Trip Planning: the early stages


C5D_0033How do you plan for a big trip? Do you go on a tour and let them take care of everything for you? Do you plan out an itinerary ahead of time? Do you just wing it and plan day by day? Do you always have a guide book in hand? Or do you use an app these days?

Although recently we have tested the waters by using app’s alone on a few trips, we still love to start our trip planning with a stack of guidebooks. There’s nothing like the excitement we feel when we lug home a stack from the library and spread them out between us with a glass of wine, a cozy blanket, and a big notepad. And there we can sit for hours reading side by side, discovering towns that sound spectacularly undiscovered, unusual, but creative museums or hard to reach but oh so amazing beaches.

Maybe we’ve already hit “purchase” on our airline tickets and now we want to start to finding the specifics about where we want to go, or maybe the trip is still just a vision, a hope, a dream, and we want to start honing in on making it a reality. Either way, once we have a guidebook in hand, there’s usually no stopping the momentum of the trip….we are going to go now, one way or another. How can you resist the urge to discover and explore that is generated when you read about the places to see, people to meet, culture to experience, and food to eat? That constant excitement of travel, of discovering things new to you everyday, is totally addicting and we have to get our fix as often as we can afford.Trip-planning-the-early-stages-1But even for the more practical things, guidebooks are still the easiest way for us to get all the essential info of a trip in one place. They provide a few photos, not always much (especially if you use Lonely Planet), but just enough to tease us and make us want to get there as fast as possible to see more. But they also include a little, or sometimes quite a lot, of background about the countries, the towns, the neighborhoods even. They tell us how to get around, if we need a visa, what average hotel and food costs will be so we can plan a budget, and they help us start to pick out the towns and sights and places we definitely want to see and to slowly come up with a route through the country.Trip-planning-the-early-stages-2We’ve tried a few trips lately without guidebooks, where we’ve booked a trip and left with little warning. For those we’ve often used Trip Advisor to find a hotel and Yelp to find a few restaurants we want to try (if we are going to be in a big city that Yelp covers). But for actual on-the-go touring when we are on the ground in those places, we’ve tried using online guides like the Trip Advisor City Guides app, (which is an app you can download with an offline guide, so you don’t have to use wifi or have an international data plan). The guides have restaurants and places to stay but also have walking tours that link to maps to show you where to go and  little bits of info about the highlights along the way. We’ve also tried, an app that lets you choose from common places to see and eat in a location and compile them into your personal list of things to do in that city. You can see them in a list or on a map.

Between the two of those we were able to get around Europe pretty well, but they weren’t ideal. I still want an app where I can choose all the places I want to go, stay, eat, and see, organize those by day and time, and then only see one day at a time on a map. So for instance, if you were in Paris for three days, your first day map would show you all the places you are going to go that day and how to get between them, such as the airport, your hotel, a cafe for lunch, a museum, a garden, a store to check out, and a place for dinner, then directions back to your hotel. And it would do all of that offline using only the phone’s GPS (you would load all the info before you go) so that you don’t need an international cell phone plan. Basically you would pick all the places and it would generate an itinerary day by day with directions, hours for everything, and let you organize it by the order you want to go to everything within each day. Unfortunately I haven’t found that yet, but maybe it’s out there, and if not, I bet it’s going to be soon. Anyone have a perfect travel guide app they use?Trip-planning-the-early-stages-3Actually, it seems many of the traditional guidebook companies like Fodor’s, Frommer’s, and of course Lonely Planet, have really been struggling to keep up with and navigate into the digital age. No one can quite figure out how to do it best, or if an app can ever truly replace a book. I just read an article in Outside Magazine (BTW this is my new favorite magazine! I just read it cover to cover. I never do that. And every single article was great. It covers outdoor travel and sports, adventure anything, and suggested tours and hotels, with a little food and gear suggestions mixed in. It’s a perfect match for me). Anyway, I just read an article about Lonely Planet, which was recently acquired by a new owner and a 25-year-old photographer was charged with running the company. Their hope, with this very young CEO, I believe, is to redesign the company for the digital age, making it more interactive and allowing user-contributed material to play a bigger role like Trip Advisor and Yelp have done. They are trying to find a way to analyze and organize the massive amounts of data they have about every place on the planet to come up with an app similar to the one I’ve dreamt about. But, as far as I can tell, it’s still in process.Trip-planning-the-early-stages-5Lonely Planet has been our trusted guidebook for many of our big trips…it got us through Thailand, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Indonesia, as well was many cities both nationally and internationally. It’s definitely our go to for the witty writing and the unusual and usually affordable recommendations it makes for places to see, stay, or eat. But can they keep the witty charm their writers provide, while also incorporating more user-generated content? Will an app ever feel as easy to navigate as opening a book and flipping through it’s pages? So far for me, it still doesn’t compare.

And even though guidebooks control the information in a way that guides people all to the same “undiscovered” spot sometimes, there can be something rather charming about the way that brings fellow travelers together. You know, when you get to that cafe or beach or hostel that you thought only you would know about because the writer made it seem so unknown and special, but you look around and there are at least 10 other people holding their trusty Lonely Planet and glancing sideways at you with a look that says “Oh you found it too? But it was supposed to be my special find. Well, I guess this means we read the same guidebook. You have good taste. Ok, let’s be friends…”Trip-planning-the-early-stages-4User-generated content certainly opens up many more places to eat, stay and see than a single guidebook can ever print, so it provides more options and spreads out travelers more. But even though most seasoned travelers might say they want to discover and experience only the “real” culture and people and avoid other tourists, finding those fellow, like-minded travelers along the way because you were all guided there by the same guidebook is a special part of traveling and a “culture” to experience all it’s own. And it can make for great, spontaneous friendships or help you meet new travel partners.

For me, there’s still something extra special about reading that guidebook, even if I don’t take it with me. At least for now, it’s still the place I want to start my adventures.How about you? Do you have a guidebook or app that you swear by? How do you plan your trips? We are always happy to find and try out new suggestions…so please share!

{all photos by Pinneapple Tree of places discovered using Lonely Planet: La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bo Sang, outside of Chaing Mai, Thailand; Jack Kerouac Alley, San Francisco, CA; Cremation Ceremony, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; Julia Pfeiffer Burns Park, Big Sur, CA}

***none of these links or guidebook companies we mentioned are sponsoring this post, we’re just sharing our preferences and experience.

Long distance travel: get comfortable

Long-distance-travel-get-comfortable-1I’ve made 5 trips now between Easter Island and the U.S. in the last 12 months. Each trip was on average (and sometimes a lot more) 30 hours of flying and airport time. So what is that? 150 hours of traveling in the last year? And that was just the trips to Easter Island. That’s a lot of time in the air! So, I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of this traveling thing. We’ll, maybe not entirely. Sitting for hours on end cramped between strangers while the plane shakes and bounces through turbulence or is delayed on the runway for hours still makes me feel awful.

I’m always envious of those people that just look completely unaffected…you know, the ones with blank faces, that look utterly bored, reading their magazine, that move and dress with perfect style and poise and that look just as good when they get off the 10 hour flight as they did when they got on? That’s definitely not me. I’m the one whose contacts are dried out and can’t stop blinking, the with the matted hair from tossing and turning to get comfortable, while half of it sticks straight out from the static electricity of the dry air. I’m not a glamorous traveler. But, over the last 12 months I’d like to think I’ve finally got down the essentials that I need to be as comfortable as I can possibly be in flight. I’m not big on posting products here, because I don’t want anyone to think they actually need these things (you really don’t – they are all luxuries) and none of these are sponsored links…they are just products I’ve come to love and want to share. So here we go, my long flight travel essentials: Long-distance-travel-get-comfortable-2This collapsible lunchbox is the best. We have talked about making homemade meals to bring on trips and shared our favorite recipe, so I won’t go into it more here, other than to say: Just do it! Bring your own food. It tastes better and is less greasy and sugary than what you’d probably buy in the airport. This container is great because it can collapse down to the size of a book and make you feel better about your impact on the environment because you aren’t throwing away plastic or styrofoam food containers.

This blanket & pillow combo has been a lifesaver for me when the cold air starts blowing mid flight. It always seems like just as you get to a comfortable temperature, someone complains about the heat and suddenly its 40 degrees on the plane. So even though most long flights give out blankets and pillows, I still bring this one to supplement. The blanket is a little small to cover your whole body, so it’s better for just the upper or lower half. The case with the blanket inside is a pillow in and of itself, but if you are using the blanket, there’s a blow up pillow you can use to fill the case and make a separate pillow. I rarely use the pillow, but sometimes it’s helpful to have.

Any eye mask is essential. I actually use the ones they give out for free on the long flights, although you can get much more luxurious ones online. These help black out the TV screen of the person in front, or for when they turn the lights back on 2.5 hours before landing and you’d rather still use that time to sleep.

An infinity scarf, or any scarf really is a must for me on flights, again to keep my neck warm when the air gets frigid. I’m just always so cold! But this helps.

And fuzzy slipper booties make the flight so much more warm and comfortable. They take up a bit of space in my bag, but they keep me so happy. I still take them off and put my shoes back on when I go to the bathroom though (why are airplane bathrooms so gross? It’s like every time a guy goes into an airplane bathroom, terrible turbulence hits and they end up going all over the floor and the seat, which obviously, they then leave up.

This collapsible footstool has saved my legs and my back! It’s probably the best of all these items to get me through a long flight. I first tried it out on our last production trip and I slept better on my long flights than I ever have before. I have terrible restless leg syndrome when I fly and this all but cured it. Even though I have long legs, just getting them a little bit up off the floor took the pressure off the back of my legs and relieved all the nerve pain I get. Sure you can put your feet on your bag, but if you are like me and your bag is too big to fit under the seat and leave room for your feet on top of it, then this is a better bet. It even extends side to side to become almost 15 inches wide.

This F1 Seat Pak has been great for organizing all the things I need access to on a flight. Now when I have to fill out immigration info I know right where my passport is, and my headphones and phone I keep in there too, along with medicine, bandaids, hand lotion, lip gloss, my eye mask, ear plugs, a granola bar, gum, and hair binders. Really all the things I might need to grab on a moments notice while in flight. It’s great to not have to dig through my bag trying to remember where I put each of those things. I can just put the seat pak in the seat back pocket or even better, hook it to the seat back pocket using a carabiner and all my stuff is right there.

Obviously a phone is good to have in flight, so you can communicate with people back home while on the ground and use it for listening to books or podcasts or music. Or maybe play candy crush. Delta and some other airlines now let you use your phone in airplane mode during take off and landing so now you really can travel with only your phone for entertainment and it’s available all flight long. Not sure if that’s good or bad…I still like having a tangible book on hand as well.

These Bose noise canceling headphone earbuds are a huge huge splurge but they are oh so worth it. I first saw our cameramen with them on our last trip to Easter Island. They have a small battery pack to generate sound waves that cancel out all the base tones and steady white noise like airplane engines. It’s incredible how quiet a flight can be with them on. And the best part is they are advertised as just as good as the over the ear ones (I’ve never had over the ear ones so I can’t compare but I love these). After a 10 hour flight they did start to hurt in my ears a little, but they allowed me to lean against the sides of my seat headrest to sleep, unlike a pair of over the ears, so I vote for these for comfort in flight. The stress of all that noise on your body for such long periods can be really significant so reducing that in any way possible is a good thing.

This lo & sons O.M.G. bag was another big splurge of mine this past year, but I also love it. It has just the right amount of compartments, it’s a great size for just what I need on the plane, it looks professional but not too stuffy, and it even has a secret side pocket that fits shoes (or slippers) for easier access and to keep them separate from the rest of the things in your bag.

I love my bkr water bottle or any glass water bottle for that matter. Water just takes so much better in glass. Just make sure it’s empty when you go through security and then find a fountain to fill it up before you get on the plane. And don’t leave it in your bag with your computer because you never know when the pressure of the airplane is going to make it leak a little and lead to an $800 computer repair  (just for the record, while that did happen to me on our last trip, it was with a totally different water bottle that was much more leakable, but still, just to be safe, no matter how leak proof your bottle, keep it away from your electronics).

Our ipad mini with a rotating case has been great for movies, kindle books and game play (*cough candy crush *cough cough) because it can sit either horizontally or vertically on it’s stand. I often just watch movies on my phone, too, or on the longer flights we’re usually lucky enough to get planes with personal movie screens, but still it’s not bad to have another entertainment option, especially when there’s two of you. And if you get a head phone splitter you can share your movies with your travel buddy (if you are lucky enough to have one).

So, that turned out longer than I expected. But, there you go, the absolute essentials I travel with every single time now. But you know, if I got bumped to first class more often almost every single one of these items would not be needed……Ah well, got to keep it all in perspective. The fact I’m even flying at all is truly a gift…that I get to experience and enjoy these two drastically different worlds both of which I love so much is really what it’s all about.long-distance-travel-get-comfortable-3I hope that helps some other travelers out there get comfortable! As for me, I am back in Santiago, Chile (SURPRISE! I promise this is not an April Fools joke) and about to head to Easter Island again for a few weeks with another tour group. I’ll try to keep up posting as much as possible but may be MIA for the rest of this week.

Winter Highlights

winter-highlights-1It’s raining today. Raining! Not snowing, well, sort of sleeting, but I’m calling it rain and that means spring!! So, as we near the end of winter, I figured I’d share a few of our favorite moments where we really made the best of this crazy cold, long, snoooooowy winter we’ve had. I took the photo above on the coldest day of the year (it was somewhere around -40 F), and I was fairly skeptical about why I was living here, rather than, say, Hawaii. So, here are some of the reasons why we love Minnesota. Just so we remember. Because sometimes it’s easy to forget. winter-highlights-2We went tubing for the first time this year and I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on this for the last 22 years that I’ve more or less lived here! So. Much. Fun. Like can’t wipe that ridiculously silly grin off your face kinda fun. Kinda like this other activity we did this winter. But, as you are laugh-screaming while your face is sprayed with snow as you speed down the slope, you can’t help but have an inkling that, at any moment, this could be a serious disaster if you were to let go. But no matter, you keep holding on for dear life, tethered to your friends tubes, and as you reach the bottom, you all collapse in a pile of laughter and relief that you are still alive. And alive is how you feel. And, as soon as you can stand again, you find yourself running back to do it all again.   Continue Reading →


underwater-12We spent our last afternoon on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) enjoying some much needed beach time after a long three weeks of work. And it was the most perfect day, meaning the water and air were both warm enough that we could play in the ocean much longer than usual. So we got out the GoPro and decided to have some fun. underwater-2I kinda love using our GoPro camera these days because it doesn’t have a view finder (and it’s waterproof). The lens is wide angle enough that if you point it in the general direction of what you want to photograph or film, it will get it. So it brings back a lot of that mystery and excitement film cameras used to have for me, in that you never quite knew what you were gonna get until you picked up the prints. And then flipping through them was full of anticipation as you looked to see if you got one of those perfectly composed and lit shots. The one you saw in your head, but didn’t know if the camera captured quite as well.  underwater-1 underwater-4 Continue Reading →

Finished with production! (mostly)

done-with-production-mostly-38We spent three weeks in February shooting the rest of the documentary we are working on, Eating Up Easter.* While it started out as a film about food and resources on Easter Island and the importation of food, it has shifted and drifted quite a bit since that starting point. Now, we are following three main characters and a few secondary characters, highlighting their daily life on this most remote little island, and the many ways in which they are working to move their community forward in a positive, loving way that nurtures their island’s unique and invaluable resources. There is much to learn from their stories and we are thrilled to get to share them.

*Eating Up Easter is getting an overhaul and will soon have a new website. In the meantime, we have a facebook page, where some of you may have been following our progress during the shoot. Like our page, Eating Up Easter, to stay informed about the everyday happenings of the film. done-with-production-mostly-2When we first arrived on the island, it was the tail end of the Tapati Rapa Nui Festival, a two week long celebration of the culture of Rapa Nui, in which sporting competitions, singing and dancing fill the days and nights and culminate in a day long parade in which locals and tourists alike are painted with soil-based paint and dressed in traditional clothing (which isn’t much). Above, Mark, one of our cameramen, shoots our main character Mama Piru as she leads a group of women pulling a float. done-with-production-mostly-5The only beach on the island, Anakena, was overloaded with tourists in February, the busiest month for tourism on the island. done-with-production-mostly-6Continue Reading →

We’re Back (again)

we're back-1Some of you may have seen on our facebook post a few weeks ago that our blogging computer decided to take a diving vacation (aka, it got some serious water damage) while we were headed to Rapa Nui. And since our other computer was downloading and processing filming footage just about 24/7, internet is sporadic and only available in about a 10 x 10 foot square within the hotel, and we rarely were sitting still unless we were sleeping, we decided to let the blog go for a bit.

But we are back in business. The computer has been rebuilt and we saved (wince) half the price of a new computer! And we are back in the land of decent internet speeds, also known as the frozen tundra of Minnesota. We have a lot of fun posts planned for the next few weeks, starting with an update on our filming progress. We just about finished all the filming we need for the documentary, so endless nights and weekends of editing are in our future. But, we are so excited about the footage we got that all the work ahead actually sounds fun.

I was worried I might not take well to the whole filmmaker career switch, but I have to say, so far so good. Being on a film shoot these last three weeks was exhilarating and included everything I love: being outside everyday, switching fast from task to task, jumping at spontaneous opportunities as they arise, and of course, getting to direct people and make decisions and, well, be in charge. Cue a big sigh of relief that this whole husband and wife documentary team thing might just work.

{photo of Tahai archaeological site by Pineapple Tree, adapted to watercolor using the iphone app Waterlogue}


Production Phase II begins

production-phase-II-begins-1Yikes, time has run away from us again. We are already about to head off to finish phase II of production on Eating Up Easter on Easter Island. We are heading down with a team of four this time. The two of us and two cameramen. production-phase-II-begins-4We very excited to be bringing some special toys to try out! By allowing us to get unique angles and heights, we hope they will help capture the context of where we are – on a tiny, rugged island, alone in the middle of the Pacific. production-phase-II-begins-3We have so many posts we want to share, but again are getting overwhelmed with what is in front of us. But, we will update posts as often as we can and share how the production is going. Continue Reading →

A cleanse for foodies

a-cleanse-for-foodies-2Warning: there are a lot of words in this post, and bad bloggers that we are, there is a significant lack of pictures. We sincerely apologize. Almost every single meal, our appetites got the better of us before a camera could be whipped out.

After eating our weight in cookies during the holidays, and, well just really splurging on food, we decided it was time to finally try out a cleanse we’ve wanted to do for a long time. We wanted to challenge ourselves  to see how long we could go without a few of our favorite things (hello cheese and bread! I miss you!). So, over the last two weeks, we did Bon Appétit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse for 2014 (they come out with one each year around this time), which cuts out white carbs, dairy, and sugar. I’m excited to report that now, three days off the diet, I have not gone running back to any of them yet. In fact, other than a few bites here and there, we are still keeping up the pattern. And we feel great. Not incredibly different from before because we eat pretty healthy in general, but by the end it felt really good to be eating whole grains and greens. But it wasn’t always easy. It started out reeeaaally hard for me. And I took it as an opportunity to learn a few things about myself.   Continue Reading →

A new year, a new beginning

a-new-year-a-new-beginning-1So here we are in a new year. Do you see the new year as a new beginning? I know there’s always tons of chatter about resolutions and starting fresh, and sometimes I don’t buy into it, but usually it does feel good to see the year as a whole new beginning. Yeah, it’s pretty arbitrary, but, there’s something about seeing it as a fresh start that makes going through another year feel possible. It gives you motivation to go forward without feeling destined to repeat the year before.

So every year we do try to come up with little things to keep in mind through the year ahead, maybe goals, maybe hopes or dreams, or maybe just little mantras to keep our focus on an aspect of personal growth that has risen to the surface. This year I’m repeating these four words:securedownload-2 It’s time for me to stop rushing around, missing all that’s happening around me. Time to drive slower, to walk slower, to see the world for what it is each day and to take it in with awe. And it’s time for me to lose control, not in the go crazy and have no inhibitions sense, but in the sense of letting go of my control over every situation, letting go of perfection, giving the reigns to others (at least sometimes) and trusting in the bigger plans out there for me, for us.

So in the spirit of losing control, one of our favorite things over the holiday was a trip we took to Sky Zone with a bunch of friends. It’s a huge gym full of trampolines. There are even trampolines angled upright, so you can literally bounce off the walls. We jumped, we played jumping dodgeball, we jumped and flipped into a giant pile of foam blocks, and we jumped some more. And we couldn’t wipe those giddy, silly, gigantic smiles off our faces all night. It was that. much. fun.a-new-year-a-new-beginning Continue Reading →