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 WorldNomads.com 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.

Two Floridians win Tasmania leg of travel contest

Two American girls from Florida are about to find themselves pretty far from home. Dara Simkin and Catherine Fleming won the Tasmania leg of the WorldNomads.com Van-Tastic Adventure. This is the first time an American team has won the Australia contest. On December 19, 2009, they’ll fire up the engine and start to drive through Tasmania for six weeks. On January 30, 2010, they’ll arrive in Melbourne, having completed the fourth of seven legs. The seven-part journey begins in Queensland and consists of 10,000 miles of driving in a van named Geoff.

During their journey, Dara and Catherine will report on their experiences kayaking on the Freycinet Peninsula, mountain biking Mt. Wellington and walking through Cradle Moutain. You can keep track of their progress on YouTube or on the Van-Tastic Adventures website.

But, watching might not be enough for some people … there are still three legs open, so you may want to put your application video together.

Gadling gear review: WorldNomads.com Spanish Language Guide Plus

This very brief product review is going to show off a pretty neat iPhone application I recently took for a spin.

The WorldNomads.com Spanish Language Guide Plus offers several handy features in one; a 10 minute introduction to the language, a 550 word spoken reference and several sections dedicated to phrases you may need when shopping, flirting at a bar or on a work vacation.

The spoken reference guide is split up into eight sections (basics, introductions, directions, transport, places to stay, travel safety, travel health and food & eating).

In each section, you’ll find a well thought through selection of the kind of words and phrases you’ll end up needing when you are abroad (and don’t speak the language). The speech is very clear and the developers used real recordings instead of depending on speech synthesis.

The WorldNomads.com Spanish Language Guide Plus costs just $1.99 and is available in the app store (iTunes link). The price is right, the content is comprehensive and the entire application seems very well designed. Obviously, I hope they build on the quality of their Spanish guide and add more languages in the future.

After the jump, some more screenshots of the application. Pay extra attention to the “flirting phrases”, these people have obviously been around the world a bit, and know the kind of stuff that can really help you out. This certainly is the first language guide I’ve ever found that told me how to pronounce “I’m not just saying this because I am drunk” in the local language. You never know when that might come in handy!