Tribe Travel Inspiration: Around the world with the Ethnotek Staff!

Here at Ethnotek, we love exploring, learning and immersing ourselves in new cultures and experiences. This definitely includes the great outdoors!

We asked a few of the ETK staff which national parks from around the world they loved or had a special place in their heart for, and we have a few fun stories to share! We hope you enjoy, and be sure to let us know your favorite national park or outdoor location - we’d love to add them to our future travel plans!

El Malpais National Monument

Photo: Recii Davis


My favorite National Park is in the U.S. and it's actually a National Monument: El Malpais National Monument in Arizona. I love El Malpais because of its' geological history and isolation. El Malpais sits at the southeast corner of the Colorado Plateau, which spans across the Four Corners area of the U.S. and inland to the four states that make up Four Corners: Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. The first time I visited El Malpais was on accident. A friend and I were heading to Wyoming and decided to turn down a road, and we happened upon the Monument. We had National Park Passes, so we zipped through the front gate and then meandered down a dirt road until we saw the sandstone bluffs. The sun was starting to set, there was barely any wind, and no other human in sight.

To this day, that sunset is still the most serene and vivid sunset I have ever experienced.

Sunset at the limestone cliffs at El Malpais National Monument

I have since then visited El Malpais several times again, hiking through a lightless cave, crawling through lava tubes, and trekking up a dormant cinder cone volcano. I have a knack for geology, and specifically volcanoes, and this place has so many geological features that were all caused by a volcanic eruption 800 years ago.


In December 2016 I traveled to India for several weeks. While I’ve been to several UNESCO sites in Asia, including Durbar Square in Nepal and Ankor Wat in Cambodia, the one that has stood out to me the most is the Taj Mahal.

India's Taj Mahal


I fell in love with India because of so many reasons, but one of those reasons is definitely it’s history. India’s history is one of the most incredible and complex in the world. Its fingerprints, the remains of lost empires, are strewn throughout the subcontinent, marked in fortresses rising from deserts, glistening palaces and mausoleums left from Kings. There are temples hiding away in the jungles, medieval markets, holy rivers as the essence of deep-rooted and thriving religion, colonial city architecture, a melting pot of different peoples from all over the subcontinent, a tight hold on traditional craft, and every inch of old-world architecture splashed in a sea of color. Most of the country’s history and traditions lies in it’s northern regions, in particular Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Three of its major cities – Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, are deemed the country’s “golden triangle”, a tourist circuit easily and efficiently connecting the three. Pushing beyond into the arid and dusty landscape is an in-depth experience across a range of cultural and architectural phenomena

With Agra being a short three to four hours from Delhi, and possessing some of the best gems in the region, I had to make my way there, especially for a spectacular sunrise. The allure of the Taj Mahal is legitimate. The monument glistens and sparkles, and the light even changes dramatically from morning to evening. Everything is perfectly symmetrical and finished in marble. This “Seventh Wonder of the World” took 22 years, over 20,000 laborers, and 1,000 elephants used to transport building materials, to build. Verses of the Quran are inscribed around each massive entranceway. Besides it’s physical splendor, I think one of my favorite things about this incredible structure was the story behind it, a love story molded into literally perfect design. An enduring testament to love, the Taj was built in 1653 by the Mughal king Shah Jahan as the final burial place for his wife. Shah’s intentions of creating the largest mausoleum in the world, with masterful classical symmetry, were successful. Take away even one element of its design and the harmony is destroyed. Seemingly endless verses of the Quran are inscribed around the massive doorways, and tower up to what seems like touch the sky, when looking up from below. The interior features semi-precious gems meticulously hand cut and inlaid in intricate patterning, surrounding the tomb of Shah Jahan, his wife, and his son. Bright-green parrots criss-cross the skies above, twisting and diving majestically adding further to the place’s mystic atmosphere.

From the second took a step through the gate of the mighty Taj, my breath was taken away. The best part of all though, is that there are thousands of temples, forts, relics, palaces, and mausoleums that are just as incredible, to be explored across the vast northern provinces of mother India, and I hope to be able to return again to explore more.


Snorkeling in Sipadan in Malaysian Borneo is one of my most cherished memories and is why I selected it as my favorite national park. After climbing Mt. Kinabalu, we took a bus to the coastal town of Semporna, to use as our jump-off point. Getting to Sipadan wasn’t going to be easy! We didn’t know at the time that we needed a special permit to visit the island since it’s usually only visited by marine biologists and videographers. The weather wasn’t on our side either. There was a storm on the horizon the day we wanted to go, and no tour operators were willing to take us out. Part of our small five person group was willing to call it quits, but my friend Nick and I were insistent on going. We heard it was one of the best dive spots in the world and we couldn’t let it go.

Sipadan from above

Photo credit:

After some asking around, we managed to find a long tail boat driver who was willing to take us for a few extra bucks, so we hired him and off we went! As we started our journey we noticed that our boat driver’s engine didn't sound like the highest quality rig as it sputtered, spat and and jerkily bobbed from fast to slow. The further we got from shore, the waves got bigger and bigger and white caps started to form. As we crested one particularly large wave the boatman’s engine cut. He tried repeatedly to restart it and waves started splashing into the boat. He threw a couple large plastic water jugs with the tops cut off at us and gestured for us to start using them to bail out water. Panic set in!

After a few minutes of bailing water out and looking at each other worriedly, the engine started back up and we were moving again. Fwew! Soon we could see the tiny island of Sipadan and relief set in. We soon docked, the boatman paid the officer at the beach for our permit and we were given the thumbs-up to snorkel. Woohoo!

We strapped on our gear and plunged into the abyss! What makes Sipadan so incredible is that it’s a plateau reef. Meaning after about 50 meters from shore, the reef drops off, straight down until the water becomes black. And all along the cliff walls is vividly colored coral and is brimming with life. Huge schools of fish surrounded us in every direction that was pretty disorientating, but also breathtaking. We swam with green and hawksbill sea turtles, lionfish, white & black tip reef sharks, and the list goes on and on! Apparently, there are tunnels through the plateau that divers can meander through and there’s even a sea turtle graveyard inside.

We snorkeled for hours, stopped for lunch and snorkeled some more. It was absolutely mind blowing! There is an entirely different world under the ocean surface that is still being, discovered, studied and must be protected. We’re all truly grateful for the experience that day and though it was a bumpy ride getting there, it was worth it.

If you’re ever in Sabah, Borneo, be persistent and adventure to Sipadan, you won’t be disappointed.


My favorite national park is part of Superior National Forests and is located at the northernmost tip of Minnesota, practically hugging Canada. It’s comprised of an incredible forest surrounding glacial lakes and rivers. Growing up in Minnesota, I spent as much time as possible at the lakes (weather permitting of course!) and love to fish. My family took a few trips up to the BWCA when I was young, but it wasn’t until I was a bit older that I really fell in love with it.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area


I started a tradition with my dad that on labor day weekend, the two of us would pack up the car and drive up from the Twin Cities to spend a few days together in the wilderness. The drive alone was spectacular because it was hours of passing beautiful lakes and trees filled with the most beautiful fall colors. It was a complete dream to share all of the same interests with my dad, reading, playing card games, camping, fishing, hiking and portaging from lake to lake. We knew all the best fishing spots, the most perfect places to have a picnic and read a few chapters and always ended the night with a game of cribbage. I loved these trips so much that I even took Jake up there for a weekend when we were first dating back in 2005!

After I graduated high school it was harder to find the time to take these trips, not to mention college was followed by a decade spent living abroad which of course hasn’t made it any easier! I long for the day when my dad and I can take another trip up to the incredibly stunning boundary waters.


We hoped you enjoyed our excursion down memory lane! Travel is so important, as a catalyst for growth and as an opportunity for experiences that we enjoy making! Leave us a comment with the story about a place you love - we'd love to hear! 

April 18, 2017 by Tribe Scribe
Tags: travel

15 Simple Ways to Save Money for Traveling the World

How to save for travel

So you’re getting ready to plan a trip! The number one concern when it comes to travel for many people is the financial bit. Not everyone was born next to a tree full of money, nor does everyone make six figures a year. Does this mean you can’t travel the world? Of course not!

We rounded up 15 simple ways to help with planning for a trip of any size, and some of these tips will also simplify your life, which is an added bonus!

  • Take a look at where your money goes each month. Yep, you will have to take a close look at your bank account if you haven’t already. How many subscription services are you paying for? Can you cancel all or some of them, or even place them on hold? How many times do you go out for coffee? How many times do you go out for dinner or drinks? Figure out what you are spending on necessities vs. non-essentials, this stuff adds up! Take a deep breath, tally up your extra expenses, and you might be able to finance your whole trip!

Cooking at home saves money

  • Cook at home and invite friends over instead of going out. If you want to get out of the house, have everyone meet up at your local park for a potluck picnic! You can even start growing your own herbs or veggies at home to save even more money.
  • If you must buy, buy used. It is amazing what can be found at second-hand stores. Dishes, boots, clothing - chances are, you can find a new outfit for a fraction of the price if you hit up your local thrift store!
  • Walk or bike. If you live in a city with public transportation, look into the cost of driving vs. the cost of buying a transit pass. You might be surprised at how much you can save!

Save money by taking public transportation

  • Carpooling, don’t forget about the good ol’ tradition of sharing rides to work! Even if you don’t work together, if you and a friend are heading in the same general direction, ride together and take turns driving!
    • Limit how often you buy a $5 cup of coffee. A bag of coffee beans costs as much as a cup of coffee these days! Brew your own at home, then take it along with you to work or school.
    • Take a break from upgrading your cameras, computers, phones... if it works, you probably don’t need the shiny new version while saving for travel!
    • Switch your phone plan to prepaid or use wifi only. In some cases, you can save yourself nearly $50 a month by switching to a prepaid plan! While abroad, it’s actually pretty easy to rely on wifi anyways, so having a phone plan where you only pay for what you use is ideal!
  • Sell your excess stuff. Do you have clothing, shoes, outdoor gear, or electronics that is in working condition? Take the 3 month challenge, if you haven’t used it/worn in that time, throw it online and sell it!
  • Create a separate travel saving account and DO NOT TOUCH IT! Make sure there is not a debit card or easy way to transfer money out of this account.
  • Cancel your gym membership and exercise outside or at home - it’s free! You could even exchange those coffee dates with your friends for a hike!

Who doesn't love hiking?

    • Host a game night instead of going out with friends. This is another potluck situation, plus a fun-filled night with friends without breaking the bank at expensive bars or restaurants!
    • Split as many bills as possible with roommates- including music and video streaming services.
    • Is moving back in with your parents an option? This can be a temporary but impactful solution to saving a large chunk of change before a big trip.
  • Think outside the box! How creative can you get about having fun, making food, and reusing things without spending money? You’d be surprised at how easy saving money can be when you start to notice where it’s all going!

Have you ever saved up for a big trip? We’d love to hear what you did to pinch your pennies beforehand!

Peep these BONUS TIPS from a couple of our favorite travel bloggers:

Adventurous Kate - How I Saved $13,000 for Travel in Just Seven Months

World of Wanderlust - 50 Ways I Saved a lot of Money to Travel the World
April 04, 2017 by Tribe Scribe
Tags: travel

Car Camping 101

Get ready for camping season with these tips!

Warm weather is on the way, which means many campgrounds will be opening again, if they are not already open. You can check to see when federally-owned lands are open, what campsites are in your area, and book reservations.

Going car-camping is a fun and easy way to get out into nature without having to back your bear bag or trek 20 miles (even though those trips are a blast, too!) Being prepared with a few key items and ready for the unexpected is important for safety and fun.

We asked around to some of our friends and family who are fans of car-camping about what they would tell someone going for the first time - here is what they said:

Book your site ahead of time or know where to park if sites are full

As mentioned above, you can check and book a campsite, see when parks are open or closed for the season, and other important things to know before you go! Another great site is, which is exactly what it sounds like: a website where users share spots that are free to camp at!

The Continental Divide in Colorado is a gorgeous hiking location!

Planning at the trailhead of the Continental Divide. Photo: Tiffiny Costello

If you ever show up to a campground and all the sites are booked, you can park and camp on public lands, such as National Forest Land for free and legally, as long as there are no “no camping,” or “no parking,” signs. You can also check with the camp host for other options or cancellations or reservations.

Gather your camping essentials

Here is the golden list of things that are absolutely essential for nearly all types of camping: such as your tent, a sleeping bag, and sleeping pad.

This list is a great place to get started, and if you don’t own this gear, hit thrift stores, garage sales, or second-hand camping stores first! Most outdoor gear is made to last, so you don’t always have to buy brand new.

Tent - If you don’t own a tent, Backpacker Magazine has a great guide to choosing a tent for the type of weather and type of camping you will be doing.

Sleeping Bag - you can buy sleeping bags for all types of weather, so make sure you pay attention to the degree rating. You can also buy a sleeping bag liner for an extra layer of warmth. Being warm or cool enough will help you have a better night's’ sleep!

Sleeping Pad / Pillow - for many people a good sleeping pad is the difference between actually going to sleep, or not sleeping at all AND waking up with aches and pains. You don’t want that right? Make sure you sleeping pad is thick enough, and if it is going to be colder, get an insulated pad.

For a pillow, you can either use a stuff sack and put something like a jacket or a couple of shirts in it, bring along an actual pillow, or buy an inflatable pillow.

Multi-tool or knife - you will always need to cut something while camping. Whether it’s cutting open a package, some twine, or rigging your tent in a creative way, a knife or multi-tool is handy to have!

Light - headlamps, lanterns, flashlights - you can never have too much light!

Batteries - don’t forget the batteries!

Personal Toiletries - you might not be able to shower at camp, and you’ll want to brush your teeth in the morning, so a small bag or tote with personal toiletries in it should be on your packing list, and don’t forget the bug spray!

Water supply - fill up a personal flask or hydration bladder everyday if water is available in your campsite, filling up as you need water is easy. If not - pack a 5 gallon water reservoir to keep in your car and plan to refill when you can, but use the water sparingly, depending on how long you are camping. Many National Parks have spigots at the gates, even if you’re going out for a few days, you can still plan to fill up there.

Have an easy and organized camp kitchen setup

Cooking at camp.

Being organized during a car-camping trip is essential, and will make for an easier clean-up. When it comes to your camp kitchen, having an easy way to wash dishes and simple things like prepping your food before you arrive at camp helps with messes and saves time since you will probably be cooking after the sun sets.

Here are some additional items you want to include in your camp kitchen:

Camp stove - the easiest way to get your yummy camp food cooking is with a propane stove, which you can find at most stores. We are also fans of BioLite’s Camp Stove, which we featured in our Kickstarter last year and are amped about their goal to bring clean energy around the world and clean cooking options for people everywhere. Read more about their mission here.

Camp utensils & cooking-ware - for preparing, cooking and eating your food. ToGo Ware’s reusable bamboo utensils are a great non-plastic option! For your cooking ware, hit up a local thrift store and gather items for cooking and eating with at a bargain. Don’t forget a cutting board, and do NOT forget a camp coffee setup! Morning coffee at the campsite is one of the most comforting things about camping.

A setup for doing dishes - the easiest way to wash your dishes is to have a separate wash bin and fill that with warm soapy water then rinse your dishes with clean water afterwards. You can also buy collapsible “camp sinks.” If your campsite has a water spigot, dishes are easy-peasy!

Cooler - keep all your food and drink items in your cooler.

Pack extra gasoline - just in case

This is pretty self-explanatory: you do not want to run out of gas, especially when the chances of your camping area having service are not guaranteed!

Bonus tip: Sleep in your car - or sleep in a tent - or make your car a long-term home for extended fun!

Obviously planning on where to sleep is important when car-camping. If the weather is bad and your tent is not suitable, sleeping in your car is always an option. If you want to make a summer trip out of car-camping, you can also transform your car into a camper, like Erin Outdoors did!

Check for local wood-gathering and burn ban restrictions

Make sure to check burn ban and fire restrictions before starting a campfire.

Photo: Robson Hatsukami Morgan

This is incredibly important! You should always check to see if you’re allowed to gather wood in the area you’re headed to, and it is just as important to check for a burn ban in the area you intend to camp - even if it has recently rained or snowed. There are varying degrees of burn bans, and you can check the county or park websites for information. Sometimes you cannot even have an open flame and sometimes you can if it is contained in something like a stove. Violating burn bands is subject to fines and if a forest fire is started, it could be federal offense. Yikes!

Don't forget to sit and take in the beautiful scenery around you.

Checking out the pass views. Colorado, USA. Photo: Tiffiny Costello

Educate yourself on the ethics of Leave No Trace

Being in nature is rewarding in so many ways and it is important be be respectful of the land and air you are enjoying. Even though technically your apple core will compost into the ground, you should still pack in and pack out everything that was not there to begin with - even in busy campgrounds. It’s a great practice to get into and you will also have a sense of pride by knowing that you are leaving your camping area with the least amount of impact as possible! Read more about LNT here.

Take some games!

The chances of you being bored are slim, but taking fun games like a deck of cards, trivia games, Twister, Pit!, or other group games can make for a blast around the campfire!

Have fun, and tune into yourself and nature

Our planet is beautiful, isn't it?

Checking out the view at Crater Lake Hike, Indian Peaks Wilderness. Colorado, USA. Photo: Tiffiny Costello

Even though many campsites may have cell phone service, challenge yourself to go “screenless,” for a short hike. Take a journal with you and write about how you’re feeling and what you’re seeing. Sit for a while, just listening to the sounds around you and feel the breeze on your face.

What’s your must-have item when you are on a camping trip? Comment and let us know!

March 28, 2017 by Tribe Scribe

Spring Celebrations Around the World

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

Kyoto Graveyard

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

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.

Check out our Indonesian artisan collection!

  • Mexico - Make the trek to Chichen Itza: on the vernal equinox!

Chicen Itza

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

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!

Check out our hand-woven India collection! 

March 21, 2017 by Tribe Scribe

Helpful Photography Tips for the Adventurous Traveler!

Get adventurous with your photography while traveling!

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

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!

Lighting makes a difference in how photos turn out.

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 behind you. Your shadow may show up in the photo, but you can usually move yourself around and get things just right!

Do you know about your DSLR camera settings?

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 priority mode 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 priority mode 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!

Using a tripod helps taking pictures in low-light and others scenarios.

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!

Using multiple lenses or cameras will create different results.

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!

Wide-angle lenses

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!

The rule of thirds is helpful when shooting subjects against a vast background, like a landscape.

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!

Shooting close-up details is just as fun as gorgeous landscapes.

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!

Don't forget to protect your camera!

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!

Other photography tutorials we love:

Nomadic Matt - How to Take Professional Travel Photos

Matador Network - Beginner's Guide to Shooting in Manual Mode

Huffington Post - Top 10 Tips for Travel Photography

March 14, 2017 by Tribe Scribe

Guatemalan Roots: Who Are the Maya?

Hand-woven textile. Antiqua, Guatemala

Hand-woven textile. Antiqua, Guatemala

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:

Ancient Mayan calendar. Image source:

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

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

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!

March 07, 2017 by Tribe Scribe

What to Know for Your First Solo Trip

Solo travel tips

So, you’re preparing for your first solo trip!

Whether you are taking off to Europe for a few weeks, or just heading out on the road for 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!

Solo travel tips

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.

Solo travel tips

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!

Solo travel tips

What have you learned while traveling solo? Share your experiences or extra tips in the comments!

February 28, 2017 by Tribe Scribe

Technology Checklist for the Traveler

Technology checklist for the traveler

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.

Technology checklist for the traveler

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.

Technology checklist for travelers

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.

Technology checklist for the traveler

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!

February 21, 2017 by Tribe Scribe

What To Pack for a Weekend Trip

Adventure Checklist 

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 packing essentials

Warm Weather Checklist:


  1. T-shirts, tanks, and shorts. TIP: roll these guys up and stuff them inside your shoes to make for more packing room!
  2. Swimsuit of course! You never know when you might need one.
  3. Sandals + a couple pairs of comfortable shoes. If you’re taking a dressy outfit, be sure to snag a nice pair of shoes too.
  4. A light jacket - just in case. Some places can be nice and sunny during the day, and then get a bit chilly at night.


  1. 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!
  2. 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.

Winter Packing Essentials

Cold Weather Checklist:

In addition to everything above, we also suggest the following for cold weather travel:


  1. Layers, layers, layers! You can always use more or less in cold weather - it all depends on just HOW cold it is!
  2. A winter coat.
  3. Wool socks to keep your toes nice and toasty.
  4. Beanie or other warm headgear - if you’re traveling somewhere windy, having warm ears is essential!
  5. 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?”
  6. BOOTS! Or some form of second pair of shoes since walking through snow and puddles is super unpleasant :)


  1. 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!

February 14, 2017 by Tribe Scribe

Where Does Batik Come From?

Batik textiles

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. 

Batik literally means "to dot."

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.  

Batik Threads

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! 

February 07, 2017 by Tribe Scribe