Gift Guide for Travelers

Here it is, friends! We are so excited to bring you our holiday gift guide for travelers! Last week we shared our favorite travel-themed home decor gifts, but this gift guide includes our favorite goodies that make travel easier as well as those that let us display our wanderlust loud and proud!

Gift Guide for Travelers: Women who Travel

Gift Guide for Travelers:  Women who Travel - www.AFriendAfar.com

  1. Luggage Tag Charm from Jet Set Candy (represent your favorite cities or home base!)
  2. Everlane Weekender Bag  (our go-to weekender bag for every short trip! Have you seen our other favorite weekenders and our Everlane tote review?)
  3. Cord Tacos from This is Ground
  4. J.Crew Sleep Mask
  5. Let’s Travel Passport Stamp Phone Case from Casetify (currently protecting Meagan’s phone!)
  6. Jet Set Notebook from Sloane Stationary
  7. Passport Notebook Set from Rifle Paper Company
  8. Inside Suitcases 12 month Calendar from LittleLow on Etsy
  9. MIPOW Smart Power Tube Portable Battery
  10. Secret Paris Coloring Book (or any travel coloring book!)
  11. Cuyana Leather Travel Case Set

Gift Guide for Travelers: Men who Travel

Gift Guide for Travelers:  Men who Travel - www.AFriendAfar.com

  1. Cord Burrito from This is Ground
  2. Scratch Off World Map (keeping track of Stephanie’s travels!)
  3. Leather World Map Passport Case
  4. Leather Personalized Luggage Tag
  5. Cord Tacos from This is Ground
  6. Globetrotter Hotel Key Tag (we LOVE ours!)
  7. Baggu Large Zip Pouch
  8. Adventure Journal from Sloane Stationary
  9. MIPOW Smart Power Tube Portable Battery
  10. Herschel Novel Duffel
  11. Everlane Weekender Bag (our go-to weekender bag for every short trip!)

We love Monday Escapes at Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey and Weekend Wanderlust with Justin + Lauren!  Join us over there!

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Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.

Top 10 Gifts for the Traveler: Home Decor Edition

Looking for the perfect gift for a travel addict? Whether they travel often or they’re more of an armchair traveler, here are our favorite home decor gifts that bring the world back to their home base.

Travel Gift Guide: Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

Our Travel Gift Guide to Bring the World Back Home

Travel Gift Guide: Rifle Paper Company City Coasters - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

These Rifle Paper Co. Cities Coasters include chic illustrations of London, Paris, New York, and Tokyo. We use ours for parties and at the office.

Travel Gift Guide: Cities calendar - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

A similar gift that we just couldn’t resist is this great calendar, also by Rifle Paper Co. We love that you can frame the illustrated maps after you use it.

Travel Gift Guide: Bolga Baskets from Ghana - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

Stephanie was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana, and the famous souvenir from her region was the Bolga Basket. We love how they bring so much color and character into our homes!

Travel Gift Guide: National Parks Print - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

Stephanie’s been visiting a lot of National Parks lately, and this map is the perfect gift for any National Park fanatic who can’t get enough of the outdoors!

Travel Gift Guide: Chalkboard Globe - - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

Meagan collects globes, and while these aren’t her typical vintage globes, they’d be so fun! We love the idea of putting your next location on them. Next stop: Morocco!

And this one from CB2 is such a fun alternative to your typical corkboard map!

Travel Gift Guide: Ideal Bookshelf Travel Print - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

A little art is always a great idea! This fun print by An Ideal Bookshelf includes classic books of travel and adventure to inspire your next trip.

Travel Gift Guide: Nomad by Sibella Court - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

An absolute favorite, this beautiful coffee table book by Sibella Court has given us so much inspiration for how to display our most precious souvenirs.

Travel Gift Guide: Bolivian Pillows - Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

We’re suckers for bringing home textiles when we’re traveling, so naturally, we fell in love with these beautiful Bolivian pillows at Project Bly. We think you’ll love their entire store!

Travel Gift Guide: Hammam Towels Best Gifts for Travelers - www.AFriendAfar.com

Stephanie just got back from Istanbul and picked up some of these colorful Turkish towels at the Grand Bazaar. You can score some for yourself or a friend here.

Check out more of our favorite gifts for travelers here and here!

Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.

Bazaars of Istanbul

One of the main draws of Istanbul for many people is the shopping in the bazaars! Just like a visit to any major market anywhere, it can be overwhelming and chaotic, but also an amazing cultural experience. One of my favorite things about the Grand Bazaar was how colorful it was. Between the ceiling, lanterns, textiles, and sweet treats, it truly is a feast for the eyes! It definitely made my list of top 5 sights to see in this magical city!

22580858688_6f6e775cdb_oOn my list of what to buy was hammam towels, scarves, tiles, Turkish delight and apple tea (since I became addicted during my stay)! Of course, Istanbul and Turkey in general are famous for their carpets and textiles, but it wasn’t in my budget this time to purchase one. Something to keep in mind is that bargaining is expected, so make sure you’re in the mood to negotiate. Be patient and don’t get too attached- it’s easier that way to walk away and perhaps end up with a good deal.

Spice Bazaar- Bazaars of Istanbul- www.afriendafar.com #istanbul #spicebazaar

The Egyptian or Spice Bazaar near the New Mosque and close to the Galata Bridge is another great market to explore if you’re shopping for food. Besides spices of course, there’s dried fruit, nuts sweets, tea, coffee and more. If you’re buying Turkish delight or baklava, you can buy it fresh (not boxed) and have the shop vacuum seal it! We happened to stumble upon a Turkish coffee roaster just outside the market with a very long line. I bought some Turkish coffee for gifts with the logic that if locals are standing in line to purchase it must be pretty good!

Hammam Towels- Bazaars of Istanbul- www.afriendafar.com #bazaars #istanbul

If you’re looking for a more structured visit to the Grand Bazaar, consider joining a tour such as the Grand Bazaar Walk from Istanbul Walks. If you’re a photography buff, there’s a photography walk from Alternative City Walks. I researched this as a possibility if I went alone, but I ended up going with colleagues so opted not to take the tour. No matter how you visit the bazaars, the experience is bound to be a memorable one!

Have you visited the bazaars in Istanbul? Do you want to ? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.
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Everything You Need to Know about Chatuchak Market in Bangkok

JJ FindsIf you find yourself in Bangkok on a weekend, Chatuchak  Market (or Jatujak or JJ) is a must! It’s Thai shopping at its finest, which means it can be crazy, overwhelming, and exhilarating. Crazy because it’s only open Saturdays and Sundays, and it’s popular with both locals and tourists so it’s always packed. Overwhelming because it’s one of the largest markets in the world and the largest in Asia, and you truly can buy anything here. And it’s exhilarating because you can find some absolutely stellar finds for a bargain! Some of my favorite “sections” of the market include antiques, home decor, and handicrafts, but there are also books, clothes and pets.

 

Here are a few tips to help you have an amazing experience!

Hours

Depending on the season and your schedule, go early to beat the crowds and the heat. The market opens at 9am and closes at 6pm, but sometimes vendors pack up early, so keep that in mind as well.

Getting Around

If you want to be more strategic with your shopping, plan ahead of time using Nancy Chandler’s map of Bangkok, which includes a color coded map and guide of the market. The map can be purchased on the Nancy Chandler website, but it’s also available in bookstores and news agents in Thailand. It’s also extremely valuable when exploring other parts of Bangkok. As a bonus, the beautifully illustrated map can be framed and used as home décor.  Even with a map, make sure you let yourself get wonderfully lost since you never know what treasure you might stumble upon. (Note: This is not a sponsored post. We’ve owned a few copies of the map between the two of us, and we think it’s so very helpful.)

Take Breaks

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Take a break from shopping to enjoy a treat, such as mango ice cream

There’s a ton of delicious food and sweet treats to devour, so grab something and find a place to rest your weary feet. Also, make sure you stay hydrated especially if it’s a hot day.

Just Get It

If you see something you want, buy it! Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ll see the item and regret not getting it. The last time I shopped at JJ, I wanted to get sticky rice baskets and saw some but passed them by. And of course I didn’t see them again and kicked myself for not buying them in the first place.

Speak Thai & Use Cash

Learn some basic Thai shopping phrases to use to bargain but also to be polite. Many people do speak English, but you can get a better price sometimes by speaking Thai. Also, though credit cards are accepted by some vendors, cash is preferred and will usually guarantee a better deal.

Here’s a little inspiration for you as you contemplate whether make Chatuchak part of your Bangkok experience:

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.
Mariage Frères - www.AFriendAfar.com

J’Adore: The Mariage Fréres Tea Shop in Paris

The Mariage Fréres Salon de Thé in Paris is my personal definition of luxury. When I’ve spent all morning navigating the Louvre or wandering down cobblestone streets, a nice, long break to savor the flavors of Paris is exactly what I need. It’s the most wonderful tea shop in Paris and a feast for the eyes!

Mariage Frères - www.AFriendAfar.com

The Mariage Frères Tea Emporium – a beautiful shop with Old World charm. [Photo credit: Blueberration]

The Most Wonderful Tea Shop in Paris

Stephanie and I first discovered Mariage Fréres tea at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, where we were looking for an escape from the city. We had been living in Bangkok for months, and while we thrived on the city’s chaos and excitement, we needed to treat ourselves to occasional peace and quiet. It was there that our obsession with fine teas began.

Mariage Fréres is a French tea company that began in 1854 and served as a wholesaler of fine teas until opening its first Salon de Thé on Rue du Bourg-Tibourg in 1983. The company currently has brick and mortar stores only in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan, but you can order anything from 100g of tea to a $2,000 gold-plated teapot on their website. I’ve visited their Japanese store in Ginza and their Parisian stores at the Louvre and in the Étoile neighborhood.

Mariage Frères - www.AFriendAfar.com

With this many beautiful options, how does one choose? I brought home 3 different canisters of tea for myself, and another one for Stephanie. We’ll be having some glamorous tea parties very soon! [Photo credit: Blueberration]

During my time in Paris last week, my mother and I dined in the Salon de Thé at the Louvre while my husband searched for his perfect Tour de France viewing spot in the rain. We had different goals for the day.

The Mariage Frères Salon de Thè - www.AFriendAfar.com

The Mariage Frères Salon de Thè [Photo credit: Blueberration]

The ivory-suited waiters took wonderful care of us, providing us with a menu of their tea selection, which is so vast that they also handed us a book that cataloged each tea. A large catalog of options can be overwhelming, so you can always count on their recommendations. I can be a creature of habit, so I chose my absolute favorite tea, their Marco Polo black tea and a delicious tiny canelé cake. My mother ordered the Paris Breakfast tea with a scone. Our teas arrived in their Art Deco tea pots, which went wonderfully with the beautiful white marble tables and vintage decor of the store.

The Mariage Frères Salon de Thè - www.AFriendAfar.com

Afternoon tea at the Mariage Frères Salon de Thè in the Louvre

It was the perfect mini-vacation from our exciting day in Paris. The most difficult part was deciding what to bring home from the shop! No, I didn’t splurge on that lovely gold camel teapot, but I did bring home the matching tea spoon and a few canisters of tea!

This is the first of many posts on our Tour de France. Click here to read other great posts, and see our favorite pictures here.

Meagan grew up in the North Georgia Mountains and spent her first trip abroad in Italy. She’s been traveling all over the world ever since, learning Spanish, Japanese, and Thai. She travels for the food, the culture, and the history.
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Home Decor Idea: Bolga Basket from Ghana

I love collected home decor items from my travels, and some of my absolute favorites are my baskets from West Africa. They’re functional, colorful, and remind of a time in my life that I’ll always treasure. I lived in the Upper East region of Ghana for two years where I was a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher. The famous souvenir from the regional capital of Bolgatanga are Bolga baskets, which are made by local artisans not just from the city of Bolga but also surrounding villages. They’re handwoven from elephant grass and provide Ghanaians with economic opportunities.

Home Decor Idea: Bolga Baskets- Bolga Basket- www.afriendafar.com #ghana #handicrafts

I use this colorful Bolga basket to hold some of my favorite travel magazines!

There are many places to buy Bolga baskets online, but if you’re interested in supporting a project that goes above and beyond the fair trade model, check out Blessing Baskets.  A volunteer I served with worked closely with this non-profit that exists to help reduce poverty in the countries where it works. I was able to visit her village to meet some of the artisans, watch them work, and of course buy baskets! They developed what they call a prosperity model that pays the artisans at least 2.5 times the Fair Trade wage, allowing for financial independence through entrepreneurship. In addition to providing income for the artisans, the project helps empower women and in Ghana built a school for girls. I try to be intentional about my purchases and like that a simple basket not only brings economic empowerment but also education to girls.

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.
cuba feature photo

Shot of the Week

If you missed it in April & May, check out our blog series on Cuba: Cuba Packing List, Highlights of Havana, Good Drinks & Eats in Cuba, and Cuban Shopping Finds.

Shot of the Week- Cuba Postcard- www.afriendafar.com #cuba #habanavieja

If you’ve been following us for a while, you may remember me blogging about my trip to Cuba in early April. In the Cuba Shopping Finds post, I wrote the following about the postcard I sent home from Havana: “I still haven’t received the one I sent myself, and I doubt I ever will. Though if I do, I will be so excited!” I am excited! I did give up on it ever arriving about a month into waiting but should’ve known to be patient and wait on “Cuba time.” I love sending postcards when I’m traveling and it was perfect how we found the stand selling them without really going out of our way to search for them. -Stephanie

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

The Hydra Trading Company

The Hydra Trading Company- Sign- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #shopping #greece

During our stay on Hydra island in Greece, we stumbled upon a lovely home décor store down one of the streets. We were walking to Flora’s Bakery and I spotted a cute sign for The Hydra Trading Company. I could already tell by the beautifully designed sign which featured a peacock and the lobby of the building that we were in trouble. You see, Meagan and I have this dream of opening our own global home décor store and are obsessed with finding sublime shops and buying home goods while abroad.

The Hydra Trading Company- Browsing- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #shopping #greece

Since my husband was waiting for us, my sister, niece and I had to return the next morning for our shopping adventure. Our walk from our pension to the shop was a wandering one, my favorite kind, where we discovered new cobblestone streets, adorable donkeys, gorgeous homes, and blooming bougainvillea before arriving at The Hydra Trading Company.

The Hydra Trading Company- Global Home Decor- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #shopping #greece

A stunning display case greeted us as we entered the first floor of the former firehouse and made us excited for what awaited us on the second floor shop. When we entered the shop, my niece exclaimed “It’s like Anthropologie- for real!” and it’s a perfect description. There are amazing bowls, glasses, plates and more in the kitchen section. Fun gifts to buy include stationary, journals, olive wood stamps (including donkey and cat ones), French and Greek linen and cotton bags, and COOL SOAP, 100% natural olive soaps made in neighboring Aegina.

The Hydra Trading Company- View out the Shop's Window- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #shopping #greece

The shop also has a fantastic view of the church towers of Hydra town out its window. We enjoyed browsing global home decor items such as baskets, pillows and textiles including Suzanis. In addition to the shop, there’s a connected gallery that displays works by local artists. If you’re planning a trip to Hydra, make sure you find time to visit this charming shop to pick up a few gifts and souvenirs to take home with you. If you enjoyed this post, like them on Facebook or visit their site.

The Hydra Trading Company- Kitchen Items- www.afriendafar.com #hydra #shopping #greece

[This is not a sponsored post. We loved visiting this shop while in Hydra and want the world to know about it.]

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.
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Perfect Shopping Outing in Athens

I had an absolutely stunning stay in Greece! It’s such a beautiful place, and we had a fun time exploring a country that’s been on the top of my travel list for quite some time. I highly recommend a trip to see a couple of Greek Islands as well to explore the ancient sites of Athens and surrounding areas.

Shopping in Athens- www.afriendafar.com #athens #greece

 

One of our favorite outings in Athens was a joint shopping and dining adventure. Before the trip, we’d read multiple places about visiting the Melissinos “The Poet Sandal-maker of Athens” shop for handmade, leather sandals. The store is located near Monastiraki, not that far from the Ancient Agora site we visited earlier in the day. The Poet’s grandfather opened the shop in the 1920s to make sandals for the working and upper class, including for theater productions, and later his son, the Poet’s father, sold them to tourists in the 1950s. The sandals became extremely popular when celebrities, including Sophia Loren, Jackie O., and John Lennon bought them. Even today celebrities still buy the sandals and signed photos of various ones are displayed in the stop!

Shopping in Athens- www.afriendafar.com #athens #greece

It’s a unique experience visiting the shop and trying on sandals that are then fitted exactly to your foot. I also was commissioned by Meagan to bring her a pair back, and thankfully, she chose a lace-up sandal, the Sophia Loren, which was perfect since the laces can be used to fit them. I tried on several before I decided on the gladiator style Cleopatra for around $45. My sister and niece bought the John Lennon and Maria Callas (I just love the fun names!) sandals. Make sure you allow for plenty of time to try on and get the sandals fitted.

Shopping in Athens- www.afriendafar.com #athens #greece

Special instructions that went along with the sandals included putting clear nail polish over the nail heads so that when you sweat it doesn’t bleed on you and using olive oil to turn the sandals are darker color. While at the shop for an hour, my husband enjoyed browsing on his phone and petting the dog in the shop. He did a little TripAdvisor research for lunch and found us an amazing deli (though not your typical American deli) for lunch, which ended up being one of our best meals of the trip. More on that dining outing another time! Are you drooling over our sandals yet?

Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.

Amazing Cuban Shopping Finds

As you can probably tell, shopping is one activity we enjoy doing while traveling at A Friend Afar. Honestly, I’m personally not the biggest shopper back home since I’m usually trying to save money for my travels, but I do love finding unique items on my trips. Plus, I firmly believe in supporting local economies and usually have gifts to buy for friends and families back home for birthdays and other occasions! Since part of my trip to Cuba involved learning about local markets, some of the activities took us to an artisan market, a rum and cigar shop, and a textile cooperative factory where the guayabera shirts are made. Check out these Cuban shopping finds below!

Cuban Fedora- Cuban Shopping Finds- www.afriendafar.com #cuba #shopping

El Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes de Depósito San José

The most popular artisan market in Havana is located in an old warehouse and gives you plenty of opportunity to buy local handicrafts. I bought my Cuban fedora for 4CUC (a little over 4USD) that I wore the rest of the trip. There’s loads of artwork, leather goods, jewelry, woodwork and guayaberas for sale. It’s a great place for one-stop shopping because you can find most anything. Don’t forget to bring your bargaining chops since it’s expected!

Antique Bookshop- Cuban Shopping Finds- www.afriendafar.com #cuba #shopping

For the love of all things vintage

If you love antiques, check out the bookstore Memorias Librería near the Museum of the Revolution. They have amazing old coins, postcards, and posters. I found a baseball poster from the ’90s when the Orioles came to Havana to play the Cuban team. My best find was one of the oldest advertisements for Bacardi. It dates back to Prohibition times and features the Bacardi’s logo, a bat , carrying Uncle Sam, who’s holding an empty glass, to Cuba across the Straits of Florida. It reflects the period in history when Americans would flock to the Caribbean island for the bar scene in Havana.

Cuba Shopping www.afriendafar.com #cuba #shopping

 

At the end of our walk on Mercaderes that I wrote about previously, we found ourselves at the secondhand book market where we engaged in “people-to-people” interactions as our tour guide recommended. Basically we just chatted with and made friends with locals while browsing for books, magazines, and movie posters.

Vintage Shopping in Havana- Cuban Shopping Finds www.afriendafar.com #afriendafar #cuba #havana

I ended up buying a vintage camera since I’d been wanting one for a while and thought it’d be special to buy it in Cuba. I had fun bargaining for it and learning about how the operational camera works.

Shopping for Rum and Cigars

Americans traveling to Cuba can now bring back $100 worth of rum and cigars. Through our tour, we were taken to a nice shop where we bought Havana Club rum to make mojitos back home when going through withdrawals and Cuban cigars not available in the US. We were warned to use caution while buying cigars off the street since some counterfeits are sold. By going to a shop, you can ensure that the Cohibas and Montecristos you’re buying are real!

A Few Odds and Ends

Buying Postcards- Cuban Shopping Finds- www.afriendafar.com #cuba #shopping

On one of our walks we stumbled upon a stand selling postcards and bought a few. I still haven’t received the one I sent myself, and I doubt I ever will. Though if I do, I will be so excited! [Update: it took forever but I finally received my postcard months later and was absolutely thrilled!] The others I just brought home with me to give away or keep.

Handmade Cuban Journal- Cuba Shopping Finds- www.afriendafar.com #afriendafar # cuba #shopping

On the way to the beach resort town Varadero, our tour stopped at Matanzas and went to a cool store called Ediciones Vigía where they make handmade journals. My favorite incorporated Cuban stamps, and I bought one for a friend for her birthday.

Since coming home, I discovered and started following Alma Shop on Instagram (@almacubashop). I wish I would’ve found out about it before my trip so I could’ve visited, so I’ll just have to go next time. If you’re in Havana and want handmade goods, including Majagua wooden bowls, hand-painted bags, and colorful totes made from recycled plastic pallet ties, check out the store. A portion of Alma’s profits are donated to organizations helping Cuba’s stray animal population, which is very needed.

Thanks for reading my Cuban blog post series [Cuba Packing List, Highlights of Havana, Good Drinks & Eats in Cuba]! Let me know if you have any questions while planning your Cuban adventure in the comments below.
Stephanie grew up road-tripping across the U.S., but her first flight was to Australia, and she’s been hooked ever since. She lived abroad in Thailand, where she met Meagan, and in Ghana with Peace Corps and has been to over 30 countries on 6 continents. She travels for the adventure, the stories, and nature.