... because travelling is fun!
Google Maps WebGL in 3D
Apparently not many people are aware of it sooo… here it is: Google Maps have a magnificent inbuilt browser 3D top satellite view of some major world cities. Among others…
Feel free to pan around, zoom in & out!
It’s working with the latest version of Chrome and the beta version of Firefox, no additional plugins needed. Enjoy!
My travel toys
Borislav Kiprin, a fellow traveller from Munich made a pretty nifty list of stuff he’s taking along on trips.
What am I packing into my bags when jetting off to a mysterious place on Earth?
1. A photo backpack
The question is what am I packing my stuff into? Over the time I started appreciating the joy of comfort when traveling: comfy shoes, cargo pants (with lots of pockets!)… and a useful bag! When travelling with hand luggage only I pack all my stuff into a hand-luggage-approved red LowePro Fastpack 250 photo backpack (probably the best non-gadget travel investment). It accomodates a DSLR camera, plenty of cables & adapters, a lens or two, enough space for a lunchbox, a small space for other widgets (or a toothbrush) and even an iPad and a small bottle of water (or a 1-L plastic bag with all your liquids onboard). The bag fits perfectly into the overhead bin of regional jets or under the seat in front of you.
2. A mobile phone
I don’t need to mention that a smartphone is an essential part of every travel. Not only for calling home or sending messages but also for casual photography, slight navigation and of course updating over social media platforms like tumblr. Probably one of the most used features of my phone is the GPS location: All my posts and updates (wherever possible) are geo-tagged: a step which makes sense when travelling whilst updating profiles and statuses. Funnily I don’t often use foursquare directly. I just don’t see the wise use of it: If I want to search for a good restaurant I just ask the locals, they’re the best foursquare alternative. Other than that the other social media apps are quite amusing even though some tend to generate a huge amount of traffic, like instagram (I mean… uploading a picture which is less that 100 KB generates traffic of more than 1.5 MB!). When abroad I mostly rely on data roaming. The European community passed a regulation where European network providers are only allowed to charge the European user to a certain limit. Besides, buying a local SIM-card might be a pain in the ass regarding address registration etc. in some countries. Not smart when you’re about to spend just a short weekend there. Stuff like youtube or an avalanche of instagram videos are tabu in data roaming, I just don’t want to sell one of my kidneys to pay my next phone bill.
Besides the camera app (doh!) I use several social media apps. I’ve limited the background data traffic since I don’t want unnecessary data drain. The sync is off.
I have even installed a compass app which I mostly use when exiting big subway stations and trying to figure out in which direction the bus stop/hotel/landmark is. The app doesn’t need data so it is a good alternative to google maps when roaming (it’s useful to have a photographic memory when looking at offline google maps).
A cloud data storage service is useful for backing up while traveling. I do the backup over wifi (it’s mostly automated). Nowadays Google has dropped the Gdrive pricing so you can get 100 GB of storage space for as low as 2 USD. I don’t use Skyscanner or hotel apps much since I’ve already prebooked my flights & hotels. The flight tickets are mostly QR codes. Or in case of Ryanair: a piece of paper.
Playing some music: I have simfy on my mobile: it’s spotify’s competitor in Germany. Same songs, same pricing, same functions, same access to the music clouds of the same music labels… When travelling I don’t listen to music that much: I sometimes create special travel playlists with artists from the area I’m travelling though. But I prefer listening to the new unknown environment sounds around me when touring otherwise I have the feeling that I’m missing too much from the here and now.
I like making notes from time to time. Years ago I loved using Catch (they were also the makers of the compass app). The guys however shut down their service so I moved to Evernote. Then Evernote was too bumpy and somehow pretentious so I moved to Google Keep. I might even try Microsoft’s new OneNote, who knows! ;)
And last but not least: calling. When calling home I use my SkypeIn account over wifi: I can call landlines or mobile phones over the whole world via my SKype account which is charged over my credit card. Many hotels however started blocking VoIP or charged you for the extra bandwidth. So I moved to NimbuzzOut or just started using WhatsApp. Worst case: the good old SMS. It costs 0.13 Euro (0.18 USD) from any country outside of Germany.
My DSLR cam is very old: A Canon 400D. I love her! She has seen so many beautiful places and people. And she really likes walking around either in the camera bay of my Fastpack or on a strap around my neck. I also have a very small cam, a Canon Ixus. Great when going to parties or for quick & casual occasions: it’s quick, tiny and makes great pics.
5. GPS recorder
My photo backpack has an integrated small GPS recorder which registers my movements throughout my entire travel: The GPS tool sets a geographical point around every 5 seconds. Later on, I sync the data with all the photos from the DSLR. Every photo has its own accurate position assigned. Very useful when you want to know where exactly the photo was taken or what was your route back then. Besides, most photo platforms like flickr automatically recognize the geo-data and append it to the uploaded photo. Awesome, huh? (Below: a screenshot from my geo-track in Gibraltar)
6. Power supply
Oh, don’t get me started… The DSLR may run for days before a charge is needed, the GPS receiver has to be charged every night if used throughout the entire day (10-11 hours). Smartphones are not so smart however. My phone needs to be charged every night when extensively used. I have an very small auxiliary USB power unit which allows me to charge the phone on the go. The power inside is enough for 1.5-2 full charges. Other than that I have a second battery. So simple. When charging is not possible any more I just swap the batteries. I also have a travel power plug which gives me the ability of charging a mobile phone, a camera and a GPS recorder over one single power plug at the same time! It’s a life saver when checking into a hotel room with only one power outlet (thank you smart architects!)
7. A pen
My homies get always excited when I send them some old fashioned postcards from the places I visit. And filling immigration forms onboard an already descending Austrian Airlines Fokker 100 above St. Petersburg makes everything easier…
Enjoy your trips!