Khmer chameleon: how to blend with locals in Cambodia

It’s become something of a mantra among travel experts, this call to “mix with the locals”. It urges us to learn the local language, to dress in local dress, to “do as the Romans do”.

It’s true that local interaction offers a more authentic experience, but how many of us truly engage beyond haggling at a market or talking to a taxi driver? With western pressures on our time, most travellers are lucky to even leave the tourist hotspots. With a little thought, however, it can be done.

We share on the G Adventures blog five local experiences that offer a slice of real life in Cambodia.

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How to start a travel blog – a professional guide

At Atlas & Boots, we are periodically approached for advice on how to start a travel blog. To help future bloggers, we have put our knowledge into a comprehensive but concise guide below. This covers not only the technical aspects of how to start a travel blog but also the editorial, helping you to plan, maintain and grow your blog in a professional way. Without further preamble, let’s begin. Continue reading

Mountain etiquette: how to treat your guide

There’s a moment in Sherpa, the BAFTA-nominated documentary about Everest’s famous guides, where a western tourist asks “can you not talk to their owners?” in reference to the striking Sherpas.

It may have been an innocuous plea made in a moment of frustration but in the harsh truth of film, the question exposes an unsettling attitude to the guides that risk their lives to lead others to the summit. Continue reading

The ultimate guide to packing light

I started our big trip across the South Pacific and South America with a 45-litre backpack weighing 13kg. Over the course of the trip, I managed to drop a fair bit of weight and get my bag down to 10kg. Evidently, I had failed in packing light from the start.

In some ways, overpacking is a rite of passage: you have to do it to learn how not to do it. Of course there is an easier way. By gleaning advice from other travellers and being strict with yourself, packing light will become far easier. Here’s where to start. Continue reading

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How to shoot outdoor video on a smartphone

“You should do more video.”

This has become both a request and a rebuke from our friends and readers at Atlas & Boots. Admittedly, video has played third fiddle on our travels after writing and photography.

Peter has a degree in film but photography is his first love so, on our travels, video is relegated to me – the writer – since he can’t do both at the same time. I’ll admit that I took this task less than seriously on our big trip abroad. For example, the footage I shot at the iconic Rano Raraku site in once-in-a-lifetime Easter Island was a mere four seconds long.
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How to deal with a weak hiking partner

It’s safe to say that Peter is a far stronger and more experienced hiker than I am. On Cotopaxi, he bounded ahead at the front of the group while I shivered and stumbled at the back. On Matavanu, he kept me calm when I nearly broke down in tears. On Nevis Peak, he picked up trails to which I was blind.

Of course, he’s not the first to hike with a weak partner. In A Walk in the Woods, author Bill Bryson describes tackling part of the Appalachian Trail with Stephen Katz, his paunchy friend who turns up wholly unprepared for the ordeal ahead. Continue reading

How to travel without ruining your career

Our trip around the world was the best decision we ever made but it didn’t come without concerns. We both quit our jobs, Peter as head of department at a London school and Kia as product manager at Penguin Random House. We knew we wanted a slower pace of life but also that we would have to find jobs once we returned to London. (Alas, Peter’s great plan to win the lottery hasn’t yet come to fruition.)

This fear of ruining a carefully-built career has put many people off travelling. In some fields, the fear is warranted (for example, most junior doctors can’t leave their jobs for a year) but for most of the rest of us, a long-term trip is perfectly possible especially if we spend time on the road cultivating employable skills. Here are six great ways to do just that. Continue reading

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10 travel skills to learn in 2016

We at Atlas & Boots are occasionally approached for our “expert advice” on travel. We find this in equal parts flattering and embarrassing. After all, what makes an “expert traveller” anyway? Is it just knowing how to pack well, where to buy insurance and how to collect air miles? Or does it run deeper than that?

We asked our readers what exactly constitutes an expert traveller. The resulting list of travel skills gives us – and our readers – something to aim for in the year ahead. Continue reading

Planning a trip around the world: 6 questions to ask first

There are three basic questions everyone asks themselves when planning a trip around the world: Where do I want to go? How long do I want to go for? How much will it cost?

As plans take shape, several other questions come to the fore: Do I really need travel insurance? Should I pack extra shoes? Rabies vaccination costs how much? (Yes, no, wtf.)

There are several other important things to ask yourself when planning a trip around the world. Consider the questions below well in advance of departure to put yourself in good stead not only for your journey but whatever comes after. Continue reading

10 tips for photographing local people

At Atlas & Boots, we have photographed some incredible landscapes, from the crackling blue ice of Perito Moreno glacier to the mythical moai of Easter Island. What we’re less good at is photographing local people. This may be rooted in an article I once read which asked how we in the west would feel if someone stopped in the street to snap a picture of us or our children and then walked off without saying a word. Clearly, we would find this intrusive. And yet the field of portrait photography flourishes with sumptuous pictures of nomads and tribespeople gracing every issue of National Geographic and the like. Continue reading

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How to use a compass and map

As a schoolboy I was lucky to learn how to use a compass and map. I then spent the best part of two decades putting these basic skills to use throughout the British countryside, without ever really having them tested.

It wasn’t until a white-out on top of Scotland’s Ben Nevis during a winter mountaineering course that I really learnt how critical these skills are. Luckily for us (or rather thanks to the course’s well-planned itinerary), we had spent the previous day refreshing our navigation skills in a less hostile environment. Continue reading

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Photo backup: how to keep your memories safe

It was in the Cotopaxi region of Ecuador that we met Michael, a fellow backpacker who had spent the previous weeks on a surfing trip of a lifetime. Earlier in the day, Michael’s GoPro had dislodged from its extender during a jump into a waterfall and sunk to the depths below.

“All my photographs are on that camera,” he told us, face still pale from the hour he spent searching the ice-cold water.
“You have backups, right?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I kept meaning to but… I just never got round to it.” Sadly, his memories were lost forever. Continue reading

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Night hiking: how to see the world by moonlight

Night hiking doesn’t have to be a result of a poorly planned day hike; it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience in its own right.

Before you go blindly marching off into the hills to thrash about in the dark before calling search and rescue on your smartphone (which probably has a flat battery from using it as a flashlight), prepare yourself with our guide to night hiking for a safe and enjoyable night.   Continue reading

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How to make friends in a new country

Last year, I wrote about the challenges of talking to strangers on the road or in unfamiliar social situations. I shared five ways to break the ice and endear you to your newly acquainted. One recurring question since then has been: how do I meet people in the first place? This is especially important when you’ve just moved to a new country.

We examined InterNations’ extensive Expat Insider survey, based on data gathered from over 14,000 of its 1.9 million members around the world, and put together a guide on how to make friends in a new country. Continue reading

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How to build a campfire: a step-by-step guide

Many a man claims to be an expert firestarter – in the same way many a man claims he does not need to ask for directions…

Alpha male or not, nothing should get between a camper and a glorious night spent around a campfire beneath the stars. This step-by-step guide on how to build a campfire will have even the most reluctant urban dweller embracing this long-standing tradition of the wild. Continue reading

7 expert tips for learning multiple languages

I’ve always thought of myself as an avid learner, someone who enjoys challenges and discovering new things. In truth, I’m only avid when I have a choice in what I’m learning. Ahead of our extended stay in France, I thought I would approach French with the same zest with which I studied Spanish.

In reality, I’ve halfheartedly completed three (out of 78) levels in Duolingo and left it at that. It’s not that I’m resistant to French but that I don’t want to dilute my progress with Spanish. With this in mind, I spoke to a number of polyglots and multilinguals to see how they acquired their numerous languages. They shared a wealth of information, the best of which is shared below. Continue reading

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How to treat travel burnout

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a piece on how to avoid travel burnout. The steps described therein really helped us make the most of our time on the road. Step three was particularly effective (i.e. don’t plan more than 60% of your schedule). Between planning, travelling, writing, filming, photographing and filing external commissions, we would have fast run ragged had we not built in pockets of downtime. This worked well until we got to Bolivia. Continue reading

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Training for Kilimanjaro: 7 tips for a successful summit

Last year, a good friend from back home in Norfolk (where it’s pretty flat) decided to climb Kilimanjaro and asked me for some advice. I certainly felt the trek was challenging but I’d had plenty of trekking and mountaineering experience before so was a bit blasé with my advice. I told him he’d be fine, that it was more of a long uphill walk and that “if you can get in a few jogs beforehand and cut back on the beers and McDonald’s you’ll be fine.” Continue reading