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

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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 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)