Step Up Your Travel Photo Game: iPhone Camera Lenses

Several years ago, I read Chase Jarvis's book The Best Camera Is the One That's with You. His argument is that most people don't need fancy equipment to capture photos; they just need to use the camera they already carry with them everywhere in their pocket. When he wrote the book in 2010, his iPhone had a 2 megapixel camera. I upgraded to an iPhone SE prior to my trip to Morocco, and I have been incredibly happy with the images captured by its newer 12 megapixel camera. For Christmas this year, Mike bought me a set of clip-on smartphone lenses that allow me to take a wider variety of shots. They include a fish eye lens, a macro lens, a wide angle lens, a telephoto lens, and a circular polarized lens designed for bright sun settings. My favorite of these is the macro lens, which allows me to shoot incredibly close details at high resolution. And they're so quick and easy to use!

Biltmore Estate: Flowers, Film Fantasies, Wine and Chocolate

As Mike and Ben were on their annual guys' dive trip, I was treating my mother to a visit to Biltmore Estate for Mother's Day. I've been to Biltmore at least a dozen times, and they manage to change things up so that I see something new every time.

Annual Guys’ Dive Trip: Grand Bahama

Scuba diving is one of those things that must be practiced, not only for the purposes of keeping up one’s skills but also, legally, in order to limit the liability of dive operators. Most waiver forms ask if you have been diving in the past year. If you haven’t, dive companies typically require you to do a short practice dive so they can evaluate your skills and make sure you aren’t going to make a deadly mistake on their watch. It’s also a great excuse for guaranteeing one dive trip every year, minimum.

Florida to the Bahamas … by Ferry

Far too often, I find myself deep down the rabbit hole on travel sites, learning of interesting places that, heretofore, had never crossed my mind, but have instantly found a place on my Must Do travel list. Sometimes I bring the distraction upon myself by purposefully visiting one of my favorite cheap travel sites just to see what deal I can snag. Sometimes the rabbit hole opens before me while I'm booking a hotel for a conference. Who knew how awesome Madison, Wisconsin, could be?! And sometimes I'm lured into the cavernous, gaping maw by a clickbait article that seems too good to be true. Weather.com, you are the CHAMPION of this. Months ago, I was looking at projections for the 2017 hurricane season to see if our upcoming dive trip to Roatan, Honduras, would see good weather or foul, when I started down the proverbial rabbit hole. One interesting article led to another until I finally came across an advertisement for a fast ferry crossing from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Grand Bahama.

Guys’ Dive Trips: Building Memories to Last a Lifetime

After Angela and the boys received their PADI Open Water certifications in 2013, we decided to create a new tradition in our house. Zack and Ben were both quickly becoming young men who would rather spend free time and school vacations with friends than with their parents, and understandably so. That pulling away is both natural and important to develop their independence, and we encourage it. Also understandable is our need to continue spending quality vacation time with the boys. So we began balancing their need for independence against the irresistible pull of epic travel. Plus, their friends don't dive.

Moroccan Adventure: Gnaoua Musicians in Merzouga and a Camel Ride in the Sahara to Camp under the Stars (Bonus: Kefta Recipe!)

During my volunteer trip to Rabat, my new friend Paige and I had the opportunity to take a weekend excursion to Merzouga. It's a small town in the eastern part of Morocco, just 31 miles (50 km) from the border of Algeria. To get there, we took a 10-hour drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains, and the scenery was beautiful enough that I never opened the book I'd brought with me for the journey.

Moroccan Adventure: Kings and Cafés in Casablanca

During my volunteer trip to Rabat, I had the opportunity to take a weekend excursion to Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. It lies along the Atlantic Ocean on the country's western coast and is home to one of the largest artificial ports in the world. The city was originally called Anfa in Berber, but the Portuguese renamed it Casa Branca, or "white house," when they took over in the 15th century AD and built themselves a large, white fortress. When Portugal became part of the Spanish union, the town was renamed Casa Blanca to reflect the newly predominant language. Today most Moroccans simply call the town Casa.

Solo in Morocco: Camels, Kasbahs, and Guacamole

“Aren’t you afraid to go by yourself?” Before I went on my volunteer trip to Rabat, that was the question I heard most frequently. I left for Morocco in April 2016, a month after airport bombings in Brussels had left 32 dead and 300 injured, and my flight had a day-long layover in Paris, where 130 people had died just five months earlier in a terrorist attack. It never occurred to me to stay home. While my “job” on this volunteer trip was to teach English classes at a women’s center on behalf of Cross-Cultural Solutions, the bigger purpose for these excursions is cultural exchange. The only way to do that is to show up and get to know people on the other side of the world.

Why We Travel: “Join the Navy, See the World”

In looking for our next home, it must be a place that inspires stories. These are some of the stories from our life’s adventures that have inspired us. They are why we travel. As you learned of my father in Mike's post about our Australia adventure, Dan Smith is a man of action. He is also a man of the world, and his travels began at an early age. So did mine, thanks to his annual training with the U.S. Navy. He is why I first began to travel, and this is his story of a life of adventure.  High school just could not hold my attention. I was born in San Diego, California, but I was raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When I was in high school, I was always daydreaming of traveling to exotic locations. I dropped out of high school to join the U.S. Navy, and my navy boot camp (basic training) was in San Diego. After boot camp, I completed specialized training at Treasure Island in San Francisco. I was transferred to a small ship homeported in Newport, Rhode Island. That ship, the U.S.S. Courtney (DE-1021), was set to circumnavigate South America along with four other ships. Our mission was to conduct naval exercises with most South American navies.

Australian Adventure: Mornington Peninsula Wine Country

Our Australian adventure took us all up and down the eastern coast of the country, beginning with beautiful Brisbane, heading to Cairns for our liveaboard dive excursion along the Great Barrier Reef, then to Sydney and Melbourne for some cosmopolitan dining, museums, and parks. Before we headed back to the States, my brother and sister-in-law surprised us all with a day trip to Mornington Peninsula, the heart of Australian wine country.