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Is Exuma, Bahamas the Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

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NASA astronauts have said that Exuma, Bahamas is the most recognizable and beautiful place on the planet when seen from outer space. I guess that makes it some kind of official! Its shallow waters and hundreds of cays make the water that bright, nearly fluorescent, blue that locals and visitors alike can’t seem to stop talking about.

Seeing the “most beautiful” Exuma blue with your own eyes and swimming with the famous pigs are probably on your bucket list, so here are a few tips for your visit to the beautiful Exuma Islands:

  1. If you’re on a budget, you can stay on Great Exuma, the main island of the Exumas, which has the most options for hotels. Keep in mind that most of the island shuts down over the holidays, so if you’re visiting during this time, I’d recommend staying at either Hideaways or Peace and Plenty, which both had restaurants open when everything else was closed.
  2. If budget isn’t an issue, Staniel Cay Yacht Club is the place to be. Accommodations come with use of a boat to adventure around the cays at your leisure. Nearby, Staniel Rents also has some beautiful homes you can rent that would make for an incredibly relaxing vacation.
  3. To see the famous swimming pigs from Great Exuma, the best way is through a day tour. I went with 4 C’s Adventures and had a great time, but would have preferred a smaller group for easier photo opportunities at each of the stops. Sugar Adventures has much smaller boats and a more intimate tour experience. These tours also stop to see iguanas, nurse sharks and Thunderball Grotto made famous from James Bond movies. All of these activities are located much closer to Staniel Cay than to Great Exuma, so when I return to Exuma, I’ll definitely stay in Staniel Cay to have the flexibility of seeing the pigs when nobody else is around, and the grotto when there isn’t a major current,  etc.
  4. Stocking Island with the famous Chat ‘N Chill bar/restaurant is gorgeous and has some really sweet stingrays that love to be touched and hand fed. You can get there via a quick ferry ride from George Town, Great Exuma and is a nice place to spend a relaxing day.
  5. Last tip – if you want to rent a car to tour around Great Exuma, book it far in advance. I was told cars book up over 6 weeks in advance around the holidays.

The Exumas are pretty easy to get to with nonstop flights from Miami. It’s one of those places I could visit again and again because it’s like a natural water playground with so many critters. I was there just 2 months ago and am ready to go back! Who’s with me?

Best Travel Apps

How on earth did we travel before smartphones existed? I rely on mine for finding my way around, coordinating meet-ups with friends, travel planning on the fly, and of course sharing photos with family and friends while on the road. Here are a few of my favorite apps that make travel more efficient and fun.

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Instagram

Well, what kind of travel blogger would I be without an Instagram account? For me, photography is one of the main purposes of travel (I almost wouldn’t go somewhere if I knew I couldn’t take photos), and I post simultaneously on Instagram and Facebook to reach all my friends and followers. Whenever I travel to a new place, I end up connecting with so many new Instagrammers who are posting and hash tagging photos from the same places, and we end up following each other and becoming InstaBFFs! I’ve even made a couple really good friends through Instagram who became real life friends (y’all know who you are). Also, I use Instagram as a travel resource to look up photos in an area I want to visit to get an idea of what I might want to do and see there. I’ve actually discovered some great restaurants that way. #thankyouhashtags

Google Maps

This one may seem obvious, but did you know Google Maps shows public transportation information for many major cities? Just put in where you want to go, and it will give you details down to the train departure time and platform number. Practically foolproof, but if for some reason you aren’t finding any public transportation information on Google, check for a local transportation app for that city.

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WhatsApp / LINE

I don’t have an international plan on my phone, so I rely on a rented mobile wifi device (which I mentioned in a previous post about the best travel gear here) and texting apps to communicate with people. LINE is the most popular in Asia, and WhatsApp everywhere else. LINE has the best stickers, which is probably not a surprise since it’s so popular in Japan, where everything is just sooo cute. Facebook messenger works, too, but with so many people using the apps, I end up using them frequently, too.

Pasteasy

I have a few ways of transferring data between my phone and computer, depending on the purpose. For the quickest transfers, I use the Pasteasy app, which lets you send text or photos between your phone and computer with just the “copy” and “paste” functions. If I have a photo on my phone that I want to use in my blog, I just hit “copy” on the photo and it automatically appears in my computer’s clipboard so I can drop it easily into a blog post. Or, if I want to text a novel to my friend about my adventures without getting a repetitive stress injury, I can type it up quickly on my computer (I type 102 words per minute, thanks to decades of piano lessons!), hit “copy” on my computer, then “paste” into a WhatsApp chat on my phone, and then my friend can enjoy wordy descriptions of my encounters with interesting people and hugging lots of animals (obviously)!

What are your favorite apps for travel?

Best travel gear

I’ve been asked by several people about my favorite travel gear – comfortable clothes, bags, electronics, etc. I tend to get caught up in wanting to show pretty pictures and don’t stop to think about all the gear I use to get those shots. So, here it is – my list of essential travel gear. This is not a comprehensive list by any means – just a list of things that make traveling more comfortable and enjoyable.

 

1. Eye-Fi SD Card

Everyone always wants to know how I get my photos from my DSLR to my phone and up to Instagram so quickly. Many new cameras have a wifi feature built in that allows you to transfer photos directly from camera to phone, but all of the camera systems I have used have been so clunky that I prefer to use an Eye-Fi SD card. With this card, I can either have all photos I take transfer to my phone automatically, or if I have limited space on my phone, I set it to transfer only selected images. To start the transfer, you just connect to the Eye-fi card like you would connect to any Wifi under your phone settings, then open up the Eye-Fi app on your phone and the photos transfer automatically. This way, I can upload photos to Instagram and facebook that were taken on my nice camera while sitting at a cafe enjoying a flat white.

2. Comfortable shoes

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When I travel, I like to walk everywhere so I can see everything between here and there. Since a typical day can involved 10+ miles of walking (with at minimum a purse and giant camera strapped around my neck), combined with my sensitive back, I need shoes that support my love for walking. I’d probably wear these even if they hadn’t made a big comeback, but I notice I’m in good company wearing Birkenstocks again! These are the only shoes that I can walk in for 10-15 miles without having any foot or back pain.

I chose the vegan version, but you can find many options for the Gizeb Birkenstock Thong here:

 

3. Mobile Wifi

After booking a flight and hotel, the next thing on my mind is how I’m going to stay connected while on the road. When traveling internationally, I’ve found that the best solution for me is to rent (or buy) a mobile wifi hotspot device. Most countries I’ve visited have these available for rent (or purchase) and you can usually pick them up and drop them off at the airport, which makes it very convenient. With my mobile wifi, I can map my way around town (google maps even shows you public transportation options with train info even down to which platform you need to catch the train from), yelp a good restaurant, and of course post photos on Instagram!

Many people choose to get a local SIM card, but the disadvantages of this route are that that not all countries let you do this, the SIM card is tied to just one phone, your phone has to be unlocked, and there is no guarantee that it will work once you are there. The mobile wifi device works with any phone and allows you to connect multiple devices to it, but you will only have wifi (not voice) so you would need a Skype type option to make phone calls. So, when planning your next international trip, just google search “mobile wifi” in that country to find the best rental or purchase options.

 

4. My favorite travel bag/purse

I have taken this Kipling Machida crossbody bag (that I’m wearing in the photo above) on every trip for the past year, and it still surprises me how useful it is with the many pockets and compartments without being overwhelmingly large. I like to pack light for a day of walking around since, as you now know, I like to walk for miles on end and am usually also carting a heavy DSLR. This bag fits my wallet, phone, mobile wifi, water bottle, snacks, hand sanitizer, a couple cosmetics products, note pad, pen, and still has compartments for random things I may collect throughout the day.

 

 

5. A good backpack

I’m still searching for the perfect travel backpack (if you know of one, please let me know!), but this High Sierra backpack has many features I love. I always buy 2 liters of water before getting on the plane, and this is one of the only backpacks that can fit the large liter bottles in the side pockets. In the main compartment, I can fit my 15″ Macbook Pro, a DSLR with 2 lenses, an inflatable airplane pillow, and snacks, leaving 2 other compartments for everything else. It has a small zippered compartment where I keep small headphones and ear plugs, and another pocket for my phone charger. My ancient Jansport backpack was more comfortable and durable, which is why I am still looking for that ideal backpack, but for now this one is pretty good. Plus, it comes in so many fun colors and I get many compliments on my gray floral print backpack.

 

6. DSLR Insert for a Backpack

There are loads of great camera bags and backpacks out there, but I wanted just one backpack that works without carrying a camera, so I decided to get an insert to turn my regular backpack into a camera bag. These inserts come in many sizes, so you can find one that fits best into your bag. This sits in the bottom of the main compartment of my backpack and can hold my DSLR with lens plus one extra lens (and a few smaller accessories). It has a padded top so you can pack other things on top of it.

 

What travel gear makes traveling more convenient for you?