How to Experience Meaningful Travel:  An Interview with Nomadic Matt

How to Experience Meaningful Travel: An Interview with Nomadic Matt

Hello Matt! I almost feel wrong saying Matt, I have always known you from your Superstar Blogging Course as Nomadic Matt. I am truly honored to be able to interview you and want to thank you for this opportunity. I have learned a lot from your courses, and have read a lot about you and your work, but my readers may or may not know you. Would you mind giving a brief background for them on how you got started in blogging, and how long you have been doing it?

Matt: Thanks for having me, Janiel! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Nomadic Matt. For the past decade, I’ve been traveling the world and blogging about budget travel at nomadicmatt.com. My goal is to help make travel accessible by showing people how to travel cheaper, better, and longer. I started blogging back in 2008 as a way to showcase my writing. I wanted to be a travel writer, and I figured creating my own website would be a good way to highlight my abilities. While that didn’t exactly work out, my website became popular in its own right, and I actually write my own budget travel guides these days. So, while things didn’t work out as I planned, they definitely still worked out! In addition to running a blog, I also manage a media school, a charity, an online community of 20,000 travelers from around the world, and the world’s biggest travel conference. Oh, and I somehow still find time to travel too!

Let’s get into the meat of what I wanted to ask you about, how to find meaning behind the destination. In one of your articles, you suggested Viz eats, where you can go and eat with locals. How else do you connect with locals in a country or city that you may or may not speak the language? What would you suggest for those who are introverted vs extroverted?

Matt: We’re living in the golden age of budget travel, with cheap flights and the sharing economy giving us an infinite amount of choice when it comes to travel experiences. If you don’t speak the language in the destination you’re visiting, there are still plenty of websites and apps you can use to have unique, local experiences. Some of my favorites are:

  • Couchsurfing.com: where you can meet with or stay with locals.
  • Meetup.com: a great platform for finding people who share similar interests.
  • Vayable.com: a website that offers unique tours and travel experiences.
  • Blablacar.com: a rideshare program where you can share a ride with locals.

By embracing these non-traditional platforms you’ll be able to have an experience that is unique and centered around local interactions. The best thing about these platforms is that you can enjoy them even if you’re an introvert. You’ll need to push your limits a little bit, but both introverts and extroverts will be able to take advantage of the sharing economy. You’ve just got to be willing to take the plunge!

When you make the effort to connect with the locals, do you find that you remember these trips more than others, or are these the trips that hold more meaning for you?

Matt: Not only does connecting with locals make the trips more memorable, but it adds depth to your travels as well. You’ll find out new tidbits about the culture, discover hidden restaurants or attractions, and see the destination from a more nuanced perspective. At the end of the day, it’s the people you meet that really make your travels the incredible experiences that they are. But it doesn’t always have to be locals — meeting other travelers can be just as insightful and rewarding. So always be willing to meet new people when you’re traveling. You never know just what opportunities will come your way because of it!

Do you have any volunteering groups, organizations that you know of that could make travel more meaningful? I’m thinking of those who want to give back, have skills, but in some areas may not be as welcome as others. For example, I work in the medical field and when I asked a friend in Jordan if they needed medical aid for the refugee camps. The response was, ‘We can help ourselves, these are people not some animals in a barn that you can come take photos with to feel better about yourself’. So I would ask you, in your professional opinion, what is the best way to volunteer for a few days, weeks or years? Do you have any organizations you would recommend?

Matt: Volunteering abroad can be tricky, as you want to make sure you’re working with a group or agency that is helping make real change as opposed to just offering tourists a chance for a photo op. There are plenty of travel scams out there that offer shady “volunteer” experiences to tourists that actually do more harm than good. So when it comes to volunteering, research is vital. I would also encourage people to look for opportunities that last weeks (or more) instead of days. Volunteering anywhere for just a couple of days, I would say, isn’t really going to make a huge difference; that’s the kind of experience that is there to just make travelers feel better. If you want to make a lasting difference somewhere, spend a few weeks volunteering. That will give you time to fully learn your role and make a lasting contribution.

I know you have your own non-profit you have started. Can you tell me a little bit about that and what made you want to pursue establishing FLYTE?

Matt: The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education (FLYTE) is a non-profit that helps high school students in underserved communities travel abroad with their classmates. Every year, we send a group of students abroad to a country of their choosing. So far, we’ve sent students to Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, and Guatemala. Many of these students have never left the USA, so these trips open the world to them and show them just how transformative travel can be. As travelers ourselves, we’re all aware of the amazing and eye-opening experiences that travel can offer. These experiences are a privilege not everyone has the opportunity to enjoy, so I wanted to create a project that enables everyone to see the world with their own eyes with the hope that these experiences will encourage them to travel more in their personal life. The more we travel, the more cultural bridges we build and the more understanding we create. And I think the world needs a lot more of those two things these days!

Being a person who has traveled so extensively, having books, websites, non-profit program, and now Travel Conferences. Do you ever find yourself feeling isolated or lonely? If so, who is the go-to person that helps you out of that feeling? If not, what do you do to combat this loneliness or are you just too busy to think about it?

Matt: I’ve always been more introverted than extroverted, so I actually enjoy those rare moments when I’m alone. It gives me time to catch up on things like reading and writing and gives me more mental space and freedom to relax. While I love meeting new people, both at home and abroad, I also value my personal time so whenever I feel the need to connect I’ll make sure to reach out to my friends and make plans. Whether it’s dinner, drinks, or going to see some music, I think having a community is what helps keeps me sane when I need a break from work. As an entrepreneur, there is always more work to be done so I could easily spend my days and nights hunched over my laptop. Having friends I can escape to not only gives me a reason to take a break from work but it gives me time to refresh and recover, and it gives my brain a chance to digest everything that I’m working on. So, while I am always comfortable being alone, I think it’s important to have people you can turn to whenever you feel the need to connect.

I always feel like laughter is the best medicine, there is nothing like endorphins coursing through the veins. So my last question is this…what is the funniest travel story you have?

Matt: I think the best stories are always funny in hindsight, though at the time they might not seem so funny. The best example of this from my travels happened when I was backpacking around Spain. I awoke to the noise of one of my dorm roommates banging on the door as he had locked himself out. I reluctantly rolled out of bed to let him in before plopping back down into my bunk. But then I noticed something: a terrible smell. The smell, it turns out, was coming from my hand. It was shit. I immediately got up and rushed to the bathroom to find shit all over my hands, as well as the doorknob and trailing back to the bed of the backpacker who I just let in. He had shit himself. I confronted him about it, but he tried to say it wasn’t him…even though the evidence clearly proved otherwise. Later that day I checked out and went to a hotel. I figured some privacy was worth the extra cost — especially if it meant no one shitting in my room!

Well Mr. Nomadic Matt, it has been a real pleasure getting to know you on a more human level. I appreciate you taking your time out of your schedule to do this. I wanted to also say thank you, from the bottom of my heart for always being upfront, open and honest about all of your work, courses, and conferences; and thank you for being open and honest about your answers today. If anyone had questions, where can they reach you or your team?

Matt: You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and you can also email me anytime. And if you want to connect with other travelers from around the world, feel free to join our awesome travel community!

Thank you again, be sure to check out his latest books—they have really helped me when I have been traveling through Europe.                                          

As Always……Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See YOU on the Flip Side.


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What Does Responsible Tourism Mean?

What Does Responsible Tourism Mean?

This post may contain affiliate links, for more information read our full disclosure The travel industry is throwing around this term: Responsible Tourism or Sustainable Tourism. So what does Responsible Tourism mean? Each year we travel, consume, photograph and share on our social media channels, exposing friends and family to expand their knowledge of the cultures of the world.

The world gets a little bit smaller, those in different countries can see your social media posts on Instagram and Facebook and may compare it to your lives. Animal rights, environmental responsibilities are becoming more and more talked about….especially the use of plastic. Stop and question what you think you know about plastic vs paper bags, look at the whole environmental impact. Look at how the production and use of plastic impacts and effects low-income households, did you know there is an actual place called ‘Cancer Alley’? In our ever-increasing virtual connection, what can we do as travel addicted wander lusting Instagram posting fiends to be more responsible when we travel? First things first….to understand what it is.

What does Eco-tourism mean

Responsible Tourism is a multifaceted approach, which includes:

  1. Minimizing negative social, economic and environmental impacts while traveling
  2. Generating greater economic benefits for local people and enhancing the well-being of host communities
  3. Improving working conditions and access to the worldwide industry
  4. Involving local people in decisions, markets, and trade that affect their life and chances at life.
  5. Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, embracing the diversity.
  6. Providing more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.
  7. Provides access for physically challenged people
  8. Is being culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
What does Eco-tourism mean

There are many different ways that this can be addressed and focused on. The Culture Trekking Community is one that focuses on numbers one, five, six and eight. Creating a community where ideas, religions, cultural idiosyncrasies are both shared, respected and embraced. As the Community grows I want to improve awareness on environmental impacts as well as fight the uphill battle of having more meaningful human connections. Today I will focus on the latter.

Where the idea started for my own Responsible Tourism:

The video was quite graphic when I saw this 2 years ago, but it really impacted me in so many different ways. The moral of the story is…..you don’t know what you don’t know until you educate yourself on how small choices like using single-use straws can impact the environment. I now carry a reusable metal straw in my purse at all times. This video is where responsible tourism started for me….watching this turtle in so much pain made me feel like I needed to do more for the environment.

It isn’t just the plastic straws, it is garbage that is left strewn about in all the different places that I visit. I remember walking behind someone in Yellowstone National park…..they dropped a wrapper on the ground (a large one). I was so frustrated by this because they had a bag they could have easily slipped that wrapper into. I picked it up and gave it back to the tourist, who naturally acted like they dropped it by accident (even though I watched them look around before dropping it). It is not that hard to slip those wrappers into a pocket, a bag, in your shoe….anything but on the ground. Taking a few more steps to ensure your rubbish gets into the proper receptacle is not as hard as you think…..as Nike says ‘JUST DO IT’!

Another video that truly impacted me was one man in India, who returned to his home to find the beach he loved filled with garbage. He knew he had to do something so he started knocking on doors and aims to be that change he wishes to see in the world. Take a look at the video & then I want to think about how much of a difference we could make if each of us committed to picking up 3 pieces of trash wherever we travel to. What about taking an extra garbage bag on a local hike in your hometown? We could all use a few more squats in our day, right?

Why am I showing you all these videos? A picture is worth a thousand words (or so they say), but I feel that videos are the way to make an impact that can create change. What is better than a video? Visiting a place like the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon Oregon (several displays are located throughout the United States, see the Washed Ashore Exhibit Locations for more information) can both teach our generation and the generations below us how to protect our earth and save our oceans.

Traveling can be an exotic thing full to the brim with activities that will make your friends envy your life & maybe even despise you a little. The more I travel the more I realize that I want to make a difference in the world, no matter how small it is. Ecotourism and Volunteering for cleanups and service can help connect our communities, open minds and hearts, and help start the change we wish to see in the world.

Supporting Companies with good causes:

What does Eco-tourism mean

Save the Baby Turtles!

A Blogger friend of mine in Fort Lauderdale Florida was able to participate in the nighttime protection of hatching baby turtles. These baby turtles get confused by the city lights and instead of going into the ocean (following the moon), they follow the city lights. This leads them to be run over or crushed by bikes, cars or fall into holes they cannot get out of. What these volunteers do is once the baby turtles hit their 10-foot periphery line, they gather them up in a bucket and take all the confused little fellas to the ocean where they set them free. They also move beach chairs and sandcastles to allow for the mothers to come to the beach easier and lay their eggs. Check out her post on Saving Baby Sea Turtles and how you can help or participate!  

Soul Flower Clothing Company

As soon as I found this clothing company, I know I had found my tribe. Just look at their tagline:

Soul Flower is a natural clothing brand for kind souls and free spirits. Mindfully made with natural fibers and heartfelt art, we design our threads with kind vibes from start to finish. We seek inspiration in the simplicity of everyday life – in nature and in music, in free-spirited adventures and in like-minded souls. We create clothing in a way that supports our planet, spreads a positive message, and most importantly — helps you express yourself.”

what does responsible tourism mean

Beyond the message of Freakos‘. When looking into building your eco-friendly and ethical wardrobe, look no further.
The inks they use have a low impact on the environment with citrus solvents being utilized. They reuse paper boxes and packing materials to ‘keep the story going’. All cotton that is used in their clothing is organic cotton, recycled fibers or hemp. Not only do they focus on the clothing, but they also decreased the catalog printing and now use recycled paper with soy-based inks. They are also green office certified (aka: energy wise usage of products and environmentally savvy).

Why is this important? Small companies like this are able to be more environmentally friendly and I support those who make an effort to do so whole-heartedly! I feel privileged to be able to collaborate with this company as I love their manifesto, Soul Flower’s practices, and policies and their clothing is SO COMFORTABLE!

What does responsible tourism mean?

To all my big headed ladies out there (I’m talking literal, not egotistical) – this is the place you should get your headbands! Every time I wear these headbands I feel a little better about myself, I read the inspirational message printed on it and cannot help but feel inspired to finish out the day with a bang! Plus, let’s be honest, sometimes a girl just needs a headband to decrease the stress of doin’ da hur….ya feel me? To get your headband:

What is responsible tourism

The other items I have personally tried and fallen in love with so far are the yoga pants and shirts. If I’m being honest, I wear the pants EVERYWHERE! Not just because the pants are comfortable, but because they have the most adorable prints on them that inspire me to continue to be Eco-friendly in my day to day life & inspire me to live a simpler life to help have less of an impact on the environment.
I wore the shirt for two days in a row people! I know that’s gross but it has been so hot over here, and it is so light, airy and cute with the little leaves on it… I couldn’t resist

Personal Note: It is sooooo hard to find cute and comfortable clothing as a curvy woman — so to find a company that caters to my desire to be eco-friendly and embraces those of all shapes and sizes really just gives me warm fuzzies and I want to shout out from the rooftops how much I appreciate and love them for this.

You don’t just have to participate in environmentally friendly activities at destinations you visit. You can start being environmentally friendly to companies just like Soul Flower. Check out Soul Flower Summer Specials today!

Other Ways to be a Responsible Tourist:

Be Respectful of Religions and Cultures:

Look at local customs and rules when entering churches across the world. Do not make derogatory jokes or compare those within the country to something you deem as ‘more sensible’ or ‘better practices’. Do not impose your beliefs on those within the country unless prompted to. Respect the cultural idiosyncrasies of what is considered ‘normal’ for that country.

What is responsible tourism


The bottom line is, just because something, someone, or a country as a whole does something different than what you know to be normal — doesn’t mean that it is wrong. There are some exceptions where it endangers basic human rights, practices, or harms/mutilates any animal or human being (obviously). Even if you do see something wrong, intervening as a tourist could land you in jail – be careful, be cautious and if you have a concern about the country/destination use a guide that you can ask questions about what is appropriate or if you can do something/intervene without landing yourself in jail.

Be Respectful of Shop Owners Overseas:

Do not take photos of products, items, or anything in different countries that could affect their livelihood. Do not get offended if they ask you not to take photos, there is a reason! Unnamed countries citizens will visit these economically struggling countries and take photos of their products and produce them at a fraction of the cost, but they are not authentic products.

What is responsible tourism


Moroccans, for example, rely on their skill and artistry of furniture, clothing, architecture, woodworking to profit from their craft and provide for their families. How many times have you visited a country and thought, ‘Oh I can get that back in my own country, I don’t need to buy it here’. This is why it is so important….so many countries rely on tourism and the money it brings in to put food on the table. So please….before you take a photo in a store, ASK the owner if it is ok.

Be Aware and Educate Yourself on Regional Issues:

What is responsible tourism

Human trafficking, terrorism, and so many more unsavory things happen in this world. I have too much of a tender heart to focus in on the negative all the time, so rarely listen to the news – but I do search for those individuals who have the capacity to handle situations such as this. I support them, I share their stories and donate when I’m able to.

It is important to be sensitive to cultural and religious practices (as part of Responsible Tourism) that help to positively define a culture, but that never means we should tolerate those who continually violate the basic human rights of food, safety, and shelter.

With having experienced Rape and sexual assault myself, the topic of sex trafficking is a very passionate topic for me. Operation Underground Railroad is a team of individuals of highly specialized individuals who have years of experience in special forces, law enforcement working proactively since 2013 with local governments that I wholeheartedly support. This is a video that had me in tears for how grateful I was to the men & women who do this. Please support them in whatever way that you can….
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_CgQcNkUlw&feature=youtu.be
If you would like to Donate to O.U.R. please feel free to do so, if you are unable to donate, then try and Volunteer for O.U.R. to help aid in their efforts.

Small changes can make a big difference:

Wear environmentally friendly products:

  • Keep any soap while camping at any location away from runoff areas (at least 100 feet).
  • Bury or pack out your human waste. Look at the requirements for each camping spot you visit for their rules and regulations.
  • Wear environmentally and Ocean friendly sunscreen as this often washes off the ocean, causing damage to coral and marine life.
What is responsible tourism

Biodegradable products:

  • Bringing your own straws, skip the straw at Starbucks. If this doesn’t make sense, please keep watching the video of the Turtle above until it does.
  • Get a recycling bin or start a recycling group in your neighborhood. (More information below on recycling that could be available in your country).
  • Make a list of low-cost companies that produce Biodegradable Products and keep a list. Hand the list out to anyone who uses straws, show they alternatives. Don’t force it down their throat — educate with KINDNESS! Honey works better than vinegar when trying to entice people to change their daily habits or companies to change the status quo.
What is responsible tourism

Utilize the Reusable Grocery Bags:

  • This is such a simple change that we can all do (especially those of us in the States). In most other countries they are charging for the plastic bags, yet when we implement it here to try and help support the environment….everyone loses their minds! They tried to do this when I lived in Texas and I would stand there and see with my own eyes, these grocery baggers get verbally assaulted for doing their job and charging for the plastic bags. Come on people…..be better than that……do better than that…….realize that this isn’t just about YOU and YOUR needs, but for the betterment of humanity and animals. If you still aren’t convinced that plastic bags are a big deal, watch this video of the whale found dead with hundreds of pounds of plastic bags in its stomach. If that doesn’t convince you, well…..I don’t know how to help you become a better human being.
  • I need some advice myself on this one….grrrhhh….. I have all the reusable bags I can handle. I start daydreaming on the way to the grocery store, then out of habit, forget to take the reusable grocery bags I brought off the garage wall where I put them so I wouldn’t forget them. If you have some advice on how to remember these things…..let a girl know in the comments below.

A Call to Action for Responsible Tourism:

Ecotourism

  • Here is a great resource if you would like to participate in Ecotourism on your next trip: Ecotourism.org

Volunteering through worldwide programs/cleanups

Companies that Participate in Eco-friendly Product Production:

Clothing: Patagonia, Thought Clothing, Encircled Clothing

How to encourage clothing companies to not use plastic hangers

Straws: The Last Plastic Straw is a great website for a list of all the different types of straws, where to get them and how they are better than the plastic straws. There is also a site completely dedicated to Living a life without plastic, this is where I get my reusable metal straws (bamboo and glass is also available).

Home, Pets, Cleaning supplies and more: Life Without Plastic gives you so many bamboo or steel options that can replace many of the household items that have or contain plastic. Gift certificates, gift registry, and points program are also available on this site to help you invite friends to the #noplastic movement.

Trash Bags: Biodegradable Trash Bags, Green Legacy Tall Kitchen Trash Bags

Grocery Bags: Reusable Grocery Bags

Sandwich Bags: Eco-Friendly Reusable Sandwich Bags

Recycling throughout the world: Recycling in the States (contact your city councils to arrange this), Recycling in Australia, Recycling in Canada, Curbside Recycling available in New Zealand please check your local city councils, Recycling is also available in the United Kingdom for each household (mandatory supply of bins from government), Spain also has recycling available in some areas, and the Netherlands actually pays you to bring in your recyclable materials (typically at grocery stores).

IF YOU HAVE RECYCLING IN YOUR COUNTRY AND IT IS NOT LISTED HERE, PLEASE LIST THE RESOURCE OR WHO TO CONTACT BELOW  🙂

A Must Read Plastic Free Blogger: If you are like me and feel a little overwhelmed by how many things in your home contain plastic, visit Beth Terry: My Plastic Free Life Blogger. She will teach you, take you step by step through the process and show you how to live a plastic-free life.

Worldwide Plastic Pollution Coalition – Now NO ONE has an excuse to not participate in reducing their plastic use. This is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution.

what does responsible tourism mean

How To Tour Responsibly:

We have such a duty to protect creatures who outlived the dinosaurs, are essential to our planet’s ecosystem – the Sea Turtles. We don’t have to start being Eco-friendly or participate in Responsible Tourism practices only when we are traveling. Get involved in the activities now, one goal or plastic straw at a time.

Be respectful of religions, people, cultures, and races as long as they do not infringe on basic human rights to live life peacefully, safely without fear of bodily harm and can provide for basic human needs of shelter, food, and water.

Get involved in volunteer programs locally where you can help end human trafficking, gang violence, opioid epidemics, and so much more. There seems to be an Instagram hashtag or Facebook group for everything these days. If you have any suggestions for local groups you are passionate about, please let it in the comments below with a link to their site.
Teach those around you, share the information on your social media platforms….it just takes one rock in a pond to start a ripple that turns into a wave. Be that change you wish to see in the world.

How do you like to contribute to Responsible Tourism?

What is the most important thing to you regarding Responsible Tourism?

Who are the Berber People?

Who are the Berber People?

The History of the Berber People The Berbers have been in North Africa since at least 3000 BC according to scholars. Morocco is made up with the majority of Berbers, 10.4 million (40%) of the population. These can be divided into three main groups with different dilects: the Riffians, the Chleuh and Central Moroccan Amazigh; 2/3 of the Berber people actually live in rural and mountainous areas, most being farmers. Traditionally, Berbers raise sheep, cattle and goats; some work in flourmills, do woodcarving, quarry millstones, and make pottery or jewelry. Women generally do the cooking and caring for the home and children, weaving, and pottery. Today many Berber people work in Spain or France as migrant workers and send money home to their families.

Who are the Berber People

Family and Culture of the Berber People

A traditional word used in the Berber language is ‘Fard’, a word which literally means “The individual is nothing without the tribe”. The immediate family comes first and they are the most important thing to these wonderful people. Most of the time family members live together and most stay close to home, women children and extended family actually end up working together closely in their own homes.

Who Are the Berber People

If you ever visit one of these families, be prepared to eat more food than you will ever want to eat your life (ie/bring a walker because your belly will be so full it will become difficult to walk afterward). The Moroccan culture, and especially the Berber people hold their guests in very high esteem, hospitality here is taken VERY seriously.

If you look into some of the religious beliefs of the Berber people, interestingly they actually believe in a spiritual dimension, or ‘Baraka’ or the positive power of the saints. It is a major source of what has inspired most artisans in Morocco and often is what helps to create the traditional designs of the Berber people.

Baraka can infuse itself into all things, at different levels, such as jewelry, talismans, ceramics, textiles; it can also be in artistic vocabulary (like song & dance), suffuse itself in plants like henna and oleander, sandalwood, saffron, and myrrh. So what is Baraka exactly and why is it so prominent in this culture? Baraka traditionally thought and used to deal with the darker forces of life, curing illnesses and protecting oneself against the evil jnoun (spirits) and the evil eye.

For example, I say an adorable little boy on the street in Marrakech, and told the mother ‘oh he is sooooo cute’ and smiled and motioned that I wanted to pinch his cheeks. The guide I was with told me to say Baraka, which would deter the evil eye, because it is very common for mothers to be superstitious that you will jinx their children by doing this — so saying this word can avoid the curse of the evil eye. Another example is of a Berber woman dancing in Jamma el-fna with a certain colored scarve over her head to get rid of a certain demon or bad spirit that could be plaguing her life. (See video above)

Symbols of the Berber People

The Berber people commonly wear different symbols and say different words to help protect them from the evil eye. Berber women commonly would wear tattoos, jewelry and henna with different patterns to help protect themselves; now with many converted to Islam where tattoos are forbidden, they weave the symbols into the textiles, jewelry and henna even to this day. So if you see the designs of henna drawn on the hands and the feet of a bride, this is something that is both protecting and nurturing for the marriage that has been used and evolved throughout the centuries of use.

Who are the Berber People

If you see photos of the Amazigh women/Berber women, you may find some with the tattoos I previously mentioned. These tattoos were traditionally placed by the family on the face as a sort of rite of passage (usually around the time of her menstrual cycle) signifying her transition into womanhood.

This would typically happen in groups, with several girls being tattooed at once, making it a very social activity. Now that Islam is so prominent, you typically do not see tattoos on the faces of any Berber woman under the age of 30.

There is actually a museum in Marrakech called, ‘The Tiskiwin Museum’ – where you can see some of the preserved arts of the Saharan people, and Berber people of Morocco. There is also a book to help you see what the different designs of the Berber people actually mean by -Cynthia Becker Phd called ‘Amazigh Arts in Morocco + Women Shaping the Berber Identity’, such as circular motifs in pink and red, colors categorized as light, resembling the sunlight, are embroidered over other motifs. They hover like the sun above the other designs, creating a composition that resembles the natural world and its plentifulness, connecting women to fertility.

Berber Art

Who are the Berber People

Traditional Berber carpets contain distinctive patterns and colors and are woven from sheep wool or camel hair.

The materials are hand washed and naturally dyed from saffron yellow to wild mint green and from pomegranate and henna. These carpets are known for their strong geometric designs, and have been dated as far back as the Marinid era (Berber dynasty). Carpets in the middle Atlas generally have a traditional diamond grid. Even the wool itself is thought to have a protective power.

Berber weaving is highly dependent on the female culture, and is passed down traditionally within the home. The young learn from the old, and are expected to learn all the different ways to weave & loop, and the different patterns, color ranges, and symbols. Historically women wove carpets for their families, and the men traditionally produced carpets that were more specialized as professional master weavers. Each tribe has a signature pattern and commonly tells a story, revealing acts of ceremony, or designs that related to fertility and protection.

Who are the Berber People
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

The Music of the Berber People

You may hear Chaabi Music while you are in Morocco, and this is actually a common folk or ‘pop’ music that is very common at celebrations and markets. Typically an instrument known as a gimbri (sinter or hajhuj) a guitar with three strings and 4 chords typically played. The gimbri has a low bas like tone, and was borrowed from the popular Gnawa traditional music that is typically known as mystical and used in healing rituals commonly.

Who are the Berber People
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

Gnawa music was brought up from Sub-Sahara African areas and is common in Morocco amongst the Berber people, especially in Southern Morocco. Other instruments used are the Lira (a flute made of bamboo),

a Bendir (a drum played with the fingers) which has a snare stretched across the back that produces a buzzing sound when played,

a Darbouka (single head drum held under one arm),

and the Qraqeb (or karkabas)– this is a set of Metallic castanets or a type of symbol, originating from when the slaves would clang their chains together to make music & now has been adopted into traditional Gnawa music.

Who are the Berber People
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

In Summary:

Overall I find the Berber people to be kind, intelligent, family oriented, hospitable, positive, vibrant people full of life that I think most of the Western World has forgotten how to live. So if you have the privilege to meet someone who is Berber, ask them of their heritage and be sure to visit them on a Friday when the family gets together for some Couscous 😉

As Always….Happy Travels, Happy Tales and See you on the Flip Side.


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Kinderdijk Windmills : A UNESCO Heritage Site

Kinderdijk Windmills : A UNESCO Heritage Site

Kinderdijk Windmills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated in the Alblasserwaard dry land between the juncture of the Lek and Noord River. This peaceful fast-moving Waterland was the perfect place for creating the first clean energy machines. Built to drain water from these low lying lands that would often flood when tides came in too strong. During the middle ages, this land would frequently flood.

Kinderdijk Windmills,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

The Deadly Flood of 1421 In the Netherlands:

Many people migrated into this area due to the fertile lands, and the fast-growing trade city. It was November of 1421 when anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 people died in one of the worst floods in world history. A combination of a storm, strong tidal surge, with a harsh Northernly wind – pushed the water upriver causing the dikes to break.

It took several days to be able to get help into the area due to the severity of the flooding. When help did arrive, there were men, women, children, animals and all sorts of debri floating in the waters of this ancient city.
If you visit the Rijksmuseum you will find a fantastic art piece depicting the deadly scene.

The Solution:

With trade and the East India Company on the rise, the Dutch did what they do best….invented the Windmill. These massive engineering wonders were utilized to pump water from the low lying fields to the higher ground allowing it to drain back into the ocean.

Kinderdijk Windmills,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

How they work:

Wind hydraulics, power these clean energy plants keeping their caretakers on their toes. They were required to man the sails, run the mills when the wind blew….which could be any time of day or night.  Imagine if your work schedule would rely on the wind. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘where ever the wind blows’. If you visit one of the mills, be sure to ask a staff member of a tour of the place.

Kinderdijk Windmills,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Here you will see all the inner workings of how the Dutch keep dry by utilizing: polders, high and low-lying drainage and transport channels for superfluous polder water, embankments and dikes, 19 drainage mills, 3 pumping stations, 2 discharge sluices and 2 Water Board Assembly Houses..and small boats to ferry between it all to say hello to the neighbors.

An Abandoned Masterpiece:

In the 1950’s they fell into disrepair as steam started to replace the wind energy. Then the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science who provided 2.5 million Euros to help restore and repair 11 of the 19 windmills in 2008.

Kinderdijk Windmills,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

It costs about $15,000 per year to maintain these windmills, and those who live in them have committed to doing this. Each Kinderdijk Windmill resident has to pass a rigorous exam on weather patterns and specific windmill engineering.

Don’t miss out on this:

Be sure to visit the Mill Museums, where one of the mills still holds the unique furniture and belongings of one of the families that occupied it.

If you take the Ferry between the Mills, the cute volunteers will let you know when they will be coming back to pick you up. I really think these cute old guys just like driving the boat back and forth and meeting all the different visitors. While on the Ferry, if you look down the largest canal you may spot a baby basket.

The legend is, that when the flood back in the 17th century happened, the people went to look for survivors. What they found was a large baby basket with a cat running back and forth on the top keeping it stable. (Insert Awwweee!) After the baby was found inside the basket, and the cat saved from an unwanted bath – the area was named Kinderdijk…. it means ‘children’s dike’

The Oldest City in the Netherlands:

Dordrecht is nearby and a must see if you love imagining how people use to live. You can see the city and how old it is with houses tilting sideways. Very few tourists here with some of the loveliest scenes. My camera was hungry to fill it’s SD card to save and cherish these images.

Dordrecht

Entrance fees, costs, and other tidbits:

Be careful where you buy your ticket and make sure it is from a reputable site. I made the mistake of going for a cheaper option, and then when I arrived at the museums, it was counterfeit off the internet.

Kinderdijk Windmills,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

Getting to the Kinderdijk Windmills:

The trip here is not too daunting, and only a one hour 16 min train and bus ride. This is starting from Amsterdam Centraal Train Station to the quaint bus stop in the little town of Kinderdijk right between Dordrecht and Rotterdam.

Kinderdijk Windmills,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

This trip will cost you roughly $14 American Dollars unless you get an EURail pass, then you will just need to pay for the bus ride from the train station to Dordrecht. For specific times and ways to get to Kinderdijk, visit Rome2Rio.com and enter your location.

In Summary:

Being of Dutch Heritage myself, knowing my Great Grandfather helped build the first Flour Mill in Utah, gave me so much pride seeing these Windmills.  I love supporting anything that can provide clean energy and protect our air and oceans. Having the UNESCO Heritage Foundation name Kinderdijk a place worth preserving is reason enough to visit.

Kinderdijk Windmills,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Don’t forget to take the Ferry to each of the informative and detailed Mill Museums. If I were to choose between Zannse Schans and Kinderdijk, I would likely choose Kinderdijk. The reason behind this is you get to see the Windmills as they were meant to be used, and not just as a tourist trap to take pretty pictures. So if you have an extra hour to take a bus/train ride to Kinderdijk, I would highly suggest it.


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How to Tour Jordan (Tips from a Local)

How to Tour Jordan (Tips from a Local)

Who are the Jordanian People? I was able to interview a Jordanian friend of mine Mohammad and ask him some very poignant questions about what it is to be Muslim and Jordanian, how to tour Jordan, scams to be aware of and customs that are very unique in their society.

Me: How to the people in Jordan identify themselves? Kind, stoic, helpful, funny, laid back?

Mohammad: Jordanians are known for hospitality. If you are my guest, I should give you food and sometimes a place to stay for free. Hospitality is like you are my guest. Like I should serve you some food.

Me: How would the people describe where they are geographically in relation to the surrounding countries?

Mohammad: Jordan is next to Palestine or what you know as Jerusalem. It is middle east. The common and well-known thing about Jordan is its safety.

Me: Do you feel that your culture and traditions have changed in any way in the last 10 years?

Mohammad: Yes, back in the day. If you came like a guest, you have to stay at least 3 days, with me providing your stay and food. Now it is a – you can be my guest for one day or a few hours, but it is only because of the financial situation there. It is considered a big shame if you cannot provide for your guest everything that they need and want.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

The Right Way to Tour Jordan:

Me: How can we as tourists and visitors help to maintain your culture?

Mohammad: Since you are foreigners, and they don’t know about anything, you should just ask someone & they will explain. Jordanians can talk for hours. Most of them don’t have anything to do, so they like talking.

Me: What are some Festivals that you think are worthwhile for people to visit in Jordan while touring?

Mohammad: Jerash festival – it is Arabic singers and dancing, but you won’t understand anything. We also have the royal car museum in Amman. This is the King’s collection of all kinds of rare and classic race cars. You could come during Ramadan, but most people will be with their families and the shops are all closed during the day.

Me: What about towns that are not well known?

Mohammad: If you go to Irbid, my hometown. My hometown is in the genius book of world records for the town for the littlest villages & quantity of villages – compared to the rest of the world. There are 497 villages in Irbid. The reason is that it is a countryside.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Me: What are the biggest tourist traps you have noticed here?

Mohammad: The tourists get charged waaaayyy more than it costs. Like a taxi costs $2-3 max, but they will charge you $200-$300 for the ride.

Me: If I were to move to Jordan how would you suggest I assimilate to this culture? Are there facebook/Instagram or other internet apps/groups that I could use to integrate myself?

Mohammad: People are nosy, they will be your friend without you trying. They come and ask you all sorts of questions. This is by default, they treat you like family

Me: What is the Language spoken here?

Mohammad: Arabic and some people speak a little English, but everyone is educated. About 80% of Jordan speaks English.

Me: Can you give me some useful words all tourists or those recently moved here should know?

Mohammad:

  • La = is no
  • Nam = yes
  • Assalam Alaikum = Means greetings
Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Me: What is the best mode of transportation here?

Mohammad: Buses, taxis, or you can rent a car if you are coming as a tourist or if you are a local.

Me: How do you cross the street?

Mohammad: You have to worry about cars, because they will run over your @##.

Me: What would you pay for a cab from the airport to the city centre?

Mohammad: Not more than $50 USD

Me: Do you trust Uber here?

Mohammad: Yes, we have Uber — (See post on Worldwide Airport Transporation)

Me: How is sexuality viewed here?

Mohammad: First of all, for tourists, try to cover up. Don’t show your boobs, your ass, the curves….no Yoga pants. Arab men go crazy for this shit. You will just get harassed.

Travel Tip: Here is a Complete Guide to Jordanian Food

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Me: Best places to get Coffee, Breakfast, or Nightcap? Mohammad:

  • Coffee- At home.
  • Breakfast- Commonly people don’t eat much in restaurants, everyone makes their own food every day. Most of the time you eat with the family at home. If you are coming as a tourist, then you eat Schwarma or Falafal Sandwich.
  • Nightcap (can you buy alcohol from a store?) Yes

Me: What is your favorite local hangout?

Mohammad:  Café’s, smoking Hookah, Playstation, Pool for the men. The women go and smoke Hookah together, they visit each other and go to the mall and go to the mall and eat something.

Me: How do you order?

Mohammad: You have the menu in Arabic and English in most cases. The waiter will come to you and you ask for an English menu, it is the same system as here.

Me: How do you tip?

Mohammad: They do not usually tip waiters, but if you want to do it, then 5 Jordanian Dinars is good.

Me: How do you know if service was good?

Mohammad: If he coming and asking if you are ok and keeps checking on you all the time.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Me: Do they typically charge for water or a table?

Mohammad: Yeah, they usually have a bottle of water. They tell you it is free, but they will charge you 1 JD and might even try and charge you for 5 JD. You can ask them about it if you want and see if they will take it off.

Me: If I had a food allergy, are they helpful in telling me about how to order and would they be willing to take it out of my meal?

Mohammad: No, they won’t cook it special for you. Unless you are ordering a sandwich. Most of the food is already cooked and is like a buffet.

Me: What are the Best Hidden gems of Jordan?

Mohammad: Villages and the countryside, go to Irbid, Irbid will always be the best place for me. Everything is green there.  Jerash is a good place to go, Ajloun Castle is really nice too.

Me: What are the best historical places to visit in Jordan?

Mohammad: Most tourists go to Petra, Aqaba, and Amman and then they leave. Me: What are the most romantic places to visit?

Mohammad: You can go to a Café or a Park and hang out.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Me: What is nightlife like in Jordan?

Mohammad: Most people go buy Schwarma and eat in the car on the side of the street. You have nice clubs in Amman in hotels, there are even strip clubs there. I don’t know of any places to go dancing.

Me: What are the best places for outdoor adventures and hiking?

Mohammad: They do activities, there are adventure companies that can take you on those things. Most of the time I was working so I don’t know.

Traveler Tip: There are loads of camping spots, rock climbing, and other places to go in both Wadi Rum and near Petra. Please email me at culturetrekking196@gmail.com and I can provide you with some contacts in Jordan that I trust and are reputable.

Me: How to get help should you get in trouble/hurt?

Mohammad: Call 911, same as in the USA

Me: What are a few things you would like to tell anyone who visits Jordan?

Mohammad: It is beautiful, what the f#%* (insert laugh). There is a company, like, Jordan tourism board you know. They have a website visitJordan.com, you have everything you need to know right there. The few places I have heard are really nice are hiking in Mujib preserve area, go to the hot springs, the pink desert, Madaba is the Christian treasure, Mt Nebo and things like this.

Me: Would I be safe traveling as a single woman there?

Mohammad: You might not be single for long if you were over there, but if you covered up properly, you would be safe for sure.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Education Systems in Jordan:

Me: What are the school systems like here?

Mohammad: Elementary we have grades, after KG-1 KG-2, you have the grades when you are 6 years old you go to the real school which is the 1st grade. It is the 1st to the 10th grade. After that, you graduate and go to the next school, High school which is 2 years. After the second year, you have a comprehensive exam which is called the General Secondary Education Certificate Examination. This is after you finish the two years of High School and 10 years of school. Only those who pass the exam with good marks can proceed to a University. We have different majors like if you want to be an engineer or a doctor and you must pass that certificate. My certificate was in Information Technology. If you want to be a doctor, you must pass the Scientific Stream with a score of 95%. That is why the doctors in Jordan are Bad Ass!

Me: Does it cost anything to go to lower level schooling?

Mohammad: No, you just need your birth certificate and your ID. You have to pass each grade otherwise you have to stay in the same grade until you pass it. If your friends pass it, then you have to stay in that grade while your friends move forward. Most likely if you are in Elementry school you will pass through.

The Families of Jordan:

Me: How is the family unit work here?

Mohammad: The Family is a father a mother and children. The family is different. Everyone is family in the city and they visit each other daily if you miss a day your mom will call you. If she calls and you don’t answer she thinks you are dead. (Insert Laugh). Back in the day, they use to have 14-15 kids but now they just have 5-6 because of the financial situation. There are still some like this that can have 27 kids, sometimes it’s the same wife sometimes not.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Me: You can have more than one wife right?

Mohammad: Yeah, you can have up to 4 wives according to Islam. This is a solution for us because of too many single ladies. But the man has to have good health and a good financial situation.

Me: How common is it for someone to have more than one wife?

Mohammad: Now it is only 10-15%, because of the financial situation you know. No money, No honey.

Me: Who wears the pants in the family?

Mohammad: The father, if he is dead then the mother, if neither of them then it is the uncle, then if not then it is the grandpa, if not then the oldest son. For guys and girls, we stay with our parents until we get married, it does not matter how old you are.

Me: Where do the elderly go when they can no longer walk? Who takes care of them?

Mohammad: They stay in the home and EVERY PERSON in the family helps take care of them.

Me: What is the view on feminism, gay, or minorities here? Are they treated equally or do you notice a societal difference in how they are treated?

Mohammad: The transsexual and gay people? It is totally unacceptable, they kick you out and ask you to go back home. They will likely start harassing you and making fun of you. If you want to be a girl and you are the guy then do it by yourself. If you drink then go and hide.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Me: Is having children common here?

Mohammad: If you are married you should have kids. If you don’t and you are a man, then people start asking if something is wrong with you or wrong with your *$%*. If it is the girl that can’t have kids then he can go get another wife, but he will not divorce her unless she asks for it, then she can go do what she needs to.

Me: Do people get maternity leave? How long is it?

Mohammad: Oh yeah, if you are a school teacher, and you are pregnant and give birth then you get 3 months paid vacation.

Me: How many days off a year to people here get?

Mohammad: In the government, they work 5 days and 2 days off. You can take up to 1 month of vacation. You can take 2-3-5 years of vacation unpaid if you want.

Me: Is it common to have one night stands?

Mohammad: No, the man who does that will probably get killed by the girls family. (Laughs)

Me: Are people faithful in general faithful to their spouses?

Mohammad: Well if they have a Sharmuta they will, but no, they are faithful.

Me: Do people commonly show affection for their wife other in public spaces here?

Mohammad: Yes you can, but you aren’t supposed to. It just isn’t a good thing.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Marriage Customs in Jordan:

Me: What age do people here get married?

Mohammad: Until he is done with the University, so usually 25-26, but even then it is only if you have money. So now, due to the financial situation, they are getting married around 30.

Me: Are there customs associated with marriage you would like to share?

Mohammad:

  • Wear clean good clothes, the guy wears a tuxedo and the girl wears a nice dress. But for those coming for the wedding, you just wear the best you have. You can’t wear shorts though.
  • If you are interested in a girl, you go and ask the father for her phone number, or whoever is in charge. You must ask her are you single or married. Tell her you would like her phone number. If she says that is ok, then you start spying on her. You ask about her family, who her Parents, her family, her Uncles, and everyone in her family. If you think the family is good, and you like the girl. Then you ask your Dad, and he calls her Dad. Your Dad says “Hey, we are part of this village, we would like to come and drink coffee with you”. The girls Dad says, sure and must say, “You are welcome”. Then the guy must dress good and goes over with his parents. Then they introduce themselves to the girl’s family. The father of the guy should do the talking, the guy shouldn’t do the talking unless he is asked to. This is a tradition to be respectful and listen to the man in charge or try to talk over with him. Then my father says, “We are interested in my son’s hand to your girl’s hand. It is an honor for us to be a part of your family. Here is our phone number, I’m going to call you next week about this. No matter what happens we are still friends”.
  • When you leave, now this one week gives this time for the family to do an investigation into the man. The main answer will come from the girl. No one can force you or convince you to marry him, it will be up to you. So your family comes back and tells you all the information. Then it is up to the girl if she wants to marry you or not.
  • If the girl agrees, then her father calls and says come over for coffee. Then I bring my sisters over and then we all talk for real.
  • Then the girls family starts saying, (for example) “We want a car, we want a house, we want $4,000 gold for the girl”.
  • Then my family says, “Oh that is too much, we don’t have that, help us out”
  • Then once conditions are reached and agreed. Then the guy has to set up a blood test to see if our genetics will cause diseases or not (genealogy is too close). If it is not a good result then the family says, “No you can’t marry or you will f*&% the whole family”
  • If the answer is good, then we do an engagement party. Then they have a party with her friends throw a party for her as a goodbye party.
  • The wedding is the biggest event. You can go to the house, the tent in front of the house. At the wedding the dance what is called the Dabka. Back in the day they use to shoot guns, and now the laws are changed, and you can’t do that in public. When they are done with the wedding, they drive their cars to the guy’s house. Then they might shoot a couple of AK-47’s and then go inside and lock the house…..Then you know what is going to happen….hehehehe.

Me: Is it common to live together prior to getting married?

Mohammad: No, you aren’t supposed to touch her, kiss her or even hang out with you. If we are engaged, the most I can do is take you out with your brother or sister with you. You can’t be alone. Once the wedding happens, yeah, you can go do whatever.

Me: What is the classic place that people get married here? Why is that culturally significant for the people here?

Mohammad: They get married in a special wedding place, it is a big hall and a lot of people will be there. There will be 500-600 people coming at the very least.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

The Politics and Military of Jordan:

Me: What are the common stereotypes that are encountered in Jordan?

Mohammad: Jordanians they say everyone else has a better life than us, lol.

Me: What do they think about Americans?

Mohammad: They think they are smart people and the USA supports their country, and they want to let them know that they are funny, not terrorists, peaceful and very hospitable. They are also very generous with what they have. They also think that if they marry a foreigner then they can get out of the financial situation. They think that people overseas will appreciate the family orientation of Jordanians.

Me: How are refugee’s viewed here and why? What are the major benefits of them being here? What are the major drawbacks?

Mohammad: Refugee’s are welcome anytime anywhere in Jordan. It is a safe place so anyone can come in. They need to live and get jobs, but there are no jobs, not even for Jordanians. This is the thing that killed the financial situation in Jordan.

Me: What are two of the major Political conversations going on right now?

Mohammad: It is all about how high prices are going up.

Me: What are the political parties here?

Mohammad: No, we have a king, we don’t vote for him.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Me: Can you vote and how would you vote?

Mohammad: We vote for representatives that make up the Senate.

Me: Are the citizens allowed to do demonstrations? Who are the people/ages of those that typically do this?

Mohammad: They do all the time, they go burn tires and f*&% up the streets. Usually, it is when the government raises the price of a product and they go and do this.

Me: Is it dangerous for tourists to be a part of these or taking photos of these demonstrations?

Mohammad: No, not at all. It is a peaceful demonstration. (Me: doesn’t sound peaceful..) – That is Arab style, but it is peaceful.

Me: What are the Police and the Military system like here? Do you have confidence that they would protect its citizens in the event of a terrorist attack?

Mohammad: Oh yeah. Well if the terrorist attacks, the local people will defend. The citizens actually have more guns than the police do. They want to help the military, it is not Arab style to just sit and do nothing. Remember in Kerak, there was a problem and the local people had it taken care of before the police even arrived.

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Healthcare in Jordan:

Me: How is Healthcare there?

Mohammad: Everyone has Health insurance. You have hospitals and clinics all over the villages, towns, it is everywhere.

Me: If you were sick, how much would it cost you to be treated?

Mohammad: Almost for free.

Me: What could someone expect a local to say if it is not common?

Mohammad: If you are a tourist, they will stare like crazy at you, and say it is ok for your culture.

Me: Is there a class system here?

Mohammad: We have 2 classes, rich and poor, that’s it. If you are rich you generally end up staying rich and your family does too. If you are poor you end up staying poor.

Me: How many languages does the typical Jordanian Person speak?

Mohammad: One, Arabic

Me: What type of calendar system do you use?

Mohammad: Same as the USA

Me: Do you have daylight savings?

Mohammad: Yeah

Interview with Jordan and how to travel Jordan

Religion in Jordan:

Me: Major Religions here? How has that changed over the years?

Mohammad: Islam has been in Jordan forever. We have a lot of Christian people in Jordan. We are a family. Most of my best friends are Christian in Jordan.

Me: Are people generally open to talking about religion or do they just not want to hear anything about it?

Mohammad: Yeah, people in Islam have converted to Christianity, and visa versa & each time they end up getting killed by their families.

Me: How devoted are people here to their religion?

Mohammad: They f#%* around. Most people who drink and smoke and f#%* around are Muslim.

Me: What are the biggest misconceptions people have about Jordanian?

Mohammad: They are serious people who don’t like to laugh, but they are really funny people.

Me: What are your favorite memories in this city?

Mohammad: I dunno, I was born and raised there so everything is exciting for me.

Me: How do you say Thank you in Arabic?

Mohammad:  Shukran

Me: Well then, Shukran Mohammad and thank you for the entertaining interview. I have known you for quite some time now, and I have to agree that Jordanians are both funny and infuriating at times.

Mohammad: That is Arab style, what can I tell you.

Top 15 Safety Tips for Hiking

Top 15 Safety Tips for Hiking

How many times has your Mom told you that you need to be careful? Well in this case she is right, Hiking in any terrain can be hazardous if you don’t have at least a basic knowledge of safety tips for hiking. Here are my own top 15 safety tips for hiking that I personally utilize when I go out on an adventure.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Tell Someone Where You Plan To Hike

Tell someone where you intend to go with a map of stops you plan to make and where you plan to park. Leave some dirty laundry for the dogs to sniff should you get lost. I know this sounds really silly, but living so close to the Wasatch Front Mountains in Utah, we hear about people being lost, falling off trails all the time. Despite avalanche warnings, the high river swells, and inclement weather – there is always the ONE person who doesn’t listen or thinks it does not apply to them.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Wear Bright Colors When Hiking

Wear bright colors so you can easily be spotted, for winter avoid light colors as it can blend in with the snow. Summertime wear a reflective vest. If you haven’t seen the movie 127 hours, you should. It takes place in Utah, and the guy made all the wrong choices when it came to safety. The only thing he had going for him was to cut off his arm after being pinned in a crevice.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Stay On the Trail and Set A ‘Turn Back Time’

Stay on the trail and set a time limit for your final destination or turn back spot. Even if you don’t make it to the final destination it is better to be safe rather than sorry! I get lost incredibly easy due to my inability to tell if I’m headed North or South etc… I always stay on a known trail that has a name and try to stick to the well worn or trampled trail as I know I will always be able to turn around and go back.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Bring Water and/or a Water Filtration System With You

Bring a Lifestraw or a camelback with the water you will need, a snack and an emergency blanket should you find yourself lost overnight. A flashlight can also serve as a beacon should a helicopter be flying overhead at night. I like to bring flashlights that are manually charged in addition to my headlamp. This way if your batteries on your headlamp were to go out, you could still manually charge the handheld flashlight.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Bring a First Aid Kit

Bring a small first aid kit complete with Band-Aids and a sling. The classic triangle sling or even a bandana can be used to create a tourniquet. This will account for the more serious injuries and small cuts or blisters. Band-Aids for the blisters and minor cuts, a snake venom kit should you be hiking in the bush or the desert. Check local hospitals if snake bites are common and where the nearest facility is with anti-venom. I know that in Utah, we have to be careful in the summertime when the snakes are more active. Do not bring your pets on trails that warn of snakes on the trail as this can make them more defensive and likely to attack. I also like to bring along my trusty Swiss Army Pocket Knife…..I always say, “You can never go wrong with a bandana, pocket knife, and duct tape”.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Wear Sun Protection

Wear Sunscreen, especially at higher elevations as Sunburns are often more likely to happen. I have seen skin cancer cases that have left my patients disfigured and debilitated, some even that have progressed to melanoma. So do yourself and your loved ones a favor, wear at least an SPF rating of 30 with a hat. If you have a bald head, don’t forget to cover that up & put sunscreen on your ears, neck, and chest. Wear sunglasses that have full coverage of UV rays.

Heat Stroke And Dehydration Precautions

Know what Heat Stroke and Dehydration look like, and what the best way to treat it in the wilderness is. Check weather patterns and never start a hike that looks like there will be lightening, when you are on the side of the mountain, you may as well put a target on your back that says, ‘hit here first’.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Wear Supportive Shoes

Wear shoes that are supportive and slightly above the ankle joint. I have seen so many broken ankles over the years, and not from just missing the curb. You can be hiking along, hit a rock in just the wrong way. Your balance can be thrown off, you try and catch yourself, and *SNAP*, 4-6 months on crutches. Depending on where you break your bone will determine if you need to have surgical intervention. So be careful people, as much as I like doing ORIF’s of the Ankle, it is miserable for the one getting it done to them.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Wear Proper Clothing

Moisture-wicking clothing and cotton clothing that is UV resistant. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see light through your clothing, so can the sun. Even in the Summer months, a fleece sweater stuffed in the bottom of your rucksack is a good rule of thumb. If someone was to sustain a bad fall and go into shock, having an extra layer around can save someone’s life.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Use Common Sense

Don’t take people up on dares of ‘Who can climb that shale 80% grade to the top of the mountain the fastest and not fall off the sheer cliff’. I feel this is more common sense than an actual safety tip. However, my six years in the operating room taught me one thing, common sense is not so common.

Have a Contingency Plan for if You Get Lost

If your situation is really dire, start making signs pointing to where you are with twigs or rocks along the trail. This way if someone is coming to look for you they have a way to track you down.

Remember that the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. This can give you a little more direction.

If you find a river or a water source, it will typically lead to civilization. This is my personal observation because of how most of the towns we know today are centered around a water source. It may be difficult to follow the water source directly, but following the sound of the stream or river to the collection pools/lakes is also a good idea. This will also provide a large open area for people to more easily spot you.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Know Your Limitations

Know your physical limitations! When hiking with other people, I have had to teach myself to listen to my body and what it is telling me. Only the best hikers and climbers in the world can make it to the top. You have to listen to your body, pace yourself and enjoy the hike, you don’t have to sprint up the trail! STOP when you feel like you have run out of half of your energy stores.

Pack a Snack

Keep plenty of water and energy supplying snacks in your bag. Your body needs nourishment, not junk food. I always keep dried fruit in my bag along with some carrots. These do not need to be refrigerated, don’t get smashed in my bag and are lightweight. If you feel yourself start to get tired (I’m not talking muscle burn) snack on the energy supplies you brought. I always know when I need a snack because I suddenly feel like I need to lay down under the nearest tree and take a nap.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

Bonus!

Make sure to check yourself and your dogs for ticks and any creatures that may want to hitch a ride home with you.
 

Safety First

So there you have it! These are my Top 15 Safety Tips for Hiking. If all else fails, just remember that panicking never helped anyone. My Grandma always tells me that, “worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth all the time, but never really going anywhere”.
Most of all, have fun and enjoy nature, but please don’t try to conquer it. Mother nature is both a beast and a beauty, she will always win and bites hard with a sure finality if you try and challenge her.

Do you have any tips on how to hike without GPS?

What about if your GPS fails in the middle of a hike?

Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

Happy Travels, Happy Trails, and see you on the Flip Side 😉


Disclaimer: Please consult your Primary Care Physician before attempting any strenuous activity. Train properly for each trail you are attempting to hike. Check AllTrails.com for GPS coordinates, difficulty level for each trail and the conditions of the trail. If you are hiking in a national park, check with the local ranger station on trail conditions or warnings for the area.

Top 15 Safety Tips For Hiking

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Camping with the locals in Doi Ang Khang, Thailand

Camping with the locals in Doi Ang Khang, Thailand

Deep in the remote mountains of northern Thailand, the peaceful retreat camping in Doi Angkhang, a world away from the bustling streets of Chiang Mai. The main attractions around this small town are the projects run by the Royal Agricultural Research Centre. Within the compound, colorful flower gardens showcase the technical expertise of scientists and gardeners. Further on, picturesque tea plantations and fruit farms welcome visitors to explore and buy the local produce.

Camping with locals in Doi Ang khang Thailand

Just a few decades ago, this region bordering Myanmar was lawless and inaccessible. Poppy plantations and opium factories dotted the landscape, as drug smugglers ran their business with impunity. In recent times, however, a determined drive by the Thai government to introduce agriculture reforms and improve infrastructure has driven the drug trade out of the area. Today, Doi Angkhang is popular with locals seeking refuge from the tropical humidity. With a temperate climate averaging between 20°c to 25°c, most visitors come here to hike, camp or just spend a night in the only resort for a short getaway.

Camping with locals in Doi Ang khang Thailand

Traveler Tip: Check out this Two Week Itinerary in Thailand

Getting to Doi Angkhang

It takes 3.5 hours to get here by car from Chiang Mai, with the last hour crawling up steep uphill slopes and navigating relentless hairpin turns. There is no public transport going up to Doi Angkhang, so you’ll need a private vehicle to make the trip up.

Camping with locals in Doi Ang khang Thailand

If you can find a group of travel companions, you can hire a private minivan or Songthaew for 2 days and share the cost. You can find plenty of tour operators in Chiang Mai, or take a bus to Fang and find a driver there for slightly less.

The Camping Experience

Accommodation in Doi Angkhang is very limited, with a single resort and several guesthouses in town. But the best way to spend the night here is in a tent, camping alongside locals in a forest clearing overlooking the valley below.

The Campsites in Doi Angkhang

While there are several campsites in the area, each with its own unique viewpoint. Occupying several strips of terraces directly facing east, the campsite managed by the National Parks is the prime spot for catching the sunrise. A tent here costs 200 Baht per night, which is affordable even for locals. In front of the rows of tents, the valley extends far into the distant mountain range.

Camping with locals in Doi Ang khang Thailand

On weekends and national holidays, there may be a lot more visitors to the campsite (I DID say that this was popular with locals!). Fret not, for just further down the road, to the left of the National Parks campsite, is another site run by the Thai army. A small army camp marks the entrance, and you can rent a tent and pay the pitching fees at a small booth nearby. Local families also rent out small plots of land around the area for overnight camping.

Camping Equipment Available

You don’t need to bring your own tent to pitch here. Everything can be rented at an affordable rate, and it’s all set up for you to crawl into. For security, you’ll just need a padlock to secure the tent while you’re out. If you’re renting from the National Park office, you may choose to rent a sleeping bag or a set consisting of a sleeping mat and a blanket. Temperatures may drop to single digits on the Celsius scale at night, so be prepared to tuck in for warmth. A row of shops across the road from the campsite sells other common camping equipment like gas stoves, bottled water, and toiletries. They stock pretty much everything you need for a comfortable outdoor camping experience, so you really need to lug them up the mountains.

Camping with locals in Doi Ang khang Thailand

Bathroom Facilities Available in Doi Angkhang

A short distance from the tents, shared bathrooms are available for all campers to use for free. Housed in two separate blocks for each gender, the bathrooms are relatively basic with no heated water and limited toilet paper. It’s cleaned daily before the bulk of campers congregate in the afternoon, but expect it to get progressively dirtier as night comes.

Camping with locals in Doi Ang khang Thailand

You can get hot water showers at the shops across the road for around 100 Baht each time. With the nice cool temperature though, most campers will just skip the shower for the night – it’s part of the outdoor experience after all!

Dining Available in Doi Angkhang

No camping trip is complete without cooking a meal over a campfire. In Doi Angkhang, locals do it with a twist, as the shops prepare a mookata feast to be delivered and cooked right in front of your tent. Mookata is a social dining experience, where food is either grilled on a metal plate or cooked in a broth that is collected in a shallow trough running along the side. In Doi Angkhang, 400 Baht will get you an earthen stove, the mookata hotplate, charcoal to last for 2 hours, and enough ingredients to make a meal for 2 people.

Camping with locals in Doi Ang khang Thailand

Choose a shop to purchase the set, and a shop assistant will carry everything down to your tent and prepare the fire. As the campsite gets dark at night, it’s best to prepare a headlamp to free your hands while cooking AND eating (remember to use separate pairs of chopsticks for handling raw and cooked food!). If all these sound too troublesome, the shops also sell cooked food at affordable prices. As these family-run establishments double up as their homes, you might even be invited to join them for a meal if you’re lucky!

Camping with locals in Doi Ang khang Thailand

Catching the Sunrise

One of the highlights of camping in Doi Angkhang is catching the sunrise from the front of your tent. All tents are pitched on a terrace with an unblocked view, so there’s really no excuse to miss it. At 6am, wake up and partially wiggle out of your sleeping bag to unzip the flap of the tent entrance.

Camping with locals in Doi Ang khang Thailand

From the comfortable confines of your tent, you can watch a magnificent sunrise without taking a single step out. If you’re feeling active or need a boost of energy to start the day, the cool air of Doi Angkhang is ideal for a morning jog or a short hike into the woods. Otherwise, roll back into your tent to catch a few more hours of sleep.

Packing and Moving On

Most campers pack up and head back down by 10am. Checking out is straightforward, as you return all your sleeping bags or mat to the office, and then collect your driver’s license or identity card from the park ranger. From the campsite, you can head towards the Royal Agricultural Research Centre to visit the gardens and plantations, and then further on to the army base at the Thai-Myanmar border.

Camping with locals in Doi Ang khang Thailand

Alternatively, head back down the mountain towards Fang, and return to Chiang Mai (3.5 hours) or Chiang Rai (2.5 hours). If you have an extra day to spare, do check out the Chinese village of Mae Salong (3 hours), which has picturesque tea plantations to visit and an interesting background story worthy of a Hollywood movie!


Tours to Doi Ang Khang

Full Day Tour to Royal Doi Ang Khang Projects

Three Day Motorcycle Tour to Doi Ang Khang from Chiang Mai

Where to Stay Near Doi Ang Khang Thailand

Book with Airbnb and get $55 off your first booking

Booking.com

Guest Author: Gary is an avid backpacker and part-time geek. He started 2-Week Trips, a travel blog dedicated to independent backpacking vacations, as a resource for the gainfully employed to embark on exciting adventures around the world.

An Interview with Amsterdam

An Interview with Amsterdam

I personally found this interview with Emma from Amsterdam to be compelling as My Heritage is largely Dutch. Emma is a receptionist at ClinkNoord, the Hostel I was staying at. She was a petite woman, tall, with blonde hair and blue eyes.

After looking at her, I felt as if I compared to my Scottish Ancestors more than the Dutch as I am 5’4″ tall. She had a sweet unassuming smile with an open countenance, but also a professionalism that would make you not want to challenge her in a duel of wits. Although she consented to my interview, she did not want to have any photos taken of her, so I apologize I cannot provide more of a visual for you. Read the full interview below:

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam

The People of the Netherlands: 

Me: How do the people in Amsterdam identify themselves? Stoic, Kind, helpful, funny, laid back?
Emma: I believe that people here are open-minded, blunt, optimistic, and yet always in a rush. They are typically blonde with blue eyes and are very tall as well.
Me: Do you feel that your culture and traditions have changed in any way in the last 10 years?
Emma: The Dutch culture is fading away, the smaller villages still wear clogs, but it is very modernized and different than what it was.

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

Me: How can we as tourists help maintain your culture?
Emma: Clean up after yourselves! Please do not throw garbage on the street, the Dutch people are a very clean people, even in the streets.
Me: How many days off a year do people get in the Netherlands?
Emma: 20 days and if you work for a company you can get another 5 days, especially if you are a teacher.
Me: If I moved to the Netherlands, how would you suggest I assimilate into the culture?
Emma: Connect with people in the bigger cities as most of them speak English. You want to speak Dutch if you are planning to live in the smaller towns.
Me: What languages are spoken here?
Emma: Dutch, English for the younger people, and German for the older people.

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

Me: What is the best mode of Transportation here?
Emma: (laughs and responds with a grin on her face) You must use a bike or a bus. You can trust Uber, but it takes awhile to drive through cities.
Me: What are the major religions here?
Emma: Catholic, Protestant, Muslim
Me: Are people here devoted to their religion?
Emma: Yes
Me: What are the biggest Misconceptions people have about the Netherlands?
Emma: That the people are arrogant with strong opinions. The thing is, is that people in the Netherlands know their shit and it comes across as arrogant, but it really isn’t true.
Me: What are your favorite memories of this city and why?
Emma: The beach for sure, and the flower fields, cows coming into my backyard. This was usually at my Grandparents house that the cows would come into the flower fields.

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

For the Tourist: 

Me: What are some Festivals that you think are worthwhile for people to visit?
Emma: Tomorrowland, Mystery land, and the Pinkpop Festival is very very popular with a lot of big artists, Justin Beiber was there last time.

Me: What are the biggest tourist traps that you see here?
Emma: The tourists come and get caught up with the drugs here. There is also an area that I would say to avoid called Bijlmer area, it is a homeless area and can be dangerous.
Me: Where are the best places to eat Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and get a beer?
Emma: For breakfast, I would say the Pancake Bakery which is here in the Netherlands about a 10 min walk from ClinkNoord. Then for lunch, we don’t really eat a lunch, just eat a snack or something. For Dinner, I would say Jordaan or Hannover streets you can find really great places to eat all along those streets. If you want a good beer, you can really go anywhere in Amsterdam but the type of beer is what will make the difference. So for the beers, I would suggest getting: Amstel, Heineken, Grolsch, Hertog Jan, or Bavaria.
Me: How do you tip at restaurants?
Emma: We don’t really expect a tip, but if the bill is 13.50 you might round up to 15 euro so that you don’t have change. We like the round numbers here, but I would say do not tip more than 5 euros for a meal for one person maximum.
Me: I have noticed that they charge you for bottled water here, and tell you that you cannot have tap water. How would you as a local get around this, or is there a way around it?
Emma: They tell you they can’t give you tap water, but it is not true. You can ask for tap water and they cannot refuse it, it is a way for the restaurant to make more money. So how I usually get around it, is to say, ‘Can I have tap water, to begin with’, and then you can bring a water bottle for in between meals.

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam

Me: What is one of the best-hidden gems in the Netherlands?
Emma: Haarlem, it gives you a really good local experience and it is right next to the beach where they have fairs and different experiences for the tourist and for the locals.
Me: Are there places in the Netherlands that you would say are Romantic?
Emma: Romantic in Holland? (She smiles a huge smile and stifles a laugh) Dutch people aren’t Romantic….we just light a candle and call it romantic. (Laughs again).
Me: Where is the best place for nightlife in the Netherlands?
Emma: The Sugar Factory is really nice, also Melkweg or Paradiso are great places for nightlife that aren’t super crazy.
Me: Where are the best places to go for outdoor adventures and hiking?
Emma: The Flatlands, the forest, they have caves here that are fun to explore and Veluwe.
Me: If you were to get hurt doing these fun adventures, what number could you call for an emergency in the Netherlands?
Emma: Call 112 for emergencies, or just ask someone to call the paramedics for you because they will know the area better and how to direct them to get to you.

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

Schooling in the Netherlands: 

Me: What are the school systems like here?
Emma: At 3 years old the parents decide if they want you to go to school, from 4-6 the kids go to Kindergarten, 6-11 reading and writing school, 11 years old and older is High School until 17-18 where you decide if you want to go to a higher education. We have here MBO, HBO, and the University. The MBO is a practical industry school, HBO is the economy school and you must be smart to go here, and then the University is where the smartest people go.
Me: Does it cost anything to go to a lower level school?
Emma: Yes, the parents have to pay to send you to school. The government can give you money for this, but you have to pay them back in 12 years.
Me: How do they advance grades?
Emma: You have to pass a test after each grade. If you do not pass you can take it again, but after you fail the second time then you go to a lower level.
Me: What about higher education, how are people able to access that?
Emma: it is much harder because you have to have money to do that….lots and lots of money.

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

The Family Unit in the Netherlands: 

Me: How does the family unit work here?
Emma: It depends on how close the family is. Young kids go to the city & leave their parents. Some stay and buy a house if they have a good job.
Me: Who wears the pants in the family, or who is in charge?
Emma: Mom definitely wears the pants in the family. Dad is the money. Dad typically goes to work, eats, sleeps, and repeats day after day after day.
Me: Where do the elderly go when they can no longer walk? Who takes care of them?
Emma: They go to the old folks home where their family can visit them. They do not move into your home because you have to work and then take care of them all the time and it just creates a bad situation.
Me: What is the view on feminism, gay, or minorities here? Are they treated equally or do you notice a societal difference in how they are treated?
Emma: It is an unusual thing to separate them, but I see that the younger generations are ok with it. The older generations are still traditionalists and have a hard time, but if you look at forms that people fill out there is options for man, woman, or other. We were actually the first country to approve gay marriage.

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

Me: Is having children common here?
Emma: yes
Me: Do people get Maternity leave here?
Emma: Yes, you usually get 5-6 months of maternity leave.
Me: What age do people here get married?
Emma: Typically in their twenties.
Me: Are their customs associated with marriage you would like to share?
Emma: Not really, they just go to the church, they might have a reception and eat some cake. Then there is a party in the evening with a dinner and a DJ. The party typically lasts all day.
Me: Is it common to live together prior to getting married?
Emma: Yes
Me: What is the classic place that people get married here?
Emma: The city hall (laughs), there is no special place, you go, you get married and it’s done. If you go on Monday morning actually you can get married for free at City Hall.

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam

Politics, Stereotypes, Citizen Rights: 

Me: What are the common stereotypes that are encountered here?
Emma: It is always the immigrant’s fault, and people feel it is always those from Serbia, Turkey, or Morocco.
Me: What are the different political parties here?
Emma: There are a lot of different parties that represent different things like the animals, religion, elderly, economy, immigrants and religion.
Me: Can you vote?
Emma: Yes, from the age of 18 you can vote.
Me: Are the citizen’s allowed to do demonstrations? Who are the people that typically do this?
Emma: There aren’t usually demonstrations here. There was a time where Kindergarteners were demonstrating because of the low salary for the teachers.
Me: What are the Police and the Military system like here? Do you have confidence that they would protect its citizens in the event of a terrorist attack?
Emma: You don’t want to call the police because they will want to do a ton of paperwork. The citizens take care of the problem themselves and just beat the people up because they don’t trust the police.

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam

The Ending: 

Me: How do you say thank you in Dutch?
Emma: Dankjewel  (sounds like Dunk-ya-vell)
Me: Well a big Dankjewel to you Emma for taking the time out of your day to answer these questions I really appreciate it.
Emma: No problem, they were interesting questions and some of them made me think a little bit.

Interview with Amsterdam - Culture Trekking - #Amsterdam #Netherlands #peopleofAmsterdam
Culture Trekking in the Netherlands

Emma was so kind in answering my questions, and I was so grateful that she was willing to do so as it was so difficult to find someone to Interview in Amsterdam. I personally found the Dutch people to be a people motivated by duty. Duty to make their lives better for themselves, their family, and their country. There is a certain pride within them from being Dutch, but I felt that it was not as forthright as other places I have encountered like Texas. They are a quiet, clean, kind people as a generalization and humble enough to not want to be on camera or have photos taken.

I really enjoyed my time and all of the cities I was able to visit while in the Netherlands. Stay tuned for more posts on Edam, Haarlem, Zannse Schans, Den Hague, Delft, Jordaan, Kinderdijk, and Dordrecht. If you would like my full itinerary please email culturetrekking196@gmail.com
Should you ever visit the Netherlands, make sure to stop by and say hello to her at ClinkNoord, she is a receptionist there and like most of the Dutch, is tall, blue-eyed with blonde hair and looks like she stepped out of a magazine.

Have you been to the Netherlands yet? What was your favorite place to visit? 

Like it? Pin it 🙂 Sharing is caring


For more locations to visit in the Netherlands read: 
Windmills of the Netherlands

ClinkNoord: A Hostel Run Like a Hotel

Make a wish in Giethoorn: The Venice of the North

Kinderdijk Windmills – a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Corrie Ten Boom and The Hiding Place, A WWII Hero

Things To Do In Den Haag

Berlin History at a Glance

What I knew of Berlin’s History:

I grew up with a Grandmother who does not want anything to do with Germany. This was mostly due to the fact that she was raised in the time of World War II and was taught to loathe all things, German. I dated a guy once with the last name of Jorgens, and she asked how he spelled it, he told her, ‘J-O-R-G-E-N-S’. She asked if it was German origination, and he responded smiling with a yes, and she unsubtly responded with, “I hate Germans”, after which she walked off. I laughed it off because the spiciness and frank Dutch personality of my Grandmother is something that is very endearing to me. Her German aversion was a drawback to my perception of the German people, despite my efforts to not let it affect me, it did. I was slightly nervous to go to Germany, as I thought it would be full of people with suppressed military regime like attitudes. After visiting, I feel I can say, the German people are definitely not who I had imagined them to be. It gave me a greater understanding to learn their history, how the circumstances of World War II came about & things they were literally bribed with to go along with the mastermind that created one of the darkest moments in World History. So let us explore a little bit of its tumultuous past so we can better connect as a Culture Trekking Community. For my German friends, please feel free to comment/add your thoughts as well. Berlin History - Berlin Scene 2-1

Berlin History at a Glance:

Berlin has West Slavic roots with the meaning related to the Polabian stem Berl, meaning swamp. Since Ber at the beginning of Berlin sounds like the German word Bar – for Bear, a bear actually appears in the coat of arms.

The earliest evidence of settlements dated is from 1192 from wooden house parts. Berlin came into being in the 13th century with it being the major stopping point for two important trade routes.

Berlin became the capital of Margraviate (1417-1701) with Frederick I became the elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg which ruled until 1440. The 15th Century saw those of the Hohenzollern family rule Berlin until 1918. First, they operated as electors, then crowned themselves Kings of Prussia, and if that wasn’t enough – why not just call them German emperors. In 1529 the electors of the city actually converted to Lutheranism. Berlin History - Berlin Church with statue and lightpole 1-1
Berlin History – The Thirty Years War:
The Thirty Years War between 1618 and 1648 devastated all of Berlin, 1/3rd of its houses were utterly destroyed & HALF of the city population was killed. What was it all about you ask? Religion actually. When Holy Emperor, Ferdinand II tried to force his people into Roman Catholicism in order to create a unified country. It seems the Protestant Unions that formed did not like this, they did not want him as their ruler. The Protestant League actually chose the Calvinist Frederick V as the Kingdom of Bohemia. Those of the Catholic faith favored the Emperor and were severely angered, Frederick V was expelled. Multiple Countries became involved because of atrocities viewed from all sides, these were some of the countries involved: Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, France, Italy, and Austria. This war devastated entire regions with famine and disease that resulted in HIGH morbidity and mortality and devastated the populations of both Germany and Italy. Finally, the Thirty years war ended with the Osnabruck and Munster treaty, part of the larger Peace treaty of Westphalia. Berlin History at a Glance Pinterest.jpg
Check out the 10 day itinerary in Berlin to do what the locals do
Berlin History – The Kingdom of Prussia:
The Kingdom of Prussia (1701-1918) came about when the Margraviate of Brandenburg had been in personal union with the Duchy of Prussia. In 1701 the Elector of Brandenburg crowned himself King Frederick I in Prussia after a Dual state was formed with the Kingdom of Prussia. This was the first time that Berlin actually started to grow after merging with 4 other sister cities surrounding it.
Frederick the Great:
1740 saw the coming of Frederick the Great, or Frederick the II; this is the time Berlin saw the first whispers of The Enlightenment, although a 7-year war with Russia was a problem. Then followed the conquest of Napoleon Bonaparte who granted Berlin self-governance in 1806.
Brandenburg and the First World War
1815 Berlin became known as the Province of Brandenburg spurring the Industrial Revolution that transformed Berlin all the way into the 19th century. During this time, more cities merged with Berlin and was then known as The German Empire (1871-1918) War was inevitable, the First World War struck in 1918 and Berlin’s name changed yet again to The Weimar Republic (1919-1933) – civil unrest plagued the city & the roaring 1920’s influenced the city greatly. Despite this Berlin became a central hub for leadership, science, arts, humanities, and film. This was also the time that Albert Einstein was rising from the poverty he was born to and quickly won his Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Berlin History - Berlin Building 2-1
Berlin History – The Third Reich:
Yet with every success, Berlin has seen since its inception, war always seemed to follow. In 1933 the infamous Third Reich (1933-1945) was established, with Adolf Hitler as its leader. People in Berlin were trying to recover from the years of war and rebuilding cycle. Quality jobs at the time were very low, and it was often hard to find work. If you did find work, you typically worked overtime without getting paid to do so. Berlin History - Berlin Synagogue-1 The story of World War II began in these conditions when Hitler came into power and offered the people a ‘better Germany’. One where all of the sudden you were able to find a job, get healthcare, have paid time off – the cities were being rebuilt, quality homes were being vacated. On the whole, most locals were in the dark about the atrocities that happened. What was happening in Germany at that time is similar (but not equal) to what nationalist governments do today with their people, they praise all the good things politicians or governments are doing & twist the truth into seeming not so horrible as the rest of the world may see it as. It wasn’t until later that the people started to gain a better understanding of what was happening to the Jewish people. Berlin History Building 2-1 Under the Reichstag Fire Decree gained power and was established as a party leader under emergency conditions after the Reichstag caught on fire. He ruled for the next 12 years under this decree, and when elections came up half of the opposition was already put into concentration camps. His approval rating at the time was around 80%. At the time there were Jewish people in the government, they had money. The population of Jewish people in the city was 160,000 in 1933. Thousands were imprisoned after Kristallnacht in 1938 and put in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Berlin History - Berlin on Fire-1 Overcrowding caused shipment of these poor souls to Auschwitz during World War II, with Auschwitz now being known as a major death camp. In the Battle of Berlin air raids destroyed much of the city with 125,000 civilians being killed.  After 1945 defeat of the Third Reich Berlin received many of the refugees from Eastern Europe. The Western Allies occupied the West side of Berlin, and those from the Soviet Sector occupied East Berlin. All 4 great powers (America, France, United Kingdom and the Soviet Union) shared governing responsibilities which led to increased tensions in the Cold War era with people being sectioned off into different areas based on nationality and political affiliations. After World War II Berlin was divided into East and West with a wall surrounding West Berlin from 1961-1989. In 1990 Germany became reunified and again Berlin became the capital.
Berlin History – The Cold War:
At the end of World War II, Germany was divided amongst the Allied forces under the Postdam Conference. Those four powers included the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Peace was short lived as the splitting of Berlin into Russian control on the East side, and the other 3 countries on the West side, became ever more competitive and aggressive towards one another. Tensions continued until there was a Blockade by the Soviet Union in June of 1948 where all supplies were stopped from reaching West Berlin. After a distinction of ‘East’ and ‘West’ Germany was established….conditions on either side became increasingly different. Berlin History -Abstract Art Memorial -1 Under the rule of the 3 other allied forces, the economy flourished in West Berlin. As the Soviet Union ransacked and pilfered all valuables from the East side….conditions deteriorated significantly. When East Germany finally became its own country in 1949 privileges of its citizens were severely restricted. By the 1950’s most of the citizens had had enough. Hundreds of thousands East German citizens were crossing the border into West Berlin. Most of those who were able to escape were young professionals that were flown into West Germany for work. By 1961 nearly 2.7 million people escaped East German. The Soviet Union tried to circumvent this mass exodus by attempting to take over West Berlin, even threatening Nuclear Warfare. In the middle of the night August 12th, 1961 the Berlin wall was completed. Holes were dug for concrete posts, stringing barbed wire, telephone wires were cut and railroads were blocked for all 91 miles of it. Whatever side you decided to be on the night of August 12th was the side you were doomed to stay for the next 28 years. Berlin History Building 3-1 Three days after its initial construction it was replaced by concrete blocks and topped with barbed wire again. In 1965 it was replaced again by a concrete wall with steel. The most ominous version was the one finished in 1980…a 12 foot high, 4 feet wide concrete cage. Later additions included an inner wall that created a ‘no man’s land’, 300 feet of the deadly ground. Boarding up windows and guarding stairways thwarted the escape attempts. Sewer lines connecting East and West Berlin were shut off and re-routed. The ‘Death Strip’, created in 1960 with a standard order to ‘shoot on site’. Extra security was taken with guarding the wall. No one could work on the same shift or station twice. Escape and coercion between guards was thwarted by frequent rotation. The guards were also instructed to shoot without warning, 69 people died that first night. The fall of the wall happened rather quickly, on November 9, 1989. An East German official, Gunter Schabowski, was questioned by a reported on when restrictions on travel visas to West Berlin would be lifted. He responded without hesitating to think of his response as, “Immediately, without delay”. The East Germans were supposed to be required to go through a lengthy Visa process to get into West Berlin. A hoard of East Germans approached the wall telling Harald Jager, the chief officer on duty, the news. With limited communication, confusion, and increasing nervousness on the part of this officer who was expecting his cancer results the next day…opened the gates to West Berlin. The excitement ballooned from there and soon hundreds were arriving at the wall. Armed with chisels, hammers they chipped away at it until the Berlin Wall finally fell. A portion of the Berlin Wall still remains and is memorialized on Bernauer Strasse street. It is surreal to think that such oppression happened, literally, within my lifetime. (For my fellow Americans, if you are male and want to see a piece of the wall, a portion of it is housed in the Venetian Men’s restroom behind a protective glass covering).
How is Berlin Now?
After the fall of the Berlin wall, Germany was reunified in October 1990. Since 2000 it has been the center of a cosmopolitan entrepreneurial scene. There are many Germans that want to make amends for the past. Remarkably there is a lot of construction and rebuilding still happening in Berlin. The city is clean and modern, yet still faces it’s past with an open mind, heart & courage to do so. Berlin Building 1-1 I told my guide, Sean Stewart of Berlin Historical Walks, that his job was to change my mind about Berlin & make me love Germany because I had been taught the opposite. I left Berlin that evening, heart aching for that which the people had both witnessed. Where there is heartache there is also hope, this country is stunningly beautiful, the people are ever so kind (at least of what I observed), they care about their city and have the courage to face their past & celebrate the future. Berlin humbled me in ways I did not anticipate nor expect. I cannot wait to return to explore more of not only this city but the country. Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and see you on the flip side 😉

What is your favorite part of Berlin’s History?

Would you add anything to this brief summary on Berlin’s History?


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