Jacket with a full zipper. Go for the full zip, and not the half, as it’s much more convenient. I still wear this jacket all the time at home. It’s just so comfy and warm, without being bulky like a sweater! Love it!

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Pros: 

  • Great quality
  • Lightweight
  • Warm but not bulky
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Looks nice
  • Inexpensive
  • Zip pocket on the chest was so so useful

Cons:

  • Could have used a couple hip pockets

Bottom Line: A near-perfect jacket. We will never travel without it, even to hot climates. Travelling through airports is chilly business!



Socks

Just like your shoes are important, socks can be pretty important as well. It’s a common saying that if your feet are warm, the rest of you feels warm. So for those cold climates, you’ll want a good pair of wool socks. We used these bad boys: TekoMerino Light Hiking Socks.

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They were super comfy, and kept our feet warm without getting hot. 

Pros: 

  • Comfortable. Nice cushioning on the bottom.
  • Breathable
  • Warm without being too hot. Were great for the Andes

Cons:

  • Pricey! We got these because they were among the cheaper options, and they were still $16.50 for one pair! We will be getting socks for other climates slowly, because they are certainly a lot of money for socks. But we want our feet to be as comfortable as possible!
  • Too warm for the heat of the jungle

Bottom Line: High-tech socks are pricey! We will be sticking with one or two pairs, and expanding that collection slowly. There are so many other things to spend your money on!



Document Holder

This little guy was so handy when we were moving through airports. You always have so many little papers and cards to hang on to, making sure you have then easily accessible saves a lot of time. It’s the MEC Documents Holder. 

We had the Regular size, and it was great for 2 - 3 people. For one person the Small would be better, I’d say. 

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Pros: 

  • Durable
  • Perfect pockets for organising your travel papers
  • Inexpensive
  • Side handle was great, used it a lot

Cons:

  • None

Bottom Line: We love organisation on the road. And airports and plane travel require dealing with a lot of papers. This thing was fantastic, and we’ll never travel without it!



Airline Tote

When travelling with a backpack, you often find yourself struggling to tie up all the straps and buckles before getting on a plane. And if you neglect to do so, you might come out the other side missing one or two. You also might have some difficulty locking it up. This MEC Airline Tote is a fantastic solution.

We had one for each of our large backpacks, and would simply toss them in before heading to the airport. They were rugged, easily locked, and had a nice big shoulder strap to easily carry the bag around. And really inexpensive. Score. 

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This baby is all pro, so I’m not even going to list pros and cons. If you have a backpack, and need a way to keep it secure while flying, grab one of these. 



Travel Packs

We’re not the kind of travellers who head up into the mountains for 2 weeks. At least not yet! So a large, top-loading bag is pretty inconvenient for us. We really enjoy travelling with a suitcase-style backpack. Something that opens along the side for easy access to all of your stuff, but you can still easily carry on your back. MEC (of course) has a great one that we’ve been using and loving. All pack manufacturers seem to have one model like that, so it’s not limited to MEC

This is the MEC Walkabout Travel Pack. It has a small daypack that zips on the front of it, but we don’t use it. 

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Pros:

  • Easy access to all of the contents
  • Durable
  • Zip-down flap to cover the straps
  • Shoulder strap and handle come in really useful, especially in airports
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive compared to many packs
  • Multiple sizes

Cons:

  • Not the best harness system. Not really meant for super heavy loads and long carrying times. Wasn’t a huge issue for us though.
  • Daypack was a bit too small for our needs

Bottom Line: We’ll likely use this bag, or a newer version of it, for quite some time to come. Great value, and the ease-of-use makes it a winner. 

Street Cuisine: Shaved Ice in Iquitos

One of our favourite parts about travelling is sampling the local street food. Edmonton has nothing, other than hot dogs. And suprisingly, that gets boring after a little while! But oooooh the street food that we’ve encountered during our travels! Phad Thai in Bangkok, chai in Kolkata, and now shaved ice in Iquitos!

We were strolling along on a photo walk when we came across this gentleman hard at work serving shaved ice to tons of locals. I stopped and watched him for a while. Being Western definitely gets you noticed here, so he took interest in us, and actually started to explain all the different flavours he had!! I picked up on a couple names, but being all in Spanish, I mostly just nodded politely and enjoyed hearing him talk.

He had me convinced, so I asked him to make me one. He was pretty confused, assuming that we would just continue on our way! Another guy, who spoke English, and understood that I was trying to order one, conveyed that to the vendor, and he got a big smile across his face, and started to make one!

In Iquitos they don’t need those fancy automatic ice shavers. I mean, what more do you need than a block of ice and a blade? He first clamped it down.

Then spun the wheel really fast! You can see the block just whipping around in there, and all that delicious shaved ice falling into the bowl. 

Then came the tricky processes of choosing a flavour in a language I don’t speak. I did know how to say “Naranja” which means orange, so I went with that. Lucky for me, he didn’t think that was quite enough, so he’d pick up a bottle to suggest I have that as well, and I just happily said “Si!” to everything he offered. When in doubt, just let the locals guide you! Here he is putting some of that insanely delicious syrup on there. I can pretty much guarantee this stuff isn’t made in some huge factory, but rather is home-made. It was incredible.

If you’re ever in Iquitos, make sure to visit Gorrion! 

It was truly the best shaved ice I’ve ever had. We each took a sip and honestly exclaimed outloud “WOW!”. Shaved ice just doesn’t taste that good back home, where it’s all watery and weak. This had punch! Drew and I only had a little bit, since this was unfiltered water. Rob, on the other hand, finished the entire thing! And was fine. By the end of the trip he had certainly proven that he has a truly cast iron stomach. 

Our street food philsophy? Try it. Even if it’s just a bite. We don’t want to make ourselves sick, but we don’t want to miss out on a truly authentic experience. Eat where the locals eat, eat what they eat, and whenever possible, eat alongside them. Those memories will stand far above that trip to McDonalds, even if you were seriously craving a Big Mac :)

What’s your favourite street cuisine experience?