The Sahara Desert

Sahara Desert Tour Morocco Camel Ride Travel

The Sahara Desert. How could a bunch of sand be so breathtaking? We were not sure what to expect out of our quick trip to the edge of the Sahara, but for some reason we were both pretty adamant that we needed to get there while in Morocco.

There are plenty of desert tours leaving from Marrakech, but the ones we found initially took tourists to smaller deserts a few hours drive from the city. We didn’t want just any desert – we wanted the Sahara. No more, no less. So, we enlisted the help of our amazing Airbnb hosts and with all of our broken French and English finally came up with a solution. In order to get to the Sahara we would need to hire a driver to take us 11 hours by car to the area around the  border of Algeria and Morocco – and we said yes.

Our 24-hour round trip drive through Morocco is a whole other blog post, so I will simply begin with when we jumped on our camels (please say you noticed our shadows in the first photo). Once we arrived at the edge of the dunes, we were rushed over to a large group of other tourists and camels to make sure we had enough time to see the sunset before it got dark. Before we could really think too much about it, we were both on top of camels without our overnight bags (they said our backpacks were too big for the camels and sent us off for the night without them). We could see some dunes in the distance, but were not sure what to expect when all of the sudden the flat terrain became this:

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Sahara Desert Tour Morocco Camel Ride Travel

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The colors in the sand and the sky were just incredible. I could not stop taking photos of the shadows and lines created by the setting sun on the warm colored sand. After about a half-hour on the camel we realized that riding a camel was much less comfortable than we would have liked – but we pressed on. Some of the other people in the group opted for riding on the roofs of small SUV’s instead of a camel ride (we were a little jealous).

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After about an hour or so on the camels we came to a high point and were told to get off the camels to watch the sunset. It did not disappoint. I think the photo of Dave below will always be one of my favorites.

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The colors in the sky once the sun set were just amazing.

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I had to at least try to shake all of the sand out of my hair, but that was a joke. I am still finding sand in the bottom of bags and in between zippers. After watching the sunset, we got back on our camels to head to camp.

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When we got to camp we just had to laugh. Our safari experience over this past summer really spoiled us and we thought that when they said “tent camp” we would find beds and running water. Not so. We found ourselves sleeping on the sand with a bunch of blankets inside these tents. Did you know that it can be about 30 degrees and freezing in the desert? We sure found out. However, the stars along were worth the freezing temperatures and lack of bathrooms.

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Being surrounded by stars and dunes felt very other worldly. (I might have talked a lot about how I felt like I was in a Star Wars movie and referenced Rey many times with sitting on dunes). Our guide woke us up around 5 am and helped us on to our camels while it was still dark so we could watch the beautiful sunrise over the dunes.

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We were pretty dang excited when our hour long morning camel trek was over and we got to brush our teeth, but we promise the Sahara was worth it!  What a gorgeous, gorgeous place.

Sahara Desert Tour Morocco Camel Ride Travel

If you ever get the chance to see the Sahara – go, go, go!!

LIKE THIS POST? Check out Riding Elephants in Chiang Mai or Hot Air Balloons over Cappadocia

Maasai Mara: Sunset Game Drive

safaridayoneblog-100The Mara. This was a term we heard countless times when the locals would talk about going on safari. What is “The Mara”? It’s a huge game reserve that spans across Kenya and Tanzania (in Tanzania it becomes the Serengeti)  covered in grasslands. I had always wanted to go on Safari and ‘The Mara’ sounded like the perfect place.

We were pretty darn ignorant about the process of ‘going on safari’ when we arrived in Kenya and thought it would be easy to book a quick trip to see some animals. That assumption was sort of true -showing up to Nairobi with concrete plans and expecting to go on safari is a little bit more complicated than we thought though. For one, safaris are much more expensive to book than we’d assumed (whoops) and there are literally hundreds of different options to sift through! We were lucky to have someone who’d lived in Kenya for over a decade guide us through the options and walk us though the process. We ended up booking a three day trip thought a tour service and decided to drive (rather than fly) from Nairobi to Maasai Mara.

We were the only two people on our tour so our guide picked us up directly from our accommodations and we began the five hour trek to the Mara.  The first few hours of the drive were your typical African-paved-road-driving-experience but the last hour or so was the bumpiest, loudest road I have ever been on (and that is saying a lot). All Dave and I could do when we were driving was laugh, yell to each other and hold on tightly. We felt a lot of relief when we reached the game park’s smooth dirt roads. Our guide drove us straight to our hotel to check in and then we immediately left for a sunset game drive!

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Our guide popped the roof of our van up so we could stand and take photos for the duration of our drive. We were promptly greeted by herds and herds of zebra when we began driving through the grasslands and some of the most breath-taking views. We looked at each other several times as we hung out the roof of a van surrounded by wild life and the African sun dropping and asked, ‘are we really here???”

safaridayoneblog-108safaridayoneblog-111We saw a couple of lions this first game drive, but we got better shots later on in our stay, so if lions are your thing, check back later!

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At one point Dave pointed out this lone giraffe on the horizon and we both freaked out a bit about our first giraffe sighting. Our guide informed us that giraffes really only go off alone if they are old and preparing to die, to that killed the mood a little, but hey, we were still excited about the giraffe! Don’t worry, we saw some giraffe families later on as well!

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And then the sun started to set and we couldn’t believe how beautiful the savannah looked bathed in the golden light.

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Beautiful, right? Even for a non-animal-lover like me the African savannah was just majestic. We will be posting more photos from the safari later, so come on back for some cheetahs!

PS: LIKE THIS POST? CHECK OUT Hot Air Balloons over Cappadocia or Lake Naivasha Water Safari

Hot Air Balloons over Cappadocia

Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Rides in Cappadocia, Turkey. Bucket list. Travel. Kapadokya. Adventure.

When we stepped off of our in-country flight from Istanbul to central Turkey we looked around and almost wondered if we’d stepped into another planet – or at least a science-fiction story. The landscape of Cappadocia (a name we heard pronounced about 25 different ways so don’t ask us how to say it) is breath-taking and incredibly unique. When we were researching the region we continuously saw it described as ‘other-wordly’ and now that we have been there I feel that it is the best description I could give.

The region is known for it’s rock formations, often called “fairy chimneys“, that are scattered around the landscape -and once housed monks and ancient Christian communities. In more recent years the local community began taking hot air balloons above the canyons in order to get a sweeping view of the landscape. Tourists became interested in these sunrise rides and the business has taken off (no pun intended – okay fine, yes it was) in a major way. I first heard of these famous sun rise balloon rides on pinterest, but seeing my friend Katie’s photos of her experience was the thing that moved Cappadocia up to the top of my bucket list. When I discovered that Turkish Airlines was a member of Star Alliance I knew that Turkey was going to be a stop on our way home from Africa – and I am so glad we made it!

Before I jump right into photos from our beautiful hot air balloon ride I feel I must properly introduce the story, lest you start to believe that our travels are always all sunshine and rainbows. I ended up with a bad case of food poisoning the week we were in Turkey that was compounded by what I later learned was a minor parasite party happening inside me like it was 1999 -so I was pretty tired, nauseous and weak during our time in Cappadocia. Since we were in Turkey in the summer, the sun rose very early in the day and we were scheduled to be picked up for the tour at 3:45 am (yikes) and I spent the few hours of the night before this hot air balloon ride shaking uncontrollably with fever and nausea…so rough start. Dave almost made me cancel the ride, but I put on my game face and pretended I felt better (fake it til you make it, am I right?). I am so grateful that I felt better during the first part of our balloon ride (thank you adrenaline) bout mid-way through the hot air balloon ride I was having trouble standing and was ready for it to be over. We ended up going to the emergency room a few hours later but the Turkish doctors had me feeling better by night fall. So, no permanent harm done, but my memories from this morning are a little hazy! I am thankful I can re-live that morning through photos months later.

Okay, so now that you know the back story, here is what the valley looked like as the tour groups began firing up the balloons in the blue light of early morning…

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Once they had our balloon inflated and upright they let it float above ground for a minute or so before urging us to hurry and get in. We took a few steps back and jumped up on the basket while they hoisted us over and, before I really had time to panic over my fear of heights, we were off!

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Beautiful right?? I would have loved to get some more photos of fairy chimneys but they were not on our side of the balloon so our view often looked like the photo below. I had no idea that hot air balloons cannot be steered until I was already in one (probably for the best). Did you know that hot air balloons can only be steered up and down and not side ways? We were at the mercy of the wind.

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This is about the point where I began holding on to the sides of the basket and praying for a very quick landing. Any of you wondering how they land these things? Well you are in luck because Dave Baker had the camera during the landing and he documented the process for you!

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Our tour company Turkiye Balloons was amazing and we loved our pilot! I normally would have loved their landing ceremonies – but all I wanted at this point was a place to lie down. Dave, however, enjoyed both of our champagne toasts and accepted our landing certificate on my behalf.

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We also took a few photos with our GoPro to get a wider perspective of our view and also to get in a few selfies of us in the hot air balloon.

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I would absolutely recommend this experience to anyone and everyone. We loved our hot air balloon ride, and for those of you who also have a fear or heights, though I had a brief panic feelings, I mostly felt calm about floating in the balloon. If you ever find yourself in Turkey this experience is definitely worth a detour!

LIKE THIS POST? Check out Driving the Snæfellsnes Peninsula or Riding Elephants in Chiang Mai

Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Rides in Cappadocia, Turkey. Bucket list. Travel. Kapadokya. Adventure.

Snowzilla

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Just in case you were under a rock this past week and some how missed it – Washington, DC had a blizzard this week! We stayed warm and cozy in our apartment on Saturday making lots of coffee (as evidenced by the photos of Dave grinding coffee beans in bulk). Our little cacti collection tried to stay warm by the windows as the snow fell – and it actually got to be about three times that amount on the window sill by Sunday!

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We eventually ventured outside on Sunday when the snow finally stopped coming down and the snow plows started running. Capitol Hill was the quietest I had ever seen it and the snow made our neighborhood look like a postcard. I loved watching the Washingtonians step out of their homes and walk down the center of normally busy streets with pure wonder in their eyes. Washington, DC is not exactly a town that usually stops and slows down, so it was such a treat to be forced to slow the city down for a few days.

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Yea, it’s been five days since the snow started falling and we haven’t attempted to move our car yet…we may need to borrow a snow shovel! Many thanks to the people in the photo below who were in walking distance during the blizzard and shared board game nights and brunch with us while snowed in. You were great blizzard buddies!

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PS – Anyone remember last years snow days? They were epic, but the snow fall was no were near this years! Snow days are probably my favorite thing about winter.

Puffins!!

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In an attempt to get back into the rhythm of blogging regularly, I have decided to write some simple blog posts that make me happy. Soooo today’s blog post is about puffins! Although I am admittedly not a huge animal lover or bird watcher, I have a soft spot for the adorable arctic puffin. I first fell in love with the puffin when I spotted them from a boat on my way to Skellig Michael off the coast of Ireland when I was in college (speaking of Skellig Michael, um, STAR WARS!!) and have loved their weird faces ever since.

I had high hopes of seeing these elusive little birds on our trip to Iceland over the summer, but had been told not to count on it. One day when we were driving up the coast we stopped at an epic lighthouse (more on that later) during a rail and hail storm. When we were getting back into our car we saw a crowd of people by a nearby cliff. We reluctantly went over to see what all the fuss was about and, to my delight, there were a few hundred puffins!!

I later learned that days with bad weather are some of the best days to see puffins because they seek shelter on land. When we were driving back to  Reykjavik the next day we stopped to see the puffins again (because, why not?) and many of them were still there hanging in the sunshine. These puffin photos were taken on both days so don’t be confused by the different weather conditions. Without further ado, the puffins:

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I should have taken a wide shot so you could see just how many puffins there were, but I didn’t think of it while I was there. (too much puffin love to think about blogging) However, here is a shot of some of them in the water and there were a ton more on the cliffs and in the air.

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Aren’t the so weirdly adorable? I am a little embarrassed of how many puffin photos I have on my hard drive, but then again, I am not.

Have you ever had a puffin sighting??

PS: Like this post? Check out Driving the Snæfellsnes Peninsula or Lake Naivasha Water Safari

If we had a cup of coffee…(2016 Edition)

2015-Nine_Square_Grid-2This January if we had a cup of coffee -sat down at a local coffee shop to have a heart to heart- it’d be a little different than previous years. For one, it would have coconut milk for creamer (whole 30 anyone??) or maybe I would make you Turkish tea or grind you some Ethiopian beans. 2015 was certainly one for the books (and I swear it will eventually be one for the blog too – I am struggling to get back into routines)

Seriously though, this year’s coffee talk would be different than the cup of coffee we had last January. Or the January before that. The past few years of Dave and I living in Washington DC have been so sweet, but 2011, 2012, 2013, & 2014? They had us asking all kinds of questions about the future. We showed up in the nation’s capital in 2011 as 22-year-old newlyweds planning to stay for 1-2 years…and five years of DC-living later? We have no plans to leave.

I started 2015 with a lot of confusion. I’d embarked on my freelance photography journey back in 2013 with plans of Dave joining me and eventually quitting his job in the medical field, but by January 2015 it still hadn’t happened. We weren’t sure if quitting his job meant finding another job or freelancing too, but we knew he was feeling ready to move on. However, no option ever felt ‘right’. I had also spent a lot of time dreaming about Dave and I leaving DC to travel and work on projects for a few months, but wasn’t sure how to make that leap.

Less than 48 hours after I wrote last year’s “coffee blog post” Dave received a call that threw a completely unexpected twist in our 2015 plans. The call was from Kate, founder and director of Bittersweet Creative. Dave and I had been freelancing photography and video projects for Bittersweet and contributing to their publication, Bittersweet Monthly, for a couple of years and had just come back from a 2015 planning retreat with their team. Kate was calling to see if Dave would be interested in coming onto the Bittersweet team full time – and we were honestly shocked by the phone call.

We all took some time (ie:months) to think, pray, and talk over the decision and throughout those weeks we really felt the Lord leading us toward Bittersweet and their vision. Dave accepted the position in May 2015, but the start date was not until September. A time gap that felt perfect for some extended traveling. We got to work over the next 8 weeks booking a few projects overseas to help with the costs of travel, notified our landlord, sold most of our furniture, packed up our remaining belongings for storage and bought one way tickets to Uganda.

The next six weeks were a blur of languages, hotels, and currencies but I think I will always look back at that time with Dave as one of the sweetest of my life. (We ended up traveling to Germany, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Turkey & Iceland) It felt like a loving gift from God as an unexpected fulfillment of a long-held dream and a confirmation that the Lord was still leading us to Washington, DC four years after he’d originally led us here. As incredible as our time traveling was, we both felt a peace about returning home when we boarded our last flight from Reykjavik to Washington.

We spent a few weeks after returning to the states visiting our families and enjoyed time lakeside and oceanside. Then, we began a chaotic eight weeks of couch surfing with (incredible) friends in the Washington, DC area as we settled back in and looked for a new place to live. We were amazed by the community who surrounded us and offered up their guest rooms and air mattresses while we settled. What an undeserved blessing. We (finally!!) moved into a new apartment in November which marked just about five months of living the nomad-life. I swear I will never take using dresser drawers rather than a suitcase for granted again. Our current apartment is on the opposite side of town and we ended up with a lower monthly rent than we were even hoping for (hallelujah – another unexpected blessing).

The resettlement process has been both wonderfully easy and also hard – highs and lows, if you will. The easy part was stepping back into the community that we love and the hard part was most definitely having our life in a constant state of chaos as we lived without an apartment. It’s also been a stretch financially – it’s amazing what four weeks of international vacationing will do to your savings account. But, we are settling into our new space and beginning to refurnish our apartment and rebuild the savings account – slowly but surely.

When I entered 2015 I was praying for harvest after what felt like 4 years of planting and growing. In so many ways 2015 was a harvest. As I look at 2016 I see it as a year to begin planting once again. We’ve spent the last few months tilling the land and preparing for planting, now we are ready to get down on our hands and knees and plant seeds. It’s time to expand our fields and grow some deep roots. I am not expecting easy, in fact, I feel like the Lord is just going to keep on teaching more and more about practicing contentment. I feel like the Lord has really stretched me this year and as a result he has beckoned me to grow, but I still have a whole lot to learn.

Hello, New Year, we are coming for you.

Like this post? Check out If We Had a Cup of Coffee or Practicing Contentment or Love Me Some Home

Driving the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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Oh Snæfellsnes Peninsula – we never did figure out how to pronounce you, but man, did we love you. (we might have spent most of the day calling is snuffleupagus – just for fun)

When we flew into Iceland, we were immediately greeted by a representative from our car rental company,  who provided us with a map and some really helpful Iceland driving advice. After we we met our adorable little rental car, we drove straight to The Laundromat Cafe to get some dinner and do a few loads of laundry. The cool temperature and wind felt divine after a week in the Turkish desert and with our freshly washed bags of clothes in the trunk, we headed out for our first Icelandic destination: The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We drove along the coast as the sun was beginning to set – a process that takes much longer at an arctic latitude than at home. The clouds and landscape were absolutely breathtaking and we decided that we would not take a single photo until we got to our hotel. We just wanted to enjoy our first night and not worry about capturing it with photographs – it’s fun every once and a while to just sit back and enjoy instead of thinking about how it would look through a camera lens. Does that resonate with anyone else?

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We arrived at our hotel after 10 pm to find that the sun was finally starting to set, creating the most amazing colors in the clouds overhead. The hotel itself made everyone of my grass-covered-roof, hobbit dreams come true. However, when we tried to check in we were told that they had accidentally overbooked the hotel and took us to their home instead.

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We woke up in this adorable cottage by the sea and couldn’t have thought of a better way to experience our first Icelandic morning than in an authentic Icelandic home.

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After a little breakfast of coffee, bread, cheese and cold cuts we took off to explore the Hellnar area on foot. This area of the peninsula reminded us so much of Ireland – in the best way.

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After our walking tour of the cliffs around Hellnar, we jumped in our little car and started the rest of our loop around the peninsula. Admittedly, we did not do a ton of research about this area of Iceland before we started exploring, so we were so happy to find the most adorable info centers in just about every small town along the way. Many of the info centers even had small museums with historic information about their town, as well as maps to follow. Dave and I had so much fun stopping at each center along the way and using the maps to discover every little church and lighthouse we could find.

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Most of the lighthouses that we saw in Iceland are painted this amazing color orange and are solar powered. This particular lighthouse was built in 1931 and has two names – one for when it is seen from land and one when it is seen from sea. We had to drive on a dirt road through fields of moss-covered lava to find the lighthouse and we loved every minute of it.

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As big fans of the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, we had to make it up to Stykkisholmur on our Snæfellsnes tour. The town was a beautiful destination even of you haven’t seen the movie, but it was so fun to see where they filmed. Of course, we left with song “Major Tom” in our heads.

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After we stopped by our last church on the peninsula, we drove south to begin the next leg of our self-guided driving tour. Driving through the Snæfellsnes Peninsula was easily one of our favorite days of our Iceland trip. It felt less ‘touristy’ than many of the other places we visited and we loved driving through all of the fishing villages and national parks. Most everything about this day felt magical  – definitely one for the books!

LIKE THIS POST? You should check out  Taling Chan Floating Market – Bangkok or The Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia

World Food Day

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Happy World Food Day- today is a day when people around the world declare the commitment to end hunger in our lifetime! 1 in 9 people in our world live with chronic hunger – that is unacceptable!

While we were in Kenya this summer we spent time at AIC Zion School in Mathare, a collection of slums with a population of approximately 500,000 people where the ground is often covered in litter and human waste.The school gives education and three meals a day to each of it’s students. The children in these photos are drinking their porridge, part of their school’s meal program, and now their little brains can absorb school instead of focusing on their hunger. Everyone deserves that. What more can we do to make a difference?

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