My Experience in Morocco + Female Travel Tips

From miles of glorious golden Sahara sand, vibrant medinas, thrilling markets, quaint ocean towns,  flavorful tagines, and gorgeous mountain landscapes – Morocco has something for everyone. However, it is important to note that what lies a short, one-hour ferry ride across the Strait of Gilbatrar is a completely different world from Spain and Europe.

Note: I’m writing about this because I want to share my experiences, but I in no way want to discourage someone from traveling to Morocco. While living in Morocco for 12 weeks, we had many good experiences, which I have written about previously, but also some bad.  I try to keep it real on my blog – to say everything about Morocco was wonderful would be very misleading.

My family of six and I have been full-time travelling the world for over a year. We have been trying to adapt to the cultural differences we encounter in places we travel to. For example, eating soup with chopsticks in Asian countries, learning how to behave in a Hindu or Buddhist ceremony, covering in conservative countries like Malaysia and Morocco. Because we are only visitors in these places, we try not to draw attention to ourselves as outsiders and at the same time want to show respect to customs that are not our own. Morocco is an amazing place I would love to explore again in the future, but below the rich culture and scenery is a level of oppression and sexism I’ve never experienced before. We were living like locals, had purpose teaching and working, and were doing our best to assimilate, yet still faced the following challenges.

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Street scene in El Jadida

We started our time in Morocco in Tangier, at an Airbnb near the ferry port, and after a few days, took the train to a town called Kenitra, outside of capital city, Rabat. Staying in Kenitra was not a good experience for us. We would have been much better off staying in Rabat, a larger city more used to tourism. Walking from the train station was an unsettling experience because of  the hostile staring. Being global travelers (and a family with 4 girls), we are seasoned to staring, but this felt different. People were staring in a way that showed actual distaste and aggression. A few days later, we were actually afraid to leave our Airbnb after getting rocks and glass thrown at us just outside a Mosque. Men and boys would walk up to us just to say “f*ck you.”

At this point we did not feel welcome in Morocco, and we were scoping out our options to leave, but then we received an email from the British Language Academy (an English school we had reached out to on Workaway,  a site that connects volunteers with hosts to work in exchange for housing, which is how we afford our travels), saying that we were welcome to come live at the academy and help with the classes. This sounded like a good escape from our current situation in Kenitra, and the next day we were on a train to Berrechid, a small city near Casablanca. Upon arriving, we were thrilled that people were actually saying things like “welcome,” instead of the profanities we had gotten acquainted with in our first weeks in Morocco. We thought that what happened in Kenitra was an isolated experience.

While things were looking up since arriving and working at the school, being a woman and a foreigner here is not easy. Women in Morocco, at least in smaller towns, have a curfew of seven p.m. Walking after dark labels you a prostitute, or easy – just like that. I was told this by a young female teacher at the school. And even before that hour, walking alone is not safe. In the daytime, I was harassed simply walking 500 meters to the grocery store – surrounded and grabbed by a group of men five to ten years older than me. I wasn’t hurt, but I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have done if they hadn’t let go because of my pushing and yelling. 

Unfortunately, my experience wasn’t an isolated event. My sister was later harassed playing soccer in a group in broad daylight, and another friend was grabbed while on a run together with me. 

Why did these things happen? I can only guess. In my experience sharing these stories, the victim is the first to be blamed. I heard things like: ‘We were drawing too much attention to ourselves’, ‘we were not clothed enough’ , ‘we shouldn’t be out alone’. Victim blaming after the fact frustrated me more than the actual event. It showed me that the mentality is men are able to just get away with doing this. And yes, we were dressed conservatively, and obviously no one wanted to be harassed. There is nothing that says walking around isn’t allowed. It isn’t even about these things. We are women, foreigner women, and that makes us a target.

While living at the school in Berrechid, we went on trips to visit bigger cities like Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Fez. Here, the population of tourists is greater. The cities are bigger, more progressive, and women are able to be out after dark. There is still, of course, cat-calling, over-excited touts, and general staring, as well as a  general overlying feeling of uneasiness as men dominate, line the streets, and fill the cafes, but I never experienced physical harassment in these places. 

So my takeaway is that the problem could have been the small town mentality in a place unused to tourism. Does that make it ok? No, but at least it means that our experience does not have to be every woman’s experience in Morocco.

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The medina of Fez from above

I have talked to women and men alike who see these problems, and are no less appalled by them than I am, but also know that there are many women who think that this is how life is everywhere in the world. It is the only reality that they know. While it is easy to sugarcoat things, or overlook unpleasant realities in an effort to paint the perfect picture of a place (travel bloggers, myself included, get caught up in this more often than not), that just won’t do anything. I have pretty pictures from Morocco, and for an outsider looking at those, it would be impossible to see the realities.

The only way to begin to solve these problems is to bring awareness. Morocco has been making strides towards women’s rights and equality in the past few decades. Today, they have the largest percent of women in the parliament of any Arab country. This is an amazing achievements, and the mentality that needs to be shared with small town Morocco. The more we talk about harassment and sexism, the sooner it will be seen as a problem, instead of an unpleasant normality.

Friends, Morocco, mountain travel

I like to think that these experiences are a learning process, and now I will have a much tougher skin for tackling the next drama. In some ways, I can’t stand Morocco, but then I think of the Atlas Mountains, places like the Sahara, the sea breeze in Essaouria, and the kind and welcoming people we have befriended here who, despite it all, make Morocco one of my favorite countries.

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If you are a female traveler and considering visiting Morocco, here are my best tips:

Stay in busy areas or touristy cities. Morocco just isn’t a place you can just hop off a train spontaneously and explore everywhere.

Go in groups. It’s not always possible, but if you can find someone to travel with your experience will be much easier.  

Travel Morocco experiences and tips

Friends on the bus on our way to the Sahara

Learn a little bit of the language. Knowing a few words of Darija Arabic or French can be invaluable. (In Arabic, “safi” can be used to mean “enough!”,  “hashouma” means “shame on you,” and “La, Choukran” means “no, thank you.”)

Act like a local. You may not look like one, but dress modestly, avoid eye contact with local men, don’t respond to the inevitable catcalls, and walk with purpose, not confusion. Looking lost 10/10 times will attract someone to come over and ask if you need help.

Find a local Guide. The locals know the good spots, they can speak Arabic, and they can get rid of any aggressive touts.

Morocco travel and experiences, travel tips

Having my scarf tied Berber style before the desert by Mr. Hareem

Stay at a Berber homestay, or do a workaway. With a workaway, having purpose made our stay worthwhile and gave us a safe place to recuperate and talk with other people after hard days. Berber homestays are a similar environment, and provide cultural immersion into the local way of life.

The Sahara Desert

People in the Dunes of the Sahara Desert in Morocco

Our experience in Morocco for the last three months would never have been the same without Mr. Harim and the British Language Academy. For the majority of our stay in this country we have been living in the basement dorm of the English school and volunteering as workawayers and guest speakers. Everyday in the evenings we talk with the students in groups about everything from food, to Moroccan culture, to Islam, to women’s rights. Hearing a young Moroccan perspective on these topics has been interesting, educational, and eye-opening.

Mr. Harim is the founder of the British Language Academy schools in Casablanca, Berrechid, Fez, and soon El Jadida, Morocco. He is one of the most generous and kind people I’ve met, and his dream for the schools is inspiring. If you are ever in Morocco, volunteering at this school is a life changing experience I would highly recommend.

With his help we have visited other places in Morocco such as El Jadida, Casablanca, The Atlas Mountains, Fez, Essaouira, and most recently: the Sahara Desert.

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All our Workaway friends in the desert


The Sahara Desert

We arrived at desert camp after a two-hour bumpy camel ride through the golden dunes of the Sahara.

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Friendly camels

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Our tiny oasis, tents at the base of a giant sand dune

Sunset in the Sahara

We stopped half-way on our camel ride to watch the sun set.

As in Moroccan culture, we were greeted upon arrival with sweet mint tea and nuts. Desert life is very laid back. We explored the nearby dunes, gazed at the stars, talked, sang, and laughed for hours. For dinner we ate a savory vegetable tajine together. Later, we danced to the beat of the Berber drums and the light of a crackling fire, as a million stars shined brightly above our heads.

Berber musicians in the Sahara desert

Berber musicians

Night in the desert is very cold, so around eleven we feel asleep under four blankets apeice in the tent. The next moring, we woke early and climbed to the top of a multi-hundred foot dune to watch the sunrise. The treck was exhuasting to say the least, as climbing up a mountain of sand is not easy, but the veiw of hundreds of miles of dunes surrounding us illuminated by the early morning sun made the climb worth it. Finally, we sprinted and jumped down the cool, orange sand back to camp, and rode our camels back to base camp on the edge of the desert.

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Lauren and her Berber style turban

People in the Dunes of the Sahara Desert in Morocco

Friends in the Dunes

The desert trip was the culminating event of our stay in Morocco, and one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in my life. Now we have about a week left on our visa, and are preparing to head back to Spain on the 24th. I’m so thankful for our time here and all the experiences and people who have made it so memorable.

Thanks for reading and happy travels 🙂 xx -Iz

1/20/17 – Morocco: The Atlas Mountains

Morocco, mountain travel

I felt the chilly mountain air brush against my face as I stepped off the bus. It was two a.m. and we had just arrived at a Berber homestay in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. I looked over my shoulder only to find myself staring into a snowy mountain range illuminated with the glowing light of sky filled with stars. I’ve never felt so awake at two a.m. in my entire life.

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Staying warm with friends

I heard the others laughing and breaking into excited conversation as they too saw the gorgeous scene.

We walked into the house and I chatted with my friends Salma and Shaema for some time. Then,  the Berber family that hosted us for the night carried into the room a delicious dinner of cous cous. We ate around a gigantic shared clay dish, and then ran to the roof to see the stars and mountains again.

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Dinner!

The view was impossible to be captured on camera. Sparking snowy peaks, the glow of the moon, and a million stars over our heads. Words can’t describe it. Soon after, I was asleep sandwiched between all three of my sisters on a bed inside the house at around four am.

The next morning we woke up early, quickly bundled up in all the layers we had and ate a Moroccan breakfast of msamen, which is a type of fried pancake, and bread with cheese, honey, olive oil, and sweet tea.

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my Moroccan breakfast

After breakfast we traveled for another few hours through the Atlas mountains to a ski resort called Oukaimeden. Bus travel with Moroccans is no ordinary experience. Five hours through the mountains we clenched our teeth and gripped our seats as the bus raced around sharp turns. Meanwhile Arabic pop music played in the background at full volume. Surprisingly none of the Moroccans actually seemed to notice the crazy driving. There was dancing in the aisles, singing, and a lot of laughter of course.

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the ski hill

The skiing ended up not being what we anticipated, but more of a giant ice-covered sledding hill. My family separated from the group to go on a hike. The view from the top of the mountain was unreal. Miles of steep, blue mountain slopes spread out before our eyes, and jagged, snow-cloaked peak lined the horizon. I stood motionless, entranced by the dramatic beauty of a scene unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

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It was soon time to go, we hiked back down the mountain to find our friends and shortly after drove to Marrakesh to experience the Jamaa El Fena square and medina at night. The square was a cultural experience, but also loud and chaotic so we explored the back alleys of the medina and found a quite Hammam spa, with a restaurant upstairs. We spent three hours sipping wine, which is pretty much a forbidden luxury in Muslim Morocco, and eating a nice tajine dinner.

On the way home I gazed at the twinkling stars that blanketed the sky outside my window, a stunning finale to an amazing trip.

One Year of Travel

We’ve been traveling for a year. Wow. I can still remember arriving in Mexico last January and thinking how 365 days in the future felt so incredibly far away. And here we are. In the grand scheme of things a year isn’t a very long time, but it is a milestone to celebrate.

This year has offered a wide range of emotions for me, but overall it has been the best and most exciting year of my life.  I’ve been to more places than I could have ever imagined, and learned more than I ever learned from 10 years in school: Mayan culture in the Yucatan, eating brain in Thailand, the best Indian food of my life (so far ) in Malaysia, amazing friends in Morocco. I couldn’t be more lucky to call this crazy life my own… and this crazy amazing world my home.

That said, here is a list of the most important things I’ve learned this year.

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In Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Most Important Things This Year Taught Me

1) To be bolder. A year ago, I was a very different person than I am today. For starters, I was very shy and introverted. It was hard the first few months of travel, and I missed a lot of opportunities to meet people because I was too nervous to talk with them. Then I just started forcing myself into social interaction, and now I talk to everyone and anyone…. usually in broken English and assorted basic phrases of other languages, and usually to strangers much older than me. A year ago, this would have sounded like a crazy impossible feat to a girl who could hardly recite a line of poetry in class. Confidence is an important skill.

Worldschooling is all about seeing the world - In Croatia (Six Months of Full Time Travel!! – And Lessons Learned on The Road)

Swimming in the Adriatic Sea, Croatia

2)To be comfortable being uncomfortable. This year I have been out of my comfort zone probably 99% of the time. Travel forces me into odd and difficult situations, language barriers, strange food, and new places, so often that things that should bother me just don’t. This includes, but is not limited to, open sewers, hanging cow carcasses, goat heads, eating brain, bullet holes in buildings, sharing a bathroom with 13 other people, and more.

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Train travel in Bangkok

3)To grow up faster. I’ve always been a fiercely independent person, but I think travel has made me more so. So many unexpected things can happen when you are traveling, and many of these moments come with a lot of stress. There isn’t room or time to act like a child or complain in this lifestyle. I’ve also had very limited interaction with teenagers or a peer circle that is my age. Most of the people I hang out with are adults. I get asked a lot of questions about what that is like, or if it’s hard for me. Honestly, hanging out with adults is the best, especially adults who take me seriously. Having people 3,5,10, or 20+ years older than me as friends has really helped me grow.

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Breakfast in Mexico

4)To make new friends, and keep the old. Some say that it’s impossible to form deep emotional connections with people when you are constantly moving, but I don’t find this to be the case. Everything in a friendship happens, only more quickly. Instead of talking a little everyday for a year, you talk with a new friend for hours and hours over a few days. We realize the limited time we have together, and try to fit as much learning about each other as possible in the shortened time.  I’ve also kept in touch with new friends and formed strong friendships with people I’ve never even met.  On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t know where I’d be without my old friends. Our relationships surprisingly haven’t changed, even though we don’t see each other off Skype. Online friendships are no less important and special. Email is a gift, and with it you can have many deep conversations that don’t happen over coffee or at school. 

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

5)To live minimally. My backpack weighs around 12ish kg right now. Everything I own fits into a 45 liter REI backpack. It’s crazy to think about, but I would never trade this simplicity for a life filled with clutter. When I buy things now they become treasured luxuries that I care for and appreciate. Living minimally taught me to be creative and resourceful as I often have to repurpose old possessions so they can be used in new ways.  

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At the airport

6)To learn all the time, and learn anything. The best lessons come from unlikely places and unlikely people.

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Teaching English in Thailand

7)To take the path less traveled. Yes, we go to tourist spots occasionally because how could you not see the Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triumph when in Paris? How could we skip Chichen Itza, one of the seven wonders of the world, when in the Yucatan? Other than that, we spend a lot of time away from the tourist track. This is where the most fun happens. My favorite was when we got invited into the home of a lovely Thai family. We were in a province called Uttaradit, in between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, teaching English at a primary school. The province does not receive any tourism, so we were quite the oddity. One second we were walking down the street, and the next we were drinking ice-cold water and eating an infinite number of mangos. This would have never happened in Bangkok.

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Uxmal Ruins in Mexico

8)To eat literally everything. This is one of my favorite skills that I’ve obtained through traveling. Most of the time, I don’t have the luxury to choose what I want to eat, and western food is expensive in non-western countries. I’ve learned to eat all food and not be limited by preferences, including unusual food like boiled snails, brain, durian, chicken feet soup….

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Delicious soup in Thailand

9)To appreciate what I have, and not dwell on what I don’t. I spent a lot of time at the beginning of this year dwelling on the thought of what my life would be like if I hadn’t left my comfort zone in the US. Negativity can be overpowering, and it sent me into a pit of self-pity that I struggled to climb out of. What I had forgotten is that I have the best life I could imagine, experiences that many only dream of, and an amazing family with me every step of the way. I focus on these things, and all the other good and beautiful things in my life now. I’ve never felt happier.


That’s all for 2016. Here’s to another year of travel, love, life, family,  and new adventures. Bring it on 2017. Thanks for reading! xx -Iz

What We Did in France

Colorful streets in france, green backpacks, family walking, blue sky

With backpacks in Chartres, France

After Denmark we flew through France by train. Our travel though France was a bit unusual to how we usually travel… We didn’t plan anything ahead, and stayed in cities for only one night, and we slept in hotels. Despite the short visit, it was great getting a quick taste of France and we will definitely have to come back to see the rest of the country.

We first entered France through Lillie Flanders after crossing Belgium. The most interesting part of travelling this way, by trains, was seeing the landscape and architecture change as we progressed west through Europe. The change was very visible upon entering France. The pointed roofs and brick houses of Belgium and Denmark were replaced by tall buildings with narrow windows and beautiful carved decorations that lined every street. We wandered around for a while, searching for a cheap hotel and checking out some Gothic cathedrals along the way.  As night aproached and hunger grew we were aquainted with French food for the first time (and French prices) and decided to have a hotel room picnic that night.

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Old and new in Lillie

The next day we took a one way train to Paris and spent the day walking around to see as much as possible. Despite the cloudy day, the city was beautiful. There was something interesting on every corner.

A news stand and street photo in Paris

People doing things in Paris

As a history nerd, seeing the Arc de Triomphe was my favorite. The Arc commemorates all who fought or died for France during the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and both World Wars.

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The Arc

We also saw the well-known Café des Deux Moulins. The cafe is famous for being where Amelie, from the classic French movie under the same name, worked in the film.

people in the Café des Deux Moulins in Paris, france

Café des Deux Moulins

That evening we traveled to Chartres, France. This city was my favorite of all that we visited. We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, and had a delicious bagel sandwich for breakfast in the square. The city was empty of tourists which made for a very peaceful day people watching and exploring.

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Look at the deliciousness!

After breakfast we looked around the cute streets of the old city, and saw the stunning Gothic architecture of the Notre Dam.

Gothic structure of the Notre Dam in Fance

Notre Dam in Chartres, France

That’s all for France. Next stop is Spain!

I Was Published!

Back in August I discovered an online publication called The Travellist Magazine. The magazine, on its fourth issue,  features and connects photographers, artists, and writers who all share the a common love of travel.

I saw that they were seeking submissions, and inquired for fun, not sure what to expect. It turned out I got a spot writing for the “A New Sensation” section,  a thousand word article on my family and how we are travelling. My first freelance gig! The experience was wonderful, and very exciting as I was working with so many talented adults.

It was a learning curve, and I’m excited to gain more experience in this field in the future. Here is the final product. Thanks for reading!

 

What we Did in Denmark

Denmark was the first stop along our travels through Europe this year. We stayed for a week in Tolne, which is a tiny train station town in the northernmost part of Denmark.

We arrived at Tolne Gjaestgivergaard, a pottery studio which attracts most of the visitors to the town.

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Life in a pottery studio/ house

We discovered this place on Workaway, and despite not being all that artistically inclined we found plenty do at their annual international ceramic arts conference.

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In the kitchen

For a week we helped with cooking and cleaning in exchange for lodging in the middle of a beautiful forest, and delicious Danish food everyday. Even better, we were able to make friends with a ton of amazing potters and ceramic artists! The studio is well-known for its resident artist programs, where artists from all over the world come to live and learn full-time at the studio. And they are always hosting many volunteers from workaway,  so there was always someone to talk to.

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New friend Lea in Skagen

On one day all the volunteers and some artists went to visit Skagen, a larger city on the northern tip of Jutland, Denmark. Skagen is one of the most visited places in Denmark . The city has some historical background as being a very popular gathering place for artists in the summers of the 1800’s and 1900’s. Many Scandinavian artists came to paint the beautiful scenery and lighting. Much of the art has been preserved and can be seen at the Skagen museum.

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The famous art of Skagen

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Yellow streets of Skagen, Denmark

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Kathryn eating a Danish danish

After the museum we visited famous Grenen Beach, the place where the North and Baltic seas meet. Supposedly, during the summer on a clear day you can’t tell where water ends and sky begins; the whole place looks like a huge blue dome. The day we went was rainy and grey, but dramatic and beautiful nonetheless.

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Grenen beach, the northern most part of Denmark. In the distance you can see the North and Baltic seas meeting in forever clashing waves

Our time in Tolne was probably the most authentic Denmark experience possible. Everyone was extremely nice and welcoming, and we felt like a part of the family almost instantly. I’m sure we will be back next time we are in Denmark, but until then I won’t forget the amazing people and memories made here.

Thanks for reading and happy travels! XX -Izzy

(P.S. if you want to learn more about Tolne Gjaestgivergaard and possible stay in their inn yourself you can click here. And if you want to learn about and donate to their resident artists project you can click here)

 

 

 

Norway: Langedrag Nature Park

Langedrag Nature Park is a magical place where humans can get up close and personal with animals and nature in the middle of beautiful Norwegian scenery. The park is located in Nesbyen, Norway (1,000 meters above sea level) which is two hours by car, or three by train from Oslo. People from all over Norway and Europe come to the park all year. Every week they are home to a new group of visiting school kids. Here you can meet wild wolves and listen to their howls, pet an arctic fox, feed a moose and reindeer, and even more fun activities.

Mountain lake scenery at Langundrag Nature Park

The view from the park

When to go:

The park is open the entire year, with every season offering new and exciting. adventures. Summer is the high season. During these two months the park has over 1,000 visitors every day. It is very busy, but the most activities are available. After summer the rest of the year is quiet. There is also a special off-season discount on tickets. We went on a weekday in September and were 6 of 10 visitors that day. It was wonderful. The park was quiet, and the leaves were beginning to turn a brilliant shade of yellow. We were able to participate in farm life, horseback ride in the mountains, and meet all the animals, who were clearly enjoying the chill air and sunshine. In the winter the park becomes a winter wonderland. Cross country skiing,followed by warming up with a delicious bowl of homemade stew , is popular.

Langundrag Nature Park

The park entrance

It’s best to arrive early so you don’t miss any thing.

Hours:
Naturepark: 10am-6pm all year
Cafe: 11am-5pm all year

Worried about the commute from Oslo? Overnight stay in a their lodge or cabins is available.

Prices: Click here to view the costs for entrance, special activities, and overnight stay  at the park (in Norwegian Kroner)

Daily programs (these change occasionally depending on the day and season):

  • 12-2pm : pony riding
  • 11-12:30 : Horseback riding tour
  • 12:00 : Moose feeding
  • 1:00pm-2:00pm : Voltige. Learn to balance on horseback
  • 2:00pm : Wolves and lynx feeding. Interact with arctic fox and reindeer.
  • 3:00pm-5:00pm : Pony riding
  • 3:30pm : Foxcamp, a 30 minute up close meeting with the arctic foxes inside the enclosure.
  • 3:30pm: Tour inside the wolf enclosure
  • 4:30pm: Tour inside the lynx enclosure
  • 3:30pm-5:00pm : Horsebackriding tour
  • 3:30pm-5:00pm : Zipline through the forest
  • 5:00pm : Goat milking

The activities listed in italics where all available on the day we were there, during the off-season. Some of them, including horseback riding and tours inside the enclose, have an added cost. Click here to view more activities that may not be listed above.

 

The park was founded as a farm in 1978, with the intention of creating a place where people can have a unique closeness with animals. They have 300 animals from 20 different species.

Langedrag is not a zoo. Many of the animals like the goats, horses, and occasional reindeer roam free out of enclosures. The lynx and wolves have enclosures so massive, they are still considered wild.

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Our day at the park was wonderful. When you enter, the first thing you see are twenty  goats and fifty rabbits  wandering around.

Then, we met the horses we were going to ride. The horses at the farm are a small Norwegian breed. Our instructor gave a five-minute lesson which involved patting our horse on the rump to make it trust us… learning a few commands, and then hopping on. The actual riding was only for an hour. We started out on trails and then on the “off-road” path, which involved crossing streams and other small obstacles. The landscape surrounding us was unbelievably beautiful. The trees were beginning to turn yellow, and a golden morning light was cast though the open space.

feeding moss to a reindeer at Langedrag nature park in Norway

Feeding the reindeer

Later in the day we went on a few tours to visit the wolves and lynx, and feed the moose, arctic fox, and reindeer. The man guiding the tours talked to us in English the entire time about all the animals and the history of the park.

Finally, it was time for the goats to be milked. The park is also a sustainable dairy farm. In the cafe you can try their homemade goat cheese. My sister’s and I unsuccessfully tried to milk a goat (it’s much harder than it looks). So instead, a nice lady, who works a the park, offered to squeeze goat milk into my mouth 🙂

All in all I would definitely recommend this park to families or anyone really. It was a great experience that we will not forget for a long time.

Happy travels xx -Iz

 

Updated Guide to Saving Money in Norway

How to Save Money in Norway

Norway and Scandinavia are some of the most expensive countries in the world to visit. The standard of living in Oslo is 120% higher than in Bangkok. This is evident in all aspects of life. The air is clean, the roads are driven primarily by electric cars, the food is healthy, and nature is everywhere, well-preserved and beautiful. Despite the costs, here we are (for the second time), a frugal family of six living in Norway. People must think we are crazy, but honestly this country is not as expensive as everyone thinks. Here’s what we do to live on a budget.

How to Save Money in Norway, Feeding a baby moose at a nature park in Norway

Feeding a baby moose in Nesbyen, Norway

Eat cheaply and shop smart

Eating out in Norway is beyond expensive. Trust me on this one. A pizza is $30, a beer $15, a normal meal is $25 dollars. Avoid that at all costs. Cooking at home is a must.

Grocery stores can also be expensive at first glance. If you look a little deeper you will find some very reasonably priced food. The brand First Price makes an inexpensive off brand version of almost everything, from toilet paper to roasted chickens. It’s usually 50-75% cheaper than the brand name. First price is also healthy and delicious. We matched up the ingredients on some of their products to the brand name equivalent, and they were near identical. The chain grocery store KIWI carries the most first price products, and has the lowest prices. Sometimes before the weekend, or at the end of the day grocery stores give out free bread that’s usually $4 a loaf.

Shopping smart in Norway, a cart full of first price brand food.

Look at all that first price!

Asian grocery stores or similar family run stores have the lowest prices for fruits, veggies, and bulk good such as flour, sugar, or rice.

We even foraged for food, which is obviously season dependant but can yield great results. Summer has blueberries, raspberries, and lingonberries. Apples are plentiful in the fall , and many people will let you pick some from their trees if you ask nicely . Different mushrooms can be foraged every season.

How to save money in Norway. Foraging in the green mossy forest

Foraging for Mushrooms

Norway is pretty dry in terms of alcohol. Many Norwegians actually go to Sweden to get alcohol. Most cities will have one store which sells alcohol stronger than 4%. These end sales after 3pm, and are pricy… Beer and drinks under 4% are for sale at most grocery stores.

Thrift shop

If you are in need of clothing definitely visit your local Fretex. Fretex is a chain of thrift stores that specialize in brand name (mostly H&M honestly) clothing at a VERY discounted price. It’s very similar to the Salvation Army or Goodwill in the States.

How to save money in Norway, Norwegian Fretex thrift store

Fretex second hand store

If you knows some locals, or are staying in a local area, ask about school sales. They are big sales at local schools of donated clothing, shoes, furniture, ect. These are even more inexpensive than thrift stores.

Live Smart

Do what you have to do, whether it be Couchserfing, Airbnb, Workaway, or WOOFing, to avoid staying at a hotel. You can even camp, this is free everywhere that isn’t private property. Libraries have free wifi, charging stations, and computers. Remember, the best thing about Norway is that all the best activities are completely, 100% free. Hint: Go for a hike 🙂

Foraging in Norway, girl stares at tall pine trees

 

To read my 1st article on Norway on a budget click here. Happy travels XX – Izzy

 

Foraging in Norway

Foraging in Norway, mushrooms in the forest

Foraging in Norway, Grass covered roofs of mountain cabins

On a warm Saturday morning, I woke up in one of the most magical places you can imagine. The sun rose slowly over the mountains, illuminating a thick blanket of fog and bringing light to our cozy Norwegian cabin.

The cabin had all the elements of a fairy tale cottage. From the wooden roof covered in grassy moss outside, and inside wool blankets and sheep skin draped on chairs for added warmth during cold norwegian winters.

After a lazy morning involving hot drinks, home cooked breakfast, and the warm glow of the fireplace we went outside to explore.

Foraging in Norway, A cozy wooden cabin in the fall

One of the most amazing parts of Norway is the appreciation Norwegians have for nature. Everyone and anyone is always out hiking, biking, walking, running, or even cross-country skiing on roller skates. Norwegians preserve their nature, and teach their children about its importance.

After only a few minutes of walking we came across a hilly slope, a creek, and a heap of blue berries to forage. What seems like such a simple thing was an amazing experience. Nowadays, even berry picking has been taken under the control of agriculture. You arrive at the farm and pick the berries. It’s ok, but there is something about the search that is so exciting. Being alone surrounded by trees and wildlife, stepping carefully over creeks, eating the berries right out of nature, and coming home with fingers and lips stained purple from the juices.

Foraging in Norway, wild blueberries in the mountains

After a while it is easy to get absorbed into the whole process. We spent hours collecting and eating as many berries as possible. At the end, I could barely feel my fingertips. It is the way our ancestors ate thousands of years ago; before agriculture, GMO’s, and supermarkets. 

Foraging in Norway, we made blueberry jam

We made jam

A week later we were lucky enough to be invited by our professional forager friends to go mushroom picking. They were very surprised when we told them that people don’t do this in the US. And it’s true, either everyone is too afraid to pick something and accidentally die, don’t know how, or don’t see the need to when there are mushrooms at the grocery store. Maybe a combination of the few. Occasionally my mom would pick mushrooms on hikes – but we were always afraid to actually eat them.

Foraging in Norway, mushrooms in the forest

The mushrooms we picked were no supermarket mushrooms. They tasted amazing, far better than any supermarket mushroom I’ve ever eaten. Again, we foraged for hours under the shade of giant green pines searching through leaves for a prize mushroom. Fall weather here has really been surprising us. It was very warm, with beams of sun peaking in between the branches of the trees. A perfect day for foraging. We learned a few tips and tricks as we went along, and had quite a few mushrooms between the eight of us in the end.

Foraging in Norway, girl stares at tall pine trees

I’ll finish this post with a quote about foraging from a book I recently finished and would definitely recommend to anyone who eats food or wants to learn about food, called The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

“I don’t want to have to forage every meal. Most people don’t want to learn to garden or hunt. But we can change the way we make and get our food so that it becomes food again—something that feeds our bodies and our souls. Imagine it: Every meal would connect us to the joy of living and the wonder of nature.”

 

as always happy travels xx -Izzy

 

PS: Here is a link to a cool video by Jessie Hoff of www.jessehoff.com also about foraging in Norway. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-Ujr6e97mY.