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It's the beginning of June! Which of course means it's time for our monthly newsletter. We're writing this one to you from our home in Scotland, after a busy few weeks of exploration.

We're taking a quick breather here before heading on our next adventures - more on that further on in the e-mail.

As well as updates on what we've been up to and where we're going next, we've got the usual collection of travel tips, a selection of our latest articles, and some photography advice for you.

We're also announcing our latest monthly giveaway prizes for newsletter subscribers, as well as the winners of last month's giveaway! See the section of the newsletter below for prizes and how to enter.

On with the news!

Enable images to see this photo of us!
Where we've been in May

May was a busy month! We spent most of it on the road in Scotland, travelling around the north coast.

We drove the entirety of the North Coast 500 (we think that's the fifth time now!), and also visited two new Scottish islands for us - Lewis & Harris, and Orkney.

Many of you wrote to us with your suggestions for what to see and do on the islands, so thanks very much for those tips. We had a wonderful time on the islands, exploring standing stones, Viking and Neolithic history, as well as beautiful white sandy beaches.

As the picture of us in front of Dunrobin Castle on the north east coast of Scotland shows, we also had some lovely days of sunshine! Although this being Scotland, of course we had plenty of cold wet days as well. That's just the joy of travel in Scotland!

Things we have planned for June

June starts a busy period of travel for us, with trips across the USA and France coming up.

First though, we're taking a weekend trip with Rabbie's, our favourite small group tour operator in Scotland. We're doing a 3 day tour of Mull and Iona with them, which is another new destination in Scotland for us.

Following that, in mid-June we're heading to the United States for a few weeks. During the first part of that trips, we're spending some time in New York, and then heading to Boston where Laurence is speaking at a travel conference called Travelcon. That takes us to the end of the month - more on our upcoming adventures in the next newsletter!

As always, if you want behind the scenes updates and videos from our travels, check out our Instagram accounts (@lozula and @independent_travel_cats) where we often post short videos from our travels and/or our Twitter accounts (@lozula and @travelcatsblog) where we post regular photos!

We'd also love to see you in our Travel Lovers Facebook group, where readers are encouraged to share trip reports, ask travel and photography questions, and have a bit of fun in a friendly environment. We hope to see you there :)

Interesting Recent Posts on the Blogs
A Comprehensive Guide to Visiting the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
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Ultimate Travel Gift Guide 2019: 75+ Gifts for Travelers
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20+ Things to do in Houston Texas
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Visiting the Colosseum in Rome: A Detailed Guide to Help you Plan Your Visit
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Recent Travel Photography Articles
How To Use A DSLR Camera: A Beginner’s Photography Guide
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Monthly Giveaway

As a way to thank you for being a subscriber and being on this adventure with us, we have a monthly giveaway that is exclusive to our newsletter subscribers.

Every month we find travel and photography related prizes, and give you the opportunity to win them. All you have to do is be a subscriber (hint, you already are!), and then head over to our giveaway page to enter.

This month we have two awesome prizes up for grabs! 

We're giving away a Webspot WiFi hotspot which also includes 20 days of data access in many countries around the world. You get to keep the device, and can add more credit if you need them after you've used all 20.  $299 value. This giveaway is open worldwide.

We're also giving away a $150 credit for use on the SCOTTeVEST online store. SCOTTeVEST make clothing designed with the traveler in mind, and they come with lots of pockets and storage solutions. This giveaway is USA only.

We had four winners in May! Gerri T. of Wales, UK won a copy of our online travel photography course and Skylum photo editing software. Abbas K. of Turkey and Patsy B. of Canada also each won a copy of the Skylum Luminar editing software. We also had William T. of Georgia, USA who won a Pad & Quill TechFolio Pro Cord Organizer.

Congratulations to all of you - we hope you enjoy your prizes!

You can find out more about this month's prizes and enter below!

Enter here
Travel Destination of the Month: Canada

Canada is a big country so it of course depends what you want to do and see here, but we think June is a lovely month to visit Canada - especially the northern provinces.

Summer has officially begun and the weather is finally getting warm. The main tourist season, which is primarily in July and August, hasn't quite yet begun, but the seasonal attractions should all be open.

So whether you are into the outdoors, national parks, wildlife, or just exploring the city attractions, we think June makes for an excellent month to explore Canada.

This website lists all the official tourism websites for the provinces and major cities in Canada:

Travel Photography Tip of the Month

As you know, Laurence is a passionate photographer, and every month he'll be providing an easy tip for you to follow so you can improve your travel photography. This month's tip is about flash photography.

Most cameras aimed at consumers come with some sort of flash built-in - be they smartphones or DSLRs. Unfortunately, these flashes tend not to produce great results, and in many cases you might find your photos actually look worse with the flash than without it.

Why is this? Well, the small flash unit that is built into cameras is not very powerful, and can only produce a small amount of light. This is why professional camera bodies rarely have a built-in flash - the assumption is that you would be using an external flash unit at this level.

So is there any point to the built in flash, and are there any reasons to use it?

The answer is, thankfully, yes.

A great use for your camera flash is to provide fill lighting. This is useful when you are taking a photo of a backlit subject - like a person or animal that is relatively close to the camera, who has a bright light source like the sun behind them.

Often, photos like these can come out with the subject very dark due to the light behind them resulting in shadows on their face. Setting the flash to fill mode will cause it to fire, even in daylight, and this will result in a more evenly lit image. You should be able to access this setting from your cameras menu.

Without getting too technical, there are not too many more great reasons for using your camera's popup flash. It will normally not produce enough light to illuminate enough of the scene to be useful. 

If you absolutely want to capture an image and it's too dark, then you can use the popup flash as an alternative to not getting the shot at all, but you'd normally be better off trying to adjust the camera's settings like ISO rather than using the flash.

My last tip for the popup flash is making sure you know how to turn it fully off. Lots of attractions don't let you use a flash, so knowing how to disable it is key. There may be a button on your camera or an option in the camera menus to turn it off.

In addition, when you're outside shooting at night, the popup flash isn't going to do anything other than illuminate the area right in front of you, so you'll usually want it off then as well!

Travel Tip of the Month

This month's tip is all about baggage allowances for flights.

With many airlines imposing stricter weight requirements on luggage, it is important to check baggage restrictions for the airlines (or airlines) you are flying with before you leave for the airport. 

Even if you have flown with the same airline before, it is always a good idea to double check as airlines regularly update their policies. If you show up with too many bags, bags that are too large, or too heavy, you might be forced to pay high additional baggage fees at check-in or even be forced to leave behind one of your bags.

Also, if you have purchased things on your trip, make sure that these new items won't put your over your baggage allowance. It is always a good idea to leave a little extra room (or a lot of room if you are an avid shopper!) in your bag for souvenirs and extras. If you bought more than you can carry, arrange to have the items shipped home.

If you're someone who tends to overpack, you might consider getting a digital luggage scale which will allow you to easily tell how much your suitcases weigh before getting to the airport. They are inexpensive and you can get one for about USD $10.

The great thing about a luggage scale is it keeps you from needing to unpack and repack your luggage once you are at the airport which is often stressful and a bit embarrassing, not to mention time consuming. 

Travel News and Articles from Around the Web
  • The rules for US citizens planning travel to Cuba have changed again, this time for the worse. Read more about how this might affect you here
  • The recent HBO series about Chernobyl as sparked an increase in visitor numbers to this radioactive disaster site. Read more about visiting here
  • Looking for a lovely city view? This article lists some of the best city views around the world
  • It's coming up for summer in the northern hemisphere, which is traditionally one of the most expensive times to travel. Read more about which days to avoid and how to save money here
  • June 6th is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, with commemorations happening in a number of locations. Here are seven place you can learn about D-Day in France. Other countries are also hosting D-Day related events, for example, here are 11 museums with D-Day events in the USA.

Reader Discounts
  • If you're planning a trip and are new to AirBnB, you can save up to $30 if you sign up with this link
  • If you're in the market for a new tripod, we have an exclusive code for use in the Vanguard US and Vanguard UK stores, which will get you 20% off your order. Just use the code "FindingTheUniverse" (US store) or "FindingTheUniverseUK" (UK store) at checkout to apply the discount
  • If you're planning a walking tour with Context, this link will get you 10% off

And that's it for our monthly e-mail! We hope you found it useful. As always, if you have any questions or comments send us an e-mail. We'd love to hear from you!

Until next month!

Laurence and Jessica

PS - If you're traveling soon, consider checking out our resources page. We list all our favorite companies for booking travel here. Using the links doesn't cost you any extra, and it helps keep our sites free!

Finding the Universe & Independent Travel Cats

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