- Written by Dan
Guitars, Motion Sickness, Bike Bags, Hotels, Photos, Couples and Backpack Bags
Waiting times, long train rides and a conversation with a Swedish guy inspired me to buy my fi rst guitar when I arrived in Madrid. From that moment my trip changed entirely—the guitar became an icebreaker, introducing me to other guitarists who all wanted to share a piece of themselves, and who all taught me a piece of music. From knowing five chords, I learned how to pick, strum, slap and clap my guitar to add depth; I learned chord progressions and simple theory; and best of all, I learned to let go.
Seriously consider bringing an instrument along on your trips, especially for those who “have always wanted to learn, but have never had the time.” There are some really convenient, excellent sounding travel guitars that you can find in most guitar shops. Beyond that there’s the harmonica, drumsticks, penny whistles and flutes—all fit easily into a daypack and can be played almost anywhere.
Motion sickness: it can strike anyone, anywhere, with no respect to experience or overall constitution. One of the best tricks I’ve found to combat motion sickness is the use of the little C-bands. They are elasticized wristbands with a small plastic disc that presses into an acupressure point on the wrist. Make sure you wear one on each wrist and keep checking to make sure they stay in position. They are amazing for preventing the symptoms of motion sickness.
Another gentle but effective remedy is the use of ginger. I carry candied ginger when I travel, but ginger tea also does the trick. It helps with digestion, motion sickness and all manner of stomach upsets. It also is anti-infl ammatory so it helps to reduce swelling in all those sore joints we can experience while on the road.
PORTABLE BIKE BAG
If you plan on cycling in Europe but expect to take a bus or train any part of the way, you will likely need to have a cover or box for your bike—at least that was our experience on the TGV (France), The National Bus (England) and even Intercity trains from Milan to Amsterdam.
It’s tricky enough to cycle with a weeks’ worth of supplies, let alone a big cardboard or rigid box. So my wife made a rectangle-shaped bag out of lightweight outdoor-grade nylon about 2m x 1.5m with a drawstring on the side (a zipper might be easier for more experienced sewers). We removed the front wheels; loosened, turned and bungeed our handle bars to the top part of our frame so it didn’t move, and placed our wheels on the right side of our bikes to protect the front and rear derailleur, and we were good to go. Even if you get a zipper sewn in professionally, it’s much cheaper than a $400 to $500 rigid box. The whole thing folds down to a tiny package the size of a large wallet that you can easily stash into your pannier.
BUDGET DIGS IN A VERY PRICEY PLACE
While travelling in Norway recently, I came across a hotel chain called Thon. I recommend trying their budget hotels, which offer reasonable rates in great locations. In Bergen, we were situated next to the harbour in a quiet, beautiful spot. Their rate of 795 NOK ($145 CAD) per night for a double is actually pretty cheap. It’s clean, well-equipped and includes a superb breakfast buffet that can keep you going until lunch. Free internet access just adds to the value.
SHOOTING THE LOCALS
Getting good close-up pictures of the people you meet along your journey isn’t easy. It’s not like shooting a cooperative Himalayan landscape. Some tips on taking great pictures of locals:
Study—Before you travel learn as much about the customs as possible.
Get close—Fill your frame with the subject to minimize distracting backgrounds. Most people fail to get close enough to their subjects.
Proper Exposure—Expose for the person’s face and always focus on the eyes. To avoid the dreaded blur use a shutter speed of 125 or higher. Wide aperture (f2|5.6) will ensure that the background is out of focus and help minimize any distracting elements, unless the location is the integral part of the picture.
Be Ready—To get good candid shots, you need to be ready to snap in a hurry. Preset your exposures before approaching your subjects. Fumbling for equipment can make people self-conscious and more likely to pose.
Don’t be shy—Sure you might get turned down a few times but if you don’t ask you’ll never get that great portrait. Truth is most people from all corners of the world love to get their photos taken.
For those travelling light or backwoods camping, my partner and I use a product called “Elbow Room” that keeps two sleeping pads together, eliminating the gap. Then it allows you to zip in an opened-up sleeping bag for your top blanket layer. Keeps us warmer in cool weather and eliminates the need to carry two sleeping bags if you want to reduce both weight and bulk.
JUST BAG IT!
A comfy backpack is arguably your most important piece of gear, so things can quickly go from bad to worse if you lose one of its straps. If fl ying with Air Canada ask for a free “backpack bag”—it’ll prevent the carousel or general handling from ripping off a shoulder strap. These tough bags can be reused as ponchos, or as quick duffel for when you need to keep your gear together. Instructions: insert pack, twist bag, loop tape around bunched top, rip hole near lid for staff to grab the top loop. Air Canada is the only airline I have seen recently with these glorious bags.