Back in Spain

Spain was a dream, and a much needed rest after three months in Morocco.

simplelifespain4

After a short ferry ride over the straight of Gibraltar, we found ourselves in the windy city of Tarifa. Maybe it was the re-entry buzz, but I found Tarifa to be no less magical than Santiago’s description in The Alchemist.

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting, he thought, as he looked again at the position of the sun, and he hurried his pace. He had suddenly remembered that, in Tarifa, there was an old woman who interpreted dreams.” -The Alchemist

The air smelled of sea breeze and fresh laundry, wind-surfers dotted the crystal blue water with a rainbow of kites, and Spanish kindness and culture assured us that everything was right in the world again.

Simplelifespain5

Like Santiago, I walked the quaint streets and viewed Africa in the distance from atop the ancient city walls.

A week passed in what seemed like an instant, and we traveled up to Sierra Elviera, Grenada for anther workaway experience.

We volunteered at a community called the Fundación Escuela de Solidaridad for two weeks, living in a community house with volunteers from Argentina, France, Italy, Spain, and the States. The Fundación is home to struggling families and single parents, and helps them get back on their feet. The best part were the volunteers we befriended, and how the majority of people spoke only Spanish or just a little English so it great to get out of my comfort zone and have to speak Spanish everyday.

Finally, we settled at last for a month in Almuñécar, a beautiful city on the Costa Del Sol. We rested, walked, caught up on school and work, visited the beach, and just enjoyed all the simple joys of life in Spain. Next, Italy. 🙂

simplelifespain

Kat on the beach

simplelifespain2

hiking on the coast

simplelifespain3

Santa Semana processions under our flat

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.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

volunteer in morocco, workaway, sahara desert

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.

camels in the Sahara desert, workaway, Morocco

Friendly camels

Sahara desert, workaway, Morocco

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.

Sahara Desert, Morocco, Turban

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

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.

img_20160601_151427650

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.

img_20160531_233049906

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.

IMG_20160120_112704868_HDR (1)

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. 

img_20160818_205433085

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.  

IMG_20160526_064442585_HDR

At the airport

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

img_20160701_123336264

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.

DSC_1344

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….

img_20160606_145609204

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

The Best 9 Exotic Fruits to Try at a Thai Market

Have you ever seen an exotic looking fruit and wondered: “what the heck is this creature?” “Is this even good?” “Should I buy it?”.  I have and I even wrote an article to answer all these questions for you!

After living in thailand for almost three months I have tried an assortment of interesting foods. As a fruit lover, fruit has been my favorite. If you get the chance to try some exotic fruits you definetly should, you might just fall in love! (Click here to read the article on www.wanderingeducators.com)

The Best 9 Exotic Fruits to Try at a Thai Market

If you have ever been to Thailand, you have probably seen, heard, or eaten a variety of wacky things. Hopefully fruit was one of them. If you haven’t tried any Thai fruits, you are simply missing out. Thailand has some of the best tropical fruits in the world…seriously, this is not debatable. They are cheap, delicioious, and fun to eat.

 The only place you can find these fruits is at a local market (here’s my guide to navigating a Thai market).What fruit should you pick? Ah, I’ve got you covered. Before you head out into the marketplace, read on.

Rambutan 

This one is easy to spot for its hairy pink shell. When you peel off the shell, there is a white sweet fruit inside. The taste is similar to a grape.

Rambutan. From The Best 9 Exotic Fruits to Try at a Thai Market

Click here to read more about rad exotic fruits! https://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/traveling/best-9-exotic-fruits-to-try-thai-market.html

Thanks for reading and happy travels! xx  -Iz

 

 

A Guide to Navigating A Thai Open Air Market

We are back in Thailand for a final week before flying out via Bangkok to Oslo on the 18th this month. Its been a pretty awesome almost five months on this side of the world, and while I’m sad to say goodbye to this beautiful country I’m even more excited for new adventures in Norway and Europe.

One of the things I’m going to miss the most about Thailand are the colorful markets I’ve grown very accustomed too. Our first month of being in Thailand we rarely purchased much from them,  because we didn’t know how or what to buy. If you have found yourself in a similar situation have no fear – I wrote an article for www.wanderingeducators.com about this! Click here… or after the excerpt below to read the full article.

A Guide to Navigating A Thai Open Air Market

In Asia, grocery stores are hard to find and always overpriced. For this reason, locals rarely frequent them and instead run to open air markets.

Open air markets are vibrant, fabulous places full of aromatic food, colorful clothing, fruits and vegetables, and anything else you can think of. The goods are cheap, and these markets can be found in every city across Thailand. 

While they are exciting, they can also be a bit intimidating to the first timer. But don’t worry – I’ve got some tips that will make your trip to the market a piece of cake. 

A vegetable vendor in northern Thailand sells an assortment of colorful greens, at an open air market

1.    Ask the place you are staying where the best local market is. Since nearly every hotel, homestay, or hostel is staffed by locals, there will definitely be someone who can point you in the right direction. We asked our airbnb host, and she took us along with her on her usual Saturday shopping trip.

 

Want to read the rest of the article?? https://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/traveling/guide-to-navigating-thai-open-air-market.html

Thanks for reading and happy travels xx  -Iz

Six Months of Full Time Travel!! – And Lessons Learned on The Road

Oh how the time flies. Six months ago today we left home and here we are now, 13,915 km away from where we started.

That’s 5 countries, 5 planes, 15 trains, 4 boats, a whole lot of buses, a moped, a few tuk-tuks, and 1,287 km on foot.  

Forever thankful for a world full of kind people who have welcomed us into their houses and communities and make everywhere feel like home. 💕🌏 You rock earth.

Six lessons learned in six months:

1.People are kind, and generous, and trustworthy.  Throw aside stereotypes and prejudices and make friends with anyone. If a stranger invites you inside their home for food – go for it.

2.  You can make friends while traveling. I get questions about friendships a lot, the same questions that I often ask myself. How can you possibly make friends while travelling? What about friends? How do you gain social skills if you don’t go to school? Luckily, there are kids all around the world. I get to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds and countries. Travelers and locals. I can make friends with anyone despite language barriers, backgrounds, or ages. Travel friendships are short, but intense. You never know when you will meet again.

And social skills? I was a pretty introverted kid before traveling. I had my close group of friends who I felt comfortable being myself with and I didn’t make many other close friends outside that group. Now I have to be outgoing and independent. I’ve learned to talk to strangers, which was a huge challenge for me, in any language.

IMG_20160510_122502228-COLLAGE.jpg

Just a few of our friends so far 🙂

3. Keeping in touch is important. Contacts are so valuable and in todays world its only getting easier to keep in touch. I have amazing friends back home who I love to pieces. While it’s not ideal to talk through a screen you can still have a lot of laughs over skype.

4. The best experiences are hidden away from where the tourists go. A secluded waterfall in Thailand, lunch on a rocky ocean cliff  in Norway, a quaint off-season town in Croatia, a hidden temple in the mountains of northern Thailand. What all these places have in common is that we only could have found out about them with the help of locals like our new friends or airbnb hosts.

 

IMG_20160507_115232224

In Croatia

 

5. Experiences are 100 times better than possessions.  Cliche I know, but it’s true. I live out of a six kg backpack. After all the necessities are inside there is very little room for possessions. The few things that I do have, like my camera and notebooks, I take very good care of. Pictures and experiences are so much more valuable than a cheap t-shirt that says “I Heart Thailand”.

6. School is not the only education  you can have. For a while I worried that I was falling behind my peers by not going to school. And maybe I have in some ways. I’ve completely forgotten what an asymptote is and if someone asked me to find the distance between two points on a 3D plane… well I don’t like to think about that kind of situation. And don’t get me started on moles and stoichiometry. But… If you want to have an in depth conversation on the history of the world, culture, geography, or poverty I’m your girl. Lets be friends. World schooling gives me the freedom to learn whatever I am passionate about in the moment. I can stand up in front of a classroom of fifty kids and teach them what I know (by myself). I can go to the market, barter, and order a meal for myself without uttering a word of English. I try to stay informed to the best of my ability about what’s going in the world. I know how people live outside of the States and I appreciate the diversity of the real world – which my 98% all white high school would never have taught me. Is this education? Its debatable- but I think so.

2016_0218_02182500

Thanks for reading and happy travels as always XX-Iz

Adventures in Croatia: Zadar

The wonderful city of Zadar

The Airbnb that my family stayed at was just a twenty-minute walk from downtown Zadar and the sea. We spent wonderful two weeks exploring the area.

Downtown Zadar is beautiful fortified city in Croatia. It is the oldest city in the country with evidence of human life since the late stone age. Walking down its smooth cobble stone streets you can see religious ruins from Roman times and gates from Venetian times. In the center of the Old City there is a lovely open area to have lunch, people watch, and relax by the sea.

2016_0426_17401100-COLLAGE.jpg

You can find lots of cafes, ice cream shops, and bakeries around every corner. They all have delicious food for a very inexpensive price. There are also nice restaurant serving dalmatian cuisine, but we did not go to any to save money. During the summer the streets get really busy with tourists, but during the off-season it is very tranquil.

2016-04-30 01.34.38 1.jpg

At night the city lights up. Near the harbor there is a giant circle in the pavement that is covered in 300 layered glass plates. It is over 20 meters wide. During the day it collects energy from the sun and at night it lights up for a gorgeous color show. Near it are the famous steps of the Zadar Sea Organ which plays music from the waves via tubes under the steps.
Zadar is a very interesting place. It is beautiful, historical, and has some delicious food. If you ever make a trip to Croatia during any season, I recommend you visit Zadar.

Thanks for reading! -Iz

Croatia: Swimming in the Adriatic Sea

Croatia: Swimming in the Adriatic Sea

The instant my toes touch the water they are numb. Ah so this is why no one swims here during the off-season, I say to sisters in between shivers ‘Here’ being the Adriatic Sea, the body of water which separates Italy and Croatia. During the summer thousands of tourists flock to Croatia and its hundreds of islands to swim or sail in it’s deep and mysterious, blue waters. The water is crystal clear, the clearest I have ever seen, and so calm. Tiny waves lap onto the pebbly shore creating the relaxing background music of the beach. In the background I can see hundreds of orange roofed houses resting peacefully on rolling green hills. Far as the eye can see are more blue-green islands, small compared to the vast sea and sky. It’s cloudy, but the clouds are finally starting to break letting warm rays of sun peek out warming the air a bit.

Despite the cold, the off-season has its perks. The beach is ours, no one around for miles. Only sail boats and the occasional ferry disturb the serenity of the sea. The weather is still nice, it’s sunny and in the sixties. My sisters and I swim and splash in the cold waters. We leap around rocks and shells until we can no longer stand the cold and then go to dry on the rocky shore. Soaking in the last rays of sunlight, we say goodbye to a wonderful day at the Adriatic Sea.

2016_0427_20103100-COLLAGE.jpg