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How To Take & Edit Amazing Travel Photos as a Couple or While Traveling Solo!

HOW TO, TravelKayla Nord1 Comment

Hey friends! The question I get asked all the time is how we take and edit our photos when we are traveling! I’ve actually had people ask if we take a photographer with us… which is both hilarious and also the best compliment ever!!

The majority of the time when we are traveling, it is just the two of us, so we have to get pretty creative when trying to capture the moment + both of us! There have been a few times we have had friends, family or a guide with us that have taken our photos— so that’s nice, but you still have to know how to coach them to take a good picture. I hope these steps below will help you all with your travel photography— or even photography at home

HOW TO: Pack for 2 - 4 Weeks In Only a Carry-On Bag

HOW TOKayla Nord7 Comments

Well this post has been in the works for LITERAL YEARS— but I think this will be such a useful guide for any trip, for any length of time, to literally anywhere.

John and I learned very quickly that the cost of checking a bag is expensive, ESPECIALLY if you are going to multiple destinations and flying in between multiple cities. Checked baggage can be anywhere from $30-$80 EACH WAY…. and if you’re like us and traveling in one area for multiple weeks— that ADDS UP!

Therefore, we mastered the art of packing everything we need for 2 weeks to 1 month—(or honestly longer) all in a carry-on… and I am still able to look stylish all while being comfy. I very rarely re-wear the exact same outfits on these trips, because I plan out different combos to make new outfits each day with the same pieces.

Ahem….. I plan it out the night before. I am sure you read that word plan and imagined me weeks before planning each detail and outfit and that is not the case lol. PROCRASTINATION STATION OVER HERE.

Colombia Travel Guide

TravelKayla NordComment
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Happy Friday, friends! This blog post has been in the process for a while, but like always I never can seem to find the time to write them! My eternal summer starts today and my last official day of teaching-- so you can expect to see way more blog posts from now on. 

I wanted to provide a quick guide to our 9 day trip in Colombia and show you all how AMAZING it was. We flew from Lexington to Atlanta (picked up our friend J.J. on this flight) and flew directly to Cartagena. It was LITERALLY the easiest flight of my life. I barely got comfortable before it was over... and on international flights you get drinks, movies, and food ( I actually really love long international flights).

Anyways, it took 3 hours and 45 minutes to get there from Atlanta. We left from Lex at 6:00am and we were exploring the perfect streets of Cartagena by 1:00pm. So crazy!! There is only a 1 hour time difference-- literally the easiest trip ever.

If you've never seen pictures of this place, just wait. You're going to fall in love with it! I will keep this guide short and sweet, but packed full of pictures, because every street and corner you turn is another picture worthy photo-op.

Cartagena

If you go anywhere in Colombia, my suggestion would be Cartagena. It is the cutest little town, full of vibrant colors, wonderful people, and amazing food. We stayed at this Airbnb here. It had everything we needed and was in the perfect location. It even had a beautiful rooftop area to hang out and watch the sunset. Definitely stay inside the old city wall, because everything is walking distance from there. We also felt super safe there too! 

There is no shortage of things to do around Cartagena, my favorite being walking around and taking in the scenery. John an I are very casual travelers and find that we enjoy ourselves the most when we just immerse ourselves in the culture (basically we grab a drink in a pretty place and people watch!). Here are a few things we did in our 5 days in Cartagena-- I could have definitely stayed longer, and I know we will be back again in the future.

Things to do:

-Walk around and take in the sights + colorful buildings + flowers! 

-Walk along the City Wall.

-Watch the sunset at Cafe del Mar.

-Explore the Castillo de San Felipe.

-Explore the art district of Getsemani.

-Head to Getsemani at night and eat street food, people watch, and listen to live music in the plaza.

-Get drinks and watch the sunset on the rooftop of the Movich Hotel-- it's the best view of the city!

-Drink all the coffee!!!

-Take a boat excursion to Isla Barú for the afternoon. 

-Go to Townhouse Rooftop for drinks!

-Shop around the old town... tons of woven round purses everywhere!

-Meet a Palenqueras or a fruit lady and snap a photo with them!

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Guatapé

After our stay in Cartagena, we decided to head to Medellín by flight. Our flights were pretty cheap-- I think they were around $120 per person and it was a super easy process. Upon arriving in the Medellín airport we negotiated a taxi driver to take us to Guatapé, a town an hour and a half away from the airport. It costed about 130,00 Colombian Pesos, which is about $45 USD. The drive was beautiful and I loved seeing the mountainous countryside of Colombia. 

The main reason we went to Guatapé is to climb the "Peñon de Guatapé" also called "the Stone of El Peñol" or "La Piedra". It is a huge landmark in the Colombian backwoods that is comprised of 10-million tons of rock. It was first scaled in the 1950s by a group of friends using nothing but a wooden plank. Not long after someone decided to build a 700 step staircase leading to the top. The stairs are very steep at the beginning of the hike, but are closed in and not as scary as you would think! I am not in that great of shape, but I didn't find the hike to the top hard at all. Everything I had read leading up to it had made me super nervous, but I was fine-- not even out of breath! ((it didn't hold a candle to the Hawaii Stairway to Heaven hike that John and I did a few years ago-- literally nothing can compare to that one! Go google it! AHH!))

Anyways, the view from the top was INCREDIBLE! We were heading up to the top right as a huge thunderstorm was starting, so we had to wait out the clouds... but luckily it cleared up and we were able to see the view! It was breath-taking and not just from all the stairs!! I highly (pun intended) recommend this hike!

We stay at the Hotel Los Recuerdos at the bottom of the hill (another huge hill that we actually climbed BEFORE even reaching the steps to climb up the rock). Nowwww, I wouldn't recommend staying at the Recuerdos resort and that's another story for another day. If I were to do it again, I would definitely stay in the Guatapé town. 

The next morning we took a personal cab to Medellín and paid $90 for hotel to hotel service and the 2 hour taxi drive!

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Medellín

Before heading to Colombia everyone asked if we'd watched the hit Netflix series, Narcos... and of course we hadn't. That being said, my knowledge of Medellín was little to none, but something intrigued me about this city! We decided to go there over Bogotá.

(Since being back we've watched all of the Narcos seasons!! lol)

Medellín is such an interesting city, chock full of history and sadly, a very explosive past. It was once the murder capitol of the world during the reign of Pablo Escobar in the 80s and 90s. The city has come such a long way and we could tell that the "Paisas," or local people of Medellín, were so happy to see tourists coming to and enjoying their city. They were such nice people, very accommodating and happy to show off their home to visitors. They are so proud of how far they've come and it is reflected in everything they do.

We stayed in the El Poblado district and loved it! There are tons of boutique hotels, fancy hotels and hostels in this area-- perfect for all budgets. It is also a really hip area with restaurants, shopping, and bars. 

Everything is very spread out in Medellín because it's a big city, but the metrocable helps connect all places. The metro was a huge success for the people of Medellín, because it was built in a time of extreme violence. It has since been a way to connect each of the barrios with the city. The streets of Medellín are very steep, so much so, that a bus system would not work in some areas. The metro helped people who lived in these areas have a way of transportation in to town. Today, it is the main way people get around the city-- and provided us with an incredible view around Medellín. It's also free of charge!

We only spent a few days here, so I wish I could say we saw more, but we didn't have a ton of time. My favorite thing we did was the Real City Tour because I learned so much about the history of the city. We were shown around by a local who had lived through all of the ups and downs that Medellín went through. He was very passionate about the revival of Medellín and wanted us to have the best experience we could have. 

Things to do:

-Ride the Metrocable all the way to the top-- incredible views! 

-Take a walking tour with Real City Tours.

-See the street art.

-Go to the rooftop of The Charlee.

-Eat at a the hidden gem of a restaurant called Casa Comedor... you have to enter through a secret door next to a street side taco stand!

-Eat the traditional meal called "Bandeja Paisa". The restaurant Hacienda has a great plate of it!

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Colombia

Overall, our trip was INCREDIBLE!! I honestly wish we would have had another week to explore even more and actually maybe relax a little bit! If you're wanting a quick trip that is really cheap and not too far-- Colombia would be perfect! It looks and feels like you're in Europe or somewhere very exotic, but it's only a short flight away. 

Please drop a comment or a question if you need help planning your trip! I'd love to help! Safe travels and happy summer!!

 

xoxo, 

   Kayla 

 

Three Weeks in Southeast Asia: Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam

TravelKayla Nord
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THREE WEEKS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

I have been procrastinating on writing this, because I'm not exactly sure where to begin-- much like how I felt when first starting to plan this trip (ahem, two weeks before we left). 

Therefore, I'm going to keep it simple; give our basic itinerary, things to know, and of course LOTS OF PICTURES! :) That's all anyone wants anyways-- right?!

Going about planning a trip like this is never easy, so hopefully this guide will give you a starting point if you want to go to this part of the world-- which I highly recommend. 

We narrowed down to 3 countries in 3 weeks (Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam). We spent the majority of our time in Thailand, but in retrospect we wish we would have toured Vietnam a little bit more. Three weeks was a good amount of time, but if you can do more-- always do more! 

GETTING THERE:

It took a FULL 2 days to get there-- so prepare for that! We drove to Chicago (my family lives there) and stayed there before flying out at 1:00pm on a Wednesday. Flying out of ORD saved us about $1000!!! HOLLA! Round trip (for 19 hours in the air both ways) costed us $650 each. Not too shabby. 

We flew American Airlines to Tokyo, Japan (12 hours over Alaska) and then to Bangkok, Thailand (another 6 hours). It wasn't the worst thing ever-- I actually kind of enjoy long flights-- lots of time to journal (see my most recent post and HOW TO here) watch movies, drink some wine, and sleep. John hates them because he's so tall and he can't sleep, but I just curl up and I am OUT. We arrived in Bangkok on FRIDAY at 11:00pm because of the 12 hour time difference. 

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Bangkok, Thailand

We spent 2 days here and 3 nights (the perfect amount of time). I'm not going to lie-- it wasn't my favorite place, but there are still a lot of cool things to see! After getting in late from our flight, we went right to bed and woke up like normal. We weren't jet lagged at all, so we hit the ground running-- especially knowing we only had 48 hours there! We stayed at the Chillax Resort in the Khao San area-- awesome infinity pool and very nice rooms! ($50 per night)

Top Things to Do & See:

  • The Grand Palace (we were unsure about whether to pay and go in-- definitely worth it)

  • Ride in a tuk tuk (be sure to negotiate-- we were very bad at this and paid way too much at first!!)

  • Drinks on a rooftop (Amorosa Bar) overlooking Wat Arun

  • Chatuchak Weekend Market (only open on the weekend, but super cool!)

  • Lumphini Park

  • Damnoen Saduak Floating Market (we didn't make it here-- its about an hour outside of the city and supposed to be awesome!)

  • EAT EVERYTHING!!!

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Chiang Mai, Thailand 

We took a 2 hour flight on Thai Lion Air ($61 total for both of us) from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and stayed at the Wing Bed Hotel. Also very nice and around $35 per night. We were here for 2.5 days and 3 nights... this was an okay amount of time, but I could have stayed in this quant little town forever! 3 full days would have been ideal!

Top Things to Do & See:

  • Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (play, swim, and feed the elephants-- HIGHLIGHT of the trip and a MUST DO!!)

  • Wat Pra Sing (beautiful!)

  • The Night Market (goes on and on forever!)

  • Wat Chedi Luang

  • Wachirathan Waterfall and hiking in the National Park

  • Get a Thai Massage (or maybe don't... we are still not sure how we felt about it! LOL)

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Phuket, Thailand

We took a 2 hour flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket on Thai Smile (LITERALLY THE BEST BUDGET AIRLINE EVER-- John said he wanted to just stay on the plane forever LOL) for $104 total for both of us. We took a bus with lots of people to Karon beach (the worst 2 hour ride of our life-- skip the crowded bus and take a personal taxi-- definitely would have been worth it).

We stayed at the Karon Sea Sands Resort and Spa and really liked it! Great pool and huge rooms! The Karon area had great beaches and was great for relaxing. The Patong area would have probably been better-- more things to do, but Karon was great! 

We stayed here for 4 days and 4 nights-- perfect amount of time, unless you want to beach bum-it a little longer. 

Top Things to Do & See:

  • Koh Phi Phi Island (if we go back I would stay on this island!! So beautiful!!)

  • Lay on the beach with a fresh coconut or a Singha beer!

  • Take a tour of James Bond Island (cool, but EXTREMELY touristy-- basically just an island full of tourists.)

  • Eat some banana pancakes and rolled ice cream!

  • Take a long-tail boat ride on Koh Phi Phi

  • Snorkel/, kayak, etc!

  • Wear a lot of sunscreen... I failed at this one. YIKES.

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Siem Reap, Cambodia

We flew (go figure) from Phuket to Siem Reap on Air Asia (took about 2 hours and costed $67 total). We stayed at the Rithy Rine Angkor Residence (really nice, perfect location and a great pool!) for 4 days and 4 nights. This was a good amount of time, could have been shorter, but we enjoyed laying by the pool one whole day. 

Top Things to Do & See:

  • Angkor Wat (seeing the sunrise over the temple was incredible! Take a tour!)

  • The Night Market (amazing cheap things to buy-- shoes, polos, anything you can think of!!)

  • Floating villages and bike riding

  • Eat a Sticky Rice in a bamboo stick (they literally sell these off the side of the road!)

  • People watching on Pub Street

  • Shop at the Old Market

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Hanoi, Vietnam 

We took a 2 hour flight from Siem Reap to Hanoi for $118 total and flew on Vietjet Airlines. Our hotel, the Charm Boutique Hotel & Spa, was right in the middle of everything and was very nice!! It was $40 per night-- can't beat that!!

We stayed in Hanoi for 3 days and 3 nights, and that was the perfect amount of time! We loved this place SO much! The streets and traffic are INSANE-- it is exactly like the game Frogger trying to cross the street. Many locals told us the secret to getting across is to walk at a steady speed, don't stop or speed up because the motorbikes will go around you! It's so crazy, but you just kind of wade out into the traffic and it works! 

Top Things to Do & See:

  • The Night Market

  • Beer Corner or Ta Hien Street

  • Hoa Lo Prison

  • Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

  • Temple of Literature and National University

  • Lots of great rooftop bars!

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Halong Bay, Vietnam

Getting to Halong Bay is the easiest from Hanoi because all of the Cruise companies arrange transportation for you from your hotel. It is a 3-4 hour bus ride (with a 30-45 minute stop in the middle of it) so it is not a bad ride. Our company came right to our hotel in Hanoi and scooped us up. 

I had read that waiting to book a cruise once we got to Hanoi would make it cheaper, but that was not the case for us. We waited until the day before and talked with our hotel staff to help us find a cruise. It just so happened to be a very busy weekend and EVERYTHING was booked. I frantically found a cruise on Booking.com and booked it without checking around at all. After arriving on the boat we found out that we were overcharged by $200. Don't even get me started on how much I hate Booking.com. :(((((

Anyways, we cruised with Cristina Diamond Cruises. Since we paid $600 for 3 days and 2 nights (everyone else only paid $400) I expected a SUPER plush, fancy, over the top boat.... and that again was not the case. It was nice for Vietnam standards, but again we got ripped off by a website, not the cruise company. I thoroughly enjoyed this Cruise and the staff and highly recommend them! Victor was our tour guide and was HILARIOUS! So long story short, book Cristina Diamond, but go through Agoda.com or through the Cristina Diamond website! Don't give your money to Booking.com. 

Anyways, I'll get off my soapbox now. You MUST MUST do a 3 day 2 night cruise... they offer a 2 day 1 night, but you just don't get the full effect and it is super rushed. I think my opinion would be drastically different if we had only been there one night. With the 2 night package we were able to relax and meet some awesome people on our cruise-- shout out to our friends from Hong Kong! :) 

The food on the cruise was AMAZING!! The dishes literally just kept coming out-- and it was all traditional Vietnamese food. The only downfall was that drinks were not included, so we had to pay for any alcohol and water. It was very reasonably priced though, so we did not mind. 

TOP things to do & See:

  • Kayaking

  • Lounging on the deck

  • Sunset Party and drinks

  • Taking a bamboo boat around the floating fishing village

  • Jumping off the boat and swimming

  • Cooking class

  • Cave Exploring

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THINGS TO KNOW:

Visas:

Thailand: No Visa needed, unless over 90 days.

Cambodia: Apply online or get a Visa on arrival.

Vietnam: Apply online (must be done ahead of time) and get a Visa on arrival.  

Health:

We went to Passport Health before leaving and got a Hep A vaccination. They recommended Typhoid, but we didn't get one of those and took our chances. There are a lot of health concerns in this part of the world, so I am glad we learned about all the bad things that could happen to prepare for them (there's a pretty long list-- yikes!!). 

Mosquitos are definitely an issue (Zika, Dengue Fever, Malaria, and Japanese Encephalitis- just to name a few), so we used this travel sized bug repellant from amazon here. We also sprayed our clothes before going with this stuff here

We also took plenty of these Travelan pills, here. They prevent you from getting sick if you eat something questionable. We didn't have any trouble our entire trip!

Scams:

Overall, the people in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam are so so nice, accommodating, and very helpful! There were a handful of times that people ripped us off or tried, but it wasn't a huge deal because we are talking about a couple of dollars. Just be sure to know the exchange rate and haggle! They expect you to and will often quote you extremely high at first!! Our experience was still very positive and some of the scams ended up turning into great stories, but thats a WHOLLLEEE other blog post! (see picture of John in his "fitted" suit above!! LOL!)

WHAT TO PACK:

In the summer when we went (June and July) it was SO incredibly hot. Its almost always hot in SouthEast Asia, but it is definitely worse in June and July because it is the rainy season. The humidity is out of this world, and we were instantly drenched after being outside for 5 minutes-- cute, right??? 

I mainly packed long maxi skirts and dresses, and light weight clothing (tanks, cotton t-shirts, breezy dresses, etc). I brought light weight jogger pants from Old Navy, or you could wait and buy them there. There are tons of cheap places to buy "elephant pants," but I was happy I had a dressier pair.  I didn't bring any jeans and only one light weight cardigan. 

To get in to the temples you have to have your clothing covering your knees, no low cut tops, and your shoulders must be covered--- and they are not joking about this! John had regular khaki shorts on and they wouldn't let us in. He had to go buy elephant pants at a small shop (see below, LOL!!!). My outfit of choice was almost always a maxi skirt and t-shirt for these occasions! 

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For shoes I went with trusty rainbows, old navy sandals, and chacos! 

With the humidity the way it is-- I didn't worry about my hair at all and didn't bring a blow dryer, curling iron or any kind of heat hair tool. I just let it air dry and mostly had to wear it up because it is so long and sticks to me (gross.). 

For plugs and adapters-- they aren't needed! We brought a converter which helped, because our GoPro battery got fried in their outlets... but other than that you can plug things directly into the wall!

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THE HIGHLIGHTS:

Our favorite country was Vietnam because we loved feeling like a local sitting and eating on the street. We also had the best time on our cruise through Halong Bay. The sights were incredible, the food was amazing and the people we met were so fun-- which made this a huge highlight. Chiang Mai was another top city and playing with the elephants was another highlight. There was really so much we loved and we had such a great experience. 

I hope this guide helps! Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any other questions! Happy traveling!!

 

Kayla