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Practical Tips to Improve Your Travel Photography – They’re easy and effective too!

August 23, 2017

As the technology that goes into cameras improves, one could be forgiven for thinking that you can just sit back and relax after the photo’s taken, and by all means, you can.

Or you can do better without too much effort!

If you would like to take your holiday snaps to the next level, we suggest choosing your favourite few and running them through a program on your computer or phone to really bring out the best them.  It’s incredible what a difference spending just a minute or so on each photograph can do.

How we Bring Out the Best in our Photos

Let me start by saying, we’re not professional photographers (obviously, right?), we’re just a couple that enjoy capturing our holiday memories and sharing them with you.

We have however picked up a few simple tricks along the way to bring out the best in our photos and figure, if we can improve our photos, so can you.

Tap into Instagram

Regardless of whether we choose to post a photo to Instagram or not, this free app is our go-to editing tool.  If you see a photo on our blog, chances are we’ve run it through the photo editor on there.

Just Editing?  Flight mode’s your friend

If you’re not wanting to post your photo to Instagram, just flick your phone into flight mode.  This will disrupt your internet/data connection and when you go to publish the photo, you’ll find Instagram saves the new copy in your photo folder without publishing it to your feed.

Make sure you remember to delete out the queue though, otherwise the photos will automatically publish when you’re next online.

Lux it up!

Instagram followers a variety of different filters and though we played around with them when we first started using the app, we use one almost exclusively now – and it may be one you’re not even aware of.

Before doing anything else, I play around with the Lux option, testing out the impact that it will have on my photos.  Generally notching it up results in crisper, brighter photos with improved exposure.

From there, I sometimes go on to make additional edits, but often find that’s all a photo needs.

The ‘lux‘ filter sits apart from the rest in the app – you’ll find it on the top of the first editing screen (look for the sun icon), as opposed to sitting in the carousel below.

Other Useful Edits

If you flick over from ‘Filter’ to ‘Edit‘ on the bottom of your screen, you’ll find a series of options that all you to change one element at a time.

Not all photos require changes to be made here but I’ll sometimes use the following:

Brightness – If your photo was snapped in a dark location, a touch of brightness can make a world of difference to the details in it.

Structure – This can add definition to your photos, bringing out the details that might otherwise go unnoticed.  It’s especially well suited to architectural features and water but doesn’t always do well in photos with people.  Bumping up the structure generally increases the contrast and sharpness of an image so it can work wonders on the right photo – if you’ve already used ‘lux’ then be mindful of how much ‘structure’ you add on top.

Warmth – I don’t generally play with this setting but do find some cameras tend to produce colours skewed to being either too warm or cool (my GoPro for example), in which case I’ll do my best to correct it.

Saturation – Another one that I dont tend to use if I’ve ‘lux’ed my photos but I will sometimes amend the saturation (both up and down) so ensure my images are bright but close to life.

Vignette – Sometimes when you use ‘lux’ on your photos, some of the shadows are removed.  If this happens, I’ll sometimes add darkness back to the corners of my photo using this option.  It can also add a bit of variation to an otherwise plain blue sky and bring clouds to life.

Sharpen – Again, some cameras tend to take softer photos, in which case I’ll use the sharpen option to bring definition to the details should the picture need it.

You can do a lot by altering your photos but we always try to keep them as close as possible to what we saw with our own eyes.  Because we’re not professional photographers, we tend to shoot on ‘auto’ which means we don’t get the most out of our cameras generally speaking – by following these easy editing steps though, we find it pretty easy to bring life to our snaps and hope you’ll be able to too!

If you’re keen to see the difference some simple editing in Instagram can make, check out these examples.

As always, click to enlarge (if you want to see the details) – the first of each is the original photo and the second is the edited version.

We recon it’s worth spending a few extra moments to bring out the best in our photos – what do you think?

Looking for a great camera to up your photography game?  Check out these travel camera recommendations!

If you’ve found this post helpful, pin it so others can find it too!

An easy guide to editing travel photos on your mobile phone. Instagram is your secret editing tool to bring out the best in your vacation snaps! An easy guide to editing travel photos on your mobile phone. Instagram is your secret editing tool to bring out the best in your vacation snaps!

blogging Blogging 101

Is it Time to Reach Out to Companies for Complimentary Experiences and Products?

August 15, 2017

If you’ve been blogging for a while you may be thinking about connecting with other travel-related businesses.  Doing so can be a great way to further grow your content whilst saving yourself some money in the process.

Just how does one go about securing complimentary services and products in exchange for reviews though?

That’s what we’re here to help with!

Do I Have Enough Followers/Hits to Start Reaching Out?

It’s easy to look around at other bloggers and think that your social following isn’t high enough or that you’re not getting enough hits to your blog.

Try to ignore that if you can.  What you can offer is potentially of great value so don’t let those doubts get to you!

A limited number of views to a well-targeted, engaged audience is worth more than a great number of views made by an unengaged, un-targeted audience.  The rise of the micro-influencer is real!

Think about those times you’ve seen a friend post a review on their Facebook wall and you’ve thought ‘awesome, I’ll have to check that out for myself’.

The content you create works in the same way for your followers, regardless of how many there are.

What matters more than your stats is what exactly you can offer.  For any deal to make sense it has to work for both parties, but don’t worry, chances are you bring a lot more to the table than you even know.  Sometimes quality does matter more than quantity.

Be Genuine – Keep your niche in mind

First of all, it’s important that the companies you reach out to are ones that you would want to promote in the first place.  If you weren’t receiving a complimentary product or service would you still be interested in them?  If there wasn’t a trade off, would you still want to write a feature on your blog?

As a travel blog looking at bucket-list adventures, it wouldn’t make sense, for example, for us to partner with a fitness supplement.  We’re not an authority in that space and it’s not an area that either of us have a particular interest in (though for our own health, we probably should be!)  By comparison though, we love connecting with brands that offer adventure activities, city exploration, memorable accommodation, tech gear and adventure clothing brands.

Seriously, look at some of the amazing companies we’ve had the pleasure of working with and places we’ve been.  We love them through and through and that’s what it’s all about.

If the brand you’re thinking of approaching spins your wheels then you’re off to a great start.

It’s Not Always About the Numbers

Ignoring your statistics first of all, what is it that you’re good at?

Do you write highly engaging narrative style blog posts?  Is quality research second nature to you?  Can you write an informative city guide with the best of them?

Maybe you have a keen eye for photography or a knack for being in front of the video?  Are you personable beyond compare, with the ability to build genuine relationships with people from any background?

If you take your audience out of the equation, you’ll be able to focus on finding your point of difference without the self-doubt that may have plagued you earlier.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that your audience doesn’t matter but let’s pretend for a second that you don’t have anyone reading your blog (though clearly that isn’t the case!)… if you create amazing content which is then shared on by the company that you’ve worked alongside, that content still has value, right?

Likewise, if you create an amazing post now that lives permanently on your site which over time grows in popularity, that post continues to reach your growing audience.

Let’s Put the Numbers Back in the Equation – Look on the bright side

Every business has a strength.

Take us for example – though we started with the blog, it was Instagram that really grew initially for us so when we first started reaching out to potential collaborative partners, we made sure to explain our key strength – social media.

We use our media kit to share the information that potential collaborative partners might need to see to make their decision but focus on what we do best in regards to statistics.

We intentionally share our key blog demographs (specifically age, gender and location) as that information can really help a business decide if our audience fits within their target market.

You’ll notice we also provide testimonials from previous collaborations and links to some of the posts we’ve written so people can see we’re the real deal.  Unfortunately we’ve heard of some bloggers (though fortunately we don’t know any ourselves that fall into this category) who have a bad habit of over-promising and under-delivering – for this exact reason, we share details of some of our previous successful campaigns.

Whatever you do though, be honest in the information that you share.  It’s one thing to celebrate your strengths and focus on what you do well – it’s another thing to inflate what you’re able to offer.

So, Is It Time?

Quite possibly, yes.

Regardless of where you’re at on your journey, consider what you can bring to the table.  Can you offer something to a business that will potentially bring them genuine new leads?  Are you able to write a review so amazing that you’ll convince people to support them (only if they deserve it of course!)?

Try not to get caught up on what you’re currently developing and instead celebrate what you can offer.

Above all, any exchange should be a fair one.  Bloggers who are able to offer a lot generally require an additional payment for the services, whereas newer bloggers may still be required to make a partial payment on a high-value product or service.  When you consider what your time and offering is worth it will give you an idea as to what the trade-off might be.

Businesses are out there and as long as you’re honest in the information you share and put your best foot forward, at the very least you’ll provide businesses with the information they need to make an informed decision.

Would you like our opinion?  If you’d like to leave a link to your site in the comments below we’d be more than happy to share our thoughts as to whether you’re ready to start pitching.  Need help working out what you point of difference is?  We’d be happy to work with you to figure that out too!

blogging Blogging 101

How to Start Your Own Blog – A Beginner’s Guide

June 5, 2017

If you’ve been following our blog and thinking we have the best job in the world, you may just be right!

Travel blogging is certainly more work than it may look on first impression but there’s little better than playing a role in helping people live out their travel dreams to see the world.

We love it and you just might too!

If you’re thinking of starting your own blog – whether it’s travel, lifestyle, fitness, food or anything at all – we’ll talk you through the basics and have you on your way in no time.

If you have a message worth sharing (and yes, you do), we’ll help you find the platform to do so.

1. Decide on a Name

If you’re going to put yourself out there as a brand, you want to ensure it’s catchy, represents you well and will grow with you.

Will your brand still represent you in five years time?  

Will it work if you decide to move countries or have a change of lifestyle?

Does it clearly relate to your chosen field? 

Are people likely to misspell it and end up somewhere else?

Whatever brand you decide to go with it should last the test of time and make a great first impression with potential visitors.  Before anyone gets to know you, they’ll first come across your brand name – you want it to be awesome!

2. Lock-Down Your Social Media Accounts

Once you’ve got a name for yourself, take a look at various social media sites and check that your accounts at still available.  In an ideal word, you’ll want to have the same username for everything.

For example, regardless of whether you check on Pinterest or Facebook, you’ll find we’re Exploring Kiwis.  The same goes for all of our social media accounts.

Having the same name throughout all of your accounts makes it easy for people to find you and helps your brand look professional off the bat.

We suggest you start off with a Facebook business page along with a Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest account.  You don’t have to use them all right away but you don’t want someone sneaking in and snapping them up before you.

What if your accounts aren’t available anymore?  If you’ve got another brand option that was a close second, I’d suggest reconsidering that one.  If you’re set on your first choice then consider adapting your social media username – we could have been @exploringkiwistravel, for example.

3.  Stake Your Claim on the Web

What’s a blogger without a blog?

Though there are lots of platforms out there, you’ll hear a few names mentioned time and time again – WordPress, Blogger and Squarespace, most commonly.

I’ve used Blogger outside of travel blogging and though it is easy to use it doesn’t have anywhere near the level of flexibility that WordPress offers.

Remember, whatever you decide, you want it to be able to grow with you.

For this reason, we strongly suggest signing up with WordPress – it’s free to do so and super straight-forward.  Before you do this though, you’ll want to read the next step…

4. Find Your Blog a Place to Live

Once you’ve decided on WordPress (because you have, haven’t you?), you’ll need to figure out whether you want to be hosted on their servers (.com) or if you’ll decide to be self-hosted (.org).

If you’re planning to blog for an audience, you’ll want to be self-hosted from the get-go.  Doing this means that you’ll be able to host ads on your site when the time comes, you’ll have access to a professional looking email (which will be vital if you decide to reach out to companies seeking sponsorship or a collaboration) and you’ll be able to load up a variety of themes and plugins to customise your new blog.

When we first started Exploring Kiwis, we signed up for hosting with BlueHost based on the recommendation of some of the bigger bloggers.  Knowing what we know now though, we couldn’t make this recommendation ourselves to anyone.  Our site was frequently down and the customer service team wasn’t particularly helpful.

Based on the recommendation of our more down-to-earth blogging friends, we made the move to SiteGround and couldn’t be happier!

Web Hosting

We signed up to the StartUp plan and the team helped us every step of the way, transferring our blog over for us and, later, helping us transfer from http to https.  When you start with them, be sure to load up your https certificate right away (you guessed it, they’ll help with that) to give your site the best chance of being picked up by Google.

Psssst: If you’re ready to sign up, you can get 60% off hosting by using our SiteGround link!  The StartUp plan is normally USD9.95/month but for you guys it’s only USD3.95/month.

All you need to do is sign up to the plan you want through SiteGround by following these steps…

First of all, choose the plan that will serve your initial needs – for most people that will be StartUp.  Don’t worry if you plan to grow your blog, there is flexibility with the page views and it’s easy to upgrade when the time comes that you need a bit more grunt.

Next up you’ll either need to supply them with your existing domain name or register for a new one.   It’s much more professional to have a custom link (like than .adding wordpress into the mix) so again, set yourself up for the long term – do it once and do it right.

If you already have an established blog, hosted elsewhere, SiteGround will take care of the transfer for you at no charge – honestly, this team was a godsend when we came to do our transfer.  They made the whole process so easy!

With those steps completed, all you’re left to do is to decide on how long you’d like to sign up for, enter your payment details and go ahead and load up Word-Press with their 1-click installer.

Too easy!

If you’re not technically inclined then drop SiteGround a message through chat – they’ll help you through the process of adding WordPress to your account (whether it be through their 1-click installer if you’re setting up a new blog or a transfer for your existing one).

5. Fine-Tune Your Blog

Now that you’re set up you can have some fun choosing a theme, adding an ‘About Me’ page, setting up your author profile and just generally getting your site looking great.

Themes and styles are easy enough to change so don’t get too caught up this – find something that will do the trick for now and have a go at making a simple logo to represent your brand.  We chose a font we liked the look of and made a logo ourselves – it doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy.

Before you start publishing posts, we do suggest you take the date format out of the URLs – apparently Google prefers this and you want to do everything you can to start growing your organic traffic.  It’s a slow game but one you want to start working on from day one.

To do this head into Settings and then Permalinks – set this to the post name option.

In addition, to get your blog functioning well we suggest you also add the following free plugins:

  • Yoast SEO – Get a head-start on making your blog Google-friendly.
  • Akismet Anti-Spam – This will prevent spammy comments from overtaking your site.
  • Contact Form 7 – Add this to your contact page so people can easily message you (you don’t want to miss out on that sponsored post, after all!)
  • SumoMe – Here you’ll find lots of options to help you convert readers to potential subscribers and help generally spread the word about your awesome new blog!
  • Ultimate Nofollow – When you do eventually work with brands, it’s important that you use ‘no-follow’ links so your site isn’t penalised by google.  This plugin makes doing so super easy.
  • WP Smush Pro – Help squash all of your big photos into internet-friendly versions, speeding up your site.

6.  Get Blogging!

With your brand name decided, WordPress self-hosted with your own custom URL and your social media accounts safely locked away, it’s time to get started.

Anybody that knows me well will tell you that I’m a great starter but not the best finisher in the world.  This might just have served me well in blogging though as getting in and giving it a go really is a great place to start.

Don’t get caught up on perfecting your posts right away.

Don’t worry about how many people are reading your posts.

Make a start and learn as you go.

There’s lots of information out there to help you on your way and as you find your own voice and learn the ‘best’ way of doing things, your style and methods will evolve.

When I look back at my first few posts, I can’t help but laugh.  Without them though, we wouldn’t be where we are now so as much as I cringe, I don’t have even an ounce of regret.

Keen to start your own blog but not just yet?  Pin this post for later…

A practical guide to help you open your own travel blog. Hosting, URLs, social media, plugin suggestions, post basics and more - if you want to start travelling the world and writing about it, this guide is for you!

This post includes affiliate links – it doesn’t cost you a cent to use them but doing so will help us keep Exploring Kiwis running.  We only recommend companies that we stand behind 100% and have happily been using ourselves.

blogging Budapest Destinations Hungary

Sziget Festival: A Survival Guide for 30-Somethings

April 15, 2017
Sziget Festival Survival Guide

We all know that the height of uber-cool things to do during the summer months is go to a music festival (according to my 18 year-old students). In my 20s I made it to a couple of festivals in Europe and V-Fest in the UK but have sadly never made it to the daddy of all UK festivals – Glastonbury.  At least I’ve not made it yet.

However, last summer my friend and frequent travel buddy Liz suggested we hit up Sziget Festival in Budapest – a SEVEN day extravaganza of music and artistry. She had ended up there during her travels the year before on a day ticket to see Florence & The Machine and realised this was something that needed doing properly.

The inner teenager in me enthusiastically said, “Yeah, cool, let’s do it!”  Then of course my inner monologue was hijacked by middle-aged Joanne, the woman who likes to sleep in comfy beds surrounded by silence, take daily showers, use clean loos and wash her hands afterwards. Seven days is a whole lotta festival!

I’m no travel snob, not by any means, but I couldn’t help recall my last festival camping experience where we were pitched next to some absolute (*insert choice words here*) who thought inhaling laughing gas from balloons at 4am and falling onto our tent was standard, accepted festival behaviour. We ended up leaving a night early and driving to my friend’s house in London, desperate for a hot shower, a mattress, a duvet and some peace.

So this time around, at the ages of 33 and 36, we decided to do our research and find a fuddy-duddy friendly festival plan that allowed us to remain cool and down-with-the-kids, whilst also satisfying our need for a bit of R&R.

If I do say so myself, we did an ace job, so here are my top tips for surviving Sziget in your 30s…

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Invasion Mag

1. Do not Camp at the Festival

Sziget is held on Óbudai-sziget (‘Old Buda Island’), an island in the middle of the Danube aptly dubbed ‘The Island of Freedom’ by the organisers for the week of the festival.

There are a number of reasons I could give for not camping, one of them being that you end up being kind of stuck out there away from the other amazing sights Budapest has to offer. Of course there are transport links on and off the island (which I will come to) but with everything that is going on all day and night at the festival, you’d probably end up deciding to stick around rather than exploring the city.

Had we gone straight to camp on the island, we probably would never have experienced the “beer bike”, undoubtedly one of the most unusual and fun ways I’ve ever been sight-seeing. Basically, you and up to seven others pedal power what is essentially a bar on wheels. While your driver/guide steers up at the front, you cycle away and pull your own pints at the back. We threw in some sing-along entertainment too for good measure, gaining many a round of applause from admiring pedestrians.

Another reason not to camp is very simply because it’s uncomfortable, noisy and eventually, very smelly!

As with many festivals nowadays, there are a number of accommodation options on the island that are a significant step up from camping. We considered booking the ‘Flexotel’ option for a while – little shed-like cabins containing 2 beds, linen and towels, a power supply, storage space and access to separate bathroom facilities. It all sounded perfect for a couple of 30-something revellers until we realised we could get our own apartment in the city for a fraction of the cost.

The Flexotel rooms cost 895 euros for the week and that doesn’t include your actual festival ticket. It just didn’t make sense, and the cheaper option (tents) didn’t appeal at all.  

Staying in the city apartment meant we could come and go as we pleased while also having easy access to other attractions around Budapest. By the end of the week, as we walked around the island watching the haunted, dusty, exhausted youngsters dragging their zombified selves around, catching a whiff of them or their abodes every now and again, we knew we’d made the right choice.

Like I said, seven days is a long slog to be living in a small canvas triangle.

At this point I have to give a little shout out to Georgia, our host at Red Pearl apartment who, after getting over her initial annoyance at our arriving a bit later than expected, made us very welcome and even had a bottle of wine waiting for us on arrival. She has a couple of fully furnished, self-catering apartments in the same building, situated right in the heart of the city on a street with convenience stores, bars and restaurants. They can all be found on or AirB&B.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Love Music Travel

2. Know the Public Transport Times and Routes

If you do decide to stay in the city, it is well worth checking to see how close your accommodation is to a main metro line. Using public transport is really cheap which helped make our decision to stay in town an easy one.

We stayed a very short walk away from Kalvin-Ter metro station on the blue M3 metro line and getting to Sziget was pretty easy. We took the M3 a couple of stops, transferred onto the red M2 line going to the other side of the river to Batthyany-Ter station and then jumped onto the overland train up to the festival getting off at the Filatorigat stop with the rest of the cool kids. The whole journey took about 30 minutes.

The earlier you go, the less packed the trains are and the easier it is to get over the bridge and into the festival. Queues tend to get busier the later in the afternoon it got but we never had any major problems; it’s pretty well organised with portaloo stops along the way just in case.

Trains coming back off the island were pretty regular and ran until late at night to make sure everyone who stayed for the headline act could get back.

It is worth noting however that the metros do not follow suit and the last metro tends to finish before midnight, whereas the last train back from Sziget arrives back in the city after the clock ticks over into the next day.  Make sure you plan carefully or you may end up on a bus with no idea of which way it is going (guilty) or in a taxi costing more than your whole book of public transport tickets (guilty again)!

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Global Publicity

3. Get the App

Isn’t technology brilliant?

Remember the days when we had to wait for information about events to come through the post ON PAPER, or make phone calls to find out what in the world was going on then draw up an itinerary ON PAPER?!?

Well no more my globetrotting friends!

This has probably been happening for all sorts of festivals and events for years, but for me, being able to download a tailor-made app that could tell me pretty much anything I needed to know about acts, stages, shows, artists, times and locations was a whole new 21st century experience.

The Sziget Festival app is free to download and is a great way to plan your days and nights on the island. You can save the acts you want to see in your own personal planner so you know exactly where you need to go at the touch of a button.

Mind blown.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Gap 360

4. Locate the Good Toilets (and Bring Supplies)

Anyone who is a regular to festivals knows this one is pretty important.

You want to find the kind that actually flush, as opposed to the ones that have that pump lever that you try to avoid touching with your hands by using your foot (no? Just me?). Those are the loos that are going to be pretty horrendous after seven days of use by people who have been living on a staple diet of fast food and beer.

Luckily, at Sziget, there were a number of more “luxury” options scattered around which also had proper sinks and taps outside of them too (no soap however – take your sanitiser).

The most convenient of these were located right at the back of the main stage audience area which meant we didn’t have to journey far from the big acts when nature called.

It’s also worth having a supply of tissues with you (standard festival kit) as the loo roll provided runs out pretty quickly.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Festi Leaks

5. Get your Passport Stamped

A very cool aspect of the whole Sziget experience is the passport you are issued on arrival. Not only does it serve as your guide to the festival and the venue, it has two pages just waiting to be stamped at the many different tents, stations and areas around the island, just like a real passport.

What a novel way to get people exploring the whole venue during their stay!

We obviously made it our mission to collect every one of the 23 stamps, some of which you can only get at certain times of day, which in turn led to us trying out lots of the quirky activities: Travelling Funfair, Sportzone, Cirque Du Sziget, Ability Park, I Ching Labyrinth, Museum Quarter, and 17 more funtivity filled spots.

Once festival “Szitizens” have filled their passports with stamps (which also include a photo and a few funny personal details), they can claim their prize – free merchandise!

I got myself a snazzy bandana which I rocked on the last day. Which brings me to my next snippet of advice…

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: One Backpack Blog

6. Look the Part – Wear the Merch and Learn How to Braid

Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt?

Good, because you’re not part of the gang unless you’re wearing something Sziget branded.

To be honest, I bought my hoodie because it got a bit chilly at night but I was happy that my nanna-like need for warmth and comfort also allowed me to join the ranks of the other young, cool Szitizens.

As for hairstyles, it seems braids are back. I’m more of a bun and bandana girl myself, but I made sure Liz was a member of the braidy-bunch (you can thank me later, Liz).

Needless to say, we looked awesome! No, really.

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Joanne – Exploring Kiwis

7. Laybags are the New Black

Laybags/Laysacks – these things go by a number of names these days but the concept is the same and they are the new essential item to have at open field events.

As regular concert and outdoor event goers, Liz and I had ordered a laybag each months before the festival but they had failed to turn up on time so we were rendered green with envy when half the population of Sziget had these very comfy looking, inflatable couch/beds.

I’m over the days of sweaty mosh-pits at festivals; I much prefer sitting back and chilling with a beer while watching my favourite artists rock out on stage, so having a big bouncy bag of air to recline on would have been lovely (*sigh). 

Having said that, now mine has arrived I can say with confidence that inflating them is not as simple as they make it seem on the adverts. Expect many a comedy moment as you run around trying to ‘catch’ air in the bloody thing!

Sziget Festival Survival Guide

Photo: Absolute Tours

Have the Best Time – You’re Only as Old as you Feel!

Other than these few tried and tested tips, I would recommend trying as many of the food-trucks as possible (the Hungarian sausage being a personal favourite), wear comfy but ‘throw-away-able’ shoes, and don’t feel bad about missing things. There is so much going on that it would be impossible to do it all.

My bottom line?

Have fun.

Safe, warm, comfortable, clean fun!

Help a 30+ out by pinning this post…

The biggest and best of music festival in all of Europe! Don't miss Sziget Festival - Budapest's amazing multi-day music fest. Need a little help surviving Sziget Festival? Budapest's music fest (one of the biggest in Europe) is amazing but a little advice will help ensure your experience is one to remember for all the right reasons.

Blogging 101

Instagram Intensive – How to Build an Authentic Following, Fast!

February 19, 2017
Grow Instagram Following

Instagram can be an amazing way for travel bloggers to to connect with fellow travellers (both bloggers and the everyday-run-of-the-mill-amazing-travellers) and strike up meaningful relationships with people you’d otherwise never cross paths with.

It’s also a fantastic way to connect with brands and help influence the way people travel.  If you’ve had an incredible experience, there’s often no better way than to show it visually, but with a small following, how can you ensure your content gets out in front of the right people to actually make a difference?

We used these strategies to grow our Instagram account from a personal one (where I literally posted snaps of my cats and home renovation – exciting, right?) to a fairly successful travel blogging Insta account with over 36,000 followers.

If we can do it, you can too!

If you’d like to get a better insight into what we’ve done to grow our account just drop your email in the following form and we’ll flick you all of our top tips right away!


Zena – A Brit with a Once-in-a-Lifetime Travel Dream. I Made it Happen and You Can Too!

February 12, 2017

When I was a child I used to sit on the floor with a book, almost the same size as me, open on the floor. It was my mum’s Readers Digest Wonders of the World and I would pour over those pages, each time as though it was the first time I had looked at it. I would imagine myself in the pictures, staring out at the peculiar lunar landscape of Valle de la Luna in Bolivia, exploring the sandstone formations of Zangye Danxia in China and sat mystified by the mist coming in over the strange shapes of The Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. But mostly I was drawn to the photos of Antarctica. I went back to those pages again and again.

When I looked at the Antarctica photos everything seemed so alien. The ice seemed to sculpt into such peculiar shapes. The penguins looked like they spread as far as the eyes could see and in the drawn pictures it looked, to my eight-year-old eyes, as through every whale you could imagine would be flicking its tail or bearing its dorsal fin in the seas around you.

But most of all it just seemed so far away. So impossible to get to.

And so I knew, that one day, I would get there.

In 2016, I did.

Zena Exploring Kiwis Antarctica

This is me, exceptionally proud of the fact that I had climbed a mountain in my kayaking dry suit as I didn’t have time to go back to the boat and change.  There was no way on earth I was going to miss the chance to climb an Antarctic mountain! (Life jacket and all, ironically, I have never been so hot!)

Visiting Antarctica was the inevitable journey for a wandering soul; I find it very difficult to stay still. I have a constant awareness of how much there is to see and to do in this lifetime and as such I’m on a continual quest to see and do as much as I can. When Sarah from Exploring Kiwis asked me if I would like come into their fold I jumped at the chance. So here I am, introducing myself to you.

I think ultimately the best way I can do that is with every post I get to write, that way our introductions to each other will feel less forced and we can skip the usual excruciating small talk 😉

But in the meantime I can tell you a few things, which will hopefully make me seem like less of a stranger and justify my place on this blog.

I once received a phone call from a friend in the middle of the night – the next day I picked up and then carried a film camera lens all the way to Sri Lanka as it was cheaper for the film crew to fly me over with it than to have it couriered alone. It ended up shooting one of the street parade scenes in the adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. 48 hours later I was back in London.

Here’s the camera on set in Colombo…

Zena Exploring Kiwis Sri Lanka

When I was little, my Dad was a Captain in the Merchant Navy, as such my Mum and I were allowed to travel with him. The other sailors – who all missed their own children, fixed a paddling pool to the foredeck and it became my own pool! I used to sit in it wearing a huge life jacket, with sailors as my own very well trained life guards.

This is me pretending to be the Captain (with a very hefty orange!)…

Zena Exploring Kiwis

I love combing beaches for curiosities and to stroll as far away from others as I possibly can to reflect on the present time I am standing in and to let my memories catch up with me. My solitude was once rewarded when I spotted a little, almost transparent, crab –  I swear when you look closely has Laurel and Hardy on its back.

Can you see Laurel and Hardy?

Zena Exploring Kiwis

I am obsessed with ice and all things cold, so I love exploring cold countries, but I also almost always only ever wear dresses. It’s not so much a point of protest; I just don’t really own any trousers. So when I travel to wintery climes I have to invest in a big coat… or be brave. I mostly favour the latter.

But I do know how to dress up warm when it counts!

OK. Enough. I hope this little insight will help us forge a friendship, as I do my best to report back what I see, when I see it, to anyone who’s interested. I look forward to being your eyes, ears, in fact all the senses on the ground wherever I find myself on this magnificent planet.

As I once accidentally ended a presentation to a crowded lecture theatre when nervously not knowing how to finish. Peace out.

Zena Birch


Hi From an Exploring Non-Kiwi! Meet Lottie…

February 8, 2017
Lottie Exploring Kiwis

Hi, I’m Lottie… an exploring non-Kiwi and the newest member of the team. I have been reading Exploring Kiwis since I first entered the blogging sphere.  In fact, Sarah was the first person to respond to my shout out for guest posts and I quickly fell in love with their adventures and stories!

I’m originally from the UK but have lived in Australia, Canada and, for the past 3 years, South Africa. I used to be a primary school teacher in London before swapping my classroom for a corporate office in Toronto. I loved life in Canada but, 3 years later, I ditched city life completely to seize an opportunity managing education projects in rural Zululand.

I consider myself lucky to have inherited the wanderlust gene from my mum who took me all over the UK when I was little and then throughout Europe as I got older.

For the past 18 months, my boyfriend and I have traveled South Africa in a caravan (in between trips to Vietnam and Europe) and have now almost completed the circumference! We have explored all the nooks and crannies from the wild Western coastline where we got stuck under a lighthouse, to the Namaqualand outback where the roads were so bumpy we lost the Landy’s sunroof as the screws undid themselves!

I don’t tend to keep count of the countries I have been to because, no matter how many new ones I cross of my list, there are still so many more I want to explore! My travel highlights include Sorrento, Rome, NYC, Hluhluwe National Park (South Africa), Byron Bay, Mukono (Uganda) and Hoi An.

Along the way, I have fallen into travel blogging (after starting my site as an online diary for my friends and family at home). They never really had any idea where we were in the caravan and I thought it would be a good way to share my journey with them! Little did I know, it would lead me to a state in which I always have a folder filled to bursting with draft posts and not enough time in the day to get them all down ‘on paper’!

My favourite thing about the blogging world is the community that you become part of and the connections you make. It’s much like traveling – apart from the sights, sounds and smells that you experience, it’s the people you meet along the way fully make the adventure.

Since we’re getting to know each other, here’s five interesting facts about me…

  • My nickname at university was Princess because my favourite colour is pink and I like sparkly things. I have however proved myself to be more barbarian than princess-like since living in the bush in a caravan!
  • I am a planner and an organiser who always has a never ending ‘to do’ list (or two).
  • I grew up as a cat person but having inherited a dog along with the boy, I have realised how awesome they are.
  • Uganda is my favourite country and one of the few ones I could go back to over and over again.
  • I learned to ride a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh city last year and then went on to ride 2500 miles to Hanoi.
  • I have a dream to road trip from one end of Africa to the other in a converted truck.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts on the places I (virtually) take you to and look forward to sharing our adventures with you all.


Introducing Jade: A London-Based Exploring Kiwi

February 5, 2017
Jade Love Exploring Kiwi

Hi, I’m Jade, a Kiwi living abroad who loves travel, warm weather, good food and good company.

In January 2016, my husband Mark and I sold our home, packed our bags and moved to London. We gave up what some would call ‘the dream life’ to start a new adventure in the Northern Hemisphere.

Honestly, when we show friends and colleagues where we are from, their response is always “why on earth would you move here?!”

Well, the move was a result of satisfying my 12-year longing to live in London (which seeded from a year-long stint living in a village in the UK in 2015). The desire to indulge in the extensive history, multitude of cultures and constant steam of events and possibilities that London has to offer was too great to resist… and lucky for me, Mark was up for a change. So with just enough time available to sell the house and enjoy one last summer with friends and family we applied for our visas and were on our way.

Although Australian born, both my parents are Kiwi. I am convinced this factor is the key to my travel bug. Living in Australia away from extended family I found myself on a plane to NZ two or three times before moving across at the age of six. I always get an overwhelming feeling of being ‘home’ when stepping off a plane in both Australia and New Zealand, but I claim Kiwi in all instances.

So the travel between Australia and NZ so young started my ‘bug’ and it continued to grow when I was a teenager, returning to visit Surfers Paradise, Sydney and Cairns during my teenage years on family holidays. Coming into my final years of secondary school teachers urged me to start thinking about University. And to tell you the truth, I couldn’t think of anything worse.

My passion at school had fallen to drama and with the obvious next choice of drama school not overly enthusing me, I found another way forward.

I took a gap year.

Inspired by a close friend who had gone overseas to do an exchange during school, I decided that this would be my path. I applied to the GAP program and was coincidentally placed in a performing arts boarding school about an hour out of London for a year as a helper. Voluntary visa in hand, I boarded the plane and stumbled through what turned out to be an incredible and exceptionally hard and lonely year. During holidays I travelled as much my budget would allow and learnt so much from those first travelling experiences – both good and bad. Ever since, I have been hooked.

After my GAP year I went home a changed person with a very different outlook on life to friends who had gone to university. Instead of trying to jump back into life where I left off I got a job, worked (and worked and worked), studied and gained a Bachelors majoring in Tourism Management. I became a tour guide through New Zealand for a short time. I absolutely loved guiding and treasure the unforgettable experiences I had while on the job, but finding work to fit around those sporadic trips proved difficult so the guiding stopped…

However, the travel lust never went away.

I met Mark at the end of my studies, and ever since then Mark and I have traveled whenever possible. Together we have been to Australia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Singapore, Japan, England, Scotland, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Monaco, Iceland, Sweden and Malta. (We also stayed in Norway on an overnight train but since we slept through and saw nothing it just doesn’t count!)

What’s next for us?

Our big holidays in 2017 will be Greece (both mainland and the islands) and Croatia. I plan on sprinkling long weekends  away throughout the year to allow us to visit other destinations (the beauty of having Europe on our doorstep).

I absolutely can’t wait to tell you all about our travels so keep your eyes out for more posts to come.

XO Jade


Another New Kid on the Block (or is that Blog?)… Meet Sarah Sullivan

January 23, 2017
Sarah S Exploring Kiwis tulips

Kia Ora!

I’m Sarah, originally from New Zealand but currently residing in Abu Dhabi working as a teacher at a local school.

My passion for traveling all started with a stint working at a summer camp in America.  The exposure to meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, and trying new foods, ignited a fire in me and I haven’t stopped traveling since!

Over the past nine years I have been working as a teacher and nanny in England, Austria, Germany and now the United Arab Emirates. During this time I have spent every free moment exploring and traveling the world and having travelled to over 50 countries my ‘list’ seems to be never ending – in fact every time I travel I seem to add at least 10 more places to my list (first world problems, I know!)

When away on adventures I love to fit the most into my time away, experience new food, encounter something daring or adventurous, try out the local nightlife, and if I can manage to fit in a hike that’s an added bonus!  I have experienced every type of travel and I love it all – with that said though, I won’t be rushing out to spend seven weeks living in a tent again anytime soon!

A few of my interests aside from travelling are hiking, netball, dragon boats, reading, cooking, trying new restaurants, aimlessly checking Facebook, and constantly talking (the latter two might be habits).

A common question I encounter is what is your favourite place? I find this question impossible to answer – I have loved every adventure and trip I’ve been on and I can’t wait to share these adventures with you!

Sarah Sullivan


The Wandering Brit Tags Along with the Kiwis

January 17, 2017
Joanne McLaughlin Exploring Kiwis

Marhaba, Ciao, G’day, Yiasou!

I thought it fitting to introduce myself through the languages of the countries I’ve lived and worked in (although sadly ‘hi’ is probably the only word I can remember from some of them).

I’m Joanne, a northern Brit with Greek heritage, and to be quite honest I feel like a bit of a fraud as a non-Kiwi. But surely having travelled around New Zealand and LOVED it, I can be let off as an honorary Kiwi, right?

So, why am I qualified to write travel blogs? Well, since graduating from university many moons ago, I’ve found it very hard to keep my restless feet on the ground. As a child growing up, we never really went on holidays ‘abroad’. Instead we went (and by ‘we’ I mean my parents, brothers, friends, brothers’ friends, aunties, cousins and cousins’ friends) to a caravan park on the north-east coast of England. Exotic, I know. So when the opportunity arose to work – and play – in Cyprus at the tender age of 21, I grabbed it with both hands.

From that first real footstep on foreign sands, I was hooked. I’ve been a holiday rep in Cyprus and the Greek islands, driven a trackless train tour in Sydney, served the beer in an outback pub in Queensland, all before getting ‘a real job’ and becoming a teacher. Other than the UK, teaching has taken me to Italy and Abu Dhabi so far and has opened up the doors to a whole world (literally) of travel opportunities.

My travel app tells me I have visited 37 countries, which is about 18% of the world, so I still have a lot of work to do! As all travel addicts will know, the impossible question is always, “Where do you like best?” I can honestly say I’ve loved everywhere I’ve been, but some of my favourite spots so far have been New Zealand (I’m not just saying that) for its unbelievable natural beauty, Bali for its amazing vibe and diverse landscapes, Vienna for the stunning architecture and rich European culture, and South Africa for the views, meat and ridiculously cheap yet delicious wine.

I really hope you enjoy my ramblings about the places I’ve been and have yet to visit.

Watch this space for a post coming very soon…

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