Recent Travel Adventures

Hiker admires the view in You Yangs Regional Park

Hiking the You Yangs Regional Park

The You Yangs Regional Park rises starkly out of flat farmland. It’s a massive rock formation, Flinders Peak appearing in the distance on the way from Melbourne to Geelong. The You Yangs offers some of the best peak views in Melbourne, and the hike to the top is not difficult for people with a good […]

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Statue at 1000 Steps Kokoda Track Memorial Walk

1000 Steps Uphill - Hiking the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk

1000 steps and I’m at the bottom of them, along with women clad in fluorescent active wear, hikers hauling weighted training packs and dads carrying kids. The Kokoda Track Memorial Walk, popularly called the 1000 Steps, is a short but steep walk in the Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne.

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Writing Advice

Continuum 13 Convention Program book

Continuum 13 Wrap-up

After every convention I go to, I try to put some meandering brain thoughts into words, so that everyone can partake of the wonder that is a speculative fiction convention. This year Continuum 13 was the Australian National Science Fiction Convention. Last year I’d been on the committee for Continuum, so this year was an entirely […]

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A black cat lazes on concrete

Upcoming appearances: Continuum 13

Heading into the Queen’s Birthday long weekend is always an exciting time in Melbourne, because it means it’s Continuum time! *Waves arms in excitement*

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Photography Tips

hiking the Overland Track with a heavy backpack

What camera should I take on a multi-day hike?

When you have to carry all your own gear, it can be really hard to figure out what camera to take on a multi-day hike. That 70-300mm lens sounded like a great idea at the time, but after four days of trekking the extra weight really adds up. I’ve just got back from a six […]

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man taking phone photo

Free e-book giveaway! 10 Tips to Take Better Phone Photos

Ever got photo envy? Why are their photos so much better than mine? Chances are, a few little tweaks could take your photos from average to amazing.

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Recent Posts

How to Make Money as a Travel Writer

So you want to be a travel writer… oh, and you want to get paid? It’s the dilemma I’m facing as I look at travel writing and photography as a viable long-term career. Dreaming about tropical islands and six figure advances won’t feed the dog. But making a business plan and realistically assessing my income will go a long way to making me financially solvent. A budget is the first step to making money as a travel writer. I’m going to use my situation as an example.

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Yellow Dust

The clank of the air conditioning unit. The footfall of my steps on the marble staircase. At the glass door the local stray moggie strolls across my path, dirty with yellow dust. Across the street an old woman in a fluoro vest and visor pulls a metal shopping trolley behind her. She wears a towel over her head to protect from the sun, despite the smog on the mountains giving the sky a grey pallor.

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Ulsan Whale Festival 2012

Kat: Lame. Completely lame.

We went to the Ulsan Whale Festival expecting a park full of kooky Koreans dressed in traditional clothing and abundant weird photographic opportunities. But no, instead we got expat central and a giant floating whale on the river.

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Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Festival

Justin: Cherry Blossoms. They’re white, stand out white, adding a hue of serenity to the rolling hills.

We took the KTX train to Gyeongju which is about 20 minutes from Eonyang to check out the Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Festival. We met up with another Justin from our church in Ulsan. Justin and I share a few parallels aside from being blessed with such a just and mighty name. We pursued theological and musical studies, and left to our own devices we enjoy leisurely time at home, truth be told a little too much chillaxing is on the menu. So fortunately we have my indefatigable wife to engineer this outdoor adventure, the intrepid and highly organised Mrs Kat who arranged and controlled proceedings leading the two Justins.

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How to Use an Ultra Wide Angle Lens

What is an ultra-wide angle lens?

An ultra wide lens is anything that takes a photograph between 10-20mm. Ultra-wide lenses can be zooms or primes. I own a Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6. While it’s not the sharpest lens in the shed, it is a lot of fun to shoot with and can come up with some great effects. Other popular lenses include the Nikon 12-24mm, Tokina 11-16mm and Canon 10-22mm.

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I just met a girl named Korea

Kat: A lot has happened to the monkeys in the last month, which would have been relayed to you, dear readers, much sooner if our internet would work. Yes, despite what you’ve heard about South Korean internet, we have not seen the super fast connections that allow Koreans to play Starcraft at warp speed in our apartment. My grandma has faster internet.

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Travels in Transylvania

Kat: I recently spoke to my sister on Skype, who couldn’t believe I was actually in Transylvania. “Is that really a place?” she asked. I’d forgive anyone for thinking Transylvania was made up; the land of Count Dracula has been fictionalised in countless movies and books, until it’s become the clichéd setting for a horror movie. Yet it does exist in the northern part of modern Romania, amidst the Carpathian mountains. It retains the tall pine trees and striking cliff faces, yet these are the only similarities between that and 1950s vampire films.

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Champagne lifestyle on a Budapest budget

Kat: In the past week I’ve dined at the Hilton, been pampered at a thermal spa and seen George Clooney (albeit in a film, but I’ll take what I can get). You may wonder how can we afford this luxurious lifestyle, but Eastern Europe is a budget tourist playground. Tea and cake at the Hilton: $5. George Clooney: $5. He’s rather cheap.

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The Wurst of Europe: Germany, Austria and Slovakia

Kat: With intrepid Monkey #2 down with the flu, this week’s blog is up to me! He’s been out for the count since Munich, snotting his way through public and international transport. I’ve been discovering the joys of Middle Europe, which unlike Middle Earth, has no volcanoes whatsoever. Although currywurst provides explosions of another kind… enough about that!

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Ciao bella! Rome and Vatican City

Kat: Rome. A city full of history from Emperors to Popes. A city with notoriously lax attitudes to time. A city where the vocal volume goes to eleven. Love it or leave it, Rome is one of the great cities of the world. And we spent the last week powering through the great landmarks of Rome and Vatican City with my parents in what is now known as hardcore tourism. None of this softy-soft wishy-washy let’s take a break and relax crap. Just keep tourin’ until your knees bleed with pain and the tingling sensation in your feet turns to numbness.

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Driving from Venice to Vesuvius

Justin: “Ahhhhhh…Venice” to quote Indiana Jones in the third installment of the intrepid adventure archaeologist. And this is exactly what this leg of the trip was about – adventure culminating in one of the greatest archaeological finds known to man. We are in Italy and boy is it good to be here. I found out in New Jersey that I have a great-grandmother apparently from the Mediterranean region, this explained why I have a blood condition called Thalassemia minor, an abnormality in the red blood cells, normally found in people of the Mediterranean region. So in some distant way I am going back to some roots here. Italians are not that dissimilar to Hungarians, a little quirky, a little hot-blooded and have the tendency to do things their own way. Italians have serious style too, it’s obvious why the titans of fashion labels come from the topographical boot. Everyone in their own way looks a little ruffled modelish and all the cops are sporting my style of authority sunglasses.

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Nice is noice: Provence and the Cote D’Azur

Kat: The moment you’ve all been waiting for. The glamour. The glitz. The celebrity holidays. Yes, the monkeys have made it to the South of France, home of all that is expensive, luxurious and chic. You may be wondering why we’re even in this neck of the woods in our matching fleeces and hiking pants. But we’ve been overtaken in the style stakes by my infamously more fashionable father, Gary.

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Paris, it’s french for yum.

Kat: On the eve of the last year of the world, according to the Mayans and Roland Emmerich, I’m sitting in a Paris apartment blowing my nose and watching the fog roll on and off the Eiffel Tower. There will be no fireworks this year due to austerity measures, a small note the French forgot to mention to all the tourists when they booked holidays in Paris over New Year. However, as the French bureaucracy is not always to be believed, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a light show anyway.

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Christmas lights in Europe

It’s a beautiful night in Paris, lights are sparkling, the Eiffel Tower is all aglow and only a few hours until Christmas morning. While most of our lovely readers will already be celebrating Christmas down under, I’ve put together a selection of Christmassy images for your delight as my way of saying thanks for reading this past year. I’ve just got back from the Christmas markets on the Champs Elysees, a beautiful spot for last-minute shopping. And what could be more French than watching sunset over the Eiffel Tower atop the Galeries Lafayette? Amidst this assortment you’ll find some beautiful Christmas lights in Europe, with Christmas trees from London and Dublin alike.

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Low down in London

Kat: London, city of history, musical theatre and many red telephone booths. We’re finally here after various passport troubles and jet lag from crossing international time zones. Christmas is nearly upon us, but I haven’t felt like it despite the wreaths and carols on every corner. Maybe because it’s not hot (although I hear it’s 12C in Sydney). We’re in our fourth month of travelling and now in the routine of living out of our backpacks, navigating foreign cities and exchanging currency.

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Arctic Monkeys: Reykjavik, Iceland

Justin: From the Big Apple to the Big Chill. 5 hours across timezones, and no not the arcade game place, and we landed in good old Iceland. It was sad farewelling the USA but you know the inevitable fate of all good things. And we got a fresh smack of blasting chilly air that serves as a window to our European sojourn. Going through Reykjavik airport was a very speedy experience, to my astonishment they didn’t even look at my name when clearing me through customs, they just stamped the second page of my six page temporary passport without a grunt or a batting of an eyelid and hey presto we were in Iceland.

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Two Dorks in New York

Kat: Look, let’s face it. I could write about all the things we did in New York like going to museums and checking out art galleries, but who cares when I tell you that I got to fly a plane over New York at night, do 2 take offs and help co-pilot a landing. As my sister said “Who put you in charge of a plane?!”

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marilyn monroe statue chicago

The Fugitive in Chicago

Justin: One of my favorite films is  the Fugitive, it actually really got me interested in the grandeur and architecture of Chicago. Its location shooting and ability to capture the chilly realism of Chicago still blows my mind when I watch it. In the film Harrison Ford essentially hides, ducks and weaves from pursuing authorities as he alters his identity to find his dead wife’s killer.

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The Heart of the Blues: Driving Highway 61

Kat: In 1965 the great (but not late) Bob Dylan released an album that would become one of the most influential of all time: Highway 61 Revisited. It contained one of his most well known songs, Like a Rolling Stone, and combined the blues and rock sensibility he was known for. Dylan himself lived near the highway for a time, hitching rides to shows. 61 is the blues line, a road full of music that defines a nation; Elvis, Muddy Waters, BB King, the list goes on.

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Beanie Weenies, Halloween and New Orleans

Kat: Louisiana is best known as the vampire capital of the world. You’d think we’d get bitten with Lestat, Louis, Bill and Sookie all in the same state. But it is where the melange of American culture meets with African American, Creole and French. We’ve spent the last week in New Orleans, celebrating Halloween and learning more about blues, bayous and BBQs.

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Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway

Kat: They say when you visit each state in America it’s like visiting another country. No more is that true than in the Appalachian mountains, where old-time music plays along hidden roads to the beat of running streams and falling leaves. The byroads that run through Virginia and North Carolina are world-famous, more so in the season of autumn, where the trees display a fascinating explosion of colour ranging between reds, oranges and yellows. We began our journey in Shenandoah National Park, a national park that runs 100 miles along the ridges of the Appalachian mountains. The road that runs through the park is called Skyline Drive and displays some fantastic views of the Virginian landscape.

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Los Angeles

Kat: Los Angeles: a bright shining ray of California goodness. Over the past week we stayed in Hollywood, and while everyone we talked to told us it was awful we actually enjoyed the area. We visited Graumann’s Chinese theatre and put our hands in the concrete. I have the same hands as Bing Crosby (believe me he had small hands!) and Justin shares the same size palm as the great Michael Caine. Better put on a right proper accent for that one.

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River deep canyon high: Southwest National Parks

Justin: We’re in the Grand Canyon, our last leg of the American national park circuit and it’s been an adventure for sure. This past week has thrown up some memorable moments, vistas, people, places and toilets.

The southwest USA is known for incredible rock formations made all the more interesting by variety of colours due to oxidization. Monument Valley and Grand Canyon as opposed to other national parks have a certain air of eternal stillness that captivates you deeply. You just really feel and touch the sands of time here.

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Yellowstone National Park: If you go out in the woods today…

Justin: Growing up I had difficulty getting to sleep, with memories of Australia’s most wanted drifting into my subconscious, playing dancing devil on my shoulder at night and keeping me up long into many nights: rigid, vigilant, the constant watchman (which also went with being the elder brother, the protector), both alert AND alarmed.

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Driving from LA to San Francisco

Kat: In the past week we’ve been driving from LA to San Francisco. A classic route well-known among beatniks and hippies, searching for sun along the rocky cliffs of Big Sur. The roads wind around the cliffs for hours upon hours, until they disappear into the grey Californian fog, the dramatic coastline imitating the highlands of Scotland at times.  Authors such as Henry Miller and John Steinbeck called this area their home. It is a writer’s paradise; the lone silver rocks forming out of the ocean, the crazed cliffs and mind-bending bridges.

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