Blogger Jessica Marati

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Jessica Marati…

Where was your photo taken: This photo was taken on my family’s beach in the southern part of Guam, the tiny Pacific island territory where I grew up. It’s probably one of my favorite places on the face of the earth.

Where do you live now: I’m based in New York, but I’ve spent the last several months living in Phnom Penh, where I’ve been researching and writing about ethical fashion, sustainability, and travel.

Scariest airline flown: Laos Airlines, on a particularly memorable flight from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. I had been warned that their track record was less than perfect, so I was hyper-sensitive to every unfamiliar whirr and pressure dip. The landing was bumpy, but thankfully I’m still here.

Favorite city/country/place: Are four-way ties allowed? New York, Paris, Bali, and the aforementioned beach.

Most remote corner of the globe visited: Probably Carp Island, a private island in the Palau archipelago in Micronesia. One night, we were sitting on the dock when the sea started lighting up in brilliant blues and greens — my first encounter with bioluminescent plankton. All seven people staying on the island came out to watch. Combined with a star-filled sky, it was pure magic. Tierra del Fuego was pretty quiet too.

Favorite guidebook series: These days, I’m really digging my iPod Touch and the variety of travel tools available in the iTunes App store. Triposo offers free interactive city guides, World Nomads has great phrasebooks, and nothing beats TripAdvisor for the latest hotel and restaurant reviews. I also like to save travel articles, like the New York Times 36 Hours series, to my Instapaper for later reading. It’s allowed me to ditch the massive Lonely Planet budget guides I used to haul around.

Solo or group traveler? A little bit of both. I love taking trips to visit friends living abroad, because I get to experience the place with more context and better restaurant recommendations.

Favorite means of transportation: Hopping on the backs of motorbikes here in Cambodia used to terrify me, but now I’ve become quite used to it. Nothing beats weaving through oncoming traffic with the wind blowing through your hair.

Favorite foreign dish? Restaurant? My Roman grandmother makes the absolute best parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmesan). Beats any restaurant in Italy, or anywhere else for that matter.

Dream travel destination: Havana, Cuba. I think this might be the year!

Win a travel photography scholarship to South Africa

Learn travel photography in South Africa thanks to Nat Geo and World Nomads.The National Geographic Channel and are giving one aspiring photographer the chance of a lifetime. They’ve jointly launched a new contest that will award the winner a photography scholarship that will send them off on assignment in South Africa with wildlife photographer Jason Edwards. While on photo safari they’ll have the opportunity to hone their craft and upon their return, they’ll have their work published on the Nat Geo Channel website.

The contest is open to anyone 18 years or older living in any country on the planet. All entrants should be non-professional photographers with a keen eye and adventurous spirit who are looking to learn new skills and improve their photography. It is recommended that they also have a good level of physical fitness and a desire to pursue a career in travel photography.

To enter the contest you must first shoot a series of photos that tell a story of some place that you’ve visited. That place can be down the block or on the other side of the globe, it’s completely up to you. Pick the five photos that best convey your story and write a short caption for each. Then, fill out this online form, including the 300 word essay about yourself and why you should win. The same page allows you to upload your photos and create an online gallery of the images as well. The entries will be judged on originality, ability to tell a story through images, and technique.

The winner will go “on assignment” for eight days in South Africa in early 2012. While there, they’ll work alongside Edwards shooting the landscapes and wildlife of Kruger National Park, while receiving instructions on setting up shots, composing images, and other photographic techniques. The recipient of this travel photography scholarship will also be required to keep a daily journal of their experiences, which they’ll upload to World Nomads upon their return to share with others.

Once the trip is over, Edwards will continue to work with the scholarship recipient during the editing phase, helping them to select their best images, advising on color correcting the photos, and preparing them for submission to the National Geographic Channel website, where they’ll be displayed alongside some of the best photography in the world.

The deadline for entering the contest is November 8th. For further information, checkout the Video FAQ, which is found here.

Having just visited Kruger a few months back, I can tell you that is a wildly beautiful place with amazing opportunities to take great photos. The concentration of animals there is spectacular, and the chance to work with a professional Nat Geo photographer there sounds fantastic.

Evacuation of foreigners from Egypt: what you need to know

Rising threats of violence and political unrest in Egypt has prompted many foreign visitors and residents to plan evacuation plans. Our friends over at World Nomads have compiled a highly-useful guide to evacuation procedures for countries like the United States, Australia, Turkey and the UK.

US Citizens: The latest updates are on the State Department’s website.

Air travel ticket holders, take note: Delta has suspended flights to Cairo indefinitely at this time, while an American Airlines and British Airways have announced that tickets to and from Cairo can be changed at no charge. Emirates and Etihad are currently operating as scheduled, but travelers should expect long delays at the airport and a “far from normal” operating schedule.

World Nomads wants your travel stories

The wanderlust travel insurance gurus at World Nomads are making a book — but not without your help! They’ve put a call out for stories from members of their travel community for stories and photos to be included in their 2007 Book of Travel. Anyone can contribute, but you have to create a travel journal on their website first.

While you’re there, check out some other cool ways to get involved with projects sponsored by these guys. World Nomads is much more than a travel insurance company, and they seem to be supporting a boatload of worthwhile endeavors these days. Their Travel Scholarships program will expand to offer four scholarships in 2008, one in each of these areas: Writing, Radio Broadcast, Photography and Documentary. (You must be a registered student to apply.) They’ve also got a nifty job-locator service if you’re traveling in Australia and New Zealand — get job opportunities text-messaged right to your phone! We’ve already told you about their Ambassador program, and they have a foundation called Footprints that is making a mark worldwide. Lots of opportunities to get involved, so choose the one that’s right for you.

World Nomad/LP Filmmaker Scholarship

Here’s a cool opportunity that just came across the transom (i.e. email). A company called World Nomads is looking for budding young filmmakers to make a World Nomads/Lonely Planet Travel film in Kenya. It’s a scholarship that will get you working with a fellow named Trent O’Donnell, who I have never heard of, but who, once you google him, seems quite well-accomplished.

The scholarship won’t just be playing around with cameras. You will help refurbish a remote primary school and film a short documentary about the effort. It looks, too, like you might get some sweet equipment including a Sony HDR-HC5 video camera, professional mike, headphones, and Low Pro camera bag. That stuff is apparently from the folks at Lonely Planet who are part of this whole project. In fact, the winning scholarshipee will have his film broadcast on the website, as well as through World Nomads. To apply, first you have to be a film or video or communications student at a recognized educational institution. Then, compile a 3 minute (or less) short video based around the theme of ‘Places I love to visit’. This could be compiled from previous travel video you’ve shot, pictures you’ve taken or it could even be your favorite local destination.

Applications close August 15, so get busy.

Dunno about you, but I’d do this in a heartbeat. If you want more info: go here.