Friday, October 14, 2011

Ryanair's Latest Cost-Cutting Scheme - Remove Toilets from Planes

I read last year that Ryanair will begin to charge people for using the toilet aboard all flights in order to cut costs. However, they have subsequently decided to scrap this plan and reduce the toilets to one per plane - for 201 flyers. The purpose of this is to add 6 more seats with in place of the removed toilets.

 The airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, told The Independent “It would fundamentally lower air fares by about five per cent for all passengers” – cutting £2 from a typical £40 ticket

I don't think I'm alone when I say, please retain the loo's! I cannot begin to imagine the cacophony that could ensue when flyers are simultaneously struck with Bali belly, motion sickness and screaming need to go potty NOW! children. I am sure the Ryanair cost-cutting guru's must rethink their policy once they have considered cleaning costs and potential loss of sales. Nooot to mention the outcry from the mile high club.

My advice for the meantime, explore other cheap alternatives before you find yourself on the wrong side of a locked door and an insatiable need to evacuate your street-stall curry laksa.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Travel Photography: How to get the most memorable photo's of your trip

Henri-Cartier Bresson : Santorini

Taking photo's is my greatest hobby. In fact, it's borderline obsessive. I thought I'd share some tips about getting those unique and memorable international snaps for the budding vagabond.
I use a DSLR which is capable of fully manual settings, I will assume you have something similar and you know the basic functions of it. If you just have a point and shoot, you will only really be able to apply the composition principles, but it's worth a read anyway. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what kind of camera you have, as long as you have the memories to show them with. 

The Elusive Airplane WIndow Shot
I'll just start by saying, this is a pretty difficult shot. I usually wait until the plane is tilted so you can see land below, or until the sun is rising or setting. On manual, switch your f-stop to f8 or f11 and find the appropriate shutter speed (this will vary depending on how much light there is, but you generally want it quite fast as you won't be able to use a tripod). Make sure your flash is off as it will not have any effect on the final shot. Point your camera out the window focussing on your subject, and cup your hand around the lens to remove any reflection from the window and absorb the vibrations of the plane. And Bang! I usually try and get the wing in the shot to give the photo some perspective but composition is entirely up to you. 

It could also be cool to get the silhouette of your traveling companion (or compliant neighbor) against the window. Do this by exposing for the light and thereby underexposing the person's silhouette.

Beach Shots

Beach shots are pretty standard. Avoid shooting in to the sun. Avoid shooting when the light is at it's harshest (the middle of the day), and try to shoot when the sun is on a side angle. Also try taking shots of the shore while you're ankle deep in the water (or if it's calm and no one will wet your camera waist deep) as this angle can give a flattering view of the beach. 

Silhouette shots at the beach also give an amazing effect. As with the window shot, expose for the light and let the point of interest turn into a shadow (best done at sunset). You can do this by turning your camera to aperture priority mode and setting an appropriate f-value. If it's a landscape f11 or so should be fine. Press the shutter button half-way down while pointing the camera at the lightest part of the frame, note the shutter speed. Switch the camera back to fully manual, focus on your subject and enter the f-value you specified above, and the suggested shutter speed. You might have to tweak your settings a bit, and if your shutter speed is slower than 1/60 you will need support to avoid camera shake (try a few bags piled up, a ledge, or a tripod if you have one). 

Keep the composition simple, as you will only see the outline and you want the object to be discernible. 

It's kind of hard to take a photo of a famous landmark that you haven't seen before. It's cool to get yourself in the shot too. These are all really good photo's. But it's a little bit funner to see if you can change the perspective of a famous landmark and get people to look at it in a different way. Try bending down, or moving to a different location and photograph the landmark from a different viewpoint. Or try zooming in on cracks, or small parts of the landmark people won't have seen before. 

You could also try capturing movement in the foreground, (you will definitely need a tripod or some good support for this) as in the picture to the right. Put your camera on shutter priority mode and experiment with faster shutter speeds to get the desired movement. Make sure you manually focus on the landmark and try using a remote shutter or self-timer to avoid additional camera shake. 

Fellow Travellers

Getting good snaps of your friends or traveling companions is easy. But try and get good photo's of them interacting with locals, when they are not posing. This will give you a more natural memory, and you might even catch a good laugh or too. 


If you are interested in taking portraits of people then traveling is the ideal place to find unique faces. A 100mm lens is ideal as it delivers the most flattering angle. You will need good lighting, i.e. from a window if inside or from the setting sun. Try to avoid using your flash as this will lead to harsher shadows on your subjects face. Set the aperture smaller so as to blur the background and make the subject standout. Look to get the subjects head and shoulders in the frame, and a natural expression. Of course, this will all vary according to your personal preferences so experimenting is key. However, people tend to get impatient and lose the lust for a photo if you spend too long fiddling around with your camera.

People tend to relax in to photo's after the first few frames so take a few and see how their expression changes. You can also put your camera on to burst mode and get a few successive photo's. 

Basic Principles

Of course, the best photo's are ones that break or bend the rules slightly. So don't get too caught up with all the technicalities. It's better to take the photo and think about how you could have improved it post-shot. But here are a few principles that will help deliver a more pleasing result. 

The Rule of Thirds

I'm sure you know this already, but divide your camera into thirds so there are nine imaginary squares on your screen. The eye sees a more pleasing result when main focus points are put where these lines intersect, with a maximum of four focal points. 


Try and take photo's from different angles. If you think a shot looks boring, try bending down and taking it from a low angle or standing on something to give the impression you are high up. You can also try putting your camera on auto and shooting it while it is hanging around your neck. 


Always try and frame the shot on at least one edge. You can use tree branches, door frames, arches etc. This will give you a deeper photograph and make it more unique. 

Lead in Lines

Draw your viewers eye in by having straight lines leading in to your focus point. Windy lines also render a pleasing result. 

But Most of All

Try to have fun. Don't get stuck with your camera glued to your face, or so worked up about getting the perfect photo that you miss all the amazing stuff on your travels.

Any questions, comments, criticism please leave me a comment or follow me on twitter @brazenvagabond

Peregrination for Beginners II - Where do you start?

It's natural to feel scared or apprehensive about traveling. But that's part of the whole thrill of it. It's like jumping out of a plane. Here's some tips to help you get started.


Pick somewhere that interests you. Don't go somewhere because you feel like you should. Go somewhere that is related to what you enjoy i.e. I study classical history, therefore I love Greece and Italy. 

Once you've chosen your destination, read, read and read. Find out what makes the country unique. Find out it's history, what it's famous for, what the main things to do their, what it's political system is like, the do's and dont's. There's heaps of information on this on the website, but your local library is likely to have a more in depth collection.
If you're going to a politically tense country then make sure you check with your government whether it is safe to travel. It's also a good idea to check on the online newspaper of the country you're visiting.

Don't be afraid

Everything in today's media is designed to scare you. Pickpockets, scammers, rabies, random killings, muggings etc. are some of the examples of 'known threats' in foreign destinations. Although some foreign countries are undoubtedly more dangerous than our white-picketed communities of home, the reality of anything happening to you is surprisingly rare. So long as you are doused with a good dose of travel insurance, have some basic street-smarts and get all the necessary vaccinations before you go you'll be a lean mean tourist-trap fending off machine.

Guidebooks are good to get your feelers out there and learn about your destination i.e. the costs, where to stay, important sites, maps etc. However, they can become a travelers curse. There's nothing worse than walking around Paris, nose imbedded in the guidebook and realising you just missed the most precious sunset. It also screams "Easy" to scammers and pickpockets. 
Talk the Talk

It's always a good idea to learn, or write down some of the basic phrases of the country you are traveling to. You don't need to master the language, but a few basic sayings will help you get around a lot easier and win favor with the smiling locals. Guidebooks often have common sayings in the back.


Whatever you do, don't overpack. You should be able to wash your clothes while you're away so you don't need an infinite amount of clothing. It's better to leave room in your bag for all those lovely souvenirs you'll be bringing home to your family. 


Some people swear by cellphone free holiday's. Other's can't travel without one. It's really up to you, but it's a good idea if you're going to be away for an extended period of time to have a phone to keep in contract with all the people you might meet and want to meet up with later, and of course, emergencies. And hey, your family back at home don't need to know the number?

I've travelled with companions before. But I've always felt restricted by them. I'm a pretty big wanderer and I like to get lost, but I also know what I want to see and do in any given country. I've been with people who only want to lounge around poolside all day, I've been with people who only stick to the well trodden tourist track, I've been with people who are too scared and nervous to step out of the sanctity of their hotel, and I've been with people who spend all morning trying to look pretty to the point where they've missed the best part of the day. Therefore, I always find it easier to travel alone. But if you are going to travel with someone else, make sure they're as open minded and as easy going as you are (or happy to stay around at the hostel while you do your own thing). 


One of my other hobbies is photography. So taking pictures forms a huge part of my holiday. However, if taking pictures isn't one of your hobbies you might still like to have some photos to keep as memories and to show back home. It's a good idea to take a camera that you can recharge (as batteries start to get expensive), and a few decent sized memory cards. 

Last of all, just have fun! Don't sweat the small stuff! Chances are you're doing things a million times cooler than you would be if you were sitting at home. Bon voyage!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bali - Draconian Drug Laws, Revealing the Harsh Realities of this Holiday Hotspot

A screengrab of the 14-year-old teenager arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana in a Bali street last week: photo

On Tuesday a 14-year old Australian boy was arrested for possession of 3.6 grams of cannabis, he is currently being detained by Balinese police in a holding cell.

As there is no distinction in drugs (i.e. Class A and Clas B drugs) in Indonesia, nor is there a distinction on the amount being possessed, the boy is consequently facing up to six years in Kerobokan jail (currently where Schapelle Corby is being detained).

The boy claims he was coerced by a Kuta street dealer who ambushed him with a story about not eating for a day and needing the money. The boy then agreed to buy the cannabis for 250,000 rupiah.

Ryan Shinn (also from Australia) (story here) claims he was harassed by locals just hours after the 14 year old was caught less than 300m from where the boy was arrested. He said that his awareness of the Schapelle Corby case prompted his firm refusal. However, he felt extremely pressured and believes the boy could have been under the same pressure and said yes just to get the men away.

Absurdly enough, under Indonesian law, it is possible for the boy to get a lighter sentence if he is charged under s128.2 of the Indonesian Narcotics Law - which would classify him as a drug dependent - as opposed to the harsher sentences imposed under s111.1 for drug possession. 

Australian officials are pushing for the boy to be returned home, but as their dealings with Indonesian Law officials in the past have not amounted to much I guess they are not holding their breath.

Ryan Shinn claims he will never visit Bali again.

Thoughts? Comments? Enough to put you off Bali for life?

UPDATE: Apparently Sunrise Australia  has been calling to Boycott Bali until the boy is released. This has been followed by a terse refusal and an apt response "Boycott Drugs. Not Bali". Thoughts?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Peregrination for Beginners 

 I read a study on Nigerian women who were taught to read (I think their first book was something by Henry James) and found they were actually unhappier once they'd learnt to read. The study went to show that Western Ideals shouldn't be dumped on the heads of Eastern cultures, just because we know better (although I don't entirely agree on this point, it's one of the leading viewpoints so we will run with it, as it helps bring out my following point). In saying this, I'm constantly bemused by my some of my peer group who spend hours and days gaping at their TV just to find out how unfulfilled their life is, but do it all again the next day. It's a remarkable contrast. We criticise those who try and make people's lives better by helping them to read which could benefit and develop their cultural identity, yet we are all slaving away at mindless desk jobs dreaming but realising that when you get home from work after eating, drinking, watching a bit of TV, we're too tired to even think.
To me, our lives don't necessarily need to revolve around mindless TV shows, while it's cool to watch TV sometimes (I don't know where I'd be without The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Hey Arnold) but like Apollo said, get your ass off the couch and get out there, well he didn't actually say that but, you know. There's more to life than having the latest gadgets and the latest designer clothes. If we reorganise our priorities a little bit, we'd see there's so much more to life than the latest iPhone4S (read filling the pockets of the corporate swags) and partying until dawn every Friday night (read filling pockets of not very nice, sleazy bar owners).

 I acknowledge that dining with Inca's and bunking with Sherpa's isn't for everyone. However, I just want to try and open up this possibility to those who would never have thought it possible before. 

Even if you are career-driven, what do you think will look better on your CV, clocking up 1500 hours on World of Warcraft/the latest S/S $1500 Gucci dress OR building your character by spending a month cooking with Ghurka's and tramping through the Himalaya's.

Travel on the cheap.

I have a few personal mantra's that I try to incorporate with me when I travel or book travel that I think will assist those starting out their traveling life.

Only do what you can, if you have to shorten your trip so you're not gutter broke by the final week and spend your time holed up in your hostel with no money then definitely do this. Quality (not in a luxurious sense, but in a you need to eat every day sense) surpasses quantity in every way here.

Pick a destination you really want to go to. Not just a place that you think you should go to. If a place interests you, then you're more likely to enjoy it and get immersed in the culture. Try to look for places off the beaten tourist trail, this will bring a lot more excitement to your friends back home.

Set yourself a budget.

There are heaps of ways of doing this. But either make sure you know exactly how much money you can spend in a particular destination or, set a daily budget. Checking guide books for the cost of living usually helps here, to see if your goals are feasible or not.

Always be stern with your savings! One night boozing at home is one night less boozing in Paris!


The key here is to  shop around. I usually start with websites that scan multiple airlines (in NZ I use to find the cheapest fair with the cheapest airline, I then check the results against an airlines official website as often the official website will be cheaper and not charge you extensive booking fees. You have to be prepared to look around and spend some time on this, but be careful because if you leave it too long (even a couple of hours) cheap fairs will disappear like sand through your fingers. Airfare watchdog is also good (


Hostels are a good relatively cheap option. There are good hostels and there are bad hostels. It's a good idea to ask around before booking any hostel to see what other's thought of it, and also your friends might know some good places in different countries. While most hostels give you a chance to meet up and socialise with other tourists, it can get tiresome and cheesy after a while. 

Alternatively, you can try couchsurfing ( where a local host puts you up on their bed, mattress, couch for a few days. This is a cool way to mix with local's, and experience the culture first hand.


Check out all the modes of transportation in a given country, guide books usually help out a lot in this respect. But it's a good idea to make sure your accommodation is close to a public transport spot so you can move around easily.


Tourist cards are a good idea for countries where you want to see a lot of museums. The deals are spectacular and well worth your money spent.
Make sure you have a rough idea of what you want to see before you go anywhere, and when these places are open. There's nothing worse than showing up to a museum in Buenos Aires and finding out it's closed on weekends. Guide books are handy for this, but they can be wrong so it's a good idea to check with your host or 


Definitely eat the local food. Don't go overseas just to eat McDonald's and KFC. Not only is it expensive, you deprive your poor sophisticated palate of worlds of spectacular delight just bursting to be tasted and enjoyed. It also helps grow the local economy, as opposed to giving money back to huge off shore owned corporations that pay their workers nothing.

But be careful, in some countries food is generally more expensive. Europe I spent all my money on alcohol and cheese from the fromagerie that I often ran out of daily budget to do the things I most wanted to see. But hey,
I was 20, what could I lose.


Just kidding, definitely ask me questions or leave a comment if you need more advice on any of these subjects. Or if I missed anything out along the way. 

Oh, and if you want some extra tips on how being broke can make you more successful, read Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell.

Bon Voyage, Happy Travels. 

Samoa: Return to Paradise

Well, I've been to Samoa more times than I could probably count on my toes and fingers. I love that place to shreds. It's a clear water, clear skies, sand underneath my feet kind of love. Idealistic and ignorant. 

However, Samoa is still a struggling economy. This is mainly due to the organisation of central businesses and the distribution of wealth. The minimum wage is $1.75 (Samoan Tala 0.79cents to the NZ Dollar). Their animal rights issues leave a lot to be desired. And education is overwhelmingly poor and heavily permeated by religion (not saying this is a bad thing, just well just saying not all people are religious (even though most Samoan's are)). Tourism looks to be on the up, which is good and benefits Samoan's directly and indirectly. 

So I just wanted to compile a little (big) photo essay of my favourite things in Samoa. 

Ice Block

Lalomanu Fale


Lalomanu Resort

Kina, goodies from snorkling (we put them back after photo :p)

Lalomanu Sunset

Lalomanu Beach

Road-side produce

Piula Deep: amazing cave pool

Local produce, se'a: sea cucumber innards

Local boy keen for a photo

Even a vegetarian's gotta eat!


Daily Flag Raising Ceremony

Apiew. Or Adam's Balls as my uncle aptly put, tastes like toffee apple's. Nom.

Return to Paradies Beach