5 Tips to Take Better Photos on Your Phone

My love of photography comes from my mom. When I was young, she decided to start improving her photography skills so that she could have good photos of us children. She read books and tutorials, and now years later, she is an amazing photographer with her own photography business! When she saw my interest in photography, she taught me a few things. My first ‘nice’ camera was a Canon Rebel XT that my parents helped me buy as a birthday gift. Now I have a Canon 5D. Perks of having a photographer mom- she’ll give you her old (but still nice and in great condition!) camera when she gets a new one. 😉

All these photos in this post are just with my iPhone… but the same rules apply whether you have a fancy camera or just a phone. So here are a few simple tips to transform your photos from ordinary to outstanding.

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  1. Lighting Good lighting can easily make or break a photo. Find a location with plenty of natural light, and try a few different angles to see what looks best! See the difference between these two photos below.

    Another common misconception is that if the lighting isn’t good, just make it black and white! That will fix it, right? Wrong! In order to have a good black and white you need to start with good lighting. Here are three photos of the same thing.

    On the left, the curtain directly behind my piano was open. The other curtain, on the left of the piano, was closed. In the second photo, I opened both curtains. In the third photo, I opened the curtain on the left and closed the curtain behind the piano. I used the same black and white filter on these photos, yet they all look different. This is the importance of lighting!

  2. Composition Have you ever heard of the Rule of Thirds? It’s a simple guideline for composition. Here’s an article that explains it in depth. The basic principle is that a photo has six imaginary lines going through it- 3 horizontal and 3 vertical. These lines and their intersections help you decide where your focal point is, and how to compose a photo that is visually pleasing.
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  3. Posing and Subject Matter In order to compose your photo well, you need to have the right elements. Feel free to move things around and pose as you wish to achieve that perfect shot!

    You can see that on the left, there are a few items on that shelf that aren’t supposed to be there. I’ve been moving a few things around in our house so it’s not totally pinterest-worthy or instagram-worthy at the moment. That just means I need to move things around to get a good photo.

    With the bunny and bird, I thought that it needed something else to make the photo more interesting. This cake stand was perfect! Not only did it help with the lighting, its simple elegance adds a unique element.

  4. Background Clear your background. Lots of clutter distracts from the photo.

    Having a simple background allows you to focus on the photo and the candle here. I love taking photos on my kitchen table because the white wall and the natural pine are simple and neutral.

  5. Editing I use the Instagram app to edit my iPhone photos. With my Canon 5D, I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. With Instagram, I usually just make a few tweaks to the brightness, contrast, warmth, and sometimes the saturation and sharpness. Then I’ll add a filter that I like, BUT never at 100% (except for the black and white filters). Figure out what works for your photo. In this one, I used Gingham at 40%.

    Here’s another before and after. Just play around with the filters and editing on Instagram and you’ll figure out what works well, and what your favorite filters or styles are.

Thanks for reading, guys! Do you enjoy photography? What’s your favorite thing to take photos of? I used to love nature photography, but now I enjoy taking photos of my home decor as well!

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5 Fun Date Ideas On A Budget

Jared and I love spending time together- okay I guess that goes without saying. We did get married for a reason. We love spending quality time together, though. It’s easy to sit on the couch together and watch tv. And it’s fun, too. But we love going on dates- intentionally spending quality time together. However, like many young people, we don’t have much room in our budget for dates. So we’ve learned how to spend time together without spending much money. Here are a few ideas, if you’re trying to find date ideas that won’t bust your budget!FIVE.jpg

  1. Take a Walk. Or a hike. Jared and I love being outside, so occasionally we’ll go for a walk, just exploring the area we live. It’s a perfect opportunity to spend some time together, just talking and having fun. Plus, when you have a fish and chips shop just down the road like we do… the other night we went for a walk to get some dinner to bring home. We’ve also gone hiking a few times, which has been fun!
  2. Watch a Movie. If you have Netflix, easy. If you have TV, there might be something good on. When Jared and I got dinner from the fish and chips shop, we came home and The Giver had just started, so we ended up watching it. If you have a library- use it! Unfortunately, for some reason unknown and very confusing to me, in New Zealand, libraries aren’t free. Books, yes, they’re free to borrow. But you have to pay for dvd’s… I was so shocked the first time I realized that! At our library, it’s $2 a week for most dvd’s, more for the newer ones, and the documentary style ones are free to borrow. Anyways, moving on… sorry but I had to add that because I’m still getting used to the fact that you have to pay to borrow dvd’s!
  3. Get Coffee. Jared and I will occasionally go to McDonald’s for coffee or sundaes as a treat. It’s fun, tasty, and cheaper than going out for a meal.
  4. Have a picnic. Picnics are so fun! Pack a meal and go outside… in your backyard, to a nearby park, the beach, or anywhere!
  5. Go Shopping. Okay I know this is about dates on a budget… but on our 6-month wedding anniversary a couple weeks ago, Jared and I went to the Hardware store just down the road and had lunch at the cafe in the store. It was so good! Then we walked around the store and bought a few things… we got some flower seeds for my garden, and since we are adults after all, we did get some ‘boring’ stuff- an extension lead and batteries. It was fun just walking around the store together and picking out flower seeds. Jared buys me flowers sometimes, which is so sweet, and this was fun because from these seeds I can plant my own flowers!

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What are your favorite date ideas? Do you like going out or staying in?

6 Quick and Easy Dinner Ideas

When Jared and I first got married, I really enjoyed finding new recipes and improving my cooking skills. But it took me a few months to get to the point where I had enough experience and confidence to come up with resourceful, last-minute meals without getting flustered and overwhelmed. If you’re like me when I was first married, or if you’re just looking for some new ideas for quick dinners, then this post is for you! These are some of my favorite recipes that are fairly easy and quick, and of course delicious!Quick and Easy Dinner Ideas.jpg

  1. Pizza
    Jared and I love pizza! We have it about once a week. It’s not the quickest meal to throw together, but it’s one that you can do without much planning. The recipe I have only needs to rise for 20 minutes, and it only bakes for about 15 minutes, so it’s easy to pull together in under an hour! I usually make the dough, and while it’s rising I preheat the oven and gather together sauce, cheese, and toppings. I’ll put the recipe I use below!
  2. Pasta
    Pasta is both cheap and easy… and there are so many ways to make it! Sometimes I’ll add cheese, butter, a splash of milk, salt and pepper, and some sort of meat if I have any. Or I’ll cook some mince (ground beef) on the stovetop with an onion and a bit of oil, add a can or two of diced tomatoes and some seasoning, simmer for a few minutes, and then add the pasta. If you have a bit more time, throw it all in a pan, cover with cheese, and bake at about 200C (400F) until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Once I fried up some spinach and cherry tomatoes with a bit of oil, and then added some vinegar and salt, and threw those in with my pasta, along with some cheese. There’s so much you can do with pasta… it’s really up to you!
  3. Mexican Mince and Rice
    Put some rice on to cook. On the stove, heat some oil in a frying pan and add a diced onion. Cook for a few minutes and then add your mince (ground beef). Add some taco seasoning and a can or two of diced tomatoes, and serve over rice, along with a salad or steamed veggies.
  4. Roasted Chicken Drumsticks and Potatoes
    Slice some potatoes into wedges or cubes, and toss with some oil and seasoning (salt, pepper, paprika and parsely is a combination I use a lot!), along with your drumsticks. Line a baking sheet with baking paper (I recently started using baking paper and I’m never going back! It makes cleanup so much easier!) and lay out your potatoes and chicken. Bake at 200C (400F) until the potatoes are soft and the juices from the chicken are clear. I usually check mine at around 20-25 minutes, and then go from there! Serve with a side of steamed veggies, or if you really want to be efficient, add chopped broccoli and carrots to the potatoes and chicken and bake it all together!
  5. Stir Fry
    Slice or grate any veggies you like… carrots, broccoli, capsicum (bell pepper), onion, etc. If you’re using meat, heat some oil in a large frying pan and cook your meat with a bit of salt, pepper, and seasoning of your choice, until cooked through. Add your veggies and a bit more oil if necessary and cook, stirring, until soft. Seasoning here is up to you. Add some soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger for an asian stir fry. The other night I added Moroccan seasoning and then added some lemon juice near the end. Serve with rice or pasta, and there you go!
  6. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
    I found this amazing and simple recipe for tomato soup that can’t be beat! Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan or medium pot. Add a quartered onion, two cans of diced tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups of water or prepared chicken stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 20-30 minutes and then use an immersion blender to blend until mostly smooth. While your soup is simmering, prepare the cheese and bread for your sandwiches, and cook them when the soup is nearly done so you can serve both hot!

Now for the pizza recipe… my mom has used this for ages, and it’s super easy and simple to make!

Homemade Pizza


2 ¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup warm water

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Mix in the vegetable oil and water. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 230C (450F). Punch dough down. Roll out into desired shape and place on baking sheet. Cover with tomato puree, cheese, and toppings of your choice! Here are some ideas: cooked chicken, sliced lunch meat, fresh basil, capsicum, tomatoes, olives, pineapple. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then slice and enjoy!


What are  your favorite go-to meals?

Summer Garden

A couple years ago, I decided to plant a garden. Why not? It would be so fun!

It definitely was fun. When you see those first little green shoots, and then you get to watch them grow and grow and grow… unfortunately, two years ago I was also working and attending community college. So I didn’t have very much time to spend on tending my garden. And I had never planted a garden before, so I liberally sprinkled the seeds and then realized the reason my carrots only grew to a couple inches was due to the fact that they were incredibly overcrowded.

The next year I was given some seedlings, and my grandma gave me a beautiful tomato plant. This time, I wasn’t in school but I was working full time which had me much busier than the year before. So that garden got neglected as well.

This year though… when Jared and I were looking at houses to rent, I was really hoping for a house with a garden bed. Well I definitely got my wish! We have a good sized garden bed along the side of our house, as well as in the front. It was completely overgrown when we moved in… somehow some bak choy and strawberries managed to survive among the lush weeds, but when I began preparing the garden to be planted I took out everything except the strawberries.

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Alright yes there are other plants in my garden besides flowers! But I just love these marigolds… they’re so bright and gorgeous. They both attract bees and keep pests away so they’re perfect flowers for a vegetable garden!

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My carrots are just about ready, but I have a ton of carrots from the store in my fridge right now so I figured I’d better use those up before I start picking my own… I am loving having basil and cilantro (aka coriander), so fresh and easily available! I never imagined I would be able to grow watermelon and rockmelon (cantaloupe) either, but hey, those are just a few perks of living in tropical paradise!

Last week Jared got me some flower seeds, so I’m going to plant those in the front garden! I started some pansies in a tray and they are doing great and a few have already sprouted.

What kind of garden would you like? I love having both veggies and herbs, and soon I’m going to have more flowers as well… so I’m in garden heaven right now!

3 Life Lessons I Learned in College

When I was 16 I started my first college classes, through a dual enrollment program called Running Start. It was my first time ever being in a classroom setting… unless you count Driver’s Ed which I started a couple weeks earlier. I was homeschooled my whole life up to that point, which I absolutely loved! But never having been in a classroom before meant I didn’t know if I would do amazing or if I would get terrible grades and fail.

My first week at community college, I decided to quit. I had so much homework! So many assignments. Dozens and dozens of pages to read in the next couple of days. I couldn’t do this. The workload was too much. I wasn’t cut out for college. I would just quit school, find a job, and work instead.

Those were really my thoughts. Finally I decided to wait it out at least until the deadline for dropping classes without any consequences, and then I could quit. But I had better at least try.

And the next week, it got better.

I realized that all the reading I had done over the weekend was actually for the next several weeks, not the next day. That was quite a relief… and I got used to the workload, which was not quite as demanding as I had originally thought. I enjoyed my classes and I did really well. Thankfully I found college to be very enjoyable and I loved learning, taking notes, writing papers, and especially quizzes and exams. (I’ve always loved quizzes, exams, or any sort of test… I know, I’m weird!)

The next two years were non. stop. school. Okay I’m exaggerating a bit, because there are breaks in between each quarter. But I had to take classes during summer quarter in between my first and second year, so I didn’t get a long summer break. But I really enjoyed it! Attending community college, especially at 16, was an amazing opportunity. I loved learning, I loved essays and exams and projects. It was amazing to graduate with an Associate’s degree at just 17 (I was just a few months shy of 18).

I learned a lot while I was at college. I learned how to write a good essay. I learned how to do proper research. But more than the academic side, I also learned life lessons.
3 life lessons

1. I learned to step outside of my comfort zone.


I used to be incredibly shy. The first week of my second quarter, I had to drop a class that I knew wasn’t going to work out for me. As classes had already started, there weren’t many options left to replace it. The one that I chose was a public speaking class. I don’t know why. If I had thought about it more I would never have taken public speaking. But at the time, I needed something to replace the class I’d dropped, and this is the one that worked with my schedule and sounded interesting.
It was a wonderful experience! I learned how to research and write a speech, to speak better, and to be more comfortable in front of an audience. At the end of the quarter, my class voted me as the most improved student! I’m not taking all credit for that, as my professor was amazing and my class was very supportive of each other. But that never would’ve happened if I had stayed with what was comfortable. If I had decided not to take that class because I was too shy to do public speaking.
I’m still so glad that I took that class! I learned a lot and I was also able to speak about topics that mean a lot to me, which leads into my next point:

2. I learned to stand up for what I believe in.



The city I’m from is very liberal, and the community college I attended even more so. One year they didn’t put a Christmas tree up at Christmastime because someone had told the student council that some people might get offended if there was a Christmas tree… I’m not going to say anymore on that, but I do want to say that it’s a difficult environment at times if you don’t hold to the liberal beliefs and ideologies that many, many of the professors, staff members, and students do.
In my English Honors class, when I stood up to give my presentation to my small class of 13 about my essay topic… I knew that not one person in that room agreed with me. I knew they all took a different stance than mine on the controversial topic that I chose to write about. But I also knew that I had to do the right thing, and stand up for the truth. And not just that I had to- I wanted to. I was pleasantly surprised that instead of the adverse reaction that I had anticipated, my classmates were polite and more or less objective in the ensuing discussion.
Another time, standing up for my beliefs didn’t go so well. In one class, in a graded group project, I found myself in a situation where I had to go along with something that I believed was wrong. I thought about it for several days and battled over what to do and finally came to a conclusion. I decided to just sit out of that project, and take a zero instead. However, that didn’t work. Our professor made us all come to an agreement, people got upset and offended, and when we finally gave our presentation to the class, everyone laughed at us.
Did I enjoy that? Certainly not! But I had to do the right thing. Did I learn from it and grow from it? Yes. And to be honest… if anyone is rude to me or calls me a name now, I don’t even care. I just say, ‘hey, I’ve been called worse’.
These are just a few of the times that I had to stand up for what was right when I didn’t know if anyone else would stand with me. It can be so difficult. Not just because you’re alone, but because sometimes people get offended, or hurt. But I learned that I have to do what’s right, and do it lovingly.

3. I learned to politely disagree.


I used to be pretty gullible and naive. I was eager to believe everyone was genuine and believe what everyone said. But at college, there are all kinds of people, coming from different backgrounds, opinions, and beliefs. Being around so many classmates, professors, and strangers, many different from me, helped me learn to stand for what’s right and to stand for what I believe regardless of what others say. But I learned to do it in a respectful way, too. With so many opinions around me I learned to search for the truth in God’s word.

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Photo by my mom at Little Earthling Photography

I really enjoyed college! So many of my classes and professors were amazing, but some of my favorites were American history (1900-1980), cultural anthropology, Spanish, and geology.

My Favorite Love Story: Part 1

The way that my husband, Jared, and I met you could almost call chance. But we both know that it was far more than that. I want to tell you our story, but I tend to give long explanations for everything. Same goes with our love story! There’s so much background, so it’s going to take a while to tell. This is the first part.

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I graduated high school and community college in May 2016. I was excited to be done with school, and looking forward to what the next few years might bring. I was never someone who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. For a while I wanted to be an actress, and then I thought about anthropology, or teaching. But nothing really jumped out to me, so when people would ask what I planned to do after college, I would laugh nervously and say ‘I’m not sure yet’. I always wanted to be a wife and a mom some day, and so I wasn’t interested in spending so much time and money going to university for a degree I wouldn’t use much in an area I wasn’t passionate about.

After I graduated, I started looking for more work (I was nannying part time while I was in school) and thinking about what to do next. My sister Adalia, who has been in New Zealand with her husband Ben since 2014, asked if I would like to come stay with them… so I began praying and thinking about how long to go for. I spent the summer working full time as a nanny, and in September I began a crazy adventure. I decided to go to NZ for six months. I knew a total of 7 people in NZ- Adalia, Ben, and several of Ben’s family members. I had no idea what to expect during those six months, but if you know me you know that I am always up for an adventure…

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Adalia and I the day after I got to New Zealand. Reunited after over two years!

The next several months were exciting as I got to spend time with my sister and her husband, explore NZ, and make new friends.

I found a wonderful church and the Pastor’s family was the best, instantly being amazing friends to me. They took me to the Karangahake Gorge, to Paeroa, Tauranga, and more. I am so thankful for them!

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It was at that church where I met my future husband. In January, Jared was visiting his aunt and uncle in Tauranga. The pastor of the church there would come to the church I attended in Tokoroa to preach for our midweek service on Thursdays. Jared was invited to come along with him, and after thinking about it for a bit he decided to come. I was invited to have dinner with my pastor’s family (who by this time were my good friends) before church, and so was Jared, Pastor Dan, and Thomas (another guy from Tauranga). Jared and I had heard each other’s names mentioned a few times through mutual friends, but knew nothing about each other. We chatted a little bit throughout the evening, and during the church service I turned around and looked right at Jared, which solidified his growing desire to get my number. Jared, my friends, and I were chatting after church and before Jared left with Pastor Dan and Thomas, he asked if I had Facebook. I said yes, and I wrote down my name for him so he could find me. While I was writing, he said, ‘Could you put your number down too?’

I paused for a moment. I was surprised! This was only the second time anyone had asked for my number. The first time that it was someone with the same beliefs/convictions. I hadn’t had my phone for long so it took me a few seconds to remember my number, but when I did I wrote it down for him. He thanked me and then when he went to leave, I went into the kitchen because THAT just happened! Like many girls I always dreamed of meeting a guy, but it was actually happening! As I said, someone had asked for my number before, but all I could do was politely decline him. This was amazing- a godly, bible-believing, Baptist. I took a few minutes to compose myself before coming out of the kitchen. I spent the night at my good friends’ house, so it wasn’t until the next day that I had time to think about what happened and text him back…

Stay tuned for part 2! 

5 Tips for Successful Travelling

Alaska. Texas. Colombia. Malawi. New Zealand. Australia. California.

I am so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to travel. I was born in Canada. My mom is from Alaska so my family visited there a couple times when I was young. We moved to the States when I was a baby. We road tripped to see friends in Oregon. I accompanied my parents and youngest brother to Texas to have his heart surgery done. I flew to Colombia with my grandparents to visit missionaries they know there. I went to Florida and then Malawi with Teen Missions Int’l. I hopped on a plane to spend 6 months in New Zealand, a country I’d never been to. My sister and I flew to Australia for a week and thoroughly enjoyed our girly vacation. A year later, after returning to my home in the States (where I got to be in my best friend’s wedding in California), I now call New Zealand my home.

Tips from a world traveler

In total, I’ve been on over 30 airplanes. So many airports. And I’ve learned a lot about travelling.

  1. My first rule is, don’t stress.I always feel like I’ve forgotten something when I travel. To ensure you do remember everything you need, make a list that you can refer to when packing. But when you’re at the airport waiting for your plane, don’t worry about ‘did I remember to pack pajamas?’ At that point there’s not anything you can do about it.Make sure that you have the most important things: Passport, boarding pass, wallet, cell phone, glasses or hearing aids, etc.Funny story- I almost forgot my passport when Jared and I returned to New Zealand after our wedding. How do you forget a passport when you are literally moving to another country?! I don’t even know. I didn’t even know exactly where it was- I didn’t think of it until the day after our wedding, and a few days before our flight. Smart. Thankfully my mom saved the day and brought me my passport, birth certificate, and glasses, all of which I had forgotten to pack.

    Those are important things. But if you’ve forgotten a sweatshirt? It’ll be okay. You can get a new sweatshirt if you really need it, but it won’t ruin your trip to forget it.

  2. Leave plenty of time.My parents always make sure to leave the house with plenty of time to get to the airport and get through security with time to spare. It takes away a lot of stress as well, as you’re not thinking about the traffic and the minutes ticking away.Another story from when Jared and I got married: Our flight was at 8am. We got up at 3am and we finished packing, loaded our car, and headed to the aiport. We had a rental car so we had to fill it up with fuel before we dropped it off, and it took us a while to find a fuel station because we didn’t know the area well. Once we dropped the car off, we had to get ourselves and our big bags on a shuttle to the aiport. Once we found the place to check our bags, it was about 7am. Bag checking closes 1/2 hour before the flight. The line was long. And when we finally neared the front, there was a lady ahead of us taking an extremely long time to fill out some paperwork that she could have done ahead of time.As the minutes passed, I kept glancing anxiously at the tv screen displaying the time, and fervently praying that we would make it to the front of the line before 7:30. Finally the line started moving again, and we made it with minutes to spare. Phew! After we left our bags, we went through security. The line wasn’t too long and we got through without any problem. We headed straight for our gate, and when we got there, the plane was already boarding. Talk about cutting it close… at least we didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes before boarding out flight though! However, I don’t recommend this method of travelling.
  3. Bring entertainment.
    Especially if you have a long flight ahead of you, or flying makes you nervous, it is really nice to have something to keep you occupied. I have been on a 17-hour flight before and it was incredibly boring… for your own sakes, please bring something! A book, music, or a game. If you have an electronic device that you plan to use, like a kindle or smartphone, bring your charger. Some planes, especially for longer flights, have USB ports so you can charge your devices. Many also have screens on the back of the seats that you can listen to music or watch movies on. Often you have to pay for them, but I’ve found that on longer flights they are usually free.
  4. Dress comfortably and weather-appropriate.
    When you’re practically undressing to go through security (God bless America), waiting for hours in uncomfortable seats, and then sitting in tight quarters on a plane where you can barely move, it is way better in comfy clothing. And I don’t know about you, but I am almost always freezing cold on airplanes. It used to irritate me until I realized that:a) The air outside is actually way colder, so it could be worse.
    b) The air is intentionally kept cool to lower the risk of spreading bacteria in the air. So I do appreciate that we don’t all get the cough that one guy on the plane has.
    That being said- bring a sweater or jacket in your carry-on just in case.Also make sure that you are dressed right for the climate of your destination. When I first went to Florida, as soon as I stepped off the plane the heat and humidity just hit me. When I returned to the States from New Zealand in March this past year, I knew it would be cold so I wore warm clothing.
  5. Find your gate and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    When my brother Judah and I flew to Florida to Teen Mission Int’l, my mom advised us to get to our gate as soon as we passed through security. Every time I fly, I go straight to my gate before getting food, looking around, or anything else. If your boarding pass doesn’t have the gate on it, find an electronic screen displaying the departures. It will have your flight number, time, destination, and gate. And if all else fails find an airport employee and ask for help. That’s what they’re there for!

 

What is your dream travel destination? Where is your favorite place that you have been?