Springtime symbolizes rebirth, newness, shedding of old skin, and moving forward towards a new year, new life, and well, lots of new things! Around the world, cultures celebrate the renewal of life after winter per tradition and ritual.
Thailand - Water Festival
Songkran, or Water Festival is celebrated in Thailand during April, which is also the Thai New Year, along with a few other Southeast Asian countries. The tradition involves, you guessed it, water! People in villages and cities in Thailand will gather around and throw water on each other, symbolizing the washing away of the past and bad luck. The origin of Songkran involved the Bathing of the Buddha and pouring water on monks and elders hands, but has transitioned into quite a playful celebration!
Japan - Shunbun no Hi
The Japanese celebrate the Vernal Equinox by visiting ancestral graves and leaving flowers, cleaning their tombstone, removing weeds, and praying for ease in their journey of the afterlife. Farmers in Japan will also pray for abundant and healthy crops during this time.
Bali, Indonesia - Hari Raya Nyepi
In March, the Balinese welcome not only Spring, but also the Balinese New Year by driving out the devils and bad spirits with a day of noise! On the following day, the Day of Silence, nobody does anything. The Balinese are not allowed to work, eat, leave their homes, and even tourists are not allowed to leave their residences.
Mexico - Make the trek to Chichen Itza: on the vernal equinox!
In Mexico, one of the cool experiences you can have during the Spring Equinox is to visit the many Mayan archaeological sites, like Chichen Itza. If you’re around at 4pm, you can watch the sun cast peculiar shadows on the steps of the pyramid, creating a snake-like effect!
India - Holi
Holi festival takes place at the start of Spring after the full moon in March in India. There is usually a public bonfire, people gather in the streets and go a little crazy during Holi. The colored powders and waters that get thrown around symbolize the shedding of the dullness of winter, and the welcoming of colors, happiness and merrymaking! Oh, and Spring!
Taking pictures is not only a daily part of life for nearly everyone these days, but taking photos while traveling is an important part of making meaningful and lasting memories!
If you are planning to take a camera with you on your next trip, preparing yourself to take amazing pictures is worth the time! Here at Ethnotek, we are all travelers and most of us are enthusiastic about photography while we travel, so we gathered our most helpful tips to share with you and hopefully help you take some incredible photos!
Sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar. Photo: Adina Weinand
Up with the sunrise, down with the sunset
Some of the best light of the day happens when the sun is coming up, and when the sun is setting, which is also known as Golden Hour. When photos are taken in direct sunlight, sure, the light is bright but it is also harsh and makes colors less vibrant.
In the morning, you will see pastel pinks, blues, and oranges as the world around you is waking up. During the evening, a golden glow on everything around you is painted which not only makes your photos magical, but you can feel it too - there is something so special about witnessing sunrises and sunsets!
Rabari women in the Thar Desert. Rajasthan, India.
Know how to use light
A common mistake when taking photos is backlighting your subjects, or, taking the photo with the sun or light source behind them. This causes whatever you are photographing to be in the shadows.
A simple tip to make sure your photograph is nicely lit and nobody is hiding in a shadow is to shoot with the sun or light source behindyou. Your shadow may show up in the photo, but you can usually move yourself around and get things just right!
Photo: Jay Wennington
Explore other camera modes besides automatic
Using the automatic mode on your camera will ensure that the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed are all ideal for the setting you are in - however playing with manual mode can be both fun and experimental!
If you are new to photography, you can start out by taking your photo using the automatic setting, then switching to other modes to play around with! You’ll come away with multiple views out of the same subject matter and can compare and contrast between the different settings to find the magic formula that works best for your photos!
Here are some of the modes you could start out with and what they mean:
Aperture prioritymode or “Av”mode allows you to change the aperture while other settings adjust automatically. The aperture will change things like the depth of field of your photo, making your subject crisp and the background blurry and also the amount of light allowed into the photo.
Shutter prioritymode or “Tv” mode allows you to adjust the shutter speed - or the length of time your shutter stays open. This is a great setting to play with when you have a tripod, are shooting at night, or shooting fast action sports and want to pause the whole scene as much as possible.
Manual mode gives you full control of everything on your camera: the shutter speed, the aperture setting, the ISO, and more. Once you start playing with the other settings on your camera, it’s a great idea to hop into manual mode when you are ready to challenge yourself!
Photo: Alexandru Stavrica
Use a tripod
Tripods are great for traveling alone, night photography, open shutters, and group photos! There are several portable tripods that are easy to take with you on your travels, and believe us, they are worth carrying with you!
A fun tip: use a tripod and create an animated GIF by taking several photos in the same frame and then stringing them together in a photo-editing program or GIF-making app!
Use more than one lens
Depending on what style of camera you have, you may be able to buy extra lenses to create dynamically different photographs.
There are three main types of lenses that will create different styles of photographs, and depending on what you are shooting, you can use each of these in different ways with amazing outcomes!
Use multiple lenses on a single camera body or multiple lenses AND multiple bodies like our Marketing Director Tiffiny does as seen here. Haha, she’s a badass!
You can have some real fun with wide angle lenses! They usually range anywhere from 14mm to 35mm. You can get these as a fixed lens or a zoom lens for more options. Note: if your camera is a crop-sensor, you won’t get the full aperture of the lens in your photos. Only full-frame cameras capture the entire width of the lens.
Shooting with wide angle lenses help capture more of the scene you are looking at and are great for just about any scenario from landscape, architecture, coastlines, group photos, and more.
Fixed or prime lenses
A “fixed,” lens is just that - it doesn’t move. Of course it still focuses, but if you have a 24mm fixed lens, it will only shoot 24mm aperture. These are great portrait lenses, and the most commonly-used portrait lens is a 50mm.
The fun thing about fixed lenses is that they are usually faster than other zoom lenses and do better in low light, and they are usually lighter and easier to lug around - perfect for traveling!
Telephoto or zoom lenses
Have you ever wondered how people get those incredible shots where a mountain is totally in focus and seems gigantic with a tiny person also in focus in the foreground? The answer: telephoto or zoom lenses.
To obtain the eye-catching photo quality mentioned above, you would want to use a lens that is at least 70mm or higher. Zoom lenses are also great for shooting buildings, animals, or anything you just can’t get close enough to.
Choose your locations beforehand
While there is fun to be had when you randomly stumble upon a place, it is also efficient to make a list of places you would like to take photos of. You don’t want to go to Paris without taking a snap of the Notre Dame Cathedral, right?
Making a “photography map,” is a great way to plan your shots - just pick up a city map of the area you are traveling, and make notes directly on the map. Of course, you can also use your phone, but if you ever print out your photos or scrapbook, it’s cool to have your map alongside of the photos you took!
Jaka above the Cham village, Phan Rang, Vietnam. Photo by Inra Jaya.
Rule of Thirds
Have you ever heard someone mention the ‘Rule of Thirds’? Not sure what it is? It’s a simple photography concept that will help you frame up a great shot.
The ‘Rule of Thirds’ states that when you are framing your photo, you can divide your photo into three sections, and place your subject in the right or left section for a more pleasing photo. It’s also a great reminder to make sure the horizon is straight!
Handmade shoes displayed in a local market. Rajasthan, India
Don’t only shoot landscapes or cityscapes
Of course you’ll want to shoot pictures of all the places you visit while on your travels - but be sure to “zoom in,” and get shots of the details: snaps of farmer's markets in Spain, a close-up of your morning espresso and crepe in Paris - overlooking the busy Rue, photos of people eating together in New Delhi, a slow-exposure of the morning motorbike traffic in Saigon..
There are so many amazing details to capture when you travel, so be sure to fold those in with your iconic landscape and city pictures!
Photo: Angelina Litvin
Protect your camera!
There are two important factors to consider when protecting your camera. One is the physical equipment and the other is all the wonderful photos you’ve taken!
A good case is a must for your camera and lenses if you are carrying more than one. In addition to a case, get insurance. Many travel insurance plans will protect your gear in addition to yourself. Research your plan options, and if you have renters or homeowners insurance, see if they cover your camera gear while abroad.
If you are shooting film, be sure to store your exposed rolls in a safe place, and leave them in your suitcase when you head out for the day. If you are shooting digital, backup your photos to your computer or an external hard drive...and then backup your computer! Even better, is a cloud-drive so that if your gear gets lost or stolen, your photos are safe within the virtual storage.
Losing your gear is not fun, but it is replaceable. However, losing your photos can be heartbreaking, but easy to avoid!
We hope this was helpful and let us know if any of these tips helped you take better photos!
We want to take you on a journey through the history of the Maya - the ancient communities who used to inhabit Mesoamerica and most of the Chichén Itzá peninsula of what is now current-day Mexico and part of Guatemala.
According to archaeological records and artifacts such as arrowheads found within the area, the first humans that inhabited Guatemala can be traced back to sometime between 10,000 and 18,000 B.C. The earliest Mayan civilization was established in about 2000 B.C., where city-states and trade networks flourished.
Ancient Mayan calendar. Image source: gencook.com
The Maya communities are known for a myriad of amazing things, such as developing the Mayan calendar, their stunning temples and stucco architecture, ceramic pottery, a hieroglyphic writing system -- the only full writing system in the pre-Columbian Americas, and several scientific advancements, including astronomy and mathematics.
The Maya used stone age technologies without wheels or domesticated animals, they relied solely on human-power for transportation, managing crops, and building structures.
Sacrificial offerings were a dark, yet an important part of Mayan culture. There were many gods to appease, and the Maya believed that the Sun relied on sacrifice in order to rise. Each day the Sun appeared, it meant the sacrifices for that period had been enough to appease the gods.
Bloodletting, which was eventually condemned by the Bishop of Yucatan, Diego de Landa, was also ceremonious and involved piercing a soft area of the body, then splattering blood on crops, idols, or paper which would then be burned as a sacrifice to the gods. Ensuring fertility was also an important bloodletting ritual, and blood was usually drawn from genitals to secure family lineage. Human blood was believed to have come from the gods, and so the Maya belief system viewed blood-sacrifices as a way to thank the gods for their sacrifice and ensure good fortune for the future.
Whew! Pretty intense, huh?
Mayan Temple. Photo: Jezeal Melgoza
The Maya also had close relationships with neighboring societies: the Aztecs, Mixtecs, and the Teotihuacan. The first major cultural group of Maya were known as the Monte Alto who later became the Olmec culture, which was considered the mother culture of Guatemala.
With regards to the textile history of the Maya, similar to Vietnam and Indonesia, royal women carried the tradition of weaving and it considered it a valuable art form. Weaving ornate clothing was a sign of wealth and prestige.
Artisan weaving on the backstrap loom. San Juan La Laguna, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Using a portable backstrap loom, which is still used by weavers today, Mayan women would weave cotton thread, dyed by natural methods using plant, animal, or mineral sources.
While this is a short-version of the vast and incredibly rich history of the Mayan people, we hope it helps provide a glimpse into the culture and art of an amazing community that still holds major influence today!
Our Guatemalan collection features textiles woven by artisans who have passed down the art of weaving through generations to help keep the culture of their ancient Mayan past and present alive. Browse our current collection or sign up for our Tribe newsletter because we have some exciting news on the horizon to share!
Whether you are taking off to Europe for a few weeks, or just heading out on the roadfor the weekend, traveling alone can be scary, exhilarating, lonely, enlightening, and more. That being said, many people have come up with their best ideas while traveling alone - just like our founder, Jake, did while he was on a solo motorbike trip in Vietnam, he came up with the idea for Ethnotek!
There is always a matter of safety while you are enjoying your travels solo, and there are also ways you can make your time more enjoyable if you find yourself lonely or even bored. We have some tips for all situations that you might come across while on your solo adventure!
Tell someone your plans
It may be obvious to many, but letting a friend or family member know what your itinerary will be is a good way to stay safe. You can even establish “check-ins,” so that if someone does not hear from you after a certain amount of time, they should probably reach out to you and make sure you're ok!
Check cell phone coverage before you head out
Checking whether or not you will have service can be extremely helpful, especially if you need to do work while on the road like many digital nomads out there. There are websites in addition to your cellphone provider that show coverage, so that you can prepare accordingly. There are also hotspots you can take along with you that can give you a signal boost if you absolutely need it!
Pick places in advance you would like to see - or don’t
It all depends on what type of traveler you are and where you are going. Sometimes walking around a new city alone, with no plans can make for an incredible day! Other times, it’s good to plan out some stops to make the most of your time.
Find out where other travelers might be hanging out
If you’re in a city, there might a hub where other travelers or expats hang out. There are so many websites and apps that help travelers meet each other, and it can be a nice break from traveling alone to find new friends to get to know!
Take a journal!
Whether or not you are a writer, journaling your travels is something your future self will thank you for doing. You can write as much or little as you want, but it’s a cool feeling to be able to open up a journal a few years later and read something you totally forgot about - only to be transported back!
What have you learned while traveling solo? Share your experiences or extra tips in the comments!
Have you ever been on an adventure and forgotten something important, like a phone charger? These days we all have smart phones; we all have a camera or two; however, it may be hard to know what is best to take when traveling?
That depends on how you are traveling: by car, plane, foot? International or domestic? Short-term or long-term?
Asking yourself these questions will help you with knowing what to pack. To get you started, we have rounded up some technology essentials for any type of travel, destination or type of traveller!
Check out our list and then let us know if we missed anything!
International power converter– Depending on where you are traveling, the voltage may differ from your own country. Snag an international power converter to make charging hassle-free!
USB power strip– this makes sense if you have more than two USB devices you wish to charge.
Backup batteries with USB power - we constantly use our smartphones to take photos, shoot videos, post to social media, look up directions, and more. Making sure you have a way to charge these devices while you are exploring or hiking around is crucial, so take one or more backup batteries to charge your devices.
A travel case for accessories– We suggest having something like a Dep Sleeve for a tablet and a Padu Pouch for organizing your cables. Our founder, Jake, uses about six Padu Pouches to keep his cables, external hard drives, and memory cards organized! Having your cables all in one place is super efficient and makes packing or locating them quite easy.
Tripod(s) – if you are traveling alone, your tripod can be your photographer! Depending on what type of camera you have, there are heavy-duty travel tripods for DSLR cameras, or smaller light-weight tripods for phones and smaller cameras.
Backup hard drive or Cloud storage – Of course, you’ll want to backup the photos you take while traveling, right? In case your camera or computer gets stolen, be sure to take a backup hard drive with you, but make sure don’t carry it with you when you are out and about. Lock it up at your hotel/hostel, and backup as often as you are adding new photos.
Did we miss anything? What items do you absolutely have to pack no matter what? What have you regretted not packing on your travels? Share in the comments – we would love to know!
Who doesn't enjoy a quick weekend trip? Often times, a two or three night getaway is just what the doctor ordered to refresh your mind and it’s always fun to experience a new place.
It’s also easy to overpack or underpack when you are not going to be gone for long. So, we’ve made it easy, and broken things down into warm weather and cold weather packing!
Warm Weather Checklist:
T-shirts, tanks, and shorts. TIP: roll these guys up and stuff them inside your shoes to make for more packing room!
Swimsuit of course! You never know when you might need one.
Sandals + a couple pairs of comfortable shoes. If you’re taking a dressy outfit, be sure to snag a nice pair of shoes too.
A light jacket - just in case. Some places can be nice and sunny during the day, and then get a bit chilly at night.
Toiletries - you know what you need here! The only extra thing you might want to be sure and take is sunscreen. Just throw those puppies into a Padu Pouch and you’re set!
Technology - cameras, computers, etc. and in addition to your normal chargers, we suggest having a backup battery which comes in super handy! Our phones can die so quickly when traveling because we are on them capturing our exciting adventures and sharing with friends and family.
Cold Weather Checklist:
In addition to everything above, we also suggest the following for cold weather travel:
Layers, layers, layers! You can always use more or less in cold weather - it all depends on just HOW cold it is!
A winter coat.
Wool socks to keep your toes nice and toasty.
Beanie or other warm headgear - if you’re traveling somewhere windy, having warm ears is essential!
GLOVES. Have you ever left your gloves at home? They are the difference between, “I am having so much fun!” and “Hey there pinky finger - I can’t feel you. Are you still there?”
BOOTS! Or some form of second pair of shoes since walking through snow and puddles is super unpleasant :)
Toiletries - hand lotion might be worth packing if you normally travel without it, because coldness can also mean dryness. Keep those hands nice and smooth! Same goes for lip balm!
Did we leave out anything you can’t leave home without? Comment and let us know!
Textiles from our Indonesian and Ghanian collections use a printing method known as "batik."
Today, the most common area where the batik method is used is in Java, Indonesia where Ethnotek sources Threads for the Indonesian collection. Batik is also prevalent in the Middle East, Africa, Malaysia, China, Thailand, the Philippines, and England.
There is speculation among experts about the true origin of batik, but mummies in Egypt have been discovered with etchings and patterns on the cloth used to wrap bodies.
The word, "batik," is Malayan (the written language of Indonesia and Malaysia) which means, "to write," or "to dot," and is part of the process of creating the designs and patterns you find on batik textiles.
In Indonesia, batik was originally exclusive to royalty and designs and patterns signified the families who wore them - similar to a family crest! Batik was also a hobby of royal women.
Many of the patterns you see in batik today still possess symbolic meaning to the wearer and are believed to bring about wealth, happiness, peace, or prosperity.
The process of batik is intricate and repetitive, using wax and dye to create the illuminating and beautiful designs on the textiles. Depending on where the actual method may differ (Ghana vs. Indonesia). Read more about the detailed batik process here.
So there you have it! A peek into the history of how the artisans make the batik textiles on our Threads!
The Northern Hemisphere marks the first day of winter and happens between December 21st and 23rd at which time religious holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrated in addition to cultural celebrations of the sun returning. The first day of winter is the longest night of the year, after which point the days grow longer and the nights are shorter. Because so many cultures base celebrations and festivities around the suns' energy, we had fun researching a few lesser-known celebrations to share with you. So grab some cocoa and learn something new with us!
The Winter Solstice is when the sun is farthest away from the North Pole and is relevant in December to the Northern Hemisphere. (At the same time, it's the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere). Because of this, there are many celebrations for the start of winter and a new season.
Yule is a Pagan tradition rooted in pre-medieval Nordic times and is a festival of the sun. The Yule Log is actually an entire tree that is lit from the remains of the previous years' Yule Log, and over the twelve days of Christmas, the tree is fed into the fire to celebrate light during the coldest and darkest time of the year. Feasts, merrymaking, and sacrifices are all part of the Yule tradition.
Yalda is a Persian celebration of winter on the longest and darkest night - the Winter Solstice. Friends and family gather to eat, drink, and read poetry together. Red fruits are consumed, like Watermelons and Pomegranates, as their red color signifies the crimson glow of new life ahead of them.
Inti Raymi is Quechua for "sun festival," and was the largest gathering of the year for the Incan Empire to celebrate the return of longer days, and specifically, the sun. Sacrifices, dances, and feasts were all part of celebrating Inti Raymi and a significant part of the festival was to light a new fire and extinguish all existing flames - including kitchen fires. Even though the Incan Empire has ended, the celebrations are still continued today.
Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival celebration that began on December 17th and was celebrated through December 23rd in honor of the Roman god, Saturn. Celebrations and sacrifices took place at The Temple of Saturn, followed by gift-exchanges, feasts, and drinking.
Dongzhi Festival is a Chinese celebration, an literally translates to, "the arrival of winter." The ancient philosophy of yin and yang play an important role in this tradition, as the beginning of longer days with more light is marked by the start of winter. Positive energy begins flowing again, and the natural balance of life takes place. Dumplings are traditionally eaten; family’s gather together, and some even make a pilgrimage to an ancient temple to worship.
St. Lucia Day is a Norse holiday that celebrates the memory of St. Lucia who was a young girl, Lucy, that used to secretly bring food to persecuted people in Rome, and would wear candles on her head so she could carry everything. Fires are burned to ward off spirits during the longest night, and children continue the tradition of dressing up in white robes with a red sash around their waist. Crowns are made from Lingonberry branches, which are evergreen, to symbolize new life in winter and ginger cookies are handed out and carols are sung!
We have just entered into winter, and many of these celebrations are currently taking place or have already happened.
Shopping consciously is something that is incredibly important to us, not only as a brand but also as individuals.
Even if you buy just one person a gift this year that is sustainability made, has a positive environmental impact, and well-being for others in mind, you are making a positive impact. Small changes matter! There is a shift happening in our world and as a collective species, humans are becoming more aware of their impact, and that is incredible!
We've rounded up some brands and organizations we think are rad and also really hitting the nail on the head for being eco-friendly and conscious companies from the inside-out.
1. Indosoleis creating big waves by taking old and used tires and creating killer shoes and sandals. Providing Soles with Soul!
2. Teyshashares a similar vision to Ethnotek. They work with artisans in Guatemala that are creating beautiful textiles and applying them to their boots. Another cool thing: you can design your own!
3. Brush with Bamboo is a great little company who makes eco-friendly toothbrushes from bamboo!
4. Base Projectis another wonderful company partnering with artisans beginning in Namibia and spreading across the globe, by employing them to create bracelets made out of discarded plastic pipe.
5. Bureois fighting pollution and waste by using fishing nets pulled from the ocean to make skateboards and sunglasses! We had a great time pairing up with them in our Kickstarter campaign!
6. Ten Tree is doing amazing things with their business model by planting ten trees for every product sold. How amazing is that?!
7. Simply Strawsis a glass straw company that provides a sustainable alternative to plastic in addition to donating a percentage of their profits to different organizations depending on which color straw you buy.
8. Coala Tree helps limit their impact on the environment by using alternative and sustainable fibers in their clothing and gear and also actively donates a portion of their profits to different organizations.
9. Yellow Leaf Hammocks has created a business relationship with artisans around the world to weave their hammocks. Purchases of each product help to continue creating the demand for the art of weaving!
10. Krochet Kidsis doing their part to fight poverty in countries by employing artisans to weave their beautiful products. The best part is seeing their signature on the tags of every product they make!
1. 5 Gyresis a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that empowers action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, art, education, and adventure.
2. 1% for the Planetbuilds, supports and activates an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet. By doing this, it also helps you discover which brands are giving back to the planet.
3. Plastic Pollution Coalitionis a growing global alliance of organizations, businesses, and thought leaders working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, and the environment.
4. POW - Protect Our Wintersis a passionate crew of diehards, professional athletes and industry brands mobilizing the outdoor sports community to lead the charge towards positive climate action. Specifically with regards to the impact on winter sports.
Have fun checking out these brands and organizations, and make sure to leave a comment with your own favorite conscious brands so we can learn more about them!
An Interview with our featured Artist: Shay McAnally
Can you tell us a bit about your background, where you draw inspiration from and how culture weaves into your work?
I am from far west Texas and I come from a family of cattleman, ranchers, and grew up horseback. Upon finding my first arrowhead in the sand hills as a child, I realized that there were people that lived here before me, and I found that amazing. Being so close to Mexico in the southwest, I was greatly influenced by the aesthetic of Mexican culture though never formally studying it.
It wasn’t until I checked out a book from the library about Mesoamerica and the Mayans that I could see the odd parallels between Mayan art and pictographs and my own personal artwork. It’s really almost as if just by living here, I was subconsciously influenced by something more. There is definitely an undertone of sci-fi and fantasy in my work. In particular, spaceships, or any other vessels of travel.
Can you describe your process?
My process is very straightforward; freehand pen and paper. As I become more subjective, I try to plan my attack a bit more, but usually just start doodling anyway. It really is all about the process as opposed to the finished piece, as most artists will tell you. You can get lost (or found) in the process. It’s kind of a soul cleanser, a meditation.
Can you talk about why you chose to collaborate with Ethnotek and share any closing thoughts?
I chose to collaborate with Ethnotek because I believe they are good people with great ideas, values and ideals that are definitely in line with my own. I believe in what they are doing and feel that we will see more and more of these types of businesses and collaborations.
The world is waking up to the fact that our passions and interests are much more fulfilling when they are shared in a common thread. So much more can be accomplished when the bottom line is love and respect.
The human tribe is at a rather pivotal crossroads right now. It is a time for deep cleansing of the mind and spirit. Doing away with the old archetypes that keep us from moving forward and embracing the light and truth we all have within ourselves is a start. Oh, and we gotta get outside more!
We hope you dig shay's work on our collaboration on this Limited Edition Artist series! And if any of you are artists or know anyone who might like to collaborate with us on our next Limited Edition reach out to content[at]ethnotekbags.com, we'd love to hear from you!