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Author: Kirsty

I'm Kirsty, my family and I spent 2013 on a gap year travelling round Europe in our camper van and 2014 house sitting and travelling in Italy and the USA. We're now back in the UK but still having short adventures to appease our wanderlust!
Samson Go Mic review – best travel microphone around!

Samson Go Mic review – best travel microphone around!

When we set off on our travels it was with the intention of becoming a digital nomad and working on the road.  I had a podcast that I was intending to record and keep going while travelling and so I needed a microphone that would be good for travel.  I heard about this super small usb microphone, bought it and loved it, so this is my Samson Go Mic review.

Samson Go Mic Review – podcasting while travelling

I will start by saying that I really didn’t have much idea about what to expect with microphones.  I’d never used one before, the technical jargon meant nothing to me and I really just wanted something simple, something that worked and something that was better than my macbook’s inbuilt mic.

I realised that to keep my kit small, I wanted to go with a usb mic.  USB microphones are basically just plug and play and that’s what I needed for my set up.

In saying that, there was no reason to get something that was tiny but that didn’t work well at all.  Thankfully, even though I know very little about sound quality in technical terms, I can tell the difference between rubbish sound and good sound.  I’d certainly listened to enough podcasts with crappy audio!

 

>>> See the Samson Go Mic on Amazon UK here or Amazon.com <<<

 

The Samson Go Mic was really everything I wanted.  It is small – only about 2 inches in length.  You can see it here sat on my hand (and I haven’t got huge hands!)

samson go mic usb condenser size

It ‘packs away’ within the inbuilt clip, which keeps it nice and safe while travelling and it has its own small padded case that it lives in.  The cable won’t fit in the case mind you, but if you’re like me and have a few different cables in your bag, it just lives in there with them!  If you’re looking for a good travel microphone then this is what won it for me.  The size is just not comparable with other good microphones out there.  I considered a headset but that would have taken up far too much room for me.

 

Speaking of the clip, that’s excellent for either attaching to your laptop, your desk or other item you want.  When I used this at home I’d clip it to a camera tripod we had which brought it up to the right height for me.  Alternatively it can be just placed on your desk and it acts as a stand for the mic.

 

The microphone can swivel round so you can get the best sound.  Sometimes I’d find that I couldn’t get it to stay in the position I wanted to have it, but generally that wasn’t too much of an issue.

 

There’s a couple of different settings you can use with a small switch on the side.  I basically tried them all out and went for the one that sounded best for me, but I think they were for if you wanted a more direct sound pick up or wanted sound picked up from all around.  Like I said, I’m not very technical with it all!

 

There’s also a headphone jack in the side so you can have your computer sound in your ears rather than being picked up by the microphone.

 

If you’re looking for a microphone for any kind of digital nomad work whether that’s Skype, recording videos, podcasts, live streaming it’s really perfect.  If you’re serious about the sound that comes out you might find it’s not up to par (although I was really happy with the quality), but if size is an issue, and let’s face it, for travellers it often is, then I don’t think you can beat this one.  It’s tiny, it works really well and it’s a really reasonable price too.

>>> See the Samson Go Mic on Amazon UK here or Amazon.com to read reviews and see the latest price <<<

 

Arriving in New York and exploring Brooklyn

Arriving in New York and exploring Brooklyn

After our short break in Dusseldorf we got a flight to NYC which was to be the last stop on this adventure.  We flew from Germany as we wanted to use our Avios points that we’d been collecting and the taxes that you pay are *much* less if you don’t depart from the UK.  So we took advantage of that and flew with Air Berlin to NYC.

Alex excited in our first NYC cab!

New York, especially at Christmas time was a huge dream for us and something I don’t think we’d have ever considered if it weren’t for the fact that we landed an amazing house sit for a month on Staten Island!  Our sit didn’t start until 2 days before Xmas so we had a few days to explore and so we decided that we’d have a couple of nights in Brooklyn and a night in Manhattan before heading to the suburbs that is Staten Island!

We managed to find a really nice apartment in Brooklyn in the Bed-Stuy area using AirBNB.  It was a one bedroom basement flat and it was really reasonably priced.  We arrived and went straight to bed, hoping to not suffer too much from jet lag.

Our first day saw us explore the area and get some food in.  It’s always interesting to find where best to buy food – there wasn’t anything that great nearby so we ended up in one of those convenience stores that seem to have a little of everything, including some groceries.  We managed to find some pasta and sauce and some cereal to keep us going!

brooklyn apartment steps
outside our Brooklyn apartment

Our first day out in Brooklyn also saw us experience our first (unfortunately not the last) bit of racism directed towards us.  I didn’t personally take much notice, but it really riled James and got him angry.  As we were walking around someone shouted at us about being white in the neighbourhood.  Just a passing comment, not a direct confrontation, but not nice in any case.

The area that we were in was certainly not a tourist area and seemed like a poor neighbourhood.  I’m glad we got to see what it was like, but I was also glad it was only for a couple of nights!

The area that we stayed in was also close to the subway so we went in one day for our first view of Manhattan, but I’ll write about that next time.

Before we left Brooklyn we decided to go along to a flea market to explore another little area.  It was a little bit of a walk, but we enjoyed walking past all the brownstone buildings especially with their Christmas decorations up.

The flea market seemed like it was in a much more upmarket and trendy area than where we stayed, definitely had a different vibe about the place.  I loved looking round at all the vintage items for sale and wished I could have brought it all home with me!  Only thing was I didn’t have a home which is why I bought very little!

Brooklyn flea market
Brooklyn flea market

Just after we walked back to our apartment and were safe inside watching some (crazy) american telly we heard loads of sirens outside.  We didn’t think anything of it until we heard on the news later on that two policemen were shot and killed – it was probably about 5 blocks away from our apartment!

Brooklyn was certainly an eye opener for us, it was raw and blunt and probably not what most people go to New York to see and certainly not what spending all your night in Manhattan would be like!  I like travel for us to be more than the sights, but Brooklyn was an experience for sure!

 

What is the best Kindle to buy in 2016

What is the best Kindle to buy in 2016

Kindles and ebook readers in general have really taken the world by storm and changed how books are read.  If you’re a big reader and especially if you’re looking to read on the go you’re probably wondering what is the best Kindle to buy since there are so many different kinds available at the moment.

What is the best Kindle to buy?

Its not a case of asking which Kindle is the best but more which Kindle is best for me.  You see, I’d say that every one of them are really great products, but that wouldn’t mean that they all would be perfect for my style of reading, how often I read and my budget.

I’m going to go through the four main Kindle models that are available at the moment which will hopefully give you a good idea of what the pros and cons of each version are.

 

Amazon Kindle

The most basic version of the Kindle still packs a great punch and if you’re looking for just a basic ebook reader with nothing too fancy then this one will most likely do the job for you.  I have the basic version and although I think I will upgrade to a Paperwhite soon (for the reasons below) it’s still a fantastic bit of kit.

It doesn’t have quite the resolution of the more expensive versions but I still find it excellent on my eyes and it does feel like you’re reading text on a book rather than on a screen.

If you’re not sure how much you’ll like reading on an electronic device or if you would just rather spend your money on some kindle books then this one is a great choice.

>>> To find out more about the spec and the latest price click here Amazon.com or Amazon UK <<<

 

Kindle Paperwhite E-reader


I’m a traveller so for me I’d be looking for the best Kindle for travel and I think paperwhite version would be perfect for that.

The reason why I think the Paperwhite is better than the more basic for travel and taking abroad is the fact that you can get it with free 3G.  That means that if you’re abroad with no internet access you can still browse the online store and download books whenever you want without worrying about hefty costs for roaming charges.

The battery on the paperwhite still lasts a really long time and you’re talking weeks.  So if you’re away for a short amount of time you could probably get away with forgetting your cable!

The fact that the paperwhite also has an inbuilt backlight means that for carry on travel and minimising what you’re taking it’s also a no brainer.  My current kindle has a case with a built in light and it just makes it that little bit more bulkier.  I do like reading at night and so having a light is great to stop your eyes straining, but having it inbuilt is way better!
My personal view is that the Paperwhite is the best all round ebook reader and would be perfect for a number of people who want something not too expensive, but with plenty of features.

>>> To find out more about this version of the Kindle click here – Amazon.com or Amazon UK <<<

 

Kindle Voyage E-reader


If you’re looking for something even better than the paperwhite then take a look at the Voyage version of Kindle.  It has the same resolution but an enhanced way of lighting it up makes for an amazing reading experience.  The back lit screen adjusts with the available light around you so it will always be at the perfect level for you.

It’s not a huge step up price wise from the paperwhite – if you’re looking for something a little bit more special or even as a gift for a book lover then the Voyager would definitely do it!

You can see more about the Kindle Voyager here – Amazon.com or Amazon UK

 

Kindle Oasis

The latest version of the Kindle that Amazon has brought out is a luxurious bit of kit!  The price point of this e-reader definitely puts it in to the category for serious readers!

Again the resolution is the same standard as the Paperwhite and Voyager what makes this Kindle different is the ergonomic design that is much more different than the others.   The hand grip has been designed for the most comfortable of reading experiences, although if you find that you like to change hands you might find that the design doesn’t work for you as well.

There’s also a beautiful leather case as well which can also keep the kindle charged as well which could make the charge on the ebook reader last for months!

Although a more serious investment product than the others, I can see that if reading was what you loved to do then this would be a perfect ebook reader!

Amazon.com or Amazon UK

 

Best Kindle for kids

If you’re looking for the best ereader for kids then I really think that a Kindle can be an awesome choice.  However as with all of us, the best reading device for kids will depend on the personality and age of your child.

 

It still begs the question about which is the best Kindle to buy, even if it’s for a kid.  If you’re looking for an all round good ereader for kids and are at all concerned about budget and about the possibility that your kids might break it (don’t worry, they’re pretty sturdy) then you’ll probably want to stick to the basic Amazon Kindle.  The price point nowadays means that it’s easy to pick them up for all of your children to have individually.

It’s easy to keep the Kindle safe for kids too as there are parental controls on there.

If you’re in the US there’s also a service called Kindle FreeTime Unlimited which allows access to loads of kids books for a small monthly fee – definitely something to look into and I hope they’ll bring that to the UK soon!

Learn more about the basic Kindle here – Amazon.com or Amazon UK

 

Now although I think the basic Kindle is perfect for most kids, if you’ve older kids who are voracious readers and are often found reading in bed the Paperwhite version might be worth thinking about.  Of course it’s slightly more expensive and so you’ll have to think about whether your child will get the benefit of it.  I think for teenagers it’s a great option especially if they are book fiends and just are always found buried in a book!

Check out the Paperwhite here – Amazon.com or Amazon UK

Düsseldorf Christmas Market – any good?

Düsseldorf Christmas Market – any good?

One of the favourite things that we’ve done was when we visited Düsseldorf Christmas market.  It’s not one of the top German Christmas markets if you read any of the ‘top’ lists around but as we’d never experienced any before, we had nothing to compare it to and as such had a fantastic time.

 

When we finished up our time in London we needed to get to New York and one of the ways we did it was to fly via Dusseldorf in Germany.  Since we were there in December it seemed daft not to expand our time and take in the Xmas market so we spent 2 nights there.

Düsseldorf Christmas Market

fun at the german xmas marketWhen researching Christmas markets in Germany I kept hearing that the one in Düsseldorf wasn’t the best.  Cologne, which is only about a 45 minute drive away kept coming up as a better choice.  We did contemplate heading there instead, but less travel from the airport won out.

So what was the market like?

Well we had an awesome time and loved it!  We were staying in the old town, right next to some of the restaurants and bars (we stayed in an Airbnb) and about a 10 minute stroll, or even less, from where the main part of the Christmas market was.

What I loved about the markets was how different they were to what we have back home.  It felt like what was on offer was very German and somewhere where you could find some really unique gifts.  Unfortunately we couldn’t buy much as we were limited in space in our backpacks and had no physical home for any trinkets – so we had to be happy with buying food instead!

pretzel stall at a german christmas market

We adored the giant pretzels that were available in many different flavours and ate them both nights we went out!  My favourite was the pretzel with Nutella and James and Alex liked the one that had marzipan in it.  They were about 3-4 euros each and really nice.

There were huge queues and crowds for the mulled wine (which is called Glühwein in German) but we didn’t have any.  I’ve since found out that each market in Germany has their own mug design each year and people collect them.  I’m quite glad I didn’t know that before hand as I’m pretty sure I’d have had a job on my hands getting James not to bring one home!  Apparently when you get your first drink you pay a deposit for the mug and if you don’t want to give it back you just keep it.  Pretty neat idea I thought!  🙂

While wanderindusseldorf wheelg around there were also lots of street performers and also some of the stalls were set up so you could see the craftsmen at work.  We stood for ages watching one man make a toy – I can’t seem to find any pictures of it though!

There was a huge ferris wheel/observation wheel in Dusseldorf as well which was all lit up and looking festive and a few market stalls dotted around too.  Overall, although not a huge market it was a great introduction for us and as I said, we had nothing to compare it to.  Dusseldorf felt really safe too, with lots of shops still open in the evening and taking advantage of the footfall around the markets.

 

It was rather nice the next day too – I’d definitely be up for exploring a bit more of Dusseldorf, perhaps in slightly warmer weather though!

Dusseldorf in winter


Where to stay in Dusseldorf

We stayed in a really nice Airbnb apartment which was situated right in the old town.  It was a rather noisy area though, so if you do the same bear that in mind!  This is the apartment we stayed in which was huge – we’d actually planned to stay in a smaller one, but since this one was free the host upgraded us to his bigger apartment.  If you fancy giving Airbnb a try, sign up through my link and you’ll get a discount (currently about £20 I think) off your first booking.  Click here for your discount.

 

If you’re looking for a hotel to stay at in Dusseldorf then I recommend using a search engine like HotelsCombined.  They comb through all the booking agents and compare them so you can see the lowest price.  You can see Dusseldorf hotels here.

 

Our Texas to California Road Trip

Our Texas to California Road Trip

We were very excited to be doing a road trip in the USA, a Texas to California road trip – so no short trip for us!  It was about 1250 miles from Dallas TX to Needles CA according to Google, but I imagine we did slightly more with the few detours that we partook in.  I so wish we could have added the extra 250 or so miles to take us on to the end of Route 66 in Los Angeles but we had to be content with the trip that we did!  We actually ended up heading to Las Vegas which is where our flight was going back from.

 

Our Texas to California road trip – day by day

We did look into the best road trips from Dallas but really my heart was set on Route 66.  We’d wanted to do this trip for years and having two people in our family who were pretty crazy about old American cars and the other two who appreciate the retro feeling of the era it was a no brainer.  Route 66 here we come!

 

Day 1 – Dallas TX to Wichita Falls TX

Distance – 140 miles 

Our first leg of the road trip saw us driving through North Texas up to the part that is known as the pan handle.  It was really nice to start to see more of the state outside of the city of Dallas which had mostly been our experience on the trip so far.  We did love Dallas though – you can see our posts about this time here.

We broke our journey with an overnight stop in a town called Wichita Falls (we stayed at the Days Inn which was super cheap – check for latest prices) which was lovely to walk around and explore.  We had a really nice nature walk along to see the waterfalls.  It was so hot though!

Wichita Falls TX

 

For more info about our stay in Wichita Falls check out the post here.

 

Day 2 – Wichita Falls TX – Shamrock TX

Distance – 164 miles

We drove the following day along what seemed like endless small oil fields and spotted many of the ‘nodding donkeys’.  Although there were lots of them, they definitely weren’t as big as I was imagining.  Perhaps those were just smaller oil fields?

Finally we arrived at Route 66.  We drove a little back to the border with Oklahoma so we could say we’d been there too!  It was so close that we had to!

Our first day on Route 66 saw us drive only about 15 miles on the road as our planned stop was Shamrock TX.  We loved that tiny town and it was our first experience of seeing neon light up the road!

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express which was right next to the U Drop Inn garage which lights up so spectacularly at night.  check for latest prices

 

rusty car shamrock tx

 

You can read more about what we found in Shamrock here.

 

Day 3 – Shamrock TX to Tucumcari NM

Distance – 204 miles

Big Texan AmarilloOur third day of our road trip, driving from Texas to California, saw us leave the lovely state of Texas behind.  We really did love that state and the people and places we saw.

Before leaving we managed to catch quite a few of the Texas Route 66 attractions such as the Big Texan steakhouse, the giant cross at Groom and we failed miserably to find the Cadillac Ranch!  I don’t know how we missed it, but we did!  I was very sad about this!  We also explored a pretty cool service station on I-40 that was decorated in a nice Route 66 style and we came across our first mention of tornados as it had a tornado shelter!  Yikes, time to get on the road 😉

Texas – we will be back!

Tucumcari was just over the border in New Mexico and we celebrated this new state with tacos!  It was Tuesday after all 😉

We also were treated to way more neon than I could imagine as all the motels were lit up.  This felt like a real Route 66 town and listening to the crickets at night and being around a quiet road I could just imagine Fillmore and Sarge (from the Cars movie) watching the traffic lights there!   There are loads of murals in the town too, it’s like everyone wanted to paint a scene of times gone by.  You can read more about Tucumcari here.

We stayed in the lovely Motel Safari, which was cheaper than the iconic Blue Swallow motel but we really liked it.  It was basic but had that 50s motel feel with how it was decorated.  Fab.

 

Day 4 – Tucumcari NM to Gallup NM

Distance – 311 miles

We drove pretty much the entire state of New Mexico on this day.  I remember seeing lots and lots of signs for casinos on the road and lots of signs for shops with authentic Native American goods.  We did stop at one of the shops but weren’t really impressed by it all – seemed a little cheesy, but I guess lots of people like them.

On the west side of Albuquerque was the Petroglyph National Monument which sounded like a really interesting place to visit so we took our supermarket lunch there (one of our many tips on keeping the budget down on our road trip).  The weather was still quite warm, but it was nothing like the stifling heat we’d experienced in Dallas and the rest of Texas.  You can see more about the Petroglyphs and what we did in New Mexico here.

We stayed in Gallup which is another famous route 66 town (it’s even in the song) but we chose a motel on the outskirts which meant we didn’t get much time to explore there.  It was a cheap and clean motel though and can still recommend it for a budget night on the road.

 

Day 5 – Gallup NM – Holbrook AZ

Distance – 95 miles

This was a nice short driving day so we took it easy.  It saw us reach our 4th state – Arizona!  We’d stay in Arizona for a few nights as we had lots to see and do in the area.

In between the two stops was the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert national park which I’d seen beautiful pictures of and had to see.  Unfortunately it was a little overcast that day so it wasn’t as impressive as I imagine it would have been with some beautiful sunlight, but it was still impressive non the less and we had less worry about keeling over in the heat!

Read more about the Petrified forest here and how I became a junior ranger (and the kids did too!)

Our night time stop was the iconic wigwam motel!  We loved it there, and it was awesome walking round as the sun went down taking pictures of the old cars.  Inside it was a little dated, but for the price, which was one of the cheapest on our route, it was worth it.

 

Day 6 –  Holbrook AZ to Williams AZ

Distance – 125 miles

Leaving Holbrook we set off looking for the meteor crater which again felt like it was something we should do while in the area.  It was a nice attraction but for some reason didn’t quite hit the spot with me.

We drove to Williams where we spent the next two nights.  Something we’d needed as we’d been travelling non stop for the last wee.  We couldn’t believe the change in scenery as you approach.  I assumed that Arizona would be all desert but there were parts when I could have completely believed we were back in Scotland!  So lush and mountainous – I was very surprised!

Williams was a great town and we stayed in the Motel 6 there – nice, cheap, central and right across from a Dairy Queen.  Oh I miss Dairy Queens!  You can check prices for this motel here.

 

Day 7 – Side trip to the Grand Canyon

Distance – 60 miles each way

Grand Canyon viewWe knew we had to see the Grand Canyon but we also knew that paying extra for the privilege wasn’t our style, so we stayed two nights at the motel in Williams AZ and just did a day trip to the Grand Canyon.  It was just a 60 mile trip so easily doable in a day from there.  We even came across our first roundabout of the trip there!

You can read more about the Grand Canyon trip here – needless to say, it was awesome.

 

Day 8 – Williams AZ – Needles CA

Distance – 165 miles

Our last day of our trip – sadly, as I said not quite a Dallas to Los Angeles road trip, but fairly close.  I remember seeing signs for LA and thinking we should just go for it!!

The list day saw us go through lots of attractions though, the first being the town of Seligman, home of the barber Angel Degadillo.  We’d watched his story on the extras of the Cars dvd and so were really pleased to chat to him.  There are lot of shops in Seligman and I think it’s a stop for many coach trips too.

This stretch of the west end of Route 66 can be done a couple of ways.  You can follow I-40 all the way or you can come off and go up through the mountains via a town called Oatman.

We heard lots of stories about it being a very twisty road, but since we’re used to that in the UK we thought we’d be fine – it still had me gripping hold of my door handle!  Very twisty, very high roads, but a wonderful view.

You can read more about the towns in AZ and what we saw here.

 

Our final night of our road trip was spent at the Rio Del Sol Inn Motel in Needles and I was so excited to have finally made it to California – the place we see so much on TV!  I hope next time we can explore a bit more!

Needles CA

 

We had an amazing time on our Route 66 trip from Texas to California and encourage anyone thinking of doing a similar trip to go for it!  If you need some guide books to inspire you have a look here.