The Time a Snickers Bar Saved My Life

Or, at least, made being trapped in the Himalayas after an avalanche
a bit more tolerable.

Somehow a Snickers bar is most satisfying when it’s been accidentally frozen long enough to chip a tooth when it’s finally bitten into after being chiseled with a broken blade in a log hut during a blizzard.

I’d been carrying that particular candy bar at the bottom of my backpack for twenty-seven days. When I finally pulled it from the trenches of my 85-liter pack (which was essentially the equivalent of carrying a small caravan on my back), it was dented, poked, and prodded from the weight of ice axes, misshapen shoes, safety ropes, tent poles, half-filled water bottles, rocks I found on the path that seemed interesting enough to keep, and bags of clothes still damp and heavy from being haphazardly washed in the Kali Gandaki river.

When I had first tucked that chocolate bar away into the depths of the backpack, I was standing in my warm hostel room in Kathmandu in my freshly-washed jeans and boots that had yet to be introduced to mud or ice or quicksand, and was giddy with the idea of myself peeling off the Snicker’s tantalizing wrapper once I reached the hardest point of the 35-day trek in the Himalayas that I was about to attempt.

Most trekkers in Nepal tend to stick to three main routes: the twelve-day walk to Everest Base Camp, the fifteen-day walk to Annapurna Base Camp, or the twenty-day walk through the entire Annapurna region called the Annapurna Circuit. I found, though, that because of the frequency of small villages throughout the Himalayas where it’s possible to gather food supplies and gas — which is essentially all you need to keep going in the backcountry — I could stay out in the mountains for as long as I wanted, just as long as I could have access to a refueling village when I was running low on supplies. So I decided to link together the climb to Annapurna’s Base Camp (which peaked at the base camp at 13,600 feet) along with the entire Annapurna Circuit (which peaked at the top of a pass called Thorung La at 17,700 feet), which seemed like an exciting and challenging trek. Except, that left me with the pressing issue of which trail summit was monumental enough to have my Snickers.

On my comfortable flight from New York to Kathmandu, and then on the eleven hour bus ride to the city of Pokhara with a chicken and a random child sitting on my lap, and then on the back of a motorcycle-taxi that took me to the trailhead nestled at the foothills of the Annapurna region of the Himalayas, I contemplated at which point in the coming six weeks I would fish out the chocolate.

When I finally bit into the candy bar, however, I wasn’t watching the mauve alpenglow of sunrise illuminate the icy massifs and glaciers surrounding me at Annapurna’s Base Camp. 

I also wasn’t standing just shy of 18,000 feet at one of the highest walkable mountain passes in Nepal, in a flurry of whipping snow and blue sky and sun-bleached prayer flags fluttering so fast in the icy wind that they sound a cacophony of helicopters in the middle of mountain wilderness.

Instead, it was in a cramped log hut with enough spacing between its panel walls that the snow from a blizzard outside consistently collected in the crooks of my arms if I stayed still long enough, and accompanied by the weak flames of a dying fire (we had to save kindling, who knew how long the storm would last), and two men who were too deep into a conversation about the existence of God to notice that I was busy attempting to thaw out the frozen caramel of my trekking reward on a lukewarm log.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Up until that day, everything had gone without incident. 

In fact, each day in the mountains began to blend into the next, defined only by changes of scenery; one day follows the length of the river as it snakes through meadows of purple alpine wildflowers. Another day traverses suspension bridges missing boards where there certainly should be boards but are too tangled with prayer flags and fraying ropes to really give any trekker enough time to fully analyze the safety specs of these ancient contraptions. Another day climbs steeply through cloud forests, around narrow bends in the muddy path that sinks down into valleys and up again into the foggy cliffs, where both local children and mules and red-furred monkeys watch from canopies and flowering rhododendron bushes until, all at once, I’m alone again.

There are small consistencies in these days, though, despite the changing terrains and watchful eyes from those who are passed. Going to sleep at sunset, waking just before sunrise. The rich woodsmoke and ginger scent of a cup of milky, sugary chai brewing at a teahouse as Iccrouch outside, attempting to dry out my boots in the last rays of sunlight from an accidental step in a stream. The countless times I almost tripped on a rock or a patch of ice because I was too busy focusing my eyes on the impossibly foreboding view of a peak looming on the horizon.

You think mountains are big, you think clouds are high. 

But then you see the Himalayas.

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There’s also a certain amount of camaraderie on the trail — after all, because most trekkers do one of three main trails, there’s a good chance a backpacker will consistently run into another backpacker they’ve ran into before, so even the solo trekker, like myself, ends the day sharing a thermos of hot chocolate with someone they’ve seen before — but for a good deal of the time in the Himalayas, I was alone. In fact, I was so transfixed on the fact that I even made it to the summit of Thorung La Pass and Annapurna Base Camp that, when I did, I sat in silence, alone, and completely forgot about my Snickers bar. Usually it was only the loss of feeling in my fingers and toes, the shallowness of my breath, and the impending sinking sun behind the jagged horizon that reminded me to keep walking.

I had completely forgotten about that precious chocolate bar until it was day thirty-one on the trail, and we had just hit the twenty-five hour mark of sitting in that hut by the fire when Klaus asked through his thick, guttural accent if we were sure that we didn’t have anymore food, and I remembered the candy bar.

It was not the most ideal situation. As I used Klaus’s pocket knife to whittle the frozen chocolate into three pieces to split among us, I thought about myself on the flight descending into Kathmandu when I was deciding when I should eat the Snickers.    

It’s safe to say that at the time, I did not anticipate it happening like this.

But I guess that’s what I deserved for thinking I could make it out of six weeks in the Himalayas unscathed. About three hours after I descended from Annapurna’s Base Camp, I found a group of Sherpas standing on the side of the trail talking into radios with worry fixed on their faces, which is never a good sign, especially not at 13,000 feet. Quickly they informed me that a low-altitude blizzard had swept into the valley beneath us — a valley that we needed to traverse as there was no other way to get back to a town or road — and took down an avalanche with it, covering the only route in and out of the section of mountain I was in. 

As they trudged through the snow past me to go check for other climbers up at the base camp to inform them, I asked what I should do.

“Find shelter, sit tight.”

I continued down the path as the storm clouds grew heavier and the path became increasingly heavy with snow for a few minutes until I was met the familiar smell of woodsmoke, and then the sight of flickering orange light through a cracked door of a little hut down a hill.

As I stepped inside, I was met with a few sights you don’t normally find a traditional log cabin. First, there was no actual floor — just a layer of straw dusted with the snow blowing in through the cracks of the walls — and two white men, about my father’s age and my grandfather’s age, crouched by the fire, sharing a plastic bag of trail mix. The grandfather-looking one seemed to be fishing out the M&M’s.

Immediately I was welcomed to join them, and somewhere in between being offered a handful of the trail mix and a joke that went something like “Well, who knew it could snow in the Himalayas!”, I attempted to put together some pieces about the people I was suddenly sitting between in a small Nepalese hut. The younger of the two introduced himself as Klaus, an Austrian mountaineer who was visiting Annapurna’s Base Camp for the seventh time that season to acclimatize himself before attempting a summit push later that year. He wore a red bandana tightly around his neck in lieu of a scarf, which didn’t quite draw attention away from the olderman whose jacket and backpack were sewn with so many rainbow peace & love patches that I felt like I was looking at a picture my dad had once shown me of himself in the 70’s. He introduced himself as John, who was 75 years old and hailed from Seattle, and had been going to Nepal every year for the past thirty years of his life. Then, without asking anything about who I was aside from my name (which they both never got right but after three attempts to correct them I just accepted my fate as “Kate” and “Tay”), they continued their conversation where it was before I appeared. I settled in.

For fifty hours, it continued.

Though the snow outside steadied, it never seemed to slow. And neither did John and Klaus’s debates. As if I was just a fly on the wall, I sat cross-legged on the frozen straw floor, listening to the two of them discuss their purposes in Nepal, whether God exists, whether they had randomly ended up here or if there was a greater energy who put them there, or if they themselves had subconsciously willed this into existence. I was mostly concerned that I was running out of things in the room to count to entertain myself (seven peanuts in my section of the Snickers bar, for example).

A few times, it seemed that the snow had slowed enough for us to descend and make a new path around where the avalanche had wiped out the trail, but ultimately it was too risky. So we waited. And waited. I walked a few laps around the cabin, but would come back in to find more bickering around the inevitability of the dire fate of the human race. During this particular debate, I counted thirty-three log panels on the roof of the hut, and nine chocolate chips in the last Cliff Bar we each had. Half of the bar was lunch, the other half was dinner. I was asleep by 4:00 both nights.

On the third morning, all it took was a peak through the panels of the wall to see the green light of the backcountry: blue sky.

I quickly rolled up my sleeping bag, stuffed it into the bottom of my backpack where the Snickers bar used to be, and left the cabin before the two others could finish their yawns and another joke, “So, at what point do we resort to cannibalism, or does one of us have to die first?”

As I began walking down the trail, using my trekking poles to steady myself on the black ice underneath the fresh powder, I thought that maybe once I’d get back to Kathmandu, I deserved one more chocolate bar. But I was really sick of Snickers.

Looking back toward where the blizzard hit after traversing out of the mountains. The avalanche is the solid patch of snow you see on the face of the half-hidden mountain on the far left.

Looking back toward where the blizzard hit after traversing out of the mountains. The avalanche is the solid patch of snow you see on the face of the half-hidden mountain on the far left.

Dream of Finland

Every once in awhile, this beautiful thing happens.

You arrive somewhere — whether by boat, or horseback, or bus, or snowshoe — and it feels like you've stepped into a memory. I know it sounds strange — bear with me — but it's the sensation of finding yourself standing before something, and it pulls on your heart, and it aches in your chest, and it makes your throat heavy, and for some reason you don't really understand, you think to yourself,
Ah, it's here. I finally found this place.

What I'm trying to say is that for the first time in awhile, that happened today.

I sat in the snow, I took off my gloves, I let my snowshoes splay behind me, I listened to the echoing stillness of the summit of a mountain in the Finnish Arctic; the very same mountain I'd ached to someday see since I was 12 years old and saw flitting images of it on the pages of National Geographic magazines.

I think I've dreamed of this place long before I ever arrived. 

For awhile now, I've been in the Arctic.

Specifically in Lapland, Finland; far north of the Arctic Circle. I'm the photography guide for an expedition team, which is a group of aspiring photographers and travelers that I've grown immensely close with as we've endured some of the harshest weather conditions I've ever personally experienced, as well as the travel misadventures that comes with exploring a place so unpredictable and ever-changing. When I arrived in Helsinki in early January to greet everyone, I knew immediately on that first night that there was something very different and very special about this group of people. (To sum it up: on our first night together, we sat around a water pitcher in a dim airport hotel and talked and laughed for three hours straight). I felt something was different.

Our experiences in the Arctic only made my initial intuition about this smattering of people only come to fruition. Long hours spent in our trusty little green van as we plunged hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle only emphasized the crucial need for laughter, optimism, and joy in a place such as the midwinter Arctic. As we settled into our cabins and turned them into our cozy expedition bases — filled with the smell of cardamom buns baking in the oven, or heated by the deep flames from the fireplace overtaking the chill on our skin— we fell into routines that have quickly become dear to me. Such as:

  • Waking in the morning to a breakfast being made by my incredible co-leader and chef, Kylie Chenn; whether cinnamon buns made from scratch, Finnish crepes stuffed with fresh lingonberries, or homemade braided breads spiced with cardamom

  • The chaotic 30-minute process of putting on every small yet crucial bit of gear we'd need to just step outside for any amount of time

  • Climbing the nearest high hill to see the sun come up, hover like a heavy orange bruise over the pink horizon, and then set less than one hour later

  • Afternoons around the campfire under a forest roof of dense pine trees, sipping instant coffee from a dixie cup and swapping stories as we warm our numb fingers and toes

  • Playing a guessing game of, "what's the temperature right now?" (Spoiler: it dropped down to 40*F in one region)

And each evening closed with tea and photo critiques under the warm lights and log beams of our cabin, a sauna in the backroom, and a 2-course meal made completely from scratch by Kylie, which we'd sit around the table and dine on, laughing and musing and asking question after question, as we waited for the magnificent Northern Lights to make their way into the enormous black sky... which never happened, despite long hours in the middle of night spent standing desperately in frigid open clearings of tundra with our necks craned upwards at empty, gray clouds.

This is, however, until our final night in the Arctic; AKA, the night as I write this, curled up on a couch in our remote cabin on the edge of a dark lake, and a ribbon of mauve and emerald colors above.

I was literally so overwhelmingly excited when our spotter said that they had appeared that I ran out of the cabin into the -30*F cold wearing just a light jacket and my yoga pants and untied boots but camera in tow. All the hours of practice and drill we went through to get our gear on as fast as possible flew out the window, and it couldn't have been more perfect.

And the Northern Lights danced, just as I remembered they did. They shimmered, just as I remembered. They rippled, they exploded, they rained, they burst, they rose, the soared. Just as I remembered.

And yes, we screamed. And we danced. And we hugged each other. 

And I cried.

I cried a whole, whole lot.

And that's how it went here.

Every day, with a new adventure, new reason for laughter. We snowshoed through frozen forests and across brilliant tundras, in places that felt more like another world than anywhere else on Earth. We lost count of the herds of wild reindeer we passed time and time again. We broke bread with locals, we said yes to every opportunity, we asked questions. We found ourselves immersed in moments so genuine and authentic that it was hard for me to believe that we were this lucky, lucky enough. We ice fished. We cuddled baby sled dogs. We ate more soups than I can even count, with names I can pronounce. My mouth was consistently dry from talking and lecturing and talking even more. And we succeeded. We came home each day, frozen and rosy-cheeked and flustered with excitement and that sweet exhaustion, smelling of campfire smoke and lingonberries.

Let me note here that the trip isn't over yet; just our time in the Arctic is coming to a close. Tomorrow we go back to Helsinki to board a boat heading into the frigid, dark Baltic to take us to the shores of Estonia, but as this next journey hangs over my head, and the fire in the fireplace is burning out and the cabin is settling in for the long night, I can't stop thinking about these moments in Finland.

All these bits and pieces, all the moments of absolute joy, seemed to all come together today as I sat in the snow with my gloves off, and my snowshoes splayed, and the epic silence around me. While finally seeing the Northern Lights tonight was a gift beyond anything I could ever put into words, it was this morning on that mountain that brought it all together; that moment when I felt an onrush of memories of myself years ago, looking at the photographs of this one particular frozen mountain in the high Arctic of Finland. This place, those images, that seemed to stay in the back of my mind and had been, perhaps, driving me, even if only slightly, to where I sat today. On that very mountain. The one I'd been working towards. The one I'd spent years waiting to discover.

The one I walked onto and recognized from my dreams.

more photos in the days to come.

if you're interested in joining an expedition with me, visit www.Acanela.com

Top Highlights of South Africa

1. Go on safari in Kruger National Park. There are a number of safaris geared for budget travelers where travelers on any budget can find some tour geared towards their needs. While Kruger may be more built-up with dazzling campsites and resorts than other safari parks on the continent it's for good reason; the amount of wildlife in the area raises your chances of seeing the Big 5 (lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, and rhino), as well as other animals that are even harder to spot (such as cheetah, hyenas, or African wild dogs). I always recommend at least two full days on safari, but even on a time-constrained trip, a simple day in Kruger gives you a good chance to see some extraordinary animals.

2. Go backpacking, hiking, and rock climbing in the Drakensberg Mountains in the North and the Fynbos on the Western Cape. The Drakensberg ("Dragon Mountains" in Afrikaans) are famous for their glorious peaks, thick pine forests, trails that snake along riversides, and of course, world-class rock climbing. Down in the Fynbos, you'll be mesmerized by the flora that's unique to only that region of the world, with nearly 6,500 plant species here being endemic (not found anywhere else except for this small corner of South Africa). Known for its exceptional beauty and rolling hills painted with wildflowers, it's a backpacker's heaven.

3. Go surfing along the coast. Jeffreys Bay is the most popular spot for surfing, as it hosts some of the world's most renowned surfing competitions, but it’s pretty packed with tourists and noise; often times in JBay I felt like I was walking through downtown Jersey Shore. However, just up the coast to the East from JBay is the hidden gem Tshani, where there is a small backpackers hostel/campsite called Mdumbi. Mdumbi is serene, isolated, really breathtakingly beautiful, and probably my favorite spot in all of South Africa. It's a homey spot to pitch a tent, have a braai, and go surfing without bumping elbows with partiers, tourists, and a thousand other surfers competing for the same wave. Also, Mdumbi often has massive campfires on the beach, which hey, that's pretty fun. (PS- I accidentally lost my glasses in a fire there once, so if you happen to find a blue pair of glasses in the sands, you may just be my hero).

4. Visit Cape Town. Marvel at how colorful it is, how friendly and proud the locals are, how big the music and food scene is (especially along Long Street, which has so many artisanal coffee roasters and thrift shops you’ll think you’re in San Francisco). Enjoy the sidewalk cafes on the harbor, the sweeping view from the summit of Table Mountain, and the lively nightlife.

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5. Road trip along the Garden Route and Western Cape. You’ll feel like you’re driving along California’s Big Sur as you snake along roads that hug the dropping cliffs that form the Cape, leading to hidden beaches, rolling vineyard, and charming wine towns adorned with stone churches, pastel-painted houses, and cobblestone lanes. (And if you’re more of an adrenaline junky, here's your chance to go cage diving with great white sharks in Mossel Bay.)

6. Kayak (or raft) down the Orange River as it snakes along the Namibian Border. Of course it’s a haul to get up there, but you’ll feel like you’re in another world as you drop into orange canyons, topaz rapids, and camp underneath the stars in an amphitheater of red desert walls. It’s spectacular. It’s uncomfortable. It’s weird. It’s like Mars. It’s isolated. It’s something else.

Guide to Packing

When packing, there are three main considerations: 

    1. What luggage am I bringing? 
    2. What are my absolute must-haves (for any trip)? 
    3. What do I need to bring that's unique to this trip? 

Let's start with #1. 

What Luggage am I Bringing? 

Finding the right luggage for traveling is crucial. You want something that's roomy enough for trips where you may be carrying extra bulk, but you also don't want something that will be too heavy and cumbersome for occasions where you're carrying it for significant portions of time. Most travelers find that they need two kinds of luggage: a large backpack for carrying your clothing and gear, and one small daypack for essentials that you want on you at all times. When picking out your luggage backpack, I recommend shooting for anything between 60 to 80 liters in size. While it's easy to compress a backpack if you don't use up all 80 liters, it's much harder to stretch it and force everything to fit into a small pack that simply doesn't have enough space.

When you're picking out your backpack, shop around, and try things on. Don't buy something blindly online without having tested it out first. Head to your local outdoors store (such as REI or Eastern Mountain Sports) and work with a specialist who will find the backpack that's most formfitting, comfortable, and viable for you. 

As for the daypack, you want enough room so that it can fit anything you would need on a flight, in transit, or in any situation where you're out an about. A good test for a proper daypack is that is has compartments for pens, wallet, papers and documents (such as your passport), and room for a book or two, a rain jacket, sunglasses, a small toiletries/first aid kit, and a pocket for a water bottle or two. If you think you'll be carrying a laptop with you on your travels, look for a daypack with an internal laptop pocket. If you're carrying a DSLR camera, look for camera backpacks that can safely hold your camera gear, while still having ample room for necessary documents, transit necessities, and day items. Typically, daypacks run between 20 and 40 liters, and can also be tested and purchased at your outdoors retail store. 

On a road trip through Eastern Europe, I decided to bring a duffle instead of a backpack because it would be easier for living out of a car

On a road trip through Eastern Europe, I decided to bring a duffle instead of a backpack because it would be easier for living out of a car

What Are My Absolute Must-Have's? 

No matter where you go or what you're doing, 99% of the time, you will have to pack the same constant necessities. These include: 

    •    Toiletries (including: toothbrush, eye mask/ear plugs for sleeping, hair ties if necessary, just one small bottle each of toothpaste, shampoo, and soap -- remember, you can purchase these things abroad if you run out) 
    •    A converter if you're traveling abroad and power outlets are different from your own. It's worth investing in a universal converter so you don't have ten different ones for ten different countries. These can usually be purchased online. 
    •    Medications & copies of prescriptions. Along with medications, be sure to bring a broad spectrum antibiotic (which can be given to you from your travel doctor), as well as staples such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Dramamine (if you get motionsick) 
    •    Guidebook and a small phrasebook.  
    •    Headlamp with spare batteries. 
    •    Nalgene water bottle.
    •    Sunglasses and glasses (with your prescription, in case you lose your glasses) 
    •    Pack towel 
    •    Rain jacket 
    •    Rain cover for your backpack 
    •    Rubber sandals for communal hostel showers
    •    Sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner. The liner can be washed, which will make you feel cleaner throughout your trip, and it can also be used in places where it's too hot to sleep in your sleeping bag, or you don't want to sleep in the provided sheets. 
    •    Laundry bag 
    •    Basic First Aid Kit 

Optional (but recommended): 

    •    Headphones (and a spare pair, in case yours are broken or lost) 
    •    eReader and Book 
    •    Notebook & pens 
    •    Plastic bags for items that may be wet or muddy
    •    Deck of cards 
    •    Sunhat 
    •    Bandana 

Insider Tip: Using your shampoo or body wash is a great substitute for washing clothes, so ditch bringing laundry detergent. Pack along a clothes line and pins for drying, too. 


What Do I Need to Bring That's Unique to This Trip? 

When deciding what clothing, shoes, and gear you should bring on your trip, consider your trip's location, climate, activities, and culture. The best way to get an idea for what kinds of clothes to bring is by looking through a Lonely Planet guidebook on the region you're traveling to. In every Lonely Planet, there is always a section devoted to telling you about what clothing is culturally acceptable or unacceptable, as well as also giving you a month-by-month look at what climate is generally like in certain regions at certain times of year. For example: you may be traveling to the Sahara Desert in August, but you'll also want to bring a warm sweater and hat because it can drop to freezing temperatures in the desert at night. In another case, you may be traveling to northern Norway in January, which requires a serious amount of extreme cold-weather appropriate clothing. If you're going trekking in Nepal, you'll want a mix of both cold-weather clothing and even warm weather clothing, such as hiking shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, as it can get surprisingly hot and humid in the Himalayan trekking regions. 

Once you've picked up your guidebook or have turned to Google and you have an idea of what kinds of weather you'll be facing, you'll want to find clothing that's as versatile (and, again, culturally appropriate) as possible. Especially for long-term trips where you may be traveling to multiple countries and will have to pack for a variety of climates, you're going to really want to snoop around your outdoors retail store to find clothing that's as lightweight, durable, and compactible as possible. 

Here are some tips for packing light and versatile: 

    •    Bulky fleece jackets should be replaced with synthetic down coats that were designed to compress to save the most space as possible. 
    •    Clunky sweatshirts should be replaced with lightweight (but just as warm) alternatives, such as SmartWool and/or Patagonia pullovers and zip-ups that are well-fitting and designed to easily be packed away. 
    •    Jeans are not only cumbersome and inefficient with their size, but are difficult to wash and dry efficiently when on the road. Swap them out for comfortable lightweight pants that are easy to travel in, hike in, and explore in. 
    •    Dresses and skirts are excellent for formal occassions, for hot locations, or for when you just feel like dressing up. Just be sure that you're well aware of the cultural expectations regarding dresses and skirts. Do they need to at least cover your knees? Do they need to cover your ankles? Can they be spagetti-strap style, or will you need to cover your shoulders, or your chest, or both? The same rules apply when deciding on bringing shorts and tank-tops. Cultural awareness needs to be acknowledged when packing.
    •    Only bring a handful of underwear and socks. Remember, you can (and should!) do laundry on the go, whether you pay for it to be done, or whether you do it in a hostel sink. You shouldn't bring a month's worth of these things, as they can take up a significant amount of room, and are easy to clean and quickly dry. So just pack a bare minimum (I usually bring a week's worth). 
    •    Find the right shoes. Usually a pair of supportive hiking boots are efficient for most traveling, hiking, and walking you'll be doing, and rubber sandals are good for swimming and showering. Some people opt for bringing along a third pair of every-day shoes, such as Toms or Converse, that are subtler than hiking boots and are nice for casual days where you aren't carrying a heavy backpack. 
    •    Don't go shirt crazy. It's easy to find yourself wanting to pack a shirt for every occasion, but you'll find just how little you actually need. Instead of bringing your whole wardrobe, pick out three or four shirts and stick to that. Something for cooler weather, something for warmer weather, and anything that can be layered.  
   •    Finally: use compression sacks! Everyone has their own method of organizing their backpacks, but using compression sacks to organize clothing allows more space in the backpack for extra gear, such as bulky hiking boots or a sleeping bag or tent equipment. 

Insider Tip: When women are traveling to more conservative regions, it's always a good idea to bring along a shaul or scarf if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to be considerably covered up (such as visiting a mosque). 

an introduction of sorts...

Welcome!

I admit I never know how to begin these things or how to write about myself, but I guess I’ll start with this:
My name is Tate. I’m a traveler, photographer, and writer living on the coast of northern California, and this is my blog.

I've felt for awhile now that I need a new space to put all my thoughts, photographs, tips/advice, writing pieces, and resources about travel, so here it is, and for those of you who don’t know who I am: hello!

  • I was born and raised in New York and now I live in a small, sunny house on the coast of Northern California, on the quiet shores of San Francisco.
  • I’ve been a self-employed travel photographer for the past five years now, working for various publications and selling photos and stories as I go (including National Geographic, but I’ll make a full list eventually)
  • I've been to 57+ countries, and I hope to never slow down.
  • I’m a published author of a novel and am currently in the process of writing my second book. I also freelance writing pieces for various publications, mostly online.
  • I’m on the road to being a full-time photojournalist where I’ll be focusing on documenting international environmental conflicts and issues / violations of human rights. I’m currently studying Swahili and have hopes to learn Arabic in order to focus on regions in Africa and the Middle East.
  • I’m a passionate vegan and am often extremely outspoken about animal rights and the conflicts that surround animal agriculture, abuse, and controversies. When it comes to travel, transitioning from being a meat-eating traveler to a vegan traveler has been a unique experience, so you’ll probably hear about that a lot. (But spoiler alert: yes, you can be a vegan traveler, and yes, it is cheap and easy and worthwhile).
  • I’m madly in love with anything in the wilderness that gets adrenaline pumping, although mountaineering, ice climbing, kayaking, and backpacking hold special places in my heart.

I hope you all find something to take away from these ramblings, even if that something is something small.

Abisko, Sweden, 2015.

Abisko, Sweden, 2015.