Thank You Camera Phone

My 20-year-old ne’er-do-well sister has a $1,000 Nikon camera that she uses to take selfies with on vacation. I have an iPhone which I use to capture centuries-old cathedrals, cerulean seas, wrinkly locals, and flaky pastries.

A couple years ago, this would have really bugged me, since before the time of the iPhone all us reject kids had to use was disposable cameras. Unfortunately, this caused me to miss out on timeless photos from my earlier trips like my first visit to Europe when I went to Norway to meet my long-lost family, a tour of Colorado where we drove from Denver to Ouray to take a look at the wild ponies and the Continental Divide, and my 18-year-old jumping-in-with-both-feet trip backpacking across Europe armed with one other confused teenager.

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These are trips I will always look back on with a smile and read about teenage angst and newness in my old journals, but unfortunately, there really aren’t photos to represent the fog over an early mountain morning or the freeze of a Norwegian lake in the summertime.

However, thanks to the advent of the smart phone, social media blew up, public information went mad, and the world became more interconnected than ever before. But one thing we sometimes forget about in the smart phone, even the camera phone, is that suddenly, everyone had the chance to capture their own images without a $1000 budget and a photo degree.

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I’m not saying that my college roommate has anywhere near as much photography talent, skill, and knowledge as a professional photographer with a budding portfolio – as a trained journalist, I know how annoying it is when people think that when it comes to the arts, it all comes easy and any kind of creative education is worthless. But what I am saying is that I think it’s pretty cool that my college roommate has as much Internet opportunity as anyone else does to capture, edit, and share their images with the world, even if only her grandma and her dad really appreciates them.

A blossoming opportunity for all will never be a bad thing. Instead, now when I venture off to see the world, I’m not hoping that my disposable camera film doesn’t run out or that the photos are too dark – instead, I feel confident to grab every lame sunset and every towering peak, lighten up every color and define every line so that not only can I show my mom the cool places I went, but I can look back on journeys that barely need words alongside them.

Best Gifts Under $50 for Your Favorite Globetrotter

Being that it is Black Friday, some of us (i.e. those who don’t wait until December 24) are well on our way to making our Christmas shopping lists now that Thanksgiving has cleared and we are starting to be able to button our pants again. We would never forget that bottle of wine for Grandpa, that baking set for Mom, and that fancy watch for our boyfriend(s)… but what about the traveler in our lives?

Buying gifts for travelers isn’t very easy, mostly because those who are travel-happy tend to operate on the same t-shirt and jeans for multiple days at a time and are grateful to have a bar of soap for the next destination. However, get them something they don’t know yet that they want this here. Here are some of the coolest travel gadgets to score before December 25.

1. Scratch Map, $20 is a poster map for the wall in which you scratch off each country you have visited to reveal a rainbow beneath. Also hidden under the scratched off countries is geography trivia.

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2. Water Bobble, $10 is a reusable, self-filtering stylish water bobble that is great for avoiding those pesky tap water table charges in Europe if you’re good at sneaking off to the bathroom unnoticed. These bottles come in many colors, sizes, and styles, although I recommend the Bobble Sport because they still comes in the standard medium size but they are more colorful, dishwasher safe, and the cap is attached so you can’t lose it (unlike the normal bobble). Every month (or two, which is the recommended swap time), you purchase a new filter for about $5. Oh and you get to save the environment too.

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3. Apple World Travel Adaptor Kit, $39 includes a set of six AC plugs with prongs to fit outlets in North America, Japan, China, United Kingdom, Continental Europe, Korea, Australia, and Hong Kong and works with the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple MagSafe Power Adapters (for MacBook and MacBook Pro), Portable Power Adapters (for iBook and PowerBook), and AirPort Express. Trust me – you just dumped big bucks into your Apple iPhone and Macbook. Don’t mess it up by using some poorly converting cheap plug in another country and then blowing the whole thing to pieces. Invest in a quality converter.

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4. Bentgo Bento Boxes, $15 are like handy little make-your-own TV dinners, just without all of the fake food. These cute, streamlined compartmentalized boxes make creating meals for the road a lot less messy than your standard cafeteria-style lunchbox.

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5. SearchAlert Locks, $20 are the kind of thing that you think you don’t really need until you’re in a hostel in Scotland sharing a room with a convicted felon. These handy resettable combination locks also change color from green to red if the locks have been opened outside of your presence.

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