How to be a Good CouchSurfing Host

Everyone seems to be jumping on the Couch Surfing Bandwagon at the moment. And why not, it’s a great concept. Travel around the world, staying for free and meeting some cool and interesting people at the same time. There’s plenty written about the etiquette of surfing someone’s couch, but not so much available on how to be a good host. Here’s some thoughts I’ve based around my experience of giving up my couch to globetrotters.

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How to Fly Like a Professional

If you fly routinely you’ll begin to pick up on a few things that the people who breeze through the airports do.  Most importantly, they probably ignore most of the people surrounding them which would make life easier, but is difficult to do.  It seems when people fly, they lose half of their IQ points.

Here’s a few tips that will help make your life easier and also make you a better passenger to the other people flying with you.

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New and Innovative Cameras for Adventurous Travelers

If you’re anything like me you love gadgets, especially cameras.  I’ve done a lot with digital cameras and video cameras over the years and the innovations that are constantly being released never cease to amaze me.  If you’re an independent traveler, you better have a camera with you.  And, chances are, you find yourself in some interesting places and environments so let’s take a look at some of the coolest cameras for these various uses.

Note: How to Choose the Best Digital Camera for Traveling has been discussed here before.  The truth is, just about any camera will work for most jobs.  But if you’re picky, a gadget freak, or find yourself in some adventurous and unique shooting environments, you might want to consider these innovative cameras.

Olympus Stylus Waterproof Cameras

olympus-stylus-1050sw-rugged-cameraOlympus really is the leader in consumer waterproof digital cameras.  They come out with more models than anybody else and really, they’re all pretty good.  Definitely do your research and find the one that fits your needs the best, but I personally like the slightly outdated Olympus Stylus 1050SW since it is considerably cheaper than some of the newer models and still a very capable camera.  They’re pocketable and work just as well in standard weather as they do underwater

Olympus PEN E-P1

olympus10e-p1I have nothing against Olympus, but I never thought I would write about their cameras twice in the same post.  Then again, it wasn’t until earlier today that I learned about the Olympus PEN E-P1.  This camera looks SLICK.  Every camera aficionado loves classic rangefinders and the PEN is certainly stylish.

But it’s not impressive just because of its looks.  The small size packed body is equipped with a micro four-thirds sensor that offers both the quality and features of a standard DSLR.  It is nothing to ignore, especially for travelers.  I’ve found it too difficult to travel with a DSLR camera lately and usually opt to leave it home.  The Olympus PEN E-P1 just might be what photography enthusiasts need for traveling.

The PEN E-P1 starts at $749 and is available for pre-order.  It’s set to ship in July.

Nikon D5000

d5000view_01Sure, I just finished telling you how I don’t like to travel with a DSLR anymore but that’s just me.  Many still do and let’s face it, they are the ultimate in quality.  If you are serious about photography, you’re either currently using, or planning to start using, a Digital SLR camera.

There are higher end cameras available, but the Nikon D5000 is a great mid-range model.  Lots of features, great quality, and best of all, the first articulating LCD screen on a DSLR.  This can come in very handy in many awkward shooting angles.

The Nikon D5000 is available with an 18-55mm kit lens for $799 or less (sale prices have been common lately)

VholdR ContourHD Helmet Video Camera

contourhd-wearable-camcorderThe ContourHD helmetcam is part of the new wave of affordable helmet cameras available for extreme sports.  Of course these can be used for plenty activities like hiking or rock climbing.  I’m considering one for a motorcycle trip to Peru this fall.

What sets the ContourHD apart from the rest of the pack is, if you couldn’t tell by its name, the ability to shoot in HD.  It records about 8 hours of 720p H.264 encoded video to a microSD in a very compact unit.  The best part? They list for only $299.

The VholdR ContourHD is currently on sale for $279 at Amazon and if you purchase before June 27th, you’ll receive a $50 gift card, bringing the price down to only $229 with free shipping.  Hard to beat that!

Canon VIXIA High Definition Camcorders

VIXIA_HF200_1_LCanon keeps updating their VIXIA line of HD camcorders faster than I can memorize them.  They’re sold to consumers, but don’t let the sub-$600 prices and soccer mom followings fool you.  These are very capable devices!  If you’re pretty serious about producing travel video, these are a great start.

A standard camcorder will rarely make professional quality video right out of the box, but the VIXIA line of camcorders are darn close.  Add on a decent microphone and wide-angle lens, then learn how to shoot, and you can be making 1080p HD footage that rivals most Travel Channel shows.

Canon VIXIA camcorders come in several different models with built in hard drives, flash memory, or HDV tape recording and start at $599.

Flip MinoHD Pocket HD Camcorder

flip-minohdThe 3.3oz Flip MinoHD pocket camcorder is the ultimate in portability.  If you are shooting memories, you’d be hard pressed not to justify owning one of these to slip in your pocket or bag and be able to shoot decent quality HD video wherever you are.

They are extremely easy and convenient to use, but the video quality is nowhere near as good as the above mentioned Canon camcorders.  Nor should you expect it to be for less than $200.  But if you want to capture memories and share them online, you can’t beat it.

The Flip MinoHD costs less than $200 and also comes in various flashy colorings as well.

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Protecting Your Belongings and Valuables While Traveling

With the subject of hostels last week I started thinking more about protecting your belongings while traveling.  There are very few real dangers around the world that you actually have to be worried about.  People love to exaggerate claims of violence and terrorism around the world (thanks media) but the truth is that your biggest concern is petty theft.  Here are a few ways you can fight back.

Money belt

moneybeltThese have become pretty popular over the last few years.  If you’re going to crowded places where pick pocketing might be a problem, a money belt is a good answer.  They’re made of soft fabric that won’t irritate your skin.  You were it around your waist and under your clothes and it’s nearly impossible to know you’re wearing it.

Here’s a tip though: I once traveled with a girl who wore one every day but she held all of her money in it.  So every time she had to pay for something, she had to open it up in public.  Not a wise idea.  Instead, keep a little bit of cash in a separate pocket so that you don’t have to reach into your money belt every time.  It is supposed to be hidden, right?

Pacsafe

pacsafetravelsafe100Pacsafe has a few great solutions for securing your valuables or luggage in your room while you’re away.  It’s difficult to enjoy your traveling if you can’t leave things back in your room.  While many hostels are offering lockers, some leave you without a way to secure your valuables.  Hostels are, for the most part, very safe, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure your things are secure.  Here’s where Pacsafe comes in.

The Travelsafe 100 is essentially, a portable safe.  It’s a small pouch that is virtually indestructible.  Just put your money, passport, or even small camera inside and lock it to a bedpost or other secure place.

pacsafe55The other popular product by Pacsafe is Pacsafe55.  A small bag contains an expandable eXomesh cover that will wrap around your backpack and make it nearly impossible to get anything in or out of it.  Same as before, you lock it up to a bed post and it’s not going anywhere.  I don’t believe your clothes are in very much danger in a hostel, but this is a good option for people traveling with cameras or other expensive equipment that has its own bag.  These come in various sizes for different types and styles of backpacks.

If you have any other tips or recommendations on protecting your valuables while traveling please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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article photo by squacco