Latest posts

In-line water pump vs submersible water pumps: Which is better for your aquarium?

The right water pump for your aquarium will help you maintain a healthy thriving aquatic environment for your underwater plants and animals. I have been used the best submersible water pumps for a few years. But now, for some reasons I began to weigh the options between In-line water pump and submersible water pumps.

Both types of water tank pumps have pros and cons. Here are some things to consider to help you make a decision between the two:

#1 Efficient

If effectiveness is the most important factor that you consider, then I would recommend you to go with in-line water pumps. In-line water pumps are usually more powerful than submersible water pumps. That means they can able to move larger amount of gallons water per hour.

However, the advantage of submersible pumps are they run completely underwater so they never need to be primer.

#2 Energy efficiency

Submersible pumps also very efficient because they don’t really have to spend a lot of energy moving water into the pump. Due to this, water pressure pushes the water into a submersible pump, and saving a lot of the pump’s energy. While In-line water pumps need to be able to suck water in. In this respect, in-line pumps may be more complex or less energy efficient.

#3 Cooling down

Since submersible pumps are in the water, so they will easy to be cooled by water, which means they don’t heat up and overload. However, it also its drawback as they are water cooled, they may release heat out into the water and warm the water.

The major advantage of in-line pumps is that they are air-cooled, which means they may add less heat to the water.

#4 Install

Many people prefer to use submersible pumps because they’re a heck of a lot easier to install. they don’t require you to drill and install a bulkhead in your filter system. If you are beginner, this may the most important factor to look for.

It is much more complicate to install an in-line pump. They are connected to an inlet hose and outlet hose used to filter your aquarium water. In-line water pumps can be installed in one of two configurations: pressure setups or free-flow setups.

#5 Durability

The other main disadvantage of submersible pumps is that the seals can become corroded with time. When the seal gets damaged, there are chances of the water getting into the motor. Due to this, you will have a task to maintain and keep the seal protected.

In-line water pumps, on the other hand, require less effort to maintain. They are more accessible, easier to examine and work on.

What Is The Best Guinea Pig Bedding?

Your guinea pigs tank a lot of time in their cage, so they require the bedding materials that good at absorbent, soft and warm. Furthermore, their bedding also needs to keep odor and do not contain any hazard risk of them.

It is not a difficult task in choosing the correct guinea pig bedding, but there are also some factors that you should consider. This post will help you to choose the best bedding for guinea pigs.

#1 Cotton

The cotton bedding could contain towels, cloths and dome fleece and it is absolutely the most comfortable material of bedding for your pet. This bedding also did very well of absorbs liquid and you can recycle it by washing. This saves money than using the bedding that you must replace after once time using.

But there are also some drawbacks that it will take your time of laundry and you will need to use the detergents that friendly with your pet.

#2 Hay

You should not use hay bedding alone. Instead, mix hay with the other types of bedding because hay also is one of the guinea pigs diets. But hay also makes a good option since it is cheap and natural. But it is very rough, not good at absorbent and not very effective at reducing odor.

#3 Paper

Paper bedding is a comfortable choice and also totally safe for guinea pigs. Paper makes the most common types of bedding because it absorbs odor well. It comes with some forms such as granule paper pellets, natural paper shaving, confetti, etc.

However, paper is quite dusty and might cause respiratory problems for your guinea. It is damp quickly so you will need to replace the bedding more frequently than other types of bedding.

#4 Wood shavings

If you are limit in budget and want to save money, wood shaving is the best guinea pig bedding for odor at a low cost. However, there are some disadvantages to this bedding that you should consider.

Some types of wood have a strong odor that you may fell uncomfortable. Pine shaving contains volatile oils that can lead to bad effects on your pet’s health such as allergic. Aspen shaving has just a litter amount of oil but it is more expensive than pine shaving. Wood pellet makes your guinea pigs uncomfortable when they walk on.

How To Store Flour And Sugar?

Are you upset because you do not understand why your sugar jar keeps flowing or there are ants inside? Or the flour is always damp and moldy after a period of storage.

Refer immediately to the way of preserving sugar and flour for a long time, not going bad, not afraid of insects penetrating in this content.

Storing food properly is just as important as buying the right food. If you don’t store the food correctly, it will reduce the shelf life of the product and lose some nutritional value. Eating or cooking with damaged products will not give you any health benefits and may even make you sick, wasting your time on money. So let’s jump into it.

How to store flour and sugar?

How to store flour long term?

Flour is a familiar ingredient in our family. But flour is easy to get moldy or unpleasant smell due to improper storage. The flour is usually packed in paper packaging and people put it in the dresser. But this can reduce flour’s shelf life. For flour, you must keep in the refrigerator or freezer. Never leave flour at room temperature, because high oil content will make it rancid. In addition, it is best to use flour within a few months after purchase.

Flour can be stored in cloth bags or paper bags, glass or plastic containers. If you buy flour in a small package, you can put it in the refrigerator, but only before it is opened. Then it should be poured into an airtight container.

If you plan to store long-term flour, it should be dried beforehand. To do this, pour the flour on a clean sheet of parchment or tablecloth and even a thin layer. After a few days, the flour can be removed for storage. If you only have a few pounds of flour, pour it into a cloth bag or glass jar.

The flour can be stored in normal plastic bottles when you traveling. They are tightly sealed and easy to move. If you don’t like narrow necks, and you need easy access to the flour, you can pour the product into a plastic container with a lid. There you can also leave a plastic ladle or a convenient sieve.

How to store sugar long term?

To keep the sugar granules dry, you should put sugar in the jar and cover it tightly, if you put it in a plastic bag, you should tie the bag tightly. Remember to clean the sugar particles around the bag or jar to avoid the ants which will be able to penetrate the jars and sugar bags.

In addition, you also need to place sugar jars in cool places, put in refrigerators, do not place in wet places, dark places, dirty places, such places are often make the sugar easy to go bad, flowing and metamorphosis.

When your sugar jar is filled with ants inside, you just need to put a knife or piece of iron in the jar, the ants will automatically crawl out.

Note that you need to clean knives or pieces of iron and leave them dry and then put in the jar, avoid getting dirty or watery. If not they may still get the ants out of the jar but also will make the sugar dirty and wet.

When sugar is clumped, you put a slice of bread and apples in the sugar jar, a short time later, the sugar will no longer be clumped.

Portable Meals with Muffin Tins you can make.

Imagine living in a world of muffins and being a cupcake: not just any cake but a beautiful cupcake. Indeed, you would remarkably be so distinctive, a kind that you would own your stripes and be proud of your uniqueness. In the same degree, now paint a picture of muffin yummies, so outstanding, unique and delicious. However, a lot of muffin lovers have a perception that muffin tins only make muffins. Get it precisely that; in a muffin tin, you can produce vast quantities of standard palatable recipes. The choice isn’t an issue to ponder. In case you purpose for portable meals, or just intend to shake up your regular exercise, it’s an important idea to make food in a muffin tin. Feel free to look into these muffin tin recipes and enjoy your meals.

Granola Cups.

Ever been looking forward to making breakfast more exciting and enjoyable? Here is the perfect breakfast bite.  Extremely nutty, salty and fruity, granola is quite excellent for your meal.  So much versatile, their content is free of vegan, gluten, and sugar. These cups can serve as small pie crusts and can fill with yogurt or fruit for breakfast. Granola cups contain chia seeds that add perfect texture and crunch to the stuff. Chia seeds are fantastic little fun blips loaded with proper nutrients to boost your heart health, energy, and digestive system. They are also essential for weight loss and muscle development.

Ingredients:

Old-fashion oats, unsweetened shredded coconut, Chia seeds, ground cinnamon, fresh melted Coconut oil, sugar-free maple syrup.

Directions:

  • Expose the oven to heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply a non-stick cooking spray to the interior of the muffin tin.
  • In a bowl, mix old-fashion oats, unsweetened shredded Coconut, Chia seeds, and ground cinnamon.
  • Add the sugar-free maple syrup and the coconut oil; stir correctly to mix.
  • Scoop some teaspoons of the oat mixture into the 12 muffin cups.
  • Press the oats to the interior, both from the sides and at the bottom. The cups turn out depending on the level of condensation and pressing of the oats.
  • Put the pan back for the oats to turn brown at the top edge.
  • Withdraw the granola cups from the oven to cool.
  • Lift them from the muffin tin.
  • Fill them and have fun!

Crab Cake Appetizer.

This muffin recipe has buttery cheese, crab meat, and fresh cylindrical leaves that gives a mild-flavored seasoning. It bakes perfectly to provide you with bites of flavor. The method creates 24 samples of pleasing party goodness.

Ingredients:

Crabmeat, lemon wedges, fresh pounded black pepper, celery salt, dashes hot sauce, large egg white, reduced-fat mayonnaise, large eggs, sliced scallions, fresh wheat breadcrumbs, minced red bell pepper.

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven up to 450 degrees; using cooking spray, gently coat a 12-cup muffin pan.
  • Combine breadcrumbs, crabmeat, bell pepper, mayonnaise, scallions, eggs, hot sauce, egg white, pepper, and celery salt in a bowl.
  • Distribute the mixture amongst the 12 muffin cups.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until crispy.
  • Serve with lemon wedges.

Vegan Meatloaf Cupcakes.

This recipe is fun and yum package for party food and guests. Vegan Meatloaf Cupcakes have a dollop of mashed potato that appears like frosting. The ketchup along the sides looks crispy and slightly burnt at the top.

Ingredients:

Minced garlic cloves, chopped shallots, red bell pepper, package tempeh, gluten-free oats, sunflower seeds, fresh parsley, tomato paste, vegan Worcestershire sauce, ground chia seeds, salt, dried oregano, dried thyme.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven up to 375 degrees.

Imagine living in a world of muffins and being a cupcake: not just any cake but a beautiful cupcake. Indeed, you would remarkably be so distinctive, a kind that you would own your stripes and be proud of your uniqueness. In the same degree, now paint a picture of muffin yummies, so outstanding, unique and delicious. However, a lot of muffin lovers have a perception that muffin tins only make muffins. Get it precisely that; in a muffin tin, you can produce vast quantities of standard palatable recipes. The choice isn’t an issue to ponder. In case you purpose for portable meals, or just intend to shake up your regular exercise, it’s an important idea to make food in a muffin tin. Feel free to look into these muffin tin recipes and enjoy your meals.

Granola Cups.

Ever been looking forward to making breakfast more exciting and enjoyable? Here is the perfect breakfast bite.  Extremely nutty, salty and fruity, granola is quite excellent for your meal.  So much versatile, their content is free of vegan, gluten, and sugar. These cups can serve as small pie crusts and can fill with yogurt or fruit for breakfast. Granola cups contain chia seeds that add perfect texture and crunch to the stuff. Chia seeds are fantastic little fun blips loaded with proper nutrients to boost your heart health, energy, and digestive system. They are also essential for weight loss and muscle development.

Ingredients:

Old-fashion oats, unsweetened shredded coconut, Chia seeds, ground cinnamon, fresh melted Coconut oil, sugar-free maple syrup.

Directions:

  • Expose the oven to heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply a non-stick cooking spray to the interior of the muffin tin.
  • In a bowl, mix old-fashion oats, unsweetened shredded Coconut, Chia seeds, and ground cinnamon.
  • Add the sugar-free maple syrup and the coconut oil; stir correctly to mix.
  • Scoop some teaspoons of the oat mixture into the 12 muffin cups.
  • Press the oats to the interior, both from the sides and at the bottom. The cups turn out depending on the level of condensation and pressing of the oats.
  • Put the pan back for the oats to turn brown at the top edge.
  • Withdraw the granola cups from the oven to cool.
  • Lift them from the muffin tin.
  • Fill them and have fun!

Crab Cake Appetizer.

This muffin recipe has buttery cheese, crab meat, and fresh cylindrical leaves that gives a mild-flavored seasoning. It bakes perfectly to provide you with bites of flavor. The method creates 24 samples of pleasing party goodness.

Ingredients:

Crabmeat, lemon wedges, fresh pounded black pepper, celery salt, dashes hot sauce, large egg white, reduced-fat mayonnaise, large eggs, sliced scallions, fresh wheat breadcrumbs, minced red bell pepper.

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven up to 450 degrees; using cooking spray, gently coat a 12-cup muffin pan.
  • Combine breadcrumbs, crabmeat, bell pepper, mayonnaise, scallions, eggs, hot sauce, egg white, pepper, and celery salt in a bowl.
  • Distribute the mixture amongst the 12 muffin cups.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until crispy.
  • Serve with lemon wedges.
  • Grease the muffin pan.
  • Use a small grill to bake the shallots, garlic and bell pepper for 5 minutes. Do it continuously until it becomes fragrant and translucent. Withdraw from the heat and expose it for cooling.
  • In a reasonable bowl, mix the cooked tomato paste, dried herbs, ground tempeh, salt and Worcestershire sauce until well combined.
  • To the mixture, add chia egg and stir. Add parsley, sunflower seeds, and oats.
  • Scoop the tempeh meat into every muffin cup and slowly pat it down with your hands.
  • Using another bowl, stir the ingredients together for the ketchup. Gently coat the upper sides of the meatloaf with this mixture.
  • Continue baking for 20-23 minutes until well cooked.
  • Allow for 5 minutes cooling.
  • Top with mashed potatoes.

Cinnamon Baked Apples.

These are apples soaked in an oven, with all the cinnamon, Sucanat and butter dipping into them for a pretty juicy and soft bite. Free from grain, gluten, dairy and sugar, Cinnamon baked apples create happy moments without bumping against popular restrictions of diet.

Ingredients:

Softened butter, ground cinnamon, Sucanat, apples-Fuji or gala, dried fruit or nuts, apple juice or water.

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Chop off the cores of the apples.
  • Combine all the ingredients and insert into the apples. Sprinkle more cinnamon on the top.
  • Put apples on the muffin pan and place it in the oven.
  • After 30 minutes, remove the apples and allow cooling.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Mini Taco Salad Cups.

It is so fun to make these mini salad bowls and even much exciting to gobble up! They are mini versions of the full-sized taco salad. A mini version of anything makes a fun appetizer.

Ingredients.

Chopped romaine lettuce, cut fresh cilantro leaves, diced Roma tomato, sour cream, sliced Kalamata olives, shredded cheddar cheese, round wonton wrappers, Old El Paso black bean refried beans.

Directions.

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Drizzle a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray. Add two wrappers to every cup.
  • Give it a 5 minutes baking duration until slightly crispy and brown.
  • Fill lettuce, sour cream, and beef to the cooled wrappers.
  • Serve and have fun!

In my opinion, I fully support the benefits provided by other kitchen utensils to some extent, but, my impression is limited to the extent that muffin tins give the most appealing desire to spend in the kitchen. We can merely say agree or disagree rather than create a diverse and complex topic on that. With all the fun you’ve got from this, be motivated to use your muffin tin every day!

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Bedbug Etiquette

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Bedbug Etiquette

*note: The photo above is obviously not of a bedbug. I would never make you look at that.

 

Have you ever had bedbugs? I feel your pain.

Backpack long enough and you will definitely come across these little shit disturbers. They can be anywhere – upscale hostels, crappy dumps, dorms, private rooms, sex motels (not an intentional visit!). The main purpose of bedbugs is to ruin your night.

Luckily for me *sarcasm intended huge here*, I’m particularly susceptible. Bryan and I can be in the same bed, I’ll get eaten alive while he’s peacefully dreaming the night away.

These little blood suckers are out to get me.

When notifying staff of an infected bed, my experience has ranged from “Oh no, we’re going to fix this ASAP!” to “YOU brought those here, you filthy backpacker!” (um, no, I really didn’t). Unfortunately, the latter reaction leads to the perpetuation of bedbugs – no one likes to be shamed for bedbugs and therefore may stay quiet. We’ve met people who have told us their beds were infected, but they just left without mentioning it and set up the next visitor for a shitty night.

Kaili’s Recommendations for Bedbug Etiquette:

.

1. Speak up if your bed has creepy crawlies. Tell the staff immediately, stand your ground and don’t feel ashamed – bedbugs are just a reality of backpacking. If you don’t let them know, nothing will be done and you’re just setting up the next backpacker for a very unpleasant night. Not Cool.

2. If you get bit, make sure you wash ALL your shit. Check your bag thoroughly. Be sure you’re not carrying these little demons on to your next hostel. Also Not Cool.

3. Always keep your bag away from your bed if at all possible. This will make #2 easier. Prevention is easier than treatment.

4. Hostel Owners: Take reportings of bedbugs seriously. DON’T make the guest feel like it’s their fault. Blame us and we will respond with negative reviews online. Deal with the problem swiftly and competently (just dragging mattresses out into the sun doesn’t count) and we’ll sing your praises.

So, fellow backpackers and hostel owners, please follow the rules above so I don’t have to sleep in another bedbug-bed ever again. Cheers.

Hostel Cooking

Hostel Cooking

Hostel Cooking

Hostel Cooking

Cooking in a hostel can look a lot like an episode of an evil Food Network competition:

“You have to make a nutritious meal using zero sharp knives but 7 spoons.
No cutting board or plates, but multiple bowls. And as many onions as you can carry,
but only one half mouldy tomato and some slightly slimy ham. Go!”

Over the last few months we’ve gotten very creative with our cooking. We’ve defined what a ‘backpacker healthy meal’ is (basically anything where at least one fruit or vegetable is present). And that they CAN be made with just a box of KD and some broccoli.

We’re pros at concocting a strainer out of multiple slotted spoons.We’ve become accustomed to making toast over a gas stove when the toaster is on the fritz or non-existant.

And we have no problem being the ones to reach into that nasty drain to pull out the remnants of 4 other backpacker’s dinners before we can wash our dishes.

When you’re backpacking you have a lot of variables to deal with when cooking for yourself: budget, availability of food, availability of tools in the kitchen, and, of course, it would be great if meals were well balanced too (eating pasta & tomato sauce 5 days in a row does not work for us).

Some of our favourite easy hostel meals have been the following:

  • Breakfast
  • Egg sandwich

Especially good for hangover mornings. Fried egg and cheese with fried tomato, red pepper and onion over brown toast. *try adding avocado!

Oatmeal

A quick and filling breakfast. Instant or boiled rolled oats with any combination of the following added: peanut butter, jam, diced apples, pears or banana, berries, peanuts, almonds, cinnamon, nutella, honey or maple syrup.

Lunch

Soup + Vegetables

One of the easiest ways to increase nutrition on a backpacker budget. Use an instant soup, then add your own veggies. Broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, carrots, peas, mushrooms, potatoes, canned corn or beans and tomatoes are all great additions to almost any soup out there.

Veggie Wraps

We were introduced to this recipe by Quetzeltrekkers, Nicaragua and it’s now one of our favourites. Make a filling mix with sliced carrots, cucumber and red peppers, diced tomatoes and onions and a can of uncooked corn. Add refried beans into a tortilla, crush some cheese Doritos on top (for crunch!), fill with the veggie mix, cover with some salsa and enjoy! *try adding avocado too!

Dinner

Creamy-Bacon Pasta

I made this for Bryan’s birthday dinner using what I could find. Make a cream sauce using butter, garlic, onion, sour cream and evaporated milk (using cream cheese, cream or milk would also work here). Add cooked bacon, broccoli, mushrooms and peas. Mix in cooked pasta. If you can find cheese or black pepper to add over top, please do!

Vegetarian Chilli

This meal often lasts for 2 dinners, which is helpful on the budget. Add sautéed onion, red peppers and garlic to a can of diced tomatoes, a can of onion/garlic or red pepper pasta sauce, a can of beans (red or black) and a can of corn. If you can find chilli powder and cumin add those in, or better yet, a chilli spice mix (they’re light enough to carry on with you too!). Serve over rice or with garlic bread.

Stir Fry

This is one of the easiest dinners to make. Take almost any vegetables you can find (peppers, broccoli, carrots, corn, mushrooms, beans etc.) and sauté with onion and garlic. Add in cooked ramen noodles or rice (even better if the rice is cooked the day before) and stir fry with oil and soy sauce. Add in 2 eggs and scramble.
Whether you’re hostel-cookin’ or looking for cheap, easy eats, try these out and send us your feedback/suggestions.

If you have any more recipe recommendations send them our way too!

We DO NOT want to eat spaghetti ever again (or at least for a long, long time).

Travel and Technology: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Hey you, get off your f’ing phone! The irony of bitching about technology by writing a post for a website on a laptop is not lost on me, but hear me out. Times they are a’changin’ and nothing makes that more apparent than the mass amounts of technology us so called ‘budget backpackers’ are lugging around the world. Fair enough, we’re guilty of it too, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. traveltech1 Getting off the beaten path in Guatemala. My parents travelled the world back in the 70’s, when letters home travelled by land, sea and air, took weeks to arrive, and the expectation of regular updates was nil. When I embarked on my first backpacking adventure in 2006 I had zero devices with me. Only a journal and the expectation that I’d be sending emails home VERY infrequently. This was a time before hourly status updates. Remember what that was like? Fast forward to my second long term trip, where I had now acquired an iPod and the expectation that Facebook would be updated fairly regularly, when I could find an internet cafe. Now we’re traveling with a plethora of devices that can be extremely useful and entirely detrimental in varying degrees. That’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of travelling with technology. The Good In today’s travel world, the ability to update Tripadvisor (or this blog) in the click of a few keys gives the upper hand to the customer. If multiple people have a bad experience with a business that business is basically f*cked. This allows us travellers to support the many fantastic hostels, restaurants and tour operators, and avoid the few that are out to screw you. This is good, but along with The Good comes The Bad. The Bad traveltech2There seems to be a lot less exploring happening these days. Hostels, restaurants and attractions are researched in advance, booked online, and then simply arrived at. Almost everyone we talk to has already planned where they’re staying 2 towns over from where they are now. Of course this can be helpful, for example if you’re on a short timeline or have special needs, but overall the uncertainty that makes backpacking so exciting has been lost. On this trip we’ve made an effort to rarely book things in advance – to keep the unknown unknown. This tactic has resulted in varying degrees of success, but that’s the adventure of the unexpected and we prefer it this way. The Ugly It makes me sad. I can’t count how many times we’ve marvelled at fellow travellers, sitting in a stunning setting, in total silence, scrolling though other people’s vacation photos on their phones. Sigh. There’s a time and place for everything, so in this moment: Put that damn phone down! Have a conversation! Take in your beautiful surroundings! Enjoy our world, minus the pixels, and update your status later.

Travel and Technology

Travel and Technology: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Hey you, get off your f’ing phone! The irony of bitching about technology by writing a post for a website on a laptop is not lost on me, but hear me out. Times they are a’changin’ and nothing makes that more apparent than the mass amounts of technology us so called ‘budget backpackers’ are lugging around the world. Fair enough, we’re guilty of it too, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. traveltech1 Getting off the beaten path in Guatemala. My parents travelled the world back in the 70’s, when letters home travelled by land, sea and air, took weeks to arrive, and the expectation of regular updates was nil. When I embarked on my first backpacking adventure in 2006 I had zero devices with me. Only a journal and the expectation that I’d be sending emails home VERY infrequently. This was a time before hourly status updates. Remember what that was like? Fast forward to my second long term trip, where I had now acquired an iPod and the expectation that Facebook would be updated fairly regularly, when I could find an internet cafe. Now we’re traveling with a plethora of devices that can be extremely useful and entirely detrimental in varying degrees. That’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of travelling with technology. The Good In today’s travel world, the ability to update Tripadvisor (or this blog) in the click of a few keys gives the upper hand to the customer. If multiple people have a bad experience with a business that business is basically f*cked. This allows us travellers to support the many fantastic hostels, restaurants and tour operators, and avoid the few that are out to screw you. This is good, but along with The Good comes The Bad. The Bad traveltech2There seems to be a lot less exploring happening these days. Hostels, restaurants and attractions are researched in advance, booked online, and then simply arrived at. Almost everyone we talk to has already planned where they’re staying 2 towns over from where they are now. Of course this can be helpful, for example if you’re on a short timeline or have special needs, but overall the uncertainty that makes backpacking so exciting has been lost. On this trip we’ve made an effort to rarely book things in advance – to keep the unknown unknown. This tactic has resulted in varying degrees of success, but that’s the adventure of the unexpected and we prefer it this way. The Ugly It makes me sad. I can’t count how many times we’ve marvelled at fellow travellers, sitting in a stunning setting, in total silence, scrolling though other people’s vacation photos on their phones. Sigh. There’s a time and place for everything, so in this moment: Put that damn phone down! Have a conversation! Take in your beautiful surroundings! Enjoy our world, minus the pixels, and update your status later.

Travel and Technology: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Hey you, get off your f’ing phone!

The irony of bitching about technology by writing a post for a website on a laptop is not lost on me, but hear me out.

Times they are a’changin’ and nothing makes that more apparent than the mass amounts of technology us so called ‘budget backpackers’ are lugging around the world. Fair enough, we’re guilty of it too, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

My parents travelled the world back in the 70’s, when letters home travelled by land, sea and air, took weeks to arrive, and the expectation of regular updates was nil.

When I embarked on my first backpacking adventure in 2006 I had zero devices with me. Only a journal and the expectation that I’d be sending emails home VERY infrequently. This was a time before hourly status updates. Remember what that was like?

Fast forward to my second long term trip, where I had now acquired an iPod and the expectation that Facebook would be updated fairly regularly, when I could find an internet cafe.

Now we’re traveling with a plethora of devices that can be extremely useful and entirely detrimental in varying degrees. That’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of travelling with technology.

The Good

In today’s travel world, the ability to update Tripadvisor (or this blog) in the click of a few keys gives the upper hand to the customer. If multiple people have a bad experience with a business that business is basically f*cked. This allows us travellers to support the many fantastic hostels, restaurants and tour operators, and avoid the few that are out to screw you. This is good, but along with The Good comes The Bad.

The Bad

There seems to be a lot less exploring happening these days. Hostels, restaurants and attractions are researched in advance, booked online, and then simply arrived at. Almost everyone we talk to has already planned where they’re staying 2 towns over from where they are now. Of course this can be helpful, for example if you’re on a short timeline or have special needs, but overall the uncertainty that makes backpacking so exciting has been lost. On this trip we’ve made an effort to rarely book things in advance – to keep the unknown unknown. This tactic has resulted in varying degrees of success, but that’s the adventure of the unexpected and we prefer it this way.

The Ugly

It makes me sad. I can’t count how many times we’ve marvelled at fellow travellers, sitting in a stunning setting, in total silence, scrolling though other people’s vacation photos on their phones. Sigh. There’s a time and place for everything, so in this moment:

Put that damn phone down!
Have a conversation!
Take in your beautiful surroundings!
Enjoy our world, minus the pixels, and update your status later.

August’s To Done List

July’s To Done List

July’s To Done List
To Done List
Backpacking is full of surprises and adventures. Below is a list of the top things we’ve seen, experienced and accomplished in the month of July. They’re not on our ‘To Do List’ anymore, this is the ‘To Done List’.

1. First Canada Day in Guatemala.

How do you celebrate Canada Day when it seems like no one else is from Canada? After months of meeting travellers from all over the world we had met very few Canadians. We resigned ourselves to celebrating Canada Day just the two of us. Then, a decision to have afternoon beers at the hostel bar led to meeting a group from all over the world that wanted to celebrate with us because one of their own was a fellow Canadian. We then geared up for a night of toasting Canada with every sip. Ingenious shots of maple syrup were poured, and suddenly the whole bar was celebrating with us.

2. First time attending a sound healing session.musichealing1

The sound healing ceremony we attended in Flores, Guatemala was very unique and left us with a lasting impact. The dedicated group of nomads from the Caravana de Cura are travelling Central and South America, performing Sound Healing and massage sessions at a backpacker friendly price. We were happy to record our session, which makes for great meditation or yoga music. Listen here.

3. First time caving by candle light.

Semuc Champey is one of the most amazing sites in Guatemala. The natural pools of clear green water running over white limestone make the slippery climb to the El Mirador Lookout totally worth it. Swimming in the pools was really cool but the caving by candle light was one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done. Our tour included scaling makeshift ladders up slippery vertical rock one handed (don’t let that candle touch the water – you don’t have a replacement!), climbing up a waterfall with minimal help from a rope, and jumping into an underwater black hole in total darkness. We left thrilled, proud, excited and a little bloody while others were ecstatic to see daylight. The day was finished with tubing and a leap of faith from 35 feet into a moving river.

4. First cave tubing.

Leaving Semuc Champey we were excited to see more of Guatemala’s caves. We were happy to hear about the Candeleria Caves, a giant cave network over 23km long. However we had to backtrack a bit, back to Coban, to get to them. All the tour companies in Coban were charging a fortune to take us to the caves, so we decided to go it alone. An exciting journey there, via some of the craziest bus drivers we’ve ever experienced (4 people had to exit due to motion sickess!), resulted in a private tubing tour for just us and our friend Marvyn, who decided to join. The giant cave caverns reminded us all of the Batcave, so this photo had to be taken.

5. First weaving lesson.

In the small town of Nebaj, we were returning to our room when we met Tina selling textiles at the reception desk. We couldn’t buy anything (our bags are stuffed as it is) but we wanted to learn more about traditional Ixil weaving. We organized a lesson, where we learned weaving is much harder then you would first think. To read the whole story see here.

6. First mountain summit.

As we arrived into Todos Santos, our jaws hit the floor when we saw the beautifully scenic mountain landscape. We couldn’t wait to start hiking all the trails around town. After walking the main road into town and scoping our the scenery we chose our destination for the next day: radio towers at the top of one especially tall mountain. We made it to the summit by random luck, following one of the many paths out of town and were surprised to find a little village only minutes from the top. The view on the other side allowed us to see for miles and miles. See more photos of our Todos Santos hikes here.

7. First Marimba recording.

Throughout Guatemala we’ve been interested in recording a Marimba band as Marimba is the countries historical instrument. It’s heard everywhere and very important to the Guatemalan culture. In Xela we were introduced to Marimba Princesita, one of Guatemala’s premier Marimba bands and had the opportunity to record the 9-man band as they practiced for a big performance.

8. First night on top of a volcano.

Since touching down in Mexico at the beginning of this trip, our goal was to climb one of the regions volcanos. It was in Guatemala that we got our chance. We climbed Volcan Tajumulco with a group from Xelha over 2 days. Our ascent to base camp was cold and damp, with none of the spectacular views we were told about. Cloud cover stayed until the middle of the night as we shivered in our tents under 4 layers of clothes. We were rewarded early on day two. As we climbed to the peak using headlamps in the 3am darkness, we could see the sky was clear. Sunrise provided a fantastic view of the entire mountain range surrounding us, and the hike back down in bright sunshine was spectacular.

9. First home away from home.

The first place we stayed that felt like a second home was found on AirBnB. A small eco-cottage on Lake Atitlan that not only lived up to the stunning posted pictures, but surpassed them. Our wonderful host was a pleasant surprise too – she welcomed us to her home and showered us with gifts from her garden. This was her first AirBnB experience too! With a little kitchen, living room, office, yoga area and giant loft bedroom, all surrounded by stunning views of the Lake Atitlan’s 3 volcanos, we were in heaven. We decided to stay an extra week.

The view from our bedroom in Lake Atitlan

10. First birthday outside of Canada (for Bryan).

We celebrated by climbing to the top to Volcan Tajumulco on the weekend before, it was always a dream of Bryan’s to stand on top of the world and see as far as the eye can see. We then planned an awesome dinner and drinks on Bryan’s actual birthday at our new place on Lake Atitlan.

August’s To Done List

August’s To Done List

August’s To Done List

Backpacking is full of surprises and adventures. Below is a list of the top things we’ve seen, experienced and accomplished in the month of August. They’re not on our ‘To Do List’ anymore, this is the ‘To Done List’.

1. First music town.

We’ve met a lot of musicians over the past 5 months, in all sorts of spots – street performers, local teachers giving lessons to travellers, hostel common areas, open mic nights and scheduled performances at many, many bars. However, it wasn’t until Antigua, Guatemala that we felt we had found a true music town. Where bars promote their in-house talent days in advance and your night out location is determined by where your favourite band is playing. We LOVED Antigua (our livers and our wallets, however, did not have such a great time there). Listen to some of the music we recorded in Antigua here.

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Left to right: Jhonatan Mendez Yela (drums), Juan Salvador Galich (lead singer), Luis de La Rosa (guitar), Klaberth Moreira (bass)

2. First castle.

To be truthful, when we arrived in Rio Dulce, Guatemala we didn’t even know a castle was there. Thankfully, we were directed to it by a local man. We fit 3 of us on a small, tippy, 2 man kayak and paddled across the river for some castle sight-seeing. The Castillo de San Felipe has been so many different things, from army barracks to a jail, and now a tourist attraction. Perched on a bend in the river, it looks like something right out of Game Of Thrones.

3. First hot water waterfall.

A phenomenon neither of us has experienced before, the Finca El Paradiso are hot waterfalls that plunge into a cold natural pool. You can even swim to a little nook behind the falls for a full on steam facial. Topping off this very spa-like day was a full body covering of white mud from the nearby river – this mud is supposed to be great for your skin (or so they say). We just had fun covering ourselves in it, then jumping in the hot water springs to clean off.

4. First (unintentional) white water rafting river. Without a raft.

Near Gutamala’s Rio Dulce is Boqoron, a huge canyon of white limestone walls, giant hanging stalactites and a quick moving riving. As we rode the boat into the canyon we were in awe with the giant scale of the place. Arriving to a blockade of boulders, the boat couldn’t go any further, but the best sights were still farther up ahead. Time to swim. Against the current. Through multiple rapids and large rocks. Though the swim was tough at points, the views were definitely worth it. The swim back, with the current, was a lot quicker. We body boarded, although without the aid of an actual board, over the rapids and back to our boat in no time, only swallowing a fraction of water and kicking just a few rocks along the way. Great day!

5. Country #4 (of this trip): Honduras!

We were able to pass over the border from Guatemala to Honduras quite simply, with only one bribe request that was dropped as soon as we asked for a receipt. The border patrol agent then said to me, in perfect English, “Sorry I don’t know what you’re saying when you ask for a receipt. I don’t speak any English.” Ha! Well ’tis the way of borders I suppose. We took a jam packed mini van to the tiny town of Copan and dug into a dinner of the Honduran signature dish: Baleadas.

6. Macaw madness.

After visiting the larger-than-expected Copan Mayan ruins, we headed into the hills of Macaw Mountain, a bird sanctuary for all the colourful birds of Honduras. Due to poaching and habitat destruction, the Macaws, Toucans and Parrots of Central America are becoming extinct, and quickly. This rehabilitation centre takes in injured birds or those donated by owners who realize they aren’t meant for domesticity. Birds are then bred and any well flying babies are released to the wild. These birds really need much more room to fly than can be provided in a home, and poaching results in many more dead birds than lives ones arriving to the black market. Please don’t buy large birds as pets.

Learning Spanglish

Learning Spanglish

Learning Spanglish

“Never make fun of people who speak broken English. It means they know another language”.

I carried the above quote, ripped out of a Reader’s Digest from 1996, all across South East Asia and would show it to anyone who was shy about speaking English. It made a lot of people feel more comfortable talking to me knowing that I understood that speaking broken English didn’t make them sound dumb. In fact, it made them way smarter than me, someone who ONLY spoke English.

As I now try and remedy that by learning Spanish, I’ve found it’s amazing how confusing languages get in your head. I barely know 25 words in French and none in Italian, yet I keep speaking both those languages randomly when my brain is searching for Spanish.

So far, the most successful long conversation I’ve had in Spanish was with a 7-year-old in Semuc Champay, Guatemala and most of that was just us pointing at different things, saying the Spanish word for them, then giggling.

As we work towards (hopeful) Spanish-fluency, here are a few of the ‘Lost In Translation’ moments we’ve had along the way:

1. A family in Puebla, Mexico offered us a ride through their adult son, who spoke some English for his job at a call centre. We tried to speak to the entire family in our limited Spanish but often needed his help.It was about 20 minutes into our car ride that he corrected our use of the word papa – which is Spanish has two meanings, depending on where the stress is placed. As he kindly asked: “Can you change how you say Papa? My father is not a potato.

2. Before hopping on a bus leaving Oaxaca, Mexico I gave Bryan a kiss. Nothing too racy, but definitely not a kiss you’d give a family member. Upon seeing the slightly disgusted expression on our drivers face, I realized that I had incorrectly used the word ‘hermano’ (brother) when referring to Bryan, rather than ‘esposo’ (spouse). So this poor guy thinks Canadian brothers and sisters are a bit too handsy with each other.

3. In Todos Santos, Guatemala, we got into a rather confusing conversation. At this point, Bryan and I felt we had a basic grasp of the language and so were perplexed when our hostel receptionist asked if we wanted ‘jabón’ – a word when spoken sounds like the Spanish word for ham (jamon).

“No thanks” we replied in Spanish, “we’ve already eaten dinner”. She gave us a look and asked again.
“No, no thanks – we just ate and we’re stuffed” we said in rough Spanish.

This back and forth went on for some time – with her asking repeatedly and with increasing confusion and us always saying something along the lines of “Yes, we already ate down the street. Don’t need anything more now, thanks!”.

Turns out we had been telling her we didn’t want to eat the soap she was offering us. So she thinks Canadians are weird too.

4. While taking Spanish classes in Antigua, Guatemala, my teacher asked me in Spanish “Do you have any brothers and sisters? How old are they?” I replied I had one of both, and that they were in their mid-20’s. Her head snapped up and she intently examined by face. Turns out she had actually asked if I had a son or daughter and how old my children were. For a moment or two there, I was either the youngest person in the world to have given birth or the youngest looking 50 year old she had ever met.

After the past few months of speaking Spanish with varying degrees of success, I now have a renewed admiration for people who speak more than one language. This shit is HARD. People speak at break-neck speed, they use slang constantly, they fire questions at you so quickly all you can do is say “Si!” and hope you haven’t agreed to something horrible.

So please, the next time you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t share the same mother tongue as you, slow down, use simple words, gently correct them, then tell them how much you admire their determination to learn a second (or third, or fourth) language.