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Portland rain pelted the window of my taxi as I rode home from the airport last night. After spending two weeks in India, where every moment on the road is filled with honking, my taxi ride felt eerily silent.

With its smorgasbord of colors, flavors, smells, sounds, and crazy sights, India was the perfect place for last week’s Travel Writing Expedition with full-time travel writer Margot Bigg,

I’ll tell you more about the trip — and the camels, monkeys, and elephants we saw in the noisy streets — in coming days.

In the meantime, I want to tell you about my favorite things to do on these trips. It’s something you can do on any trip you take, anywhere in the world… and it also happens to be a great gift idea!

About a year ago, I bought a toy that has brought so much joy to me and others — a small, lightweight instant film camera. There’s a ton of instant cameras out there these days, but I got the Fujifilm Instax 90.

With my instant camera, I make connections with people everywhere. Finally I can give them something in exchange for taking their photo. And many of the people in countries we visit rarely have access to cameras, much less printed photos.

Here are some of those images…

From Thailand:

instant cameras

From Peru:

instax-0773

From India:

instax-3997

I love having this camera with me. And using it allows me to make connections with people. Sometimes even take photos I otherwise wouldn’t get to take.

For example, these three ladies in Pushkar didn’t mind that I took their photo after I gave them a shot to keep:

instax-4028

I highly recommend taking a camera like this on your travels. Yes, film can be pricy — at around $1 per photo — but one dollar to you can mean giving someone a treasure they otherwise would never have.

You’ll find a bunch of instant film cameras to choose from, so here are some suggestions:

My favorite: Fujifilm Instax 90 – $139.99 on Amazon. 

I like it because it’s light and it has a few extras on the back, like allowing me to turn off the flash or make the image brighter or darker.

Lori’s favorite: Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 – $63 on Amazon. Comes in different colors and takes the same film as the Instax 90, above. 

Lori likes this one because it feels good and durable in her hand. It’s easy to use. It takes great photos. And it’s also the cheapest. Her kids can use it, too.

Another option: Polaroid Snap – $99.99 on Amazon. Prints photos rather than developing film. 

This new Polaroid is great, too. Unlike the other cameras, it’s not really an “instant” camera. It’s a digital camera with a small printer inside. When you click the shutter, the camera creates a digital image and just like every other digital camera, you can see the image on the back of the LCD screen. If you like it, you can print it. If you don’t, you don’t have to. So it’s nice not to have to waste a bad shot. But the image quality isn’t as good as the other film options here.

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