Memories From Morocco – A Camel Walks Into A Bar…

A Camel Walks Into A Bar 3...What's the punchline you ask?  Well......there isn't one....just like there aren't any bars in Morocco.  More specifically, there aren't any gender neutral establishments serving just cocktails. No joke!  Let me say first that I'm by no means an alcoholic and do not base my travels on such.  But I do take my vacation time seriously and as a time to really relax, unwind, and enjoy myself....that usually involves cocktails. Sometimes that might mean having a nice glass of wine at a corner cafe while people watching or parked in a lounge chair sipping fruity, slushy, umbrella rum drinks while simply staring at the waves roll in and out.  That's what vacation is to me--I'm talking comfortably numb here, not sloppy drunk.  Anyhow, prior to traveling to Morocco I had researched a bit of the muslim culture and what to expect prior to my trip there and what I needed to do to prepare. I also wanted to set a good example and make a good impression as an American. I knew what types of clothes to pack making sure to dress appropriately covering my shoulders and knees out of respect. I had read about the practice of call to prayer that would be heard five times daily and was excited to eat all the exotic foods and spices that are native to the country.  I also knew that drinking alcohol was haraam or forbidden for Muslim's but what I didn't know is that it's also taboo for tourists--especially women! This kind of surprised me for a country that relies so heavily on tourism and one thing I had not planned for was a pre-trip liver detox.  Read More...

Memories From Morocco – Wham-Bam Thank You Hammam

Hammam Article

In the bustling city of Fez there lies an oasis from the medina madness and probably the most heavenly place I've ever had the pleasure of resting my weary travel bones. In fact, I created a separate post all about Riad Laaroussa in my list of A Thousand Places and would fly all the way back to Morroco just to stay there again.  As part of a very long restoration of the entire property, a room close to the entrance foyer was discovered and owners Fred and Cathy spared no expense at saving the once crumbling Hammam.  Intrigued, we decided our visit to Morocco or The Riad Laaroussa would not be complete until we had experienced this ancient ritual for ourselves so without much hesitation, my friend Diana and I made a reservation for what would be a lesson in grace, dignity and pain management.

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An Inside Out Look at Creating an Authentic Life

To BlogorNot To Blog ArticleA lot of well-meaning friends and even family members are always telling me “You’re so lucky!” and “Must be nice…You’re really living the life!” And, while most days I do feel pretty blessed, I always want to tell them that luck had nothing to do with it. Truth is, I’ve never won anything in my life (tell a small lie--I once won 2 turkeys in a fire station turkey raffle but I’d hardly call that my ship coming in). I don’t consider myself a “lucky” person but I don’t consider myself “unlucky” either. What I do believe, however, is that attitude and gratitude have everything to do with how I live and what opportunities come my way. You see, years ago I decided—literally made a conscious decision—to create a better life for myself. One that is rich in experiences and memories and not material things. And, not a day goes by that I am not grateful or take any of it for granted.  Read More....

Your Guide to the US National Park’s Passport

NP Passport 2-002With everyone focusing on New Year's Resolutions and painfully trying to better themselves with self help books and gym memberships, I have a suggestion for one that is not only fun but good for you. What resolution can possibly be both fun and beneficial you ask?  How about giving yourself the gift of a National Parks Passport and then resolving to visit them all (I guess this would make it a lifelong resolution because I don't think you can possibly see them all in just one year). I received mine as a Christmas gift from a fellow traveler several years ago and have had more fun hiking and photographing my way through 20 parks to date. Living in Illinois makes this no easy feat.....the nearest National Park (Cuyahoga Valley NP in Ohio) is 349 miles away.....the next (Mammoth Cave NP in Kentucky) a whopping 395 miles. The highest concentration of parks is in the Western US so if you are fortunate enough to live there, you're ahead already. California has the most parks with nine followed by Alaska which has eight and also contains the largest park Wrangell-St. Elias at over 8 million acres. The smallest is Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. While most years I dream of jetting off to exotic destinations outside of the US, there are years when time away or finances prohibit that kind of travel and I'm okay with that. Spending my hard earned $$ and vacation time exploring my own country and getting Passport stamps is equally rewarding. Not surprising--America is home to some of the most beautiful places on earth--many of which are contained inside of the National Park system. In fact, I'd strongly encourage even those residing outside of the US to get a Parks Passport and visit my country any chance you get. I can almost guarantee that you'll be glad you did and will be planning your next trip here before the first one is over Read More....

Adult Coloring Books – My Latest Obsession

ColoringAs if planning a trip and simply getting to your destination were not stressful enough, navigating around a new city, language barriers and just being out of your comfort zone can be quite taxing on the brain.  While on vacation however, it's important not to take a vacation from exercising your body or mind. Like physical activity for your body, fitting in some form of daily exercise for your brain is imparative in keeping sharp as we age and this muscle, just like the other muscles in your body, grow and become stronger the more you use it. My latest obsession and go to form of a mind work out (both at home and while traveling) is coloring. Not just for children anymore, this addictive trend is becoming so popular that adult coloring books are popping up on bestseller lists and are available on line, at bookstores, and at airport newstands nationwide. They take up very little space in a carry on bag making it a great activity for the plane ride or at your hotel after a long day of sightseeing. So, besides for simply being "fun", the following six reasons explaining the bonus health benefits will have you picking up a coloring book and crayons, markers, or colored pencils in time for your next trip.  Read More....

Lost Luggage – The Odds Are Against You

LuggageFive out of the last nine trips that I’ve been on have resulted in one person in my party not receiving at least one of their bags when arriving at our destination. And it wasn’t just bad luck on my part…statistics show that more luggage was lost this past year than in any year since 1990 – 30 million bags failed to arrive on time, about 10,000 bags per day. Among the reasons: airline budget cuts, greater airport congestion, tight connection times, increased transfers among airlines and stricter security. In defense of the airlines, most bags are delayed – not lost forever – and on average are returned to their owners in 1.3 days or 31 hours after being reported missing.  So let’s face it…those odds are not good nor in a travelers favor and has caused me to rethink how I pack. “Who checks a bag these days” is what most backpack wielding, yoga pant wearing under 30’s must be thinking. Not that I have anything against them…quite the contrary. I wish I could travel that light. But, being that I was a Girl Scout and then a Leader for many years, the motto “Be Prepared” has been ingrained into almost every area of my life….especially travel. And that means being prepared for anything including but not limited to severe fluctuations in weather and natural disasters.    Read More....

Travel Like A Rock Star – Hire A Personal Guide

Hiring A GuideLet me preface this by saying that I despise tours. I’ve been on so many trips and looked on in pity at the coachloads of badge wearing people being herded around by obnoxious umbrella wielding guides. Driven from one touristy location to the next and only given short periods of time at each stop. An absolute nightmare for someone like me who prefers to spend my valuable vacation days in out of the way places, hanging out where the locals do and being able to stop on a dime to get that great photo. On the contrary, these tours only stop at destinations they deem interesting or that are so touristy in nature there are hoards of other coaches at the same stop. Most times, they have contracted with the hotels and restaurants in the given destination and you have no choice of where you will stay or eat. My research has led me to believe that most often these aren’t 4-5 star properties (sometimes not even 3 stars) and that the restaurant quality isn’t that great either.  All of that being said, when planning and researching a recent trip to Morocco, my views on guided tours changed considerably. Read More....

Do You Suffer From Dromomania? Check Your Symptoms Here

Travel Bug 2Wikipedia defines Dromomania, also known as travelling fugue, as the uncontrollable psychological urge to wander. The term comes from the Greek: dromos (running) and mania (insanity) and is not new in terms of a medical diagnosis. It turns out that one of the most modern psychological diseases of our century was given its name in 1886 after the French locksmith Jean-Albert Dadas returned from his journey from France, the Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Turkey, and Austria. After that he was hospitalized and the doctors were surprised to find out that his most serious problems were his psychological issues and not the physical exhaustion caused by his travels. Dadas couldn’t remember where he had been or what he was doing in those countries and became the first patient of dromomania. Given this diagnosis, doctors documented that people with this condition would spontaneously depart from their routine, travel long distances and take up different identities and occupations.
 Months could pass before they returned to their former identities. Today, in the common English vernacular, this is often rendered simply as "wanderlust" and  although Dromomania does imply a psychological compulsion, it's usually on one's own and often without one's conscious knowledge rather than a more generalized desire to travel.    Read More...

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