WEEK SIX: MOROCCO

 
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المغرب 

Morocco

I struggled with this blog post. I stalled for over a week before finally organizing my thoughts and memories into words. Even now, five days since leaving this incredible country, I don’t even know where to begin really. Up until now I’ve been pretty adamant about writing this weekly blog as I go. Taking a few moments each day to check in and write down a few quick stories or memories as the days unfold. Attempting to make sure I don’t forget any of the details and trying to keep track of it all before Friday night quickly arrives and the blog is supposed to be posted on Saturday morning.

And now here I sit, in an airbnb in Athens, Greece on Monday morning…. just beginning to process it all. Reflecting back on the moments, the emotions, the scents, the colors. Trying to take it all in to the best of my ability with hopes of always keeping a piece of Morocco with me.

BACK TO THE START OF THE WEEK…

On our first morning in Morocco I did something I normally don’t do. In the midsts of feeling totally uneducated on Morocco and unsure of where exactly we wanted to visit (there are so many incredible locations to experience,) I hopped online and posted in a popular facebook travel group asking for “any Morocco recommendations?” anyone may have to share. I wrote that we were only here for a week and were planning on renting a car to eventually make our way to the desert.

Within the next two hours, I received over two dozen comments from female travelers around the world who had visited Morocco in the past. Two dozen comments, and 80% of them were negative and quite dull to read, if I’m being entirely honest. “I can’t believe you’d even consider renting a car there!” One woman wrote. “I would never. The roads are absolute chaos and there is apparently no such thing as turning signals.” Another woman wrote “The police are far too corrupt in Morocco to even consider driving as a tourist. We saw multiple police stops in the road where only tourists in rental cars were being pulled over. Just hire a tour guide. It’s much safer.” Another five woman agreed to this and began sharing contacts for their favorite tour-guides to hire.

A tour guide? For a ten hour drive to the desert? That sounded absolutely horrible. The girls and I hadn’t planned much for this trip (more like nothing, actually) but we all had our hearts set on getting a car and getting to the sand. Now what? We felt discouraged and unsure of what to do after being exposed to so much negativity and doubt from other females online.

“Fuck it.” I said. “I can drive. We’ll just be super careful and drive slow throughout the city. I can do it.” I half-confidently convinced the girls. “It’ll be so good to get out of Marrakech.”

And so, we spent one day in Marrakech before hitting the road.

20 HOURS IN MARRAKEcH

TRYING MY HARDEST NOT TO SHOP

The girls and I arrived early in the morning after being awake for what felt like 30 hours straight. We showered, stumbled around our riad (moroccan style accommodation) and then hit the streets by foot in long pants and shirt to explore the city. (Morocco is a muslim country, so woman are expected to have shoulders to knees covered at all times when out in public.)

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Marrakesh was wild. As much as I don’t love to admit it, I’m still a bit of a sucker for all of the markets and souvenir shopping tourist cities like these have to offer. Bali pulled me into that scene for a few years when I first started traveling there. I am drawn in by the bright colors and unique styles of it all. Since taking time to get educated on the fashion industry, and learning that a majority of these products and goods are shipped from overseas by child laborers in unfit working conditions, I can’t help but feel a bit disgusted by it all. The stores, overflowing with hundreds of thousands of plastic bracelets, keychains, and cheaply made clothes. The shops, stocking their shelves with rows and rows of small plastic bottles filled with argon oil and local perfumes. It all feels like a waste to me. Who even needs any of this sh*t anyway? Does anyone ever consider what it is made out of or who it was made by? Why is there so much crap to buy?

We walked the markets and bought nothing but tea and dried roses. The recovering shopaholic in me was satisfied. I snapped about three dozen photos throughout the markets (I would soon learn Marrakech is very possibly the least gorgeous destination we visited while in Morocco.) We continued to explore the markets and were approached by aggressive store vendors with each corner turned. I’m a bit of a pro when it comes to dealing with hagglers these days. I’ve done my time at the market place. We weaved in and out of the crowds until finding a rooftop restaurant to enjoy fresh juice and fresh air.

VEGAN IN MOROCCO

I’ll spill the beans right now… The only food you will eat in Morocco as a vegan is…

  • Vegan Moroccan Tangine (local vegetables - potatoes, carrots, radishes, tomatoes and olives - cooked with spices and herbs in a clay tagine pot) served with bread, olives and tea.

  • Bread and Jam

  • Oranges + Fresh Orange Juice

  • Dates

  • Apples (that are sort’ve shit to be honest,)

  • Pomegranates (50% are shit 50% are delicious)

  • Grapes (we tried out hardest to find bunches that weren’t completely covered by swarms of flies)

  • Cactus Fruit

  • Bread

  • Olives

  • More bread

  • More Olives

  • More Tagine

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OUR ROAD TRIP BEGINS

THE DIRTY ECO LODGE IN OUARZAZATE

We picked up our renal car and were on our way in a small, bright purple Fiat 500. The three of us barely fit inside with all of our bags. I drove the eggplant car and only managed to sweat profusely while driving for the first 20 minutes until we were outside of the Marrakesh chaos. Once we left the city, the roads were absolutely beautiful. The energy outside the city was clear and light. We could breathe here.

Spacious, wide open landscape views surrounded us at all times. We listened to Esther and Jerry Hicks on Audible and took turns rotating between iPod playlists and boxes of moroccan dates as we drove. I’ve been listening to a ton of The Electric Sons and Chinchilla on Soundcloud this week.

After a long, beautiful day of travel and conversation in the car, we arrived to our AIRBNB at an “African Ecolodge” in Ourzazate. While Ashley and I organized our luggage and carried bags from the car while Marissa walked to the room with the eco-lodge host and checked out the space. By the time I made it to front door, I walked in and exclaimed “oh my god! This place is sick!” which seemed to very much so please our eco-lodge host. He said goodnight and walked away as I walked into the room’s bathroom to quickly discover a very dirty, damp towel thrown on the floor. “Hey you guys, I think they left a dirty towel in here” I half-shouted through the bathroom door. I turned back to look at the girls as Marissa explained to us “yeah dude i think this room is fully dirty. He couldn’t get the door unlocked for so long and when he did he rushed in to make all of the beds. All of the bedsheets and blankets were thrown in a pile on the floor.” When I asked Marissa “Ew. Why didn’t you say anything?! We have to sleep on these beds tonight” she replied “I was honestly just in shock and so confused.”

And so.. with absolutely zero energy from our extended day of travel and the “I can’t be bothered to go complain to the man who speaks little english” attitude, we sat in a circle and ate avocado on bread rolls and pomegranates for dinner. We climbed into our dirty eco-beds and fell asleep for the night. (I made sure to put on my own pillow case.)

The next morning, I went for an early run to scope out the surrounding area. I made the mistake of wearing a pair of running shorts and immediately felt uncomfortable the moment I reached the center of town by foot. At 6:30 in the morning, the streets were buzzing with local families shopping for fresh produce and men on scooters on their way to work. I would run past a group of woman and wave, to which they would immediately ignore my gesture and instead stare at my legs. It was heavy. I headed home to change and meditate. Needed to relieve myself from the intense energy and masculinity of the moroccan streets.

Before leaving Dirty Eco Lodge we snapped these glamorous shots in the beds . If only we knew what these sheets have seen in the last 48 hours…. or six weeks. Literally, who knows the last time this room was used.

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TO THE DESERT

My favorite moments from Morocco begin now. Landscapes unlike anythign I had ever seen before. Villages and buildings made out of sand, clay and compacted earth mixed with hay. Rickety old wooden stands selling raw minerals and crystals around winding turns of hidden mountain highways. Red earth. So much of it. Empty streets lined with date trees and rolling acres of blank terrain. The raw beauty of it all cannot be put into words, but rather experienced in person. The girls and I were quiet in the car. Usually only speaking up to point out an exceptionally gorgeous mosque or mountain ridge that may be missed from the other side of the car. Eyes opened wide, we drove for hours on end. Trying to capture and depict this type of experience is difficult, but photos are all I have to share at this time.

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Being in wide open space, entirely free, without cell reception, surrounded by close friends, engaging in meaningful connection/conversation and following our own course (with a little help from GoogleMaps) I felt my whole body fill to the brim with an overwhelming sense of freedom. This is why I travel. This is why I am here. This is so right for me. This will always be so so right for me.

We pulled over for a few pee-on-the-side-of-the-road breaks and ate more dates and grapes than anyone should ever eat in one sitting, ever. That evening, just as the sun began to set in the infinite sky, we saw the most incredible sight in the near distance. Small, blurry, heat-wrapped mountains of sand dunes. We had reached the desert. Everything was golden.

I drove about 120 kilometers an hour straight towards the site of sand and got us there in the next 15 minutes. We had just enough time to park the eggplant at the end of the road and experience the desert for the first time before the sun set.

It was unlike anything I had experienced before. I grew up on a small island off the coast of New York, and spent summers running up (and then rolling down) sand dunes and cliffs with my friends and cousins. But this was nothing at all like the east coast sand dunes. This was like stepping into a vast sea of caramel sand spread out in perfectly smoothed, geometric patterns, swirls and designs. This was magic. Nature’s masterpiece.

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I met my first ever camel that evening. I was a bit starstruck, to be honest. They’re much bigger than I had imagined. I live for those moments when nature just completely blows my mind. Elephants, camels, whales; When I see these animals in their natural habitat, I immediately remind myself “oh yeah, you exist on this planet as well. How wild.” I slowly approached the massive camel “play it cool. Act chill” and was blessed with the gift of a solid 2 minute nose rub before he was no longer interested in me touching him.

Unfortunately, when camels are not being ridden by tourists throughout the sahara, they are tied up to short ropes on metal picks in the ground that keep then confined to a 3’ radius of sand. We watched one berber (camel walker) come over to remove a guiding rope from his mouth and heard this horrific heart-wrenching wail from the camel crying out while desperately trying to pull away from the hand grabbing the twine from his teeth. It was upsetting and unsettling to see. Far worse experience for the camel, I imagine.

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From that moment. Everything else felt like a dream. A hot, sandy, dusty and bright desert dream. We had plans of sleeping out in a desert camp the first night we arrived, but ended up getting distracted with the sun and the sand and not making it to base in time to make it into the desert before dark. So we grabbed tagine for dinner in town and then slept at a nearby hotel tucked just outside of the town. I am 99% sure we were in fact the only guests staying at the hotel. This time, the bedsheets were clean. We woke up the next morning and sipped on mint tea, fresh OJ and warm bread before hopping in the car to rent boards and hit the dunes. We were so excited for this.

SNOWBOARDING ON MARS

The girls and I somehow managed to squeeze three snowboards (with bindings) into the small eggplant car and then crammed in our own bodies in the remaining cracks and crevices.

We headed out in the heat and walked up and down sand hills and dunes for twenty minutes before finding a hill to hit. The girls and I were all wearing our running sneakers, which we clumsily strapped into our bindings before hopping through hot, thick sand to make a move on these baby hills. We did a test run and were hooked already. We needed to find a bigger hill. And so we continued on. Walking up, down and around massive sand mountains in the desert until we could barely see the clay buildings that made up the small town in the distance.

Sand-boarding was one of the most incredible and exuahsting things I have ever done. I gew up snowboarding in Vermont, but haven’t been back to the mountain in years and forget all about the joy of walking uphill with your board and bindings. As draining as it was, I couldn’t help but think “nahhh this is chill though, because at least my feet, fingers and face aren’t frostbitten and so numb they’re burning.

We spent hours playing in the sand, boarding down hills only to walk back up them another ten times after and then finally collapsed with shirts off to cool down from the desert heat (and also *hopefully* get a little sun tan too.)

By the time our calves and bums were too sore to walk any further, we embarked on the journey out of the desert and back to the car. I’m saddened to write this (and even more saddened to have experienced it in person) but we at one point found ourselves in a sand-pit covered in quad and jeep tire tracks near the boarder of the desert that was littered with piles of discarded plastic water bottles and empty beer cans. Thrown on the ground. In the Sahara desert. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Seeing empty plastic water bottles in the Sahara desert is comparably as devastating as seeing empty plastic bottles floating around coral reefs 90 feet under water. Sometimes, when I think I have a grasp on how severe the plastic epidemic really is, I experience moments like this and think “fuck. fuck. it’s so so much worse than I can even imagine.

We collected a large rice bag full of sandy plastic bottles and empty cans and headed back into town.

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DAYS IN THE DESERT

The next few days began to blur into one slow, warm, moroccan memory. Wake up, mint tea, orange juice, bread and jam, morning mediation, check a few messages, reply to emails and then grab the boards and get in the car. We hit up as many desert accesses as we possibly could and would usually last a few hours in the heat before we agreed it was time to cool off and chill out at the hotel. We’d lay low for a bit and wait for the day time heat to simmer down before hitting the sand one last time for sunset.

On our last evening in the desert, we had plans to finally make our way out to the desert camp, where you would sleep, cook, dance and stargaze with a group of fellow travelers and a few local tour guides and berbers (camel walkers.) If you know me (or know Marissa or Ashley) there was no way in hell we were about to hop aboard a sweet camel with our massive bags and expect them to walk us out into the desert. “We don’t feel comfortable riding the camels,” we explained to the camp manager who spoke with us at the hotel. “We don’t support using the animals in that way. Can we walk or drive to the camp?” The answer was yes, we could drive. But we’d have to do so in a jeep and it would cost us 20 euro per person, per way. 120 euro round trip for a 20 minute jeep ride sounded a bit ridiculous to us. And with that price in addition to the cost of the overnight stay in the tent - we decided we would skip out on the desert camp this time around. Our hotel room felt pretty similar to a desert lodge anyways, we agreed. When our camp trip was canceled we headed back to the dunes and enjoyed a stellar stargazing session in the middle of the sands.

Laying on warm Sahara sand, counting shooting stars, eating pomegranates and being with the girls was one of the most spectacular moments of my travels so far. Mmmm. I wanted to bottle the moment up and take it with me forever.

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  ETHICAL, FIAR TRADE CLOTHING BY    NEWBERN & THE DREAMER

ETHICAL, FIAR TRADE CLOTHING BY NEWBERN & THE DREAMER

On our last morning in the desert, I woke up to attempt to complete my online mediation homework (wifi in the Sahara is quite crappy, which shouldn’t be surprising to most) before we squeezed in a final board session. We were getting quite good …quite decent… by this point.

As sad as we were to say goodbye to the desert, we felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation for this incredible place. One of my all time favorite feelings while traveling is to leave a place wanting more. “ I cannot wait to come back soon.” I repeated again and again in my head as we drove further away from the golden mounds.

Leaving the desert is a whole lot easier when the road trip back to the city is exceptionally gorgeous. We drove through dozens of small, local villages made up of houses, mosques and schools built out of compacted clay, sand and hay. We binge listened to Serial, which is one of my favorite murder misery podcasts and enjoyed our last few hours with Ashely before dropping her off at the airport to fly back to the US just in time for her love’s birthday celebration.

By now, Marissa and I are the queens of “book an accommodation on someone’s cell phone 5 minutes before arriving and trust it’ll be epic.” We had two nights left in Morocco and wanted to make the most of the rental car. We chose a mountain lodge just 90 minutes away from the airport and were on our way - just the two of us, this time.

We spent the evening driving into the Atlas Mountain range, which absolutely blew our mind. To be in the Sahara desert one day, and surrounded by snow covered mountain caps the next was a wildly unique experience. The Atlas Mountains are known for their incredible hiking trails and scenic views - and they absolutely did not disappoint.

It felt so good to unwind here for the next two days. The village was small and quiet. A few street vendors selling bread or dates on one corner, a hiking gear supply shop on the other. There were children, woman and donkeys roaming the streets as we arrived. We made our way up the mountain in the eggplant car and were layering on the sweaters, sweatpants and socks within the first 10 minutes of arriving at our hotel. It was chilly here. Crisp. Cool. Refreshing. The view was jaw-droopingly gorgeous and kept us perfectly preoccupied and content as we sat indoors/on the porch/on the roof top answering emails and working on our websites for the next two days. During morning breakfast, Marissa and I met a few fellow travelers from England and enjoyed sharing travel stories and recommendations with one another. I absolutely adore meeting other females (and men) who are living their lives. Acting intuivelty and traveling with little plan, other than the intention to see parts of the world they haven’t before. Morocco brings together unique people who cultivate beautiful experiences.

 Marissa, this is your only Christmas gift from me this year. You’re welcome. I’ll probably take this down in two hours. Hope you see it before then. Or not.

Marissa, this is your only Christmas gift from me this year. You’re welcome. I’ll probably take this down in two hours. Hope you see it before then. Or not.

الله يمسك علي خير

And just like that, our time in Morocco had come to an end for now. Marissa and I spent one final evening walking the streets of the local town, petting goats in roadside pastures and shopping for silver rings in the village’s only traditional souvenir shop. The next morning we were locked and loaded in the eggplant car, en route to our flight to Vienna and then Athens for a one day layover before our next adventure begins…

SEE YOU IN BALI

X

ALL MY LOVE

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WEEK FIVE: STUCK ON MYKONOS ALONE

SOLO TRAVEL IN GREECE

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THE BEGINNING

It is currently 11:28pm and I am sitting outside a 24/7 tea and coffee shop on the corner of the street beside my hotel on Mykonos. I am being brought cups of hot tea by the cute Greek server who is convincing me to go out on a date with him when he gets off work at 12 am. I am on google translate now trying to figure out how I can say “not gonna’ happen, my friend, I need sleep immediately” without sounding rude - and without cutting off my supply of delicious free tea. I’m exhausted today. Up since 5am and running around the island all day long trying to track down a warm sweater and a strong internet connection to complete my homework for online meditation school. We are currently on week four of our studies and I have just managed to stay on-top of homework and online assignments until this week.

I came back to Mykonos three days ago after traveling off the island and arriving at our next destination, a small Greek island three hours off the coast of Mykonos. Upon my arrival, I realized I had forgotten my laptop charger in last night’s AIR BNB on Mykonos. Stellar. Normally, wouldn’t be a big deal - can be quickly replaced - but I’m at a bit of a crossroad in my life where I am SO done giving my money to Apple. Literally giving sooo much money to apple every single year and sitting aloof while iPhone after iPhone (or charging cable after charging cable) mysteriously breaks or malfunctions. Not only am I VERY uninterested in spending another $70 on a laptop charger when I already own (er… have temporarily have misplaced) a perfectly good charger, I am also unable to locate a new charger on the island the girls and I had every intention of plopping ourselves down on for the next week to settle in and catch up on ... computer work. And so, I packed a quick overnight bag and re-embarked on a journey back to Mykonos. Said “see you tomorrow” to the girls as they dropped me at the port and climbed aboard the passenger ferry to bring me to Mykonos for the night.

“See you tomorrow” turned out to be like “see you in five days, I guess.”


According to more recent patterns in my life, events gravitate and move in the complete opposite direction as I plan for them to. I ended up arriving to Mykonos three hours late after a miserable ferry ride over stormy, choppy seas. I was generously offered a free accommodation through a friend of a friend on the island who also said they would be able to pick me up at the ferry port and bring me to their home late that evening. “Free bed to sleep in, not bad,” I thought. I quickly learned however, that it was in fact very, very bad. I spent one night (which felt like it lasted over 196 hours) at one of the most run down, dirty and dark “bedrooms” I’ve ever encountered. “Bedroom” is a word I use lightly. I wouldn’t even go as far as considering this space a “room” but for sake of story telling, I’ll leave it at that.

I slept a total of 45 minutes that night in-between scattered nightmares and brief panic attacks and was up at the crack of dawn ready to run and get the funk out of this space as soon as the sun peaked its face over the ocean’s horizon. I couldn’t help but notice that winds were especially strong that morning, as miscellaneous pieces of garbage and plastic bags literally flew at me and clung to my body while I ran. Damnit. Damnit. Damnit. I hoped there wasn’t a storm on its way. I listened to 528 hz frequencies while I ran and sent out those good, positive, affirmative vibrations for smooth sailing on my return boat to the girls (and our clean rental home) this afternoon.

After my run, I located my computer charger, changed out of my sweaty clothes without showering (because if I thought the “bedroom” was dirty, I couldn’t even fathom the idea of stepping barefoot into the bathroom’s shower) and walked 20 minutes into town with my overnight bag in hand, in search of a green juice and a hot cup of tea before my ferry. No surprise here, I just so happened to pass a ferry ticket booth that proudly displayed a large sign reading “ALL FERRIES CANCELED TODAY DUE TO WEATHER CONDITIONS.

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And so, my solo travels on Mykonos officially began.

Since then, I’ve spent three full days on Mykonos exploring the town, feeding all of the local cats, (literally spent the rest of my cash on cat food and flea collars before discovering that all ATMs on the island would be out of service for the next 20 hours) taking myself out to eat and desperately wishing I had packed warmer clothes. It is so so so cold here. “Very unusual weather for Greece” or so I’ve been told by every store and restaurant owner I’ve spoken to. Lovely, considering I came over here with one skirt, one tee shirt, a toothbrush and a dead laptop computer. The wind is whipping throughout the cobblestone alleyways of Mykonos and my recent diet has consisted primarily of “extra hot tea please!” with occasional food on the side. Once I knew I was staying another night, I quickly booked the cleanest, brightest and most comfortable looking AIR-BNB I could find (while staying within my 80€ budget) and have settled in quite nicely, working on the website, answering emails and carrying out other work projects throughout the day.

I haven’t hated being alone these last few days. I’ve actually enjoyed it. I’ve been waking up each morning and going for quick runs (it’s too windy to be bothered to run outside of town and along the sea coast) before tucking myself into a comfy cafe for the day and sitting for 4,5,6 hour periods on my computer. When I feel my work for the day is done, I’ll head home to enjoy a my daily meditation and do some stretching or yoga while listening to a podcast in my room. I’ve honestly been loving the Oprah Winfrey podcast this week (is that embarrassing? I can’t tell anymore). I just listened to an older podcast by Yoga Girl where she interviewed Seal on her show, and really, really enjoyed it. I’ve also been devouring Plant Proof’s episodes as well. I’ll link these podcasts below. Just click on the image to listen to their available episodes.

MASTER-DATING ON MYKONOS

One night on Mykonos quickly turned to three and I fell into a comfortable daily routine walking the streets, treating myself to linen scarves and long sleeve shirts, drinking fresh juice (lucky for me, I literally carry my HydroFlask and HydroCup everywhere I go - including “one night” trips to Mykonos) and making friends with some of the locals working at my favorite little wifi cafe. I’ve been going out to lunch and dinner alone every night for the last three nights and have had fun with the social experience of it. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m young, or female, or maybe well-dressed (I use this term loosely, but Mykonos has inspired a bit of style in my life) and dining alone, but the servers at the Greek restaurants here cannot get over the fact that I am not waiting for my boyfriend to sit down next to me. Like they’ve never, ever for one second imagined that a young woman taking herself out to dinner could even be a possibility in this lifetime or the next. And it’s not only the servers who seem concerned of my solo-dining, I can’t help but feel like every other couple or family dining in the general area around me keeps looking back at me while they enjoy their meal - almost as if they’re “checking in” on the poor girl three tables to their right who has been by herself since they arrived 45 mins ago.

The first day I brought my journal to both lunch and dinner and worked on my “Morning Pages” (a daily practice of free-write journaling intended to dissolve any creative/energetic blocks as inspired by Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” - supposed to be done first thing in the morning, whoops) and couldn’t help but feel as though I was using the pages of the journal as a wall to hide behind in my solitude. So, I challenged to myself to one journal-free lunch and dinner the next day and took myself out to my favorite local taverna to feast on fresh cucumber and tomato salad, warm bread, cold olives and creamy fava spread. Lunch was comfortable and causal. A part of me enjoyed noticing the uncomfortable-ness of others around me (which sounds cruel, unintentionally) and then making the extra effort to be especially smiley and at peace while I ate. Looking up from my food, eating mindfully, putting my cutlery down for extended periods of time, smiling often and making direct eye contact with waiters and fellow diners who looked my way. I felt called to act as an example and show others that there is nothing wrong, and everything right, with taking yourself out to eat. Master-dating, if you will. 

Since then, I’ve been fine dining solo with no journal or book at my side for the last three days. If I have the choice to eat lunch or dinner at a restaurant, or grab food to go and eat in my hotel room, I’ll choose to restaurant and ask for a “table for one please!” The timing of it all is quite divine, as one of my homework assignments for the last two weeks from my meditation teacher training has been “take yourself out on an artist’s date.” Which according to Julia Cameron, The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it. And so, I’ve been doing exactly that. “Three green juices today? Really?” And then I do it. “Walk back to the beach for sunset, even though you were just there 40 minutes ago?” and then do it. “Stay up until 11:30 working online and sipping hot tea at the local cafe because the music is good and the vibe is right - but you probably should be asleep by now?” And then do it.

IN THE POURING RAIN

The next morning, I woke up to the sound of the pouring rain and layered on the few pieces of clothing I had with me. It had only gotten progressively colder and windier on the island. No run today. I couldn’t be bothered to bare the cold skies without a long sleeve and decided a trip to get hot tea instead was more nourishing for the soul. With my Hydroflask and hot raspberry roobios in hand, I walked down to the sea taxi station and was greeted once again with the same “NO FERRY” sign. Faaaaack. Was I ever getting out of here!? I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that I was missing time spent on the island and at our cute airBNB with the girls. Another day on my own. Same outfit. Same pair of underwear. Same agenda. I walked back to my hotel, extended my stay yet another night and then walked the streets in search of something I hadn’t yet discovered. I stumbled across a small fruit and vegetable store that sold the juiciest medjool dates and raw nuts in bulk. I stocked up on cashews, Brazil nuts and medjool dates in small paper bags and headed back to grab my laptop for another work flow at my favorite tea joint. 

I am excited to *secretly* share that I am in the early stages of starting a new company that will be officially released in January of 2019. Whoop Whoop! I’ve been building the website from scratch and working on collecting style inspiration and drawing out designs for the last few weeks. I spent a few hours working online, drinking peppermint tea and snacking on dates in between emails and google doc spreadsheets. I decided to mix things up at a new restaurant for my last night on Mykonos and then sort of regretted my decision when the food wasn’t so great. Oh well. Back to my WiFi cafe for a late night call with my assistant and some time spent catching up on meditation homework. And now here we are again, 11:28pm and being asked to “please come out for one drink when I’m off work” from the cute tea man. Without having the energy to try to put into words my level of current exhaustion, I said “sure, I will come out” and found myself walking into a crowded sea-side bar filled with Greeks and tourists who were breaking it down to some “apple bottom jeans” at 12:15 in the morning. Ahhh so this is what everyone has been doing while I sleep in my hotel room each night. 

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HITTING THE TOWN

Twelve fifteen quickly turned into three fifteen and I had managed to check out three bars with my new local friend. I was quite impressed by the stylish interior decor of many of the local beach bars and even more impressed by the fact that I couldn’t get to the bathroom without passing half a dozen 65+ adults pushing past me to order drinks at the bar. Jesus. I hope I have this much energy in fourty years. 

One more late night stop at the grocery store to buy cat food for my three favorite kittens (some people buy snacks on the way home from the bar, I buy non dairy milk and kitten kibble) and I was finally home in bed with any early alarm set to catch the ferry out tomorrow morning. I had to be on this ferry. Had to had to had to. Tomorrow’s ferry would be the only ferry of the day that could bring me back to the island with the girls just in time for one night together before we fly out of Greece to Morocco the next morning. Everyone had told me the winds were expected to die down and ferry boats would 100% be running the next day. And lucky for me, when I woke up the next morning, they were. I packed up my small bag and then opened the door to discover it was dumping buckets outside. Fuck. I really need a raincoat. Or a weather proof bag. With hopes of protecting my laptop computer, I threw my various small bags and laptop into one larger brown paper bag and used my body as barrier to protect my belongings.

The rains were wild. It must’ve been pouring for hours while I slept. I made it off the stairs of my hotel balcony and quickly discovered that all roads in Mykonos are built on a slant, leading down to ocean. My hotel just so happened to be placed smack in the middle between the bottom of the hill where the land met the ocean, and the top of the hill, where the taxi stand I needed to walk to was. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, and attempting to describe the severity of it over text won’t do the situation any justice, but try to envision narrow, cobblestone walkways flooded in two feet of rushing brown water, collecting garbage and dirt and stones as it land-slides past you. And then try to imagine being in open toed sandals. Damnit. It was so unpleasant.

There was no way around it other than to walk through it, up hill, with my makeshift brown bag suitcase soaking wet in my hands. My the time I made it the taxi stand I was absolutely drenched. I said a final farewell to my greek friends, grabbed a green juice to go and was on my way, only to quickly lift up my soaking wet brown bag and have it tear from the bottom, spilling all of my already-damp belongings on the soaking wet floor. Lovely.

Apparently, Mykonos has strict rules that only 40 taxi cabs will be permitted on the island at once, and apparently, that morning I was the 41st person desperate for a cab. I waited and waited and waited. Anxiously looking at my iPhone for the time and constantly reminding myself to “stay calm. you’ll get there just in time.” When 30 minutes had passed and no cab arrived, I hopped on the next local bus and prayed that it would get me there soon enough. I was told to avoid the local bus, as it had to do an airport drop off before it arrived to the port, and it often make it to the port later than the schedule stated. Trust. Trust. Trust. “Everything always works out in my favor” I repeated to myself again and again and again while the local bus drove slowly through crowded streets on its way to the airport. I had three minutes until the ferry was supposed to leave when I told myself to stop.looking.at.the.time. You’ll get there soon enough.

No big surprise here - the bus pulls into the massive port parking lot as I witness my Hellenic Ferry boat reverse away from the dock and out to sea. This could not be happening. I was that girl that shoved about two dozen pedestrians to the side and legitimately sprinted towards the massive 500 ton ferry boat screaming “waaaait!!” at the top of my lungs while waving both hands in the air. They didn’t wait. Incase you were wondering.

Long story short, becaUse I am starting to get sick of my own voice, I ended up sorting out my sh*t and taking a FEW MUCH NEEded deep breathes before strategizing and deciding i would BUY A TICKET ON the next ferry over to athens. I was totally overwhelmed and entirely EXHAUSTED.


As I waited for the next ferry, I sat underneath the rain shelter with a few hundred other soaking wet humans. My cell phone died and I discovered an ongoing twitch had managed to make itself feel at home in my left eye. I sat in a frog-squat with my filthy clothes in between my legs and wrote this entry in my journal;

“Time and time again traveling reminds me that I am here to learn the lessons. Every obstacle I face is a new opportunity for me to reveal my most patient and present self. ‘This is all part of the growth’ I remind myself multiple times a day. The missed ferry boats, the canceled accommodations, the janky public transport and the never, ever buying flight insurance for your airplane ticket, even though you rarely ever make your flight, (because ‘trust’). How fortunate I am to personally experience this new level of learning. This photo was taken one week ago and feels so so foreign. Here I am bathed, fed and well rested after spending the last two nights in a swanky airBNB that the girls and I splurged on. I used conditioner in my hair this day and had clean clothing. So much of it. Ahh the luxuries. Since this photo was snapped on the hills of Santorini, I have strayed away from my traveling companions and managed to get myself very stuck on a separate island for the last four days while heavy rain and high winds prevent me from leaving. I’ve managed to spend a night in THE most unpleasant accommodation of my life (the literal lawn chair I slept on in the Philippines a few months ago coming in close second) and screw up travel plan, after travel plan after travel plan. I have hand-washed the only pair of underwear I have with me in various hotel bathrooms, ran through insane down-pouring rain with my belongings crammed inside a soaking wet paper bag (the bag ripped from the bottom, if you were curious) and seem to currently be dealing with an ongoing twitch in my left eye that I just can’t shake. ‘This is all part of the growth’ I remind myself multiple times a day. How fortunate I am to be personally experiencing this new level of learning. #GrattitudeAlways #EvenWhenItSucks #EvenWhenYourUnderwearIsStillDamp”

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SHOPPING FOR GROCERIES IN A STRANGER’S FRIDGE + MOMENTS OF GRATITUDE

The ferry arrived within the hour and I said a quick “thank you universe” prayer in my head as I walked aboard. That night, alone at the Airbnb (which very much so reminded me of an old Greek woman’s apartment from 1960) I laced up my shoes and headed out for a much needed meal. Jon and Jill, the owners of the air BNB, recommended a local restaurant down the street that was affordable and easy to find by foot. Ideal. I was low on money and without a rental car.

By the time I made it to the tavern, it was very dark and very windy. I spent the entire walk visualizing a large bowl of cucumber tomato salad and with a massive plate of hot spaghetti to go with it. I was ravenous. And in need of some warming food STAT.

I sat down at this funky hole in the wall tavern (I was the only customer in the entire restaurant) and scoped out the menu. Pasta. Pasta. Pasta. Pasta. I sang hopefully in my head. This is one of those moments where I really wish I had my cell phone with me, because I would have been able to take a photo of this menu to show you all how f*cked up it was. If I can recall correctly .. which I believe I can.. it read something like this ...


- Fried Cheese
- Fried Cheese balls
- Mini Fried Cheese balls
- Feta Cheese
- Feta Cheese Salad
- Spinach Feta Pie
- Mini Spinach Feta Pie
- Kid Lamb with Lemon
- Kid Lamb with Garlic
- Kid Lamb with Cheese
- Pork Loin with Lemon
- Pork Loin with Cheese
- Pork Loin with Lemon



I honestly couldn’t tell you who was more hurt in this moment. Me or the kid Lamb. “Uhhh can I please order the feta cheese salad with no feta?” I asked the waiter timidly. To which he replied in broken english “Sorry. We out of salad tonight. No more.” Great. “Do you have any spaghetti or pasta?” To which he replied “No.”

And I was on my way. I must’ve walked one mile down a small residential area before spotting a brightly lit building in the distance. There was hope! Maybe it was a grocery store. Maybe it was a restaurant. Maybe it was a vegan restaurant. And alas, I arrived to the brightly lit building only to discover it was a ... pet shop. Open until 12 midnight. Was this a sign or something? Was I going to have to choose between fasting or eating cat nip for dinner? I walked inside timidly and asked the man behind the counter if there were any grocery stores or food shops in the area. He told me yes, there was a grocery store about 500m away. Then he told me it closed two hours ago. Fantastic. “Oh wait! There is a tavern down the ways bit. They serve meat.” Yeah, I know, and mini fried cheese balls too. “Is there anywhere I can buy some fruit or veggies?” He took a moment to think and then told me to follow him through the door in the back of the store. I soon discovered he lived in a small home in the back. He told me that his wife had just gone grocery shopping today and I could take anything I want. Out of their family fridge? I couldn’t possibly do that. He insisted that she always bought more than enough and their fruit and veggies usually ended up going rancid by the end of the week. So I snapped a head of lettuce, some apples, a tomato and RIPE AVOCADO and then tried to pay the friendly store owner for ….essentially saving my life. He refused to take my money, which was so so generous, but I managed to slide a 10 euro note on the kitchen table before he walked out. Avocados aren’t cheap here. I know this better than anyone.

That night, on my walk home, while devouring all three of the apples I snagged from the fridge, I took a few moments to remind myself how...surprisingly pleasant my day had turned out. I was tired, smelt of public ferry boat transportation, not at all on the right island I was “supposed” to be on, without one single bag or suitcase and walking on the side of a unfamiliar highway in the middle of the night. But I felt so calm. And really safe. And so so so grateful to be headed home, to a clean, poorly decorated apartment with fresh veggies in hand. I was good. I’ve got this.

This week unfolded the way it did to show me exactly what it was I needed to learn.

I am always in the right place at the right time.

Even when I am not.

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I F*CKED UP THE GREECE BLOG + WROTE THIS INSTEAD

I F*CK UP THE GREECE BLOG + WRiTE THIS INSTEAD 

Okay. Here’s the deal. I’ve spent the last seven days writing daily for the Greece blog and have made it a point to check in each day to update my log and jot down any stories or specific memories for the blog before they escape my memory. And I’m doing so, I’ve managed to write a blog that is quite long and very detailed. But today is Saturday in Greece which means it’s Friday on the mainland and I have to finish this blog post tonight before I send it over to my assistant to edit and publish by tomorrow morning. I’m currently on the roof of a massive ferry boat going from one island to the next and am two vegan edibles deep (taken as preventative measures for gnarly sea-sickness,) and as I lay here, literally lay horizontally on a thin padeo separating me from the filthy concrete floor of this crowded passenger ferry floor - I can’t help but think about how bored and bothered I feel by the post I’ve written over the past 7 days and how bored and bothered I feel by SO much of the travel content I’ve seen on social media over the past few months.

Nothing I’ve written about traveling through Greece, and very little of the travel content I’ve seen on social media in the past few years, seems to be really real. It doesn’t really seem capable enough to possibly captivate just a fraction of the beauty and the mediocrity and all else in between that this world has to offer. So I think I’ll mix things up a little this week. 

Greece has been spectacular so far. Marissa and I sat at a port side cafe this morning (while eating hearty bowls of pasta at 11 am) and counted back the days since we arrived to Greece. 9 days. We’ve only been here for nine days?! Is that even possible? 

Nine days in Greece has felt more like three weeks. And I’m not entirely sure if it’s because we’ve done so much in such a short period of time, or because we have been in an ongoing race to escape the crowds of tourists since we arrived nine days ago. And it’s not just Greece, I’m so saddened to share. Since January of this year, I have spent one month in the Hawaii before spending one month in the Philippines, followed by two weeks in Sri Lanka, three weeks in Bali, two weeks in Australia, three months back in Hawaii, two days in Colorado, one week in Portugal, one week in France and 4 days in Italy before flying to Greece. The tourists. are. everywhere. Or so it seems. Trust me, I know, I’m one of them. 

But it’s not just seeing so so so many tourists that upsets and confuses me. It’s the cities, countries and culture that are being manipulated to be something they’re not because of the tourists visiting. I can’t help but to feel saddened for Greece and the consequences our travel and consumption (and possibly over travel and over consumption) have had on these islands. Greece reminds me so much of Hawaii. Too much of Hawaii maybe. Once a quiet, laid back and cultured group of islands rich in native tradition and ancient belief, Greece is now being hit with hundreds of thousands of tourist flying in and out from all corners of the world each and every single week. Greece is being hit hard.  New hotels, restaurants, cafes and spas are being built around every corner. Monsanto has recently arrived to Greece and more products/food/water are being imported and shipped in each day. I’ve only visited five Greek Islands so far, but have personally witnessed this beautiful culture confined and conformed on each island so far. And I can’t help but notice that things seem to move in the direction of “Greeks out, tourists in”. And it feels all too familiar with the drastic change I’ve seen in Hawaii over the past five years. 

We made it an effort to prioritize the low key, lesser-known, quiet coastal cities and small beach towns in Greece. We spent our first week on an island so small you could drive from side to the other in 15 minutes without passing more than 5 cars. But when you did pass those 5 cars, 4 of them were rental cars and at least three of those cars had GoPros or selfie sticks shoved out the window. 

I felt a bit uneasy within the first few days in Greece. Every corner we turned was crowded with overdressed tourists asking their friend/partner/parent or stranger to take a photo of them. Every church, white wall and swinging chair was occupied with someone being photographed or captured on film. Are we even admiring the sunset? Are we looking with our eyes? Or through the screen of an iPhone camera lens? Are we enjoying this moment? Are we present here in this moment? Why did we all come here in the first place?

I couldn’t help but wonder.

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Full Disclosure: I run a travel blog and popular social media account. I’m not perfect. I’m so far from being perfect. I know this. I snap dozens of photos (sometimes hundreds) each day and document a large chunk of my life online through various platforms. I have habits that need to be readjusted. But I am sort’ve at this point right now where whatever I post and publish online is read by thousands of people, and I can’t help but feel CALLED to share these thoughts and ideas with you all. Reminders to myself as I strive to personally improve as a traveler and as a public figure in the social eye. And maybe some reminders that will resonate with you as well. 

THOUGHTS ON THIS 

I want to travel quieter. 

I want to speak, plan, control and disrupt less so I can see, feel and listen to more. 

I want to leave each place knowing it’s in a better state than it was before I arrived. 

I want to leave feeling cultured, confused and curious to see more.

I want to always be increasingly compassionate for the local people, places and things I come across while traveling. 

I want to spice things up.

I want to visit new places and feel like I’m not in America surrounded by the same people, eating the same food, buying the same souvenirs, taking the same pictures as everyone else around them. 

I want to experience a place. 

Really, truly experience a place. 

I want to be spoken to in foreign languages that inspire me to learn more. 

I want to take the local bus or walk the back alley and get lost in the places not pinned on my google map.

I want to check into an accommodation or sit down at a restaurant and not hear first words out of my mouth be “can you please tell me the WiFi password?”

HERE’S WHAT I’VE LEARNED SO FAR

  • Time moves slowly and travel is especially sweeter when it’s done so quietly and intuitively. Allow yourself to arrive somewhere and simply take things from there. See what feels right for you once you land. If a certain location or area excites you, inspires you and leaves you wanting more, spend time there. Plant some roots. Even if it’s only momentarily. See the town, meet the locals, find your favorite sunset spot and go there for a few nights in a row. Enjoy it. Experience it. If a certain city or country doesn’t feel right, simply adjust. Relocate. Even if your itinerary tells you something different. There is no right or wrong way to visit on city or country. It can be messy, unexpected and unexplained. You have no one to explain anything to other than yourself. 

  • When you let your travels unfold before you, rather than laminate them in a set in stone itinerary - they will be more memorable and meaningful. Be open and willing to accept change and discomfort while you travel (and also in your life.) The uneasiness is often the most powerful catalyst of growth while traveling. If plans change, flights cancel, or someone falls sick, accept it as an opportunity to reveal your most patient and flexible chilled-out self. Don’t stress. Never stress while traveling. It does absolutely no good what so ever and is most likely the one thing you wanted to leave behind when you came on this trip in the first place. Also, no one really likes that one person who micro-manages every single last detail of the trip. Trust me, the girls and I overheard a woman do this to her group of traveling companions over the dinner table the other night “we have to go to this bar on Friday so we can order this cocktail before we eat dinner here on Saturday night and then we won’t be hungover when we wake up at sunrise to do this, this, this and this all before 12 noon on Sunday morning.” I felt overwhelmingly exhausted just listening to her. 

  • Travel isn’t jumping from one Instagram location to the next. This is a HUGE learning lesson I’m currently enduring. Travel is not Instagram. Travel is not Instagram. Travel is not Instagram. I remind myself this daily. You do not have to go somewhere just to take a photo of it. You did not come here to make your social media look interesting or aesthetically pleasing. You do not have to individually geo-tag and link every single destination you visit. Please. Please. Please. Remember that. Before your taxi or local bus dropped you off here, this was someone’s home first. This is someone else’s home. They must live here when you leave. It is not a travel destination for them. It is their home. Let’s not send out an open invite to hundreds of thousands of strangers on the internet each day. Treat their neighborhood as you would your own hometown. There is Earth beneath all of this. These resources and elements can only handle so much. This land can only sustain so much. Be mindful of this. 

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  • Your trip abroad doesn’t have to include ticking off all of the same boxes as someone’s holiday vacation. It can be whatever it wants to be. And you can always come back here and visit again next year. Let your travels be loose around the edges. You’ll last longer, I promise you. Travel can be sleepy, slow, emotional or lonely. It’s your own. You came on this trip to further connect with yourself and the new environment in which you would be experiencing - not check in and selfie at all 33 BuzfeedWeekly travel recommendations.  Be present. Be willing to adapt. You may not “hit up” every single suggestion on your best friend’s boyfriend’s cousin’s recommendation list for two weeks in Brazil. But that’s okay. You can come back. You will come back if it’s meant to be. 

  • Your travel should be your art. It should be creative, colorful and entirely your own. Jam pack it with incredible adventures and moments of presence. Or keep things simple and slow. Rent a funky air BNB in the woods and spend your two week’s vacation there - rather than flying to Bali because “literally every single person you know has already been and you can’t believe you haven’t gone yet. What are you doing with your life?”

  • Spend money. Or budget. Whatever you gotta do - just do it with gratitude and know that you have perfectly enough for everything that’s meant to be paid for. If you spend money while traveling, or are comfortable being really free with your finances - enjoy it. It is your own. Whether you spent $5,000 a week traveling or $500 a month, make sure you spend your money on things that are worth paying for. Is this purpose benefiting this place or these people in some way? Is it contributing to something I want to see more of while traveling? 

  • Be mindful of the mark you leave behind. This is so crucial. This earth is not ours. These oceans, mountains, rivers, cities and coast are not ours. Leave nothing but your memories behind. Be mindful of what you bring and what you buy. Can you pack your own water bottles, as to avoid having to buy one for each member of your family when you arrive at the national park? Can you buy fresh fruit at the local fruit stand to avoid buying Starbucks at the airport when you arrive? Can you make sure you properly dispose of ALL of your trash while out on the trails for the day? Can you be more mindful of your carbon footprint? Can you be more minimal with your waste? Can you pick up someone’s trash that they may have accidentally leave behind? Can you leave the beach/park/venue with more garbage than you brought in? Where can you improve as a traveler? How will you inspire others to do the same? What can you do that many others may not think of doing? 

  • Finding new ways to give back to a vacation destination is the ultimate cherry on top of any adventure abroad. Don’t let yourself get intimidated by the widespread array of options available to you. It doesn’t have to be difficult or hard. Here’s how you can get started. 

  1. Look up a local beach clean up or park clean up in the town or city you will be visiting. Search google or Facebook. Send some messages, reach out to a few people online and see where you can lend a helping hand. Get involved in some way. Even if it’s just for a few hours. 

  2. Look up a local orphanage or woman’s shelter to make a donation to. Even if you don’t know a single woman or child in the whole country. It usually is as easy as writing a quick email (or sending a Facebook message) saying that you’d like to make a donation to their organization. “What can I send or drop off?” Often times these places are desperate for common products such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, tampons, socks and groceries. $100 (or less! Or more!) can go a long way for these individuals. 

  3. Research an animal rescue sanctuary or animal rehabilitation center to make a donation to. You can share your time or share your money. This is an especially fantastic activity for families or parents traveling with children to do! Show them first hand that they can spend their spending money (or mommy and daddy’s spending money) on souvenirs and cheap toys, or they can use this money to help feed, house and support their favorite animal at the shelter. It’s a powerful connection to make at a young age. 

  • Don’t have the extra money to make a donation yourself? Start a GoFundMe or CrowdRaiser while traveling. Choose one thing you’d like to contribute to while living or traveling abroad and get busy. Use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to promote your cause. It can be for ANYTHING that you cherish as a beautiful part of your travels. Choose a local school that neighbored your AIR BNB, a woman’s birthing center that you walked past every morning on the way to the market or a non-for-profit organization that you read about in the local newspaper. Doesn’t matter if you raise $20 or $2,000. You’re giving and sharing more than you would have been able to on your own. 

TRAVEL CONSCIOUSLY.

TRAVEL QUIETLY.

CHANGE THE WORLD THROUGH YOUR ACTIONS RATHER THAN YOUR POSTS ON THE INTERNET. 

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