Bringing the monthly playlists back — March is almost half way through, but better late than never, right?

Those of you who know me have an inkling for how desperately passionate I am about curating playlists. I might not know the name of every artist I hear, but if that song incites an emotion that I want to carry around with me, you can bet I’ve subtly Shazammed it added it to one of my many, many mood, season, and trip-themed music mementos.

So here we are: March. I’ve traveled a bit already, and I’m ready for my next escape (Tulúm, again, next week). Enjoy these chill beats and let March take off. And if you want more… follow along on Spotify.

Photography can be a ridiculously expensive hobby — but it doesn’t need to be! Here’s what I tell people when they ask for advice.

Set a realistic photography goal.

Before purchasing anything, take some time to think about what you really want to accomplish in photography. Is your ultimate goal to quit your day job and become a professional photographer? Or are you more interested in learning more about the mechanics of photography and shooting on manual? Or… are you really just aiming to take better photos for sharing with friends and family, or on Instagram?

These are just some examples of photography goals — and very different ones, at that. Someone who’s aiming to go pro isn’t going to buy the same camera as someone who only really uses a camera on vacation. So… what kind of photographer do you see yourself being, realistically?

Set a budget.

When someone contacts me and says “I’d like to get a camera. What should I get?” — my first reaction is to ask how much money they’re willing to spend. Under $1,000, or over? Over $5,000? Photo gear adds up, so budgeting is mandatory.

Test equipment before you buy it.

I cannot emphasize this enough. If you’re planning on spending more than $600 on a camera, there’s a good chance you can rent that exact camera for a weekend. Or, if you have a good friend who’s willing to let you play around with a camera they own — do that! Carefully, of course 🙂

I swear by for all camera rentals — whether I need a telephoto for just the weekend, or if I’m testing out an entirely new camera. In fact, every piece of equipment I now own was something I rented or borrowed early in my career!

If you’ve never used BorrowLenses before, use this link to get $20 off your first rental.

Buy used.

With some research, of course. Photography is a fairly old trade — cameras have been around for a long time! My first DSLR was a Nikon D80, which taught me how to be a photographer, and even carried me through a handful of professional jobs. That, in turn, helped me afford a full-frame, more modern DSLR. Going used is a great option, especially for someone on a budget who may or may not jump into photography full time. You’d be surprised how much a piece of gear gets discounted because of a few cosmetic scuffs.

But then again, buying used isn’t for everyone. I’ve personally had a lot of luck with used gear!

Now… on to the fun stuff! Here’s a roundup of photo gear — based on what I own and what I recommend!

Sony Alpha a5000, $450 // Panasonic LUMIX Active Lifestyle (waterproof!), $148

Panasonic DMC-GF7, $391 // Nikon D3300 kit, $447


Sony Alpha a5000 Panasonic Lumix Panasonic Waterproof Nikon D3300

Sony a6000, $748 // Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100, $998 (waterproof bundle here)

Leica C, $789 // Fujifilm X-T20, $899



sony Cybershot Leica Fuji XT20 Sony A6000 kit

Nikon d610 // Nikon 14mm f/2.8
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 // Nikon 50mm f/1.8
ONA Capri // ONA Roma // Fujifilm x100F

Note: all links above are affiliate links. If you’re taking me up on my recommendations for purchasing camera gear, I would greatly appreciate it if you use the links above! 

Nikon d610 Nikon 24-70mm Nikon 14mm Nikon 50mm ONA Capri ONA Roma Fuji x100F

Leaving Oslo is always a painful affair for me – and I’ve been finding myself in Norway once a year now, because I love it so much.

This time, I needed one more long trip to hit Star Alliance Gold, and Norway flights happened to be the most reasonable option for an extended Labor Day weekend trip. So naturally, I booked flights with a friend and hopped across the pond to the happiest country on earth (literally).

I hadn’t actually explored Oslo in at least three years – last summer, we spent about 12 hours there on our way out, and the year before, I came for a winter wonderland new years. But the last time I had a few days of decent weather in Oslo was 2013, so I was ready to see it all! After all, moving to Norway is a serious goal of mine, so I treat every trip as a research event.

We found the cutest two-bedroom apartment in the Grünerløkka neighborhood, and walked almost everywhere (unless we were crunched for time). When you arrive at the airport, take the local train to Oslo Sentralstasjon – seriously, it’s half the price of the Flytoget and only takes a few minutes longer – and stop by a Narvesson to pick up a bus pass. A 7-day pass costs 240 NOK, and you just have to tap it on a screen the first time you hop onto a bus.

If you ever head towards Oslo (or anywhere else in Norway – I’ve probably seen it), let me know! I’m madly in love with that country.


Villa Paradiso – bustling little pizza shop in Grünerløkka. Put your name in, and have a cocktail at the adjoined bar, Bar Bellini.

Egget Kafe – A cute little bistro overlooking a fountain with an egg in the middle. Catch a midmorning breakfast, and watch all the locals walking their pups!

Riwaj of India – great casual Indian spot with a warm, sultry atmosphere. Save room for dessert.

Hitchhiker – Asian tapas, located on the second floor of Mathallen Oslo (which you should also wander). Get 2-3 courses per person, and then get dessert.


Stockfleth’s – this really ended up being our favorite coffee chain on the trip. We spent half a day working remotely, and I ended up taking a couple of bags of coffee home!

Tim Wendelboe – recommended by the New York Times, and a fabulous little roaster shop. No space for working, so just grab your espresso to go.


Kulturhuset – recently relocated to a large space on Carl Youngs Gate, this bar has several rooms on several floors. Check out the local beer selection, and cozy up in the library room.

Postkontoret – formerly an actual post office – this place is now a pizzeria, coffee shop, and bar. Grab an iced coffee and chat up some locals on the patio.

Oslo Mekaniske Verksted – once a mechanic garage (circa 1850), now a hipster cocktail bar with plenty of nooks and crannies and midcentury modern furniture to cozy up to – and a fireplace! They don’t have a kitchen, but you can bring outside food with you.


Oslo Opera House – this is usually everyone’s first stop as a visitor. How can you not? Snøhetta’s killer opera house is a stunner, and you can climb all over it.

Mellomkollen – taking the bus to a trailhead is the norm in Norway, and you can even take your dog. Based on the maps my hosts had, a ton of trailheads branch off from this area, and we even did some swimming in a lake. Pack a sandwich and live your best Norwegian life. Blue markers are for summer trails, and red ones are for winter trails.

Øya (Norwegian for “Islands”) – with your bus pass, you also get access to the ferries that cross the bay all day. You could pay $40 or more for a fjord tour, but taking the free ferries to the islands was a fun tip from our Norwegian friends. Bring a swimsuit on a warm day, and jump in to the water off Hovedøye – there’s nothing quite like it.

Ekebergparken – One thing I love about Oslo is that it can feel like you’re in the middle of an old world city one minute, and the next, you could be on the edge of a mountainside forest. Ekebergparken is one of those places. Wander the park, enjoy the views, and check out the weird sculptures all over the place.

Kleivstua – if you have access to a car and want to have a really, really good meal, head over to Kleivstua for a city escape, or just a fantastic fine dining meal for not a ridiculous price. We had 4 courses and several glasses of wine for about $160 USD per person. Get there early and take the 20 minute hike to Kongens Utsikt (The King’s View) – work up that appetite just enough to hike back down and relax in front of a fireplace.

“When I got to my gate at JFK, it was chaos — it was like we were already in Morocco.”

This was the response we got when we greeted my friend Lauren and asked how her flight was. To be completely honest, I had a similar experience on my flight from Brussels to Marrakesh.

I had a middle seat, which I don’t usually mind — short legs! There was an older, very glamorous Moroccan woman in the window seat, and she repeatedly tried to speak Moroccan Arabic and French to me. My modern standard Arabic was rusty at best, and French words just sound like Arabic words I simply do not know… so we quickly gave up on communicating.

But when my aisle seat companion arrived, she was a tiny young woman with a toddler — and before I knew it, she just handed me her baby while she got situated. And right before landing, the woman in the window seat made a phone call in Spanish (yes, mid-flight), and we realized we had a common language after all. She invited me and my two girlfriends to stay at her oceanfront home in Tangier.

This is Morocco.

Marrakesh is a loud, bustling cultural capital awash with pink clay — meant to keep the buildings cool and the light unblinding. The streets are really just alleys with names, and it’s a city of juxtapositions that feel comfortable and unnatural at the same time: Porsche SUVs  and donkey carts loaded with oranges share the roads, and in Djemma al-Fna, a cobra handler will put a snake on your neck no matter how hard you protest (in Arabic, French, and English, because that’s how we roll).

The Lonely Planet describes Fes as an assault on the senses, but Marrakesh has its own aggressive personality, too. Wherever you go, the fumes from motorbikes will invade your lungs — but then you’ll pass by a French bakery, or a fresh orange juice cart, and you forget about the fumes for a few minutes.

In the souks, the shopkeepers will pull you in and pour argan oil into your hands, and then open up tall glass jars of blocks that look like soap, inviting you to smell every apothecary glass in their shop. Tagines bubble over open flames, and butchers shoo kittens away from their windows. Someone almost always yells “NO PHOTOS”  at me as I capture moments in the souk — the lantern shops are the most mesmerizing.

I turned 30 in Marrakesh, with two of my closest friends, who not surprisingly, have more in common with each other than either of them has with me. We arrived in Marrakesh to a torrential downpour, and ran through the streets of the old medina in search of our riad.

Riad, in Arabic, refers to a large building with no exterior windows, but an interior courtyard — something that keeps the noise of the city out of the home. Some riads are restaurants, some are mini hotels, and most are both. All of them are simply beautiful.

Marrakesh is the perfect introduction to Morocco: aggressive peddling to tourists, souks that connect reality to what Disney portrayed in Aladdin, and plenty of rooftop restaurants and cafes to pique your interest with Moroccan food. But beware visiting only Marrakesh — because there is so much more to Morocco, and Marrakesh is simply the epicenter of all Moroccan tourism. It claims to be the center of all culture in Morocco, but if there’s anything we learned on our two week road trip throughout central and northern Maroc, it’s that Marrakesh was merely an introduction to what was a deluge of Moroccan history, scents, politics, and culture.

In all, go to Marrakesh — but don’t let it be your only stop.

Have multiple meals atI Limoni. We did.

Sleep and relax at: Riad Lena. I would stay there a million times again.

Buy a pool pass for: Palais Namaskar, or go with the classic, La Mamounia. Pro tip: reserve your day pass in advance, because they were sold out the whole time we were in Marrakesh.

Escape the city life for: Essouiara. Take a luxury bus from the Marrakesh train station, and spend the day wandering the seaside souks.


Tulum’s been on the hot list for several years now, and there’s a good reason why. It’s the ultimate place to relax on the beach, dine at incredible restaurants, and admire a minimalist beach chic design aesthetic. And there are many, many ways you can do up Tulum – it can easily add up to a pricey trip, but at the same time, you can explore Tulum and the Mayan Riviera on the cheap. And that’s really how I prefer to do Tulum!

To be completely honest, I’ve never been able to convince myself to fork over the cash for a room in one of Tulum’s boutique beachfront hotels… because even when you don’t do Tulum to the nines, it’s a pristine beach with great food and plenty to do. Here are my pro tips to getting the best value out of every dollar you spend on a trip to Tulum.

Where to Stay — Tulum Pueblo vs. Tulum Beach

I was an early adopter to the Airbnb scene – and the first time I used the website was actually to visit Puerto Morelos, a town about an hour north of Tulum. We visited Tulum for a day trip, on a recommendation from our host, back in 2011.

Tulum is really one city, made of two separate communities. There’s Tulum Beach – it’s what you’ve read about in Conde Nast Traveler, on DesignLoveFest, and in the New York Times.

Then, there’s Tulum Pueblo, which is less luxurious, a little rough, and much cheaper. I prefer traveling on the more adventurous side, so when I visit Tulum, I like to book an Airbnb in Tulum Pueblo – there are so, so many great options for luxe apartments and villas when you expand your search from the beach areas. Tulum Pueblo is about a 10-minute drive away from the beach areas (check the map above!)

Staying in Tulum Pueblo

Pros: better value for per dollar, and the ability to get a glimpse of what Tulum is like for people who live there – cheaper, less touristy, and easier to use as a jumping off point for other adventures on the Mayan Riviera.

Cons: not walking distance to the beach, dirt roads, and the need to rent a car. Related to that — dealing with parking when you go to Tulum Beach.

Staying in Tulum Beach

Pros: walking distance to restaurants, bars, and ruins. Posh hotels and wellness retreats, no need to rent a car

Cons: Expensive, boujie, touristy.

Real talk: If you’re someone who really values exploring and adventuring in your travels, then finding a nice Airbnb in Tulum Pueblo is probably going to be a great option for you. But if you’re someone who likes the luxuries of boutique hotels and the convenience of walking to dinner, then Tulum Beach is probably a better value!

Alas, I have never been much of a luxury traveler – I swear by Airbnb, and when I travel alone, you’ll probably find me in a hostel, taking swigs from a bottle of rum, with 5 new traveler friends. So this is my guide to Tulum on the cheap: what’s good, what’s expensive, and what’s worth it. If you haven’t done Airbnb before, and think I’ve sold you on it, please do use my link for referrals!

Where to Eat

Beach Fancy: Hartwood

You’re likely to read and hear a lot about Hartwood. I had a fantastic experience there, but I have several friends & colleagues who’ve come home to tell average tales of food and service. I say it’s worth a try, as it’s pretty affordable for a nice meal (about $45 per person, with a drink or two).

What’s notable about Hartwood is the minimal electricity – no joke, the small generator they have behind the restaurant is really only used for lighting. Every day, they purchase the day’s ingredients from a market in Valladolid, and put the catch on blocks of ice (all transported in by a local taxi driver). It’s pretty cool.

To go, either email in advance for a reservation, or get in line on an early afternoon to get a reservation for that night. Highlights from my meal – mixed ceviche, pumpkin empanadas, and a papaya salad that was to die for.

Pueblo Cheap: El Camello

The first time I went to Tulum, five years ago, a friend and I asked our taxi driver where we should eat in town. He sent us here. It’s a legit & local ceviche spot. Use perfect or broken Spanish, and unless there’s a whole bunch of you, get the small portions. They’re huge.

Other options:

Casa Banana — I’ve had drinks here. They were fantastic.

Gitano — cocktails were fantastic, and dinner was alright. Go for the drinks, the people watching, and the open air disco ball atmosphere.

La Zebra — lovely brunch and beach lounge spot.

Posada Margarita — I haven’t been, but everyone I know said the food was incredible.

Literally any beachfront spot with a bar — it’s all good. Live your life.

What to Do

Las Ruinas

Tulum’s known for it’s cliffside Mayan ruins, which are really cool to explore. It costs about $6 USD to enter the park, and you can walk around all the building structures. On the ocean side,  there’s a view point with stairs down to the ocean, where the waves crash against a little beach cove. Make sure you bring your swimsuit and some drinking water — this place gets hot.


The Yucatan Peninsula is known for its incredible sinkholes — in this part of the world, they’re called cenotes. Though there are several pretty close to Tulum itself, my personal favorite is hidden in the jungle near Puerto Morelos, about an hour or so north of Tulum. Drive yourself in a rental, or hire a taxi to find Siete Bocas — all the locals will all know where it is. Entrance fee is about USD $20, and it’s well worth the price. The cenote has six openings (there used to be 7, but they collapsed 2 holes into one giant one). Some have stairs for accessing, and others require a leap of faith! Say hi to Maria, and practice your Spanish. Bring a lunch and relax a bit.

Snorkeling off Playa Paraíso

Just south of las ruinas, you’ll find a beach that’s mostly used by the locals — a couple of beach bars with cheap cervezas and some bachata music set the scene. If you’re as lucky as I was, a local will offer to take you snorkeling in one of the boats on the beach. Pick up a six pack of Sóls at the bar, and hop on the boat to check out the reefs.

Siam Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Also further south of the ruins is a huge wildlife reserve — to get there, you can either continue driving down the Tulum Beach road (and be prepared for a dusty, long, dirt road). Or, you can Enter through the town of Muyil, from the main Cancun highway. If you enter through Muyil, you can take a boat tour for about USD $45 and hopefully see birds, dolphins, and sea turtles! We explored a bit through the Tulum Beach road, and unfortunately didn’t see anything — but I’ve heard great things from people who have made a day trip out of it.

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