Carly fell in love with traveling the world after studying in Southeast Asia in 2008, and has been adventuring ever since – from Africa to Central and South America to India. She is a photographer, social media guru, and has a heart for serving others. Carly has a passion for ethical fashion, traveling with purpose, and creating content for organizations. She believes that images and stories have the power to change lives and inspire people to live their best one. You can find her roaming the streets of San Francisco, at the Tiltquarters, or gallivanting in wine country with her husband Allen. And you’ll more than likely find her with her camera in hand, creating, capturing, and championing those around her.
I’m Carly Mask, and this is How I Travel.
What do you love most about traveling?
I’m a storyteller and content creator at heart. Traveling gives me the opportunity to capture, create, and share the experiences, places, smells, colors, and human interactions of new cultures with others. My mission is to inspire and compel people to make a difference through content, and my hope is that others might be able to share in the experience no matter where they live.
How has travel changed you as a person?
As soon as I realized how beautiful the world was, I’ve never stopped exploring ways I could travel and how I can be a part of it. Travel has opened my eyes to view life through a new lens. It has given me more perspective, has made me more compassionate, slower to judge, more empathetic, quicker to listen, and more open-minded. Every new experience makes me a better, more humble person. We are so small, and this world is so, so big.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through all your travels?
It’s about the simple things. It’s the sweet, simple things of life that matter the most. Some of the happiest people I’ve met are the people who seemingly have “nothing” on the outside to the world, but whom have everything. Their most prized possessions are their family, faith, and community. They aren’t defined by their job or possessions, and everything else is secondary. And, it’s a big, beautiful, exciting, and fascinating world out there. Explore as much as you can now, rather than later (or never).
What’s the one travel-related purchase under $100 that has had the biggest positive impact on you in the last 12 months?
If you haven’t already invested in Human Gear GoToob Travel Bottles, do it. They are made from super soft yet rugged silicone (perfect for shampoo, conditioner, soap, hand sanitizer, and face wash), that make it easy to squeeze anything down to the last drop. They’re durable, have no-drip lids, work at high altitudes, and will ensure that you don’t ruin your clothes or travel gear along the way. I love bringing all of my favorite things (especially specific toiletries) on the road with me to make me feel more at home.
[bctt tweet=”‘Every new experience makes me better. We are so small and this world is so, so big.’ @carlymask”]
Carly’s Six Favourite Travel Items
It all started when I ventured to Colombia, South America, to embark on one of my first volunteer adventures abroad. I packed a few sleeves of Polaroid film, in case we had free time with the children in the village. I was quickly transformed by the joyful reactions of kids seeing a photo of themselves for the first time.
Out of that trip to Colombia, I brewed up a simple idea, Project Polaroid. $1=1 Polaroid photo, for 1 kid, that will last a lifetime. I shared the idea and photos of the children in Colombia with their Polaroids, and the reaction was incredible. Friends and family around the globe chipped in to bring the next chapter to life. The semester after that summer, I studied abroad in Ghana, West Africa, and carried $1000 worth of Polaroid film with me to share with the children and communities I met. Let’s just say, the reactions were magical and more and more inspiring.
A simple cotton scarf is one of my most useful travel accessories and has so many possibilities. It’s great for sun protection, carrying things, a makeshift towel if you’re ever in a bind, an eye mask whether you’re on an airplane, tro tro, or in a bright room. My favorite scarf is handwoven from handspun Indian cotton from Tribe Alive’s collection. Not only is it useful on my adventures and makes any outfit look great, but it makes me feel good knowing that it also provides meaningful employment to artisans (who I was able to meet and spend time with on my last trip) in Jaipur, India. It’s a piece that inspires me and continually reminds me to travel with purpose.
Lately, I’ve been nuts over nuts. They are packed with protein and so much other goodness and they are the perfect fuel, whether I’m on an airplane and need an energy boost, or whether I’m in a country where you have to be more cautious of what you eat. My favorite nuts are pistachios, raw cashews, and roasted almonds. Pro tip: Take them out of their original packaging and put them in Ziploc bags, so you can recycle the bags for other purposes on your trip.
When I was a junior in college, I was running down the steps of UNC’s J-School on a rainy night, umbrella in one arm and camera in the other. I lost my balance and slipped down the steps, as my camera flew through the air and came crashing down on the concrete. Immediately, I burst into tears at the thought of being without my favorite camera lens and worrying about how much I’d have to fork over for repairs, as a poor college student. The lens nearly split in two, appearing irreparable.
I thought I’d never see life again through that lens, but Canon miraculously repaired it in a matter of weeks. I never imagined that same lens and I would go on to travel together to photograph stars like Shaq, Nick Cannon, Elton John, and so many others. But, above all, what has been the most transforming is photographing real, authentic life and capturing the photos and stories of everyday, seemingly ordinary people in areas from Africa to Central America to Asia and beyond. These are the people who have taught me more than I could have ever imagined.
This essential is one of the best kept secrets and a travel must-have! When traveling and experiencing new cultures, this will minimize the time you spend getting ready, and maximize the precious time you can spend exploring and engaging with locals. In areas where water is scarce and you need to conserve and stretch out the time in between showers (or bucket baths), it’s especially useful.
PRO TIP: If your face is feeling extra oily from travel, you can put a dash of the powder dry shampoo on your face to reduce the stickiness and shine.
When I’m on the ground in a village or new city, I like to travel as lightly as possible. Having a small clutch takes off the weight and frees me up to explore, roam, and engage. When you’re in extremely crowded places like a local market, it can be valuable to hold all of your key belongings close to you. Pack a clutch that’s big enough to fit everything you need (passport, local currency, tissues, sunglasses, etc.), but small enough to go everywhere with you. I’m in love Tribe Alive’s mission that reminds me about the power and importance of traveling with purpose: “Utilizing a passion for fashion and responsible commerce as a platform to alleviate poverty among women.”
Carly in 60 Seconds
- Fav Place to Travel India
- Fav On-the-Go Read A Beautiful Mess
Their travel guides are stunning and include all of the fun, funky, foodie must-see spots in places like New Orleans, San Francisco, etc.
- Fav Travel App VSCO
It’s my favorite photo app for editing and sharing my photos on the go! If you haven’t downloaded this yet, I guarantee it will change your Insta game
- Ideal Trip Companion Maya Angelou
One of the most powerful things she said that will always stick with me is, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I never had the chance to meet Maya, but always wanted to, and know if we traveled together that we’d see the world through a new lens, with so much grace, compassion, and wisdom. I’m sure I, nor the people we’d meet, would ever forget how she’d make us feel.
- Next Travel Purchase Charcoal filter bottle
So I can make drinking water out of tap water anywhere I go. It would come in handy in hotels that charge for bottles of water in the mini-bar, in the airport, or anywhere filtered drinking water is a challenge to find. Plus, staying hydrated is key!
- Next Destination East Africa
I work for a startup in San Francisco called Tilt. When you hit your one year “Tilt-versary,” you receive a free roundtrip ticket to anywhere in the world you want to go. I’m planning a trip to East Africa to volunteer with local artisans, experience traditional coffee ceremonies, check out Mt. Kilimanjaro, and embark on a wildlife safari! I couldn’t be more excited.
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