Posts Tagged ‘South America’

Beware Responsible People – Embrace the Crazy
Friday, January 30th, 2015

Contemplating a career break but others around you think you are crazy? Listen to this advice from Ryan and Jen Fuller, management consultants who up and took a six month career break in Argentina and Chile. Prior to hearing the term ‘career break’ they just called what they were doing ‘rehab.’

“I thought you were crazy when you said you were going on this trip; now [6 months later], I think you’re crazy for coming back”

– A friend talking about our career break

Because the concept of a career break is still quite novel (at least in the US), most of us don’t have very many people in our social groups who have ever taken one. Unfortunately, this often means that all of your excitement over the idea of leaving your job in favor of long-term travel may not engender the kind of enthusiasm you are hoping for amongst your friends/co-workers/family. Even if you are just looking for support rather than advice, you should expect to be assaulted with many, many reasons why it is a bad idea and you are crazy for even contemplating it.

Here are some of our favorites:

  1. You’re crazy
  2. Are you kidding, leave your job in this economy?
  3. You’ll never be able to explain this on your resume or in future job interviews – your career will be ruined forever
  4. It’s too expensive
  5. You’re crazy
  6. I once knew someone that went on a trip like this… they died
  7. What if you get kidnapped by drug runners?
  8. I always wished I could do something like that, but then I realized how irresponsible it would be to throw away everything I’d been working toward for so long
  9. You should wait until you get that next promotion; then you’ll have a much better safety net
  10. You’re crazy

So what do you do if you aren’t getting the kind of support that you’d like to actually take the leap?

Option 1) Go fast

Do what we did… make the decision to leave and then go before anyone really has the chance to convince you it’s a bad idea. We were in Argentina 3 weeks after we made the decision to go. Clearly this won’t work for everyone. Option 2 is probably a better route…


How to Photograph Machu Picchu
Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Machu Picchu. You finally made it. It’s the once in a lifetime event you always thought it would be because all the literature tells you it is once in a lifetime. Having been to Machu Picchu twice now, I have a few photography tips that might be of value when you make this journey in your lifetime. Why did I go twice? I was lucky enough to have won a tour at a Meet, Plan, Go! event in my hometown of Seattle. When you see (photo op) you might want to make a note of the next words.

First, take it all in. Sit for a moment after you pass through the turn styles (or if you pass through the Sun Gate on the Inca Trail) and just sit. Your memory actually works better when you don’t have a camera up to your eye. No, I can’t back that up with ‘facts’, but you know it’s true. Sit and let the view sink into you.

Photographing Machu Picchu

Done soaking? Good! Now grab your camera and take the first left hand turn you can find after walking in the main gate. It will lead uphill. Chances are, if you’re with a guided tour, your guide will lead you out and through the (photo op) main gate. You might need to sneak away when they do this. Or just let them know where you’re going.

I realize this is something of a catch 22; if you stay with the guide you get a wealth of info you wouldn’t get by walking around alone. But if you walk around alone you get photos you wouldn’t get with the guide.

The reason I tell you to hang a left is because of a few assumptions: 1) You made it to Aquas Caliente the day before and 2) you headed to Machu Picchu super early in the morning on a bus. Maybe you even hiked up the hill (it takes about 1.5 hours and is sweaty). The point is you arrived at the gate when it opened. Oh! 3) It’s not horribly cloudy. Heck, even if it’s cloudy, take that first left.

Keep heading uphill. It’ll get your heart rate up. After a while you’ll plane out onto a flat, open spot with (photo op) gorgeous views. You can stop here for some shooting, but if you’re near the front of the pack or if it’s crowded, keep heading up and to the left. Eventually you will start on the Inca Trail itself and head back to your left instead of up. This is good. A large-ish wall will be on your right. When there is a break in the wall, head up about four terraces and then turn right across the terraces.

You’re almost (photo op) there! This area is far less crowded especially in the morning. Find yourself a likely (photo op) spot just before the trail to the (photo op) Inca Bridge. Here is a perfect spot for portrait style shots. Wayana Picchu, the pokey mountain behind Machu Picchu, is well framed from this location. The sun is to your right which will make the foreground on the left side of the hill below the city a bit dark. If there are bright, white clouds this day, you’ll want to do some bracketing to make an HDR in your computer later (unless you’re reading this is 2015 and all cameras shoot at least 15 stops of light).

Photographing Machu Picchu

Spend some time here and watch the clouds. Often, because the jungle holds in moisture at night, you can shoot some intense time-lapse footage as that vapor crawls up the green hillsides. If it is a gray day, this spot works well because there is not a lot of sky behind Wayana Picchu and thus, not so much gray in your pictures. Take your (photo op) “I was here” photo at this point. Then start back on that trail you were on, going up to Sun Gate.

But stop before you get there! You know how some things never quite look like how you imagined them? Because you built them up with fantasy in your mind? Kinda like standing at the foot of the (photo op) Empire State Building and wondering why it doesn’t look like the aerial shots taken from a $2 million helicopter with a (photo op) $20 million IMAX movie camera? That’s why a lot of people go to Sun Gate. It’s cool and all, but really it’s just there to make neat patterns at certain times of the year on certain parts of Machu Picchu (you really should have stayed with your guide to learn that part).

Before you get to Sun Gate there is a spot to stop. Not the first one with the (photo op) tall rock to the right. Past that. The (photo op) spot you are looking for is small and has two simple, small terraces on the right side of the trail. THIS is the spot you want. You’ll be seeing a time-lapse movie later this week that contains that photo from this spot. Bring a wide angle lens to capture the whole valley. Bring a 100mm lens to get a nice closeup of the city and the mountain. Bring a 300mm lens to find your friends in the tour group.

Photographing Machu Picchu

Take some time here and watch the pattern of the shadows over the landscape. No need to hurry. Take photos at different times as the clouds (hopefully)(photo op) dance. Then start your way back down with that classic, postcard shot on your memory card and in your brain (please tell me you sat your camera down for a minute?).

It seems as you get closer and closer to the city it just keeps begging for more photos. The crowds are starting to arrive now and you’ll have to jockey for position. Make sure to get the standard “I was here” shot at the (photo op) main gate to the city. There might be a line.

The rest of what I’d suggest for the city itself is to explore. I could give you another dozen shots but really, inside the city, find your own path. Get close. Look at the details. Look at the craftsmanship. Marvel at the odd shapes [the same (photo op)space aliens who built the (photo op)pyramids certainly did not build Machu Picchu… square blocks!]. Climb up Wayana Picchu and get a photo from there if you are feeling up to the task and if you can get a ticket.

Heck, maybe even find your guide and listen to some of the stories that help bring this wonder of city to life.

Peter West Carey is a world traveling professional photographer who hosts a variety of photography workshops in Washington and California.

Photo credits: rest, all other photos courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.

Photo Friday: In Memory of Lonesome George
Friday, July 6th, 2012

This Photo Friday is dedicated to the memory of Lonesome George, who passed away last week at the age of 100. George was the sole surviving Pinta Island Tortoise, and many travelers had the opportunity to meet George in the Galapagos Islands – a destination on many career breakers lists.

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Photo Friday: Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Friday, June 29th, 2012

This stunning Photo Friday is from Facebook fan Rod Hoekstra:

“I spent 2-1/2 months taking a career break and traveling through South America. This image is one of my favorites from the trip, I was at Iguazu Falls, and had nearly the entire Brazilian national park to myself at sunset.”

You can check out more of Ryan’s travels on his blog Travels with Jacques.

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Photo Friday: Time lapse Machu Picchu
Friday, January 20th, 2012

Photographer Peter West Carey recently shared tips on how to best capture Machu Picchu through a lens.

Before you get to Sun Gate there is a spot to stop. Not the first one with the tall rock to the right. Past that. The spot you are looking for is small and has two simple, small terraces on the right side of the trail. THIS is the spot you want.”

It was from this spot where Peter captured images for this time lapse video.

What dream destination have you always wanted to photograph? Already have? Share it with us!

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Photo Friday: Movin’ Right Along
Friday, November 25th, 2011

“Movin’ right along in search of good times and good news, with good friends you can’t lose, this could become a habit…”

This Photo Friday is in honor of the recent release of The Muppets movie. For years, one of Michaela Potter’s favorite travel partners was Janice, the ultimate guitar player from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Together they had many great adventures through Central & South America, where she eventually found her final home. Come along for the journey!

Enjoying the surf & a sunset beer in Costa Rica

Enjoying nature and the wildlife in Ecuador

The sea lions in the Galapagos haven't seen the likes of her before

Sunset cruising in the Galapagos

Looking stylish during a Peruvian festival & hiking the Inca Trail

Janice connected with a local band in Cusco and decided she found her home

Do you have a favorite ‘travel partner’?

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Photo Friday: Galapagos Islands
Friday, November 18th, 2011

Thanks to Facebook Fan Matt Judd for sharing this photo from the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos are high on many peoples “must-see” lists, whether on a career break or a vacation. There is no place like it in the world. As Matt says “The human element simply does not exist with creatures in the Galapagos. Maybe that is why he looks so happy. You can almost see the smile on his face!”

What destinations or experiences are top on your must-see list?

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Photo Friday: Easter Island
Friday, September 16th, 2011

Easter Island

This Photo Friday from Easter Island was shared on our Facebook page by fan Robin Dean Devaux of Traveling Bones.

“My husband and I left our jobs about six months ago, and are taking a break to travel the world for a year or so. We took this picture on Easter Island in April. Had we not taken this break, I doubt we ever would have found the time to go to such a remote (but magical!) place.”

What magical place has your career break taken you to?

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Photo Friday: La Ruta de Muerte, Bolivia
Friday, September 2nd, 2011

La Ruta de Muerte, Bolivia

This Photo Friday from La Ruta de Muerte, Bolivia was shared on our Facebook page by fans Angela and Jason of is a blog dedicated to the adventures of their traveling family. In August of 2009, Angela, Jason & their son left their driveway in Alameda, California and have been vagabonds ever since. “An extended voyage in our 1971 Volkswagen bus is the only plan.

“We spent our first year driving across North and Central America. We’re almost finished with our second year and we’re in the middle of South America. We have good days. We have bad days. We have amazing days. Join us as we look for inspiration along the way.”

Tell us about your extended voyage!

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Studying Spanish in Argentina
Monday, July 4th, 2011

Briefcase to Mochila: Getting the Most out of Studying Spanish in Argentina

Sarah Gottlieb and her husband Gabe initially were planning on working for a year abroad in order to travel more when they thought, “What if we just travel for a year instead?” Nine months of planning, three yard sales and two RTW tickets later, they were off and flying. While naturally curious, Sarah found herself lacking the bravery she wanted to be able to live up to the adventures the year threw at her. She began writing stories of her battles with eating bugs, swimming in anaconda infested waters and fighting thieves in Buenos Aires at Fraidypants Princess Travels the Globe. Gabe and Sarah have recently finished their year abroad and are residing in Los Angeles.

Sarah Gottlieb

My backpack had hardly touched the floor in our new apartment in Buenos Aires when I was already illuminated by the friendly glow of my netbook, searching for a school to enroll in. I was eager to hit the books after so many years in the workplace and wanted to take advantage of every second of Spanish that I could absorb. Being a little older than your typical study-abroad student and already fairly fluent, I was a bit leery of the private language mills with their revolving hung-over students. My goal wasn’t to be able to say, “I’d like a shot of tequila please”; I wanted to speak with confidence about things that probably hadn’t happened in the past, but might have—in other words, to finally master the subjunctive mood.

I soon had a spreadsheet full of different programs ranked by cost per hour, students per teacher, reviews, and length of program. But after narrowing down the choices, I still wasn’t happy with the results. I was afraid that my classmates would all be Americans and the classes were surprisingly more expensive than I’d expected.

I made one more stab at trying to decipher the public universities’ Web sites and discovered a program for foreigners at the University of Buenos Aires. In theory, it was exactly what I was looking for. I’d be surrounded by local students, with a mix of international teachers, local prices, and local professors. Unfortunately, the Web page didn’t offer much information other than an address.

The next day I felt like I was traveling back to the ’90s having to go physically downtown to speak to someone in person about signing up for classes. As luck would have it, they were testing for the new semester that week. Soon I was squeezed into a desk chair nervously biting my pen and berating myself for not thinking to brush up on grammar! After finalizing my enrollment with an ATM withdrawal, I walked back to my apartment and savored that special in-love-with-a-foreign-city romantic feeling. Soon I’d be reading Borges while sipping a cortado, in the very same corner café where he wrote the lines.

The UBA (pronounced “ooh-bah”) classes proved to be everything that I was looking for. The professors were dedicated, educated, and professional and the subject matter was intriguing. They had classes about Argentinean immigration, oration, film, etc. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about a new culture while living in it.

My classmates were the mix that I had hoped for, with students from countries like France, Brazil, Germany, UAE, and New Zealand. It also happened to be the cheapest cost, at $3 per hour of learning.

Sarah Gottlieb

While I knew classes were the first step to getting myself thinking in Spanish again, I had told myself ten years ago while living in Spain that if I ever studied abroad in the future I’d get a tutor and make more of an effort to set up intercambios – language exchanges. Thanks to Lonely Planet Thorntree I found Maria, a private tutor teaching out of her apartment, who was part of Ñ de Español. She was able to really target major problems that I had, help me with my accent, and give me an insider’s perspective on life in Buenos Aires.

I used Conversation Exchange to set up a number of coffee dates with other local women who were looking to speak better English. We’d chat about family, food, Grey’s Anatomy, our hometowns, and anything we shared in common for a half hour in English and then in Spanish. I made a bunch of nice friends and loved venturing out to different neighborhoods and cafés to meet with friendly Porteñas.

I can’t stress enough how rewarding it was to take a portion of my trip around the world to work on a skill that I’d wanted to improve. I highly recommend setting a goal or two in the middle of a travel sabbatical; incidentally, it has made me a more valuable “briefcase” as I reintegrate into the workforce.

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

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