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My home town Deventer: your next exotic destination

We travel back to the year 806.

Near a tree by a river an Anglosaxon monk turns his head to look back at where he came from. His eyes follow a river meandering through green meadows. Parallel to that the dusty road he traveled. The landscape is beautiful, but that was not why he traveled that long.

The monk is tired, his feet hurt. Slowly turning back his head he now watches the river right in front of him. He watches the small settlement on the other side where people gather and trade.

He knows he needs to cross the river. Visions of a church are passing through his mind. His church. A church for him to build in order to continue his important work: to spread Christianity. And so he did.

View on Lebuinus

Lebuinus

His name was Lebuïnus and the small settlement he watched was called Deventer. He raised his wooden church as planned. Two hundred years later, on exactly that same spot, the wooden building was replaced by the first church of stone. It is still there and the impressive gothic tower nowadays is a true landmark of Deventer. After climbing the spiral stairs (220 steps) you have the best view of the river (IJssel) and the stunning landscapes. Guess you already know the name of the church…. Indeed, “Lebuïnus”.

Landscape around Deventer

Fancy to visit?
Deventer is my home town, one of the oldest towns in the Netherlands. Situated only 1 hour from Amsterdam, home to 98,000 people and famous for its spicy gingerbread (Deventer Koek)!
For first-timers it might look like a laid-back, rural city. To some extent it is, but beware that earlier inhabitants were notorious for an act that some of you might find a bit creepy….

But let’s keep that for later on. We start with getting you all into that laid-back, rural feeling. When you walk the mediaeval city centre of Deventer, you switch between past and present. It is a web of winding cobblestone streets, all ending (or starting if you want to) on the main square (De Brink). You will discover small alleys where suddenly the buzz of the main square mutes. For a moment you drown in history, quickly emersing again when you return to the busy square.

Bergkerk

Bergkwartier

Some call Deventer a miniture version of Amsterdam. A fun thing to do is to wander the small alleys and look for remarkable, dedicated shops. Like this one for brooms! Have you ever shopped for brooms like this? Believe it or not, we are proud to have them.

Interior of the broom shop

Notorious
I almost forgot…that creepy tradition. In the past, Deventer was not a fun place to be for criminals, especially those who counterfeited money. Not because we threw them in jail, but even worse, we boiled them in oil. Alive….poor counterfeiters.

I am not kidding, just look at this cettle. This cettle was used to boil people! The sign below the cettle is in Dutch but explains it all. That horrible thing is on display for everyone to watch, bit sinister don’t you think? Still fancy visiting our town??

Cettle

Dutch description of cettle on display 2

Sure you do! Deventer is an easy daytrip if you are in Amsterdam. We would love to see you here! To convince you even more, here some facts and figures of interesting things you probably did not know before:

1. Bridge Too Far (for movie freaks!)
Do you remember ‘A Bridge Too Far’, the Second World War movie? The bridge you saw on the second picture in this post played an important role. All the scenes on the Bridge were shot in Deventer.

Bridge too far

2. Largest European open-air book
In August you can buy books. The largest European (open-air) book fair takes place in the town centre and along the banks of the river IJssel: 6 kilometers of books.

3. Dickens, back in time Victorian style.
End of December Deventer takes you back in time, in Dickens style. The oldest streets and alleys are dressed up in Victorian Style, including many people playing a Dickens tale. The event attracts around 135,000 visitors in just two days!

Bergkwartier in Dickens style

Dickens Festijn Deventer

This is the story of my home town. Hope to see you there soon!

Everywhere is Illuminated” is a great post by modern-mythologist Mark Robertson of The Panamericans. His post talks about having the right kind of wanderlust and, more importantly, that going local sometimes beats the next checklist of Lonely Planet. Find the mythic, historical, and scandalous history of your place.

Pictures of Deventer by night by Henk Melenhorst (Deventer)

Traveling is like running, it hurts sometimes

Beggar in Kuala Lumpur fr

When I run, I feel free.

When I run, my mind randomly wanders through a maze of memories. On that unpredictable road my mind takes me, I experience flashes of past experiences. They make me smile. I also enjoy the landscape around me and I am able to leave all my worries behind.

Actually, running is like traveling. When you travel, you move in a flow of hapiness where new memories are created. Amazed by stunning landscapes, great food and new discoveries you forget about your daily worries.

But that joy of running, the wandering off of the mind can be disrupted by sudden pain. My sore knee or foot disturb my running process. Every next step hurts. Sometimes the pain goes away quickly, sometimes it stays to leave a footprint.

Running is like traveling. Just when you are in such a happy travel flow, you litterally trip over a beggar, a cripple, a young boy with scars, a man without legs and sight, or children playing in dirt. It hurts.

Suddenly you are confronted with real life. Poverty. Being a traveler in a strange country does not mean you can hide from seeing poverty, you cannot just make unwanted scenes dissapear. Not even if you travel with your children. If you don’t want your children to see it, sorry to say but Disneyland is a good alternative.

Being confronted with inhumane poverty hurts. Sometimes the pain goes away quickly, sometimes it stays to leave a footprint.

I understand (and I praise myself lucky) to live in luxury, being able to travel our fabulous world. I alone cannot change the poverty situation in a country. When traveling in poorer countries, prepare and accept that poverty is all around. Do what you think is necessary.

In India we saw disabled people in such a way that we were honestly scared to look at them. In Morocco we saw a man with no arms trying to make a living by painting (very beautifully I must say). We had our kids watch his art.

Children watching painter fr

The earth keeps turning and money keeps rolling. Differences between rich and poor are here to stay. When you travel and experience different cultures, you have to deal with the extreme. When we travel we don’t avoid it, even not when we travel with our kids. Sometimes we ignore, other times we talk about it. I hope it will show our kids how good a life we are living, once we return home safely, far away from the hurting.

Lady begging in Morocco fr

All pictures by Emiel van den Boomen

How Peru uncovered a hidden passion

I am pleased to announce another guest post on The Act of Traveling! Asia Bird is an upcoming travel writer from the United States. She wrote a great story about how she discovered her passion for foreign languages while traveling in Peru. You can also follow Asia on Twitter.

I’ve taken Spanish 101 no less than 4 times. I practiced, I got straight A’s, but I couldn’t speak a lick of Spanish. Why was learning Spanish so hard?

It wasn’t until I took a trip to Peru and stepped outside of my comfort zone that I began to make real progress. I discovered the key to learning Spanish: passion to understand people!

This story is all about how I accidentally uncovered a passion I didn’t even know I had.

Girl in Wakawasi hr

By the Seat of my Pants

Off to Peru we went, me and my friend. Suddenly I was surrounded by foreign sights, smells, and sounds. Up until this point, I had only traveled in Europe so Cuzco, Peru seemed intoxicatingly, wonderfully different.

This was the first time that I had really traveled, meaning no itinerary, no schedule, just going where we wanted to go. In doing this, my friend, Erika and I ended up speaking more with locals than tour guides, as we tried to make our way around this city. We made some local Peruvian friends, who graciously showed us around ‘their’ Cuzco, far away from the usual tourist spots.

Asia Bird & friends hrp

Wakawasi

I spent time in an indigenous village, Wakawasi, where the main language spoken was Quetchua, and learned that while we are different in so many ways (they live in a mud hut without electricity, water, or plumbing, make all their clothes by hand, and eat only what they grow) we also have a lot in common (we worry about our love lives, love to dance, and we often get together with the girls to gossip).

Wakawasi girl hr

I shopped at an outdoor local market far away from the tourist traps. Where instead of selling postcards, handicrafts, and t-shirts souvenirs, there were shoes, illegal movies, spices, and guinea pig on a stick! The locals market seemed much more community focused – little kids and dogs were running around everywhere, women wandered around chatting and carrying babies, teenagers made-out around every corner and loud Spanish music competed for our attention with the strong smells of roasting meats and fish. The market felt alive with hustle and bustle. In comparison, the tourist markets felt sterile, and unauthentic.
I felt like I had captured a small glimpse of what it was like to live in Peru as a local. My passion to understand these people started to grow…

We also spent a day at an orphanage, playing with these sweet little kids. We learned how hard it is to run an orphanage when there is a very unregular availability of electricity, hot water, and even caretakers. I realized that even though these people don’t have a lot of money, they have a lot of heart and love.

Orphanage Wakawasi

Learning about Incas or Pilgrims?

The more I found out, the more I wanted to learn. I thirsted to know everything about the history, the people, the architecture, the culture, and the language. Everywhere we went, I found myself dying to to be able to communicate with the people, to ask questions and connect. I wanted to understand our similarities and differences, and hear their stories!

What was it like to grow up learning about the Incas instead of the Pilgrims? What are their customs, what are their traditions? What drives them, what inspires them, what are their hopes and their dreams?

But also: do they celebrate Valentines Day? Were high school students looking forward to college or dreading a future of hard work with little pay? What did they think of Americans? Why are their teeth so naturally white?

Woman and child Peru

Feeling Cheated and Ashamed

My American public school education didn’t teach me about this richly colored culture, or their history. I felt a little ashamed that in all my traveling before now, for never really taking the time to talk to the people outside hotels, airports, and restaurants. By keeping to myself, I never found this amazing sense of joy that comes from connecting with people through another language. Speaking the local language enables you to connect.

I came back to the United States with a renewed excitement about travel and language. I just knew that this time I was going to learn how to speak Spanish, come hell or high water. I committed to learn at least a little bit of Spanish everyday until I was fluent.

Because of that trip to Peru, I found my passion for connecting and communicating with people. Simply put, I love to travel and I love to talk, put the two together and what have you got? Motivation!

The experience of conversing with people that have a completely different lens from which they view the world exhilarates me! That’s something I didn’t learn in Spanish 101!

How have your language experiences or struggles during travel impacted you? How do you feel about learning a language in order to really understand a country?

About Asia Bird and LanguageWrangler.com

Asia Bird

Asia is a long time Spanish student and loves to travel. Not everyone can live in or travel to a foreign country to learn a language, so Asia started LanguageWrangler.com, a site dedicated to encourage busy adults to continually learn a foreign language a little bit every day in order to reach fluency without foreign immersion. LanguageWrangler.com supports continued language learning through resources, exercises, news, and motivation.

Why Nepal scared the sh*t out of us…

Entering Kathmandu, Nepal.

Entering a country of ancient traditions, impressive to some but strikingly painful to others. This story is about encountering local traditions while you travel. You might not like this one, I warn you.

How to describe Kathmandu? I don’t even remember all the details. Chaotic, old, rural, and with the problems every big city faces: traffic jams and pollution. Around the main Durbar square however, a strange feeling quickly came upon us.

Time traveling.
It is not that we felt odd in our Western-style clothes, but the square was like a time loop, a peek into history.

Durbar square Kathmandu

Traveling back in time

We love to spend time traveling, but sometimes travels make time stand still. You reach places where you actually sense history.

History reaches us not only through old buildings or the way people sell and buy goods at the market. It is mostly customs and habits that make us wonder why people have not passed through the door we call progress.
Of course we have to cherish our traditions, but don’t you think that sometimes we should hold up a mirror to people? Some traditions don’t fit in todays way of life, overtaken by science or just common modern sense.

Yes, I know I am talking from a Western perspective here. In many Western countries traditions have adapted to modern times, but when you travel the world you come across traditions that really make you wonder.

Or scare you!

One of those traditions happens annually in Nepal. We stayed in its capital Kathmandu exactly on the days it all happened. Call it lucky or call it bad luck. It’s up to you to decide.

It started when we drove through the city in a Tuk-Tuk. We saw something strange in the corner of our eye. Slowly we turned our heads, only to see something that struck us. A man was carrying a plate walking the narrow and dusty streets around Durbar square. He looked like a waiter. Only thing was he carried a big silver plate with a goats head on top of it.

Its tongue sticked out. The funny thing about it was my immediate response (strange that I still remember that so well): “Hmm, must be freshly slaughtered”. It was, it was freshly slaughtered!

Just half an hour later we were drinking tea and another man passed by, carrying a same plate with yet another goats head. At that time we started to feel a bit strange. What was happening here?

Mass animal sacrifice

We quickly read our guide books and talked to fellow travelers. We found out that this was day One of mass animal slaughtering throughout Nepal. They call it sacrificing. I didn’t recall the numbers, but for sure thousands and thousands of goats, cows and buffaloes were slaughtered. Why? For good luck. To celebrate the victory of good over evil.

There was an atmosphere of excitement in the city of Kathmandu. But a kind of excitement that made us feel very uncomfortable. But human beings have a strong sense of curiosity, even up to the morbid. So we stayed around.

Tough as we were (or wanted to be), we found our way to a square where thousands of Nepali gathered (including some ‘lucky’ travelers like us). This seemed to be the Taleju Temple where 54 buffaloes and 54 goats were about to be slaughtered.

We watched animals being slaughtered in a ceremony with flags and music. We showed our antipathy but strangly enough were also impressed by the power of the sword. One man could chop the head of a buffalo in only one hit of the sword. A lot of strength is needed for that I can assure you.
Animal heads were collected one side of the area. The body was dragged around the place, creating a circle of blood (I warned you). Blood was also collected and used to spray on cars, airplanes or Tuk-Tuks for another year of safety and good luck.

Buffaloe slaughtering

Animal sacrifice

Dragging the body

Slaughtering a goat in Nepal

Worship or cruelty?

It is not strange that lately animal rights campaigners are trying to stop this tradition. I am not writing this post to judge these events. I am telling this story to let you know that traveling the world means you might bump into unexpected sights and events that might scare you. Things you might wanted to avoid. But remember, sometimes the unavoidable creates the unforgettable.

Tell me, what places or events have you encountered that made a lasting impression, good or bad?

108 Life Lessons shared

Life Lessons E-book

This post is about a fabulous new E-book: Life Lessons. You can download this E-book for free by clicking on the cover. Why do I believe you will benefit from reading this book? Let me explain.

December 2010 I wrote a post about “7 life lessons learned from living in Japan”, you might remember it. For me, launching this post created a ripple effect that left me grasping for breath! The post was promoted to Freshly Pressed by WordPress and received around 6,500 hits in only two days. For me that was awesome and I can assure you those were two hectic days end of December! But the post also introduced me into the world of authentic life stories and self development.

My post was not only intended to share my love for Japan. Another reason to tell this story was an invitation from Farnoosh Brock (Prolific Living) and Abubakar Jamil (Self Improvement Blog) to become part of a new blogging project. The project was about collecting and sharing life lessons.

Actually it was all about the creation of a net of gems. The Net hosts an amazing number of great souls, sharing their experiences and insights. Sometimes we come across inspirational stories that really make us think about our own life. This particular blogging project linked 108 life lessons.

I was one of the 108 bloggers. Can you imagine the cumulative intensity and strength of all these messages?

Now all the 108 blog posts are combined in a free E-book. This E-book is a marvelous collection of life lessons and includes links to every single blog post! A waterfall of life lessons, but a warm and inviting one, one that will clean and refresh you for sure.

Searching for advice

We are always willing to learn. We search the Net for inspiration and advice. The Act of Traveling is specifically about travel advice as I strongly believe traveling holds some of the most important life lessons around. Lessons like learning and embracing cultural differences, watching rich and poor living next to each other, or value the small things in life.

You will love this E-book. Did I mention it’s free?! Just click on the book cover.
You will learn from it, it will make you wonder and you will surely start thinking. Thinking about why you rush in life and why you don’t take the time to reflect. Don’t you just love “Time is a currency..”, just one of the many great quotes in the book?

108 stories captured and summarised in this book, a safe haven for you to self-reflect.

Lesson learned.

Travel stories change what matters to us

“Like water slowly cracking rock, stories begin to change what matters to us.”

I believe I have found the reason behind my burning desire to travel the world.

Drink tea and listen to stories

In a comment on the PanAmericans blog we recently talked about how it’s so easy nowadays to reach out to the world without traveling. But to really understand our fabulous world we need stories, real stories. Stories that give us examples on how to live, stories about cultures that we need to understand, stories about fun that we need to make, stories about the challenges that will face us and the lessons we can learn from history.

There are many reasons for people to travel, but for me, story gathering is the undisputable No. 1. I’m not talking stories like comparing the cheapest hotels, but real stories. Real stories that make you wonder, stories that make you want to dig deeper into a yet unknown part of our world.

My blog is a collection of travel stories and I sincerely hope it will evolve into a vivid travelogue with genuine descriptions of places and experiences. This blog will hopefully comfort your soul if you’re afraid to test your travel wings. A collection of passionate stories that will inspire you to visit places that maybe were not yet on your travel top ten list. I am sure all these destinations will provide you with new life-enriching stories.

This is also the reason why we take our children along. We believe travel stories are one of the most important life lessons they can get. These travels are our gift to them.

I want to inspire you to crush that travel fear you might have, and start collecting stories. I can honestly say that the stories of my travels have changed what matters to me, because they taught me what is really important in life. It is not having the biggest car or TV-set, no way. It is all about people, serendipity, fun and cultural differences. The world is an amazing place, a gift waiting to be unwrapped by you.

I challenge you to come with me, sit around the digital fire and tell stories. Are you with me? OK, start with telling me a travel story that changed your life. You can share it in the comment section below but I also want to provide the opportunity of guest posting. Come sit with us around the fire…

Colombia discovery: 7-stop magical mystery tour

I am happy to announce the very first guest post on The Act of Traveling!  Mark Robertson, the energetic writer of the PanAmericans wrote a fabulous post about traveling to Colombia. You can also follow Mark on Twitter.

I’m flattered to be guest posting for Emiel. He offers of an alternative model for families: travel off the timeworn roads in places like Japan, Peru, Thailand, and Turkey. Talk to people. Try sand-boarding near Lima before you blitz for Machu Picchu. Watch people. Expect serendipity. Enjoy and respect the differences. I can’t imagine what a wonderful education the little Van den Boomens are having!

I’ve chosen to describe a few snapshots of “nuestro vida colombiana.” We (my wife and I) lived in Colombia two years, and the country completely changed our worldview. The archives of our blog, The Panamericans describes more of our experiences, misadventures, and general shenanigans as Gringos in a green land. The following is a (very) shortlist of reasons why you might want to add Colombia to your bucket list.

¡The CNN Effect!

Chaos-focused media makes for great economic travelling. During the last 30 years, the media has colored our imagination of Colombia with guerilla warfare, narco-trafficking, and Pablo Escobar’s mustache. The more the media rips on Colombia, the more the economic traveler benefits.

Is there real danger? Yes—especially in the alleys and exteriors of cities like Cali.

However, I spent one year in Colombia before traveling to Ecuador without “being relieved of” anything important. My first day in Quito, however, I had my camera stolen from the side of my pants. This may speak more to my absent-mindedness than of Ecuador’s security—it could happen anywhere—but in Colombia I literally had lost things returned to me by total strangers.

¡La Chiva!

The Chiva is a party-bus that combines drinking, driving, dancing, and a live band called a papayera. ( Before you gasp, fellow Westerner, remember the Firestone family made its fortune in wine and tires.)

The party bus stops in the center of several towns, so people can breathe, vomit, buy more alcohol, and dance in the public squares of town while the locals cheer you on. This would be a legal nightmare in the U.S.A., but dancing on the rooftop of a colorfully painted bus takes one to a level of paradise where lawsuits, two-piece suits—even shame at one’s birthday suit—no longer matter.


I spent most of the night holding on to the “dance-floor” pole, white-knuckled. We returned dancing and pretending to sing Reggaetón and Vallenato classics that thumped away on the radio. As my friend (and boss at the time) said, “If you can survive the first few minutes of the trip, you’ve official survived the most outrageous part of Colombian culture.”

¡Macondo!

The imaginary land of writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez is very much part of the Colombiano collective consciousness. They are hard workers, but they know, instinctively that life is soaked in beauty and mystery. They are magical realists. All local parks talk about the geography, but are also saturated in folklore and mythology. Here are some reasons I believe Macondo is real:

  • People sell dyed baby chickens on the street
  • There are real-deal jungle cruises on boats of bamboo and clay
  • In the coffee axis there is a coffee-themed amusement park (Parque de Café)
  • Most zoos and many independent parks have mariposarios (farms where butterflies are cultivated to “radiate” throughout the North Andes)
  • Colombia’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero, paints and sculpts fat people and animals, and only fat people and animals. (And he is, FYI, a scruffy, thin man.)

¡Hacer Pereza! (literally, “to make lazy”)

People head to the Caribbean side of Colombia to do little more than nothing. Santa Martha, in particular, is like geo-sedative. And cheap. All inclusive resorts on Santa Marta can run for less that $300 US for four nights and five days.

These simple “resorts” are created with the intention to keep you doing nothing. If you are born and bred to be on the move, the first day or two is painful, but you watch the locals, eat a little too much food, and begin to slip into the hypnotic, Zen-like trance—without the rigorous self-discipline of an ashram in India.

A more expensive trip—and and one of the Caribbean’s best-kept jewels—is to the republic’s islands: San Andres and Providencia. The seven-colored sea provides the perfect, moving mandala to “be in a state of intentional laziness.” Read more here.

¡Medellín!

The former headquarters of Pablo Escobar has undergone an incredible about-face, led by former Mayor Sergio Fajardo.

An intellectual with a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Fajardo took to the previously war-torn city like a Sudoku puzzle. After the bad guys were taken out each major barrio, he put in a “library park,” public sports arenas, running and biking trails, all of which is connected by an inexpensive, clean and quick transit system.

The metro covers all major metropolitan centers, and includes two gondolas that provide outstanding views of the Aburrá Valley. This has also led to increased integration of mobility for the poor. What was once a two hour windy trip down the mountain has become a 15-minute ride.

The annual flower festival is a dazzling show of dance, history, and mosaics of flowers on large, round silletas. The massive flower arrangements are carried on the backs of locals (Paisas), in an exposition of the toil and tenacity that underlies the beauty of the region’s soul. (I now have to bite my lip when I watch the Rose Bowl Parade.)

While they are pained by their recent past, Paisas have a great sense of humor. We saw a restaurant with a banner emblazoned with the phrase, “Pablo Escobar Never Ate Here!” We met a professor on the metro who told us not to stop at Parque Berrio because students might be rioting (it was the anniversary of a revolution). “Go on to Universidade,” he said “there will be kids playing and no one cares for a riot there.” He was right: there was a riot, and one stop further, nobody seemed to care.

¡The Valle de Cocora!

This Eden in the heart (and soul) of the Eje Cafetero boasts the “palma de cera” (wax palm), a type of palm tree that only grows in this mystical, cloud-forest valley. The palms jut from the North Andean like agile reeds with punk haircuts, smattering the rolling North Andean cloud forests.

If unicorns do exist, they belong here. Not to mention, the trout taken from local rivers are a $5 trip to freshwater fishmonger paradise. Wash it down with a $.6o cent beer or four and you might find that cocaine is not the only addictive product native to Colombia.

A horse tour through the valley, over creeks, and into the cloud forest is something otherworldly.

¡Dancing!

Shakira is only one of 42 million people whose hips don’t lie. Every metropolis has a “zona rosa,” where salsa, reggaeton, and cumbia (the national music) blasts the young, the talented, and the drunk into the next, beautiful “amanecer” (dawn) of another day in Colombia.

One night in Santa Marta, we watched locals dancing cumbia on the beach. During our trip to Santa Marta, the emcee made me and fellow gringa, Rita, try to dance this outrageous african-caribe-electrical hat dance. At the end one of the dancers jumped at my head and yelled “¡CARGAME!” (“catch my load,” roughly). I turned and was suddenly latched onto by an airbound dancer. I swirled, and swirled, and swirled.


Part of me is still swirling…and wants other people to go before total war or total prosperity steals its charm.

Mark Robertson is currently living in the Brazilian savanna with his wife Vanessa. They work at an American school that serves the diplomatic community, traveling throughout the Americas. They are Scrabble addicts, book eaters, and are blessed to participate in the global democratization of education in an international educational community.


Related posts on this blog (about traveling the Americas):

And the award goes to….

I got an Award! From bloggers to bloggers, sounds great, right!? But this award came with a warning: a good news bad news message….I should have known…

Seriously, silly as it sounds, I’m honered that AmblerAngel picked my blog as one of her 5 nominations. I am flattered to read how she feels about my blog:

 
The Act of Traveling:  If you’re afraid to test your travel wings, Emiel will comfort your soul. He’s been all over the world with kids in tow. Fantastic pictures from places unknown complete with entertaining commentary. Now here’s a first- a travel blog that won’t bore you to tears with unnecessary minutiae yet provides enough detail to allow one to build an itinerary.

She even called my blog the yardstick to which all others should be measured. Isn’t that great?! How could I not accept this nomination? Thank you AmblerAngel. Let me take this opportunity to also thank all my readers for their support and fabulous comments. I am happy and proud that my travel experiences inspire people to go out and discover!

Okay, so much for the Academy Award-like acceptance speech.

Memetastic

With my acceptance the Meme-story continues… The Memetastic (pronounced meem-tastic) Award was created by Jillsmo wanting to spread the word of awesomeness within the blogosphere. And honestly, also to see where such a initiative would end. Is it a joke or serious business? Well, it’s like a chain reaction and it is going strong. The award is popping up on small blogs (call them the best kept secrets), first-time bloggers and reputable blogs. The great thing about this award is that blogs will be found by you. Hidden gems are waiting out there, waiting for us to find them.

So without any further ado, let me present to you the official graphic of The Memetastic Award:

It’s hideous hilarious, not? Now I got you jealous right? Well, maybe your blog is on my list of nominations….but before you scroll down, I have to explain the rules. I mentioned that this award was a good news bad news message. Here comes the bad part (I mean, if you are talking rules on the internet, that’s bad news. But I love the award so much that I will be playing the humble servant here).

Award-winners must follow a couple of specific rules:

 

  • The graphic above must be displayed in your post. Your post could be something like an award-acceptance speech. Or not, it is up to you. If you like the graphic (which I can hardly imagine) and want to post it large size, you can ask Jillsmo for a high-resolution version.
  • Now comes the fun part. You must list 5 things about yourself and 4 of them must be bold-faced lies. Let’s see if your hard-core readers can pick the one truth. Silly rule, isn’t it?
  • Another must, but this is the (somewhat more) serious part of the award: you must pass this award on to 5 bloggers. I was thinking, should this be well-established blogs with a reputation, or newbie bloggers that could use a little bit support? Again, it will be your choice.
  • Finally, go back to Jillsmo’s blog and link up to the Memetastic Hop (just post your blog at the bottom).

 

Okay, let’s go!

5 things about myself, 1 of which is actually true

  1. I once bumped into Matt Damon when he was shooting Oceans Twelve in Amsterdam. We had coffee.
  2. Years ago I won an award for best karaoke performance: Frank Sinatra’s ‘I did it my way’.
  3. I lost three dogs in three years…all were hit by a car.
  4. I am one of the few people that love to go to the dentist. I just like that tickle feeling when they check my teeth.
  5. I can solve Rubik’s Cube in 20 minutes 45 seconds.


And now I will pass this award on to the following lucky recipients:

1. The PanAmericans

Searching for self-inventory, Mark brings his own perspective on what’s happening in the world. He is full of energy and ideas. After living in Colombia, Mark and Vanessa are now expat educators at the American School of Brasilia in Brazil. Being the PanAmericans, Mark’s posts carry a lot of soul.

2.  Try Uruguay

There’s more to Uruguay than meets the eye. This is a new blog, describing the personal record of Stuart and Honor on their adventure in Uruguay. They spent 10 years living in Japan and after a brief stay back in the UK, they decided to go for another adventure: Discover Uruguay, for themselves and for people looking for a less-known tourist destination.

3.  WorldSchool Adventures

For the last six years Mike and Amy have been working towards the goal of picking up and leaving the familiar and comfortable life they had in Canada for a life of adventure in the wide world. They travel with their two young children, Lan and Kayden and follow an unschooling approach to homeschooling. Their blog describes how they slowly travel through Asia. It is a great story and an inspiration for families that are still doubting whether to take their kids traveling.

4.  Unbrave Girl

Unbrave Girl likes cookies, you will notice that when your read her fabulous posts. She spent some time in Asia and started to write about her adventures. Her writing voice is appealing, I totally love her style. Unbrave Girl is a true well-kept secret in the blogosphere (although it probably is already no secret anymore).

5.  Raising Miro on the Road of Life

Lainie, 44 years, travels the world with her 11 year old son Miro. She gave up her life back in the States (job, house, everything) to live life as it should be. No more complexity, but a simple life. Slowly traveling the world and climb a volcano, live in the jungle, plant a garden. Lainie and Miro are Unschooling, they live and learn what they need to know and when they are ready for it. They are currently in Medellin, Colombia and hope to be able to travel for another 6,5 years. Today they only have 200 US dollars left, but they don’t worry about that. Read about their amazing life on their blog or in a recent interview.

So there we are. I have accepted the Award for my blog and passed it on to other blogs I like. There are more great blogs out there, I know and read them. I love every single blog I follow and just want to ask all of you to keep on writing, you all deserve and will get a wonderful audience!


4 reasons your kids (and you!) will love Ait-Ben-Hadou in Morocco

The Kasbah of Ait-Ben-Hadou, yet another intruiging destination in Morocco. If you travel to Morocco, make sure to visit and feel like a king or queen in this surprising settlement. It is also a great and safe place for your children.

Ait Ben Haddou

This post could have easily been carrying a different title: “Ait-Ben-Hadou – a day at the movies“. The area around the city of Ouarzazate (close to Ait-Ben-Hadou) has been home to many international film crews that have shot amazing scenes here. Remember Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars, Cleopatra, Asterix & Obelix and many more. Ouarzazate hosts one of the largest movie studios in the world (Atlas Studios) but also the whole area around the town is just one big film studio. The scenery is beautiful and chances are big that you run into a crew shooting scenes of another Hollywood (or European for that matter) blockbuster (we did!).

Movie set Ourzazate

Atlas Film Studio in Ouarzazate

Kasbah of Ait-Ben-Hadou

Close to Ouarzazate the old Kasbah of Ait-Ben-Hadou plays its own role. A Kasbah or Ksar is considered a group of earthen (clay) buildings surrounded by high defensive walls. It is reinforced by corner towers. Ait-Ben-Haddou dates from the 7th century and is a real example of southern Moroccan architecture.

Ait Ben Haddou: from inside the buildings

Situated on one side of a large hill, the place plays with your imagination.  The clay houses seem to crawl up the hill. At least, they would love to. But the heat in the Moroccan desert withholds them from putting in too much effort. Instead, they stand and capture the light of each sunset, slowly turning everything from light to dark red.

Sun sets at Ait Ben Haddou

The Kasbah is listed on the UNESCO world heritage list, but is still home to 8 families I was told. Ait-Ben-Hadou has been the scene for famous movies like The Mummy, Gladiator and Jewel of the Nile. Maybe you don’t feel like a Gladiator immediately, but hey, try to use your imagination!

We spent 2 full days around Ait-Ben-Hadou and we loved every minute of it. Our kids loved it for several reasons:

1.  Wandering the streets, exploring

Once you passed the guards at the gate (mind you, some will convince you not to use the main entrance but guide you somewhere else. Of course the entrance fee is somewhat higher over there (that’s the demanding life of a tourist, but don’t let it ruin your mood!).
So where was I? Once you passed the guards at the gate, the Kasbah is open for you. You can wander around narrow streets, knock on doors or just play hide and seek. Silently the roads will bring you higher and everytime the view gets more impressive. Your kids can hardly get lost, just let them wander around.

The narrow streets of Ait Ben HaddouKids shopping for Moroccan souvenirs

2.  Free to enter the buildings, no questions asked.

Most of the buildings are open to visit. It’s hard to believe, being a 7th century Unesco World Heritage site having hardly any restricitions. It kind of felt strange. But we were pleasantly surprised to find out we could just enter a house, open secret doors, look in forgotten rooms, climb the stairs, and enjoy the view from the roof.

View over Ait Ben Haddou

Clay bricks for houses in Ait Ben Haddou

The houses are all made of clay, so it’s a interesting lesson learned for your kids (houses are not always from brick or wood as you know).

Kids exploring Ait Ben Haddou

3.  Climb on top of the hill and feel like you conquered the world

The view from top of the hill made me climb it twice in these two days! The colours are amazing: red rock, yellowish sand and an orange glow with bits of green. Ouch, nature can be harmfully beautiful.

View from the top: Ait Ben Haddou View from the top from Ait Ben Haddou

Even your kids will have no trouble climbing to the top of the hill. It’s an exciting journey with a great reward. It feels like a victory, because the view is astounding.

Me, I could have stayed there for hours and hours. The silence, sometimes disturbed by a far-away sound from the town itself, the wind blowing, it was surrealistic.

View from top Ait Ben Hadou

4.  Hotel in Kasbah style with view on Ait-Ben-Hadou

There are some hotels and souvenir shops, but not that much. This makes the place more genuine. We had a great hotel with a swimming pool (a must for the kids to wash of all the desert sand and dust) and a fabulous view of the kasbah.

The hotel was built in the old Moroccan style, and of course made of clay. Doors and windows were small, to keep out the cold in winter and the sunlight in summer.
If you need details of this hotel or any other advice about our travel in Morocco, please drop me a comment below.

Our hotel room in Ait Ben Haddou

Ait-Ben-Hadou breathes authenticity. I guess that’s why I liked it so much: its typical architectural style, the use of specific building material, the ease of the surrounding area (there were some touristic shops, but not like you see in Marrakech), the opportunity to just stroll and wander the narrow streets, looking around and try to grasp a glimpse of daily life in an ancient kasbah. Is it a movie or is it for real?

By the way, which famous movie locations did you visit?

 

Related posts on this blog:

    Monkey business: Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.

    “Please let me like those rude, rowdy and wild animals again!”

    Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

    Yes, after a visit to the monkeys in the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud (Bali) you know how rude they can be! I guess they are famous for that. When you travel with your family to Ubud, should you visit the Forest or not? Could it be that you are a little bit afraid?

    We were! We were made scared by warnings about visiting the Monkey Forest like:

    • Monkeys are aggressive!
    • Keep a close watch on children!
    • Feeding can be very dangerous!
    • Don’t carry any loose items!
    • Stay on paved paths!
    • Don’t let your children play near the river!
    • Do not stare at the monkeys directly!
    • Do not tease them!
    • If you are bitten or scratched, seek help immediately! Monkeys can carry diseases like Hepatitis C and rabies!

    Well thank you…still feel like enjoying a lovely day-out in the Monkey Forest? With your children?

    Human disturbance of habitat has important consequences for the demography, the morbidity, the behavior, and ultimately the survival of non-human primates.
    INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PRIMATOLOGY
    Measures of human influence in habitats of South Asian monkeys

    You know what you can expect if humans disturbe the normal habitat of monkeys. Can you imagine what happens if monkeys are disturbed and challenged, day by day? That’s what happens in the Monkey Forest. But does that mean you should avoid the place when you are in Ubud? Might there be something you and your children can learn?

    Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

    We spent almost a week in Ubud, but intentionally wanted to skip the Monkey Forest (Sacred or not). Really, we didn’t want to get rabies. I didn’t want my glasses stolen, hiding the rest of my travel behind a blurry window of nearsightedness. We didn’t want some monkey climbing up our legs, swinging our hairs, stealing bananas and then laugh (in that typical monkey style grimace). No way!

    But you know what happened. We arrived in Bali, walked the streets of Ubud and felt less afraid. Really, if I can give one piece of advice here it would be that all kinds of travel fear silently floats away quickly after your arrival. Including fear of monkeys…

    So there we were, in front of the Monkey Forest. You could already see some of the animals sitting on the front gate, waiting for us to come. Staring. Grinning. The Monkey Forest is also used for scientific research, so the website mentions.

    “Dad, let’s go inside and watch those cute monkeys!”.

    Dian Fossey felt more comfortable with gorillas than people. She even could anticipate what a gorilla was going to do. I admire here. Although these Ubud monkeys were anything but gorillas, we decided to enter the Forest. And this is how the animals showed us their way of life:

    Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

    Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

    Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

    For families traveling to Ubud I have 2 major points of advice about visiting the Monkey Forest:

    1. Don’t carry any food for the animals. They are smart, they know when you have bananas (even if you hide them). Don’t stimulate rude behavior. Just walk the Forest and watch the animals, nothing more, nothing less.
    2. Go at the end of the day, when the sun starts to set. It creates the best light for some amazing pictures! All the pictures in this post I took between 4 and 5pm.

    So don’t be afraid, have fun. How they behave is not the monkeys fault. It is us humans disturbing their habitat. All over the world we are trying to dominate the animals by taking over or diminishing their habitat. You can decide not to visit the Monkey Forest, but if you do, just observe and learn. Learn that we humans are the reason for their rude behavior.

    Close to the monkeys in the Monkey Forest

    Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

    Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

    Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali