Traveling Authentically: Chacala, Mexico

by Alex Schnee
( November 30th, 2015 )

Traveling Authentically Chacala

I was in Mexico a little more than two weeks ago in the tiny fishing village of Chacala. When most people think of visiting Mexico, large vacation destinations filled with resorts come to mind. However, where we were in the northern part of Nayarit had an entirely different feel to it and it made me think about how important it is to check out these authentic spots when traveling.

Casa Caballito Chacala

We stayed with my friend Karla at her place at Casa Caballito del Mar—a vacation rental home that she rents out to others interested in checking out the area. Chacala is known as as either “the spot where the shrimp is” or the “location where the lobster is,” but not much else. It’s a safe haven away from sunburned tourists and crowded beaches. With a population of about 300 people, it’s hard to get more local than here—you have to make a lengthy trek from the airport at Puerto Vallarta. Karla picked us up and remained our constant companion throughout our time there. With her as a tour guide, I learned more about the area and the local community service projects going on than I ever could have on my own. Not only that, but her vacation rental felt like home. It was beautifully decorated and offered us the perfect spot to relax in the afternoon when it got too hot out to be on the beach.

Chacala Selfie Grotto

Chacala might not be well-known, but it won’t be long before it is. It has a certified clean beach—one of the cleanest I have ever seen. Plenty of local restaurants line the beachfront. I tried the incredible, local favorite of Sopa del Mar and was astounded about how much seafood I had in my bowl and how cheap the price was. Even as a Generation-Y traveler on a budget, I was able to treat myself to anything I wanted on the menu and more. I might have had to order in Spanish, but that was part of the charm and added to the true, authentic feel of the village.

Lobster Food Chacala

What resonated with me the most, however, was the love the residents (both expats and locals) had for this area. Whether it was commitment to improving the schools and education of the local students or promoting businesses or improving health services, everyone was involved in making their community a better place. Not only did it add to the overall “authenticity” of the village, but it humbled me to think of the things we take for granted on a daily basis. My trip to Chacala opened my eyes in many ways, but that might have been the most important.

Chacala Grotto Petrogyphs

Have you ever been to a place you felt changed you? Where was it?

Keep wandering,

Signature Alex Schnee

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Review of the New Activeon CX Action Camera

by Alex Schnee
( November 18th, 2015 )

Activeon Camera Review

I was recently asked to try out the new Activeon camera while on my journeys. I was sent a camera, waterproof shell, plates to change the color of the camera, a selfie stick, mounts, mini SD card, and head strap from the Activeon representatives. I thought I would give to a try on my recent trip to Mexico and see how it compared to some of the other action cameras on the market like the GoPro—a staple accessory for Generation-Y travelers over the past few years.


After charging it up, I immediately thought I would take the camera to the beach where I could test out the underwater shell, the selfie stick, and the head strap. One of the major positive aspects of this camera is that it costs less than many of the action cameras on the market. While the basic GoPro Hero4 retails at $299 (and GoPro Hero Silver with an LCD screen goes for $399), the Activeon CX is only $199.99. I felt this was much more reasonable to ask of Generation-Y members to pay than the GoPro.

Chacala Mexico Activeon

The picture quality was also impressive, and I thought the best part of the camera. I took a few underwater videos and felt like the HD quality was more than up-to-par from what I had experienced with a GoPro camera. The waterproof shell also worked extremely well and I was satisfied with all of the pictures I took and the quality.


One of the biggest issues I ran into with the camera was how reliant it was on having the cellphone app to run it. I know this is the biggest problem with action cameras to begin with, but it would have been nice to be able to take a selfie or walk a few feet away from my phone without having to worry about whether I was getting the footage I wanted. It’s definitely an option to go without connecting to the app with the WiFi-integrated camera, but it was impossible to actually use the selfie stick for what it was for—you would have had to set a timer function.

Ocean Mexico Activeon

The LCD screen was both a plus and a minus. It would be hard to have a camera without one at this point (especially after the view we get with our cellphones), but it also made navigation hard. I longed for a button that I could press and not to have to worry about the rest like a simpler model of the GoPro.


I will absolutely keep using this camera, and I look forward to playing around with it a little bit more—I think it’s the kind of thing that requires some time and experience in order to get the maximum benefit out of it. I am definitely planning on using it this winter as part of my travels.

Mexico Beach Activeon

Stills are pictures that I took with the Activeon CX. Thanks to the Activeon team for the camera and accessories!

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Volunteering Abroad: Things to Keep in Mind

by Alex Schnee
( November 5th, 2015 )

Volunteering Abroad

One of the things I love about being a Generation-Y traveler is being involved with so many other people who love to help others on their journeys. We are an age group that has grown up with the idea that it’s important to help the environment and others, and as a result, we can often see this as a reflection in the places we travel to. I often scroll through Facebook and admire where many of my friends and acquaintances have ended up and how they are helping various causes throughout the world.

I’m often asked about how we can be more aware about using travel as a way to improve the world rather than just as a way to vacation. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is to be aware of what your idea of “volunteering” is and how you plan on making a difference. You might not be aware that many organizations that encourage travel through volunteering really aren’t doing all that much—they just plan on taking your cash and very little goes to help people in need. That’s why it’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time and look into which programs have made the most impact.

You might also want to think about whether the reasons you are choosing to volunteer are the right ones. Many choose to volunteer while traveling solely for the experience of going abroad, and that can be a fine line to cross. A location should be considered when you are planning on doing some volunteer work, but it shouldn’t be the main reason why you choose to go abroad. Think of it this way, you can always choose to go abroad for your own purposes and if you want to be a tourist in that location. Choosing to go for other reasons can mean that your trip is less of a vacation—if you understand that, then you are more likely to manage to do good while abroad.

Also, you will want to do some research to which programs can offer you the best opportunities to help the organizations that you admire. There are a few websites that can put you in touch with different nonprofits so you can find the best tours that work for you and what you want to accomplish. I find extremely helpful when you are looking for short-term tours in multiple areas. Finding the right tour or program for you can make all the difference when you want to help others.

Have you ever done volunteerism abroad?

Image courtesy of South African Tourism.

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