Traveling through completely unfamiliar territory is inevitably like drinking from a fire hydrant. There are depths of culture to plumb, ancient stories to sift through, and pockets of communities that are nuanced and complex. I continued to return to a single question as we made our way through Morocco: why haven’t I studied any of this?
We had a special Barcelona experience: we were barely there for 72 hours, and spent Christmas Eve Catalonian-style. I can hardly do justice to Barcelona’s highlights since we only had time for a few stops, but I was absolutely in awe with its architectural flair.
From the Gothic Quarter to Gaudi’s creations, Barcelona is a must-see for architecture lovers. It has a bit of everything: vibrant history, diverse culture, amazing food, high fashion, street performers, stunning cathedrals and ordinary pedestrians. Even with the short amount of time I spent there, I fell in love.
Oh, the Alhambra. What a gem. No visit to Andalucia is quite complete without strolling the grounds of this magical palace, the last Moorish stand against Christian Spain. I’ve raved about the Moors and their architectural prowess in this post about the Royal Alcazar of Seville, and I don’t feel I need to say more. In this case, the pictures are worth a thousand words.
Before I share the snapshots from our magnificent pilgrimage, however, here are a few tips for your visit. I found the official Alhambra website a bit tricky to navigate, and I hope to answer some of my own questions here.
I hate to admit it, but I read most when I’m traveling. The otherwise idle time spent in transit is distraction-free (with the exception of movies on the plane), and I find myself more likely to make it through a book while on the road.
This past year, I yearned to learn again– to be engrossed in a topic enough to push through writing that has been solidly researched by an expert. I desired a contrast from what I read and wrote daily: blog posts, personal reflections, lifestyle tips, recipes, travel guides and photographic memoirs. While these genres are inspiring and good for personal development, I rarely find myself learning something new through them.
I realized that, if I wanted to continue learning, I needed to pop a Dramamine and actually open a book during my travels.
So you might be surprised by some of these titles; they’re not exactly stereotypical “beach reads,” and some of them focus on heavy topics. But the truth is, this is still how most of us are going to learn anything of substance or significance once we’re done with traditional education. And if we are to care about the world outside of our immediate community or whatever’s required to do our jobs, then we must seek out these sources.
Learning is difficult but necessary work. It is certainly less relaxing than picking up a book filled with pithy sayings we already agree with.
Seville might possibly be one of my favorite towns in Western Europe, and I have been to a handful. Laid back, sophisticated, sunny and romantic, it’s pretty much everything you might possibly be looking for on vacation.
In 2015, we ended up traveling to 5 different continents– and after all that travel, I realized that my favorite activity is wandering. Aaron puts little landmarks on a map app, noting all the cafes, museums, churches and shops we might want to check out in the neighborhood. Then we just meander, taking our time, laughing, investigating, photographing.
If you love our very joie-de-vivre approach to travel, then put Seville on your travel bucket list. Give it 48 hours (or more if you can!), and Seville will satisfy every craving!
Oh, the south of Spain. Romantic, vibrant, charming and irresistible. Where does one begin? It’s a fascinating part of the world that integrates European, Islamic and Mediterranean cultures all at once.
Our foray into this amazing corner of the world only lasted four days, but we packed a lot in. One of my favorite stops was the Royal Alcazar (Reales Alcázares de Sevilla). It had all the magic of Moorish architecture and Islamic art, but was so much calmer than the Alhambra in Granada. Every square inch of the Alcazar has been beautifully restored; it drips with detail upon detail unlike anything I’ve seen before.
We’re en route to Spain today and will be spending the next two weeks enjoying Andalusia, Barcelona, and then Morocco! I am so excited to travel internationally again, not least because my posts on Japan (particularly the ones on Kyoto) have had such positive feedback. I can’t wait to share about our Spain and Morocco destinations when we get back.
Our trip focus: Muslim kingdoms, architecture and culture!
I have been pining after photographs of mosques, monuments and castles since we decided to visit southern Spain and Morocco. I’ve never traveled to a predominantly Islamic nation or region, so this is an exciting new adventure. In Spain, we’re going to experience the multicultural (and multi-religious) heritage of Andalusia by first stopping in Sevilla and then in Granada. After a brief stint in Barcelona, we’ll head to Morocco.
There’s so much that I’m ready to learn about the kingdoms that once thrived in these regions. Islamic architecture is dazzling, not least because of the impeccable mathematical ratios, intricate fractals and looming spires. I can’t wait to see those walls and arches up close.
10 Highlights on our Spain and Morocco Itinerary
There’s a fluidness between choosing to live simply and choosing to explore the world.
Simple living allows us to focus more on things that matter to us– faith, family, advocacy, community– as we shed off the frivolous things that ensnare us. But sometimes, simple living is seen as limiting: tighter budgets, unfilled schedules, and a general sense of boundaries that discourages adventure. In all the rhetoric about trimming off excess, it’s no wonder that simple has been equated to boring.
But, despite this convincing perspective, the opposite couldn’t be more true. Living simply can give way to all kinds of adventures near and far. In fact, travel is an excellent way to enjoy the simple life. Sure, there are those who desire to live simply and to enjoy the comforts and adventures of home. Meanwhile, there are others (like me) who will take every chance possible to journey somewhere new.
You might remember that Aaron and I spent July in Ecuador. We wandered through the lovely streets and plazas of Quito, and made a 3-day jaunt to the Andean town of Cuenca as well.
But the main reason we visited was to volunteer with Casa Victoria. We helped run their summer program for kids in the San Roque neighborhood, and spent time taking photographs, sharing stories and falling in love with their ministry.
I’m so excited to have Tiffany of Sunshine Daydream Photography here to share about what life is really like in San Francisco! SF is near my home town, so I’m already in love– but so is the rest of the US. And according to Tiffany, it’s just as dreamy and wonderful as we all imagine it to be. Read on for her stories and gorgeous photos.
My love for Taiwan runs deep. I grew up visiting at least once a year, partly because much of my extended family still lived there at the time. Every January, my mom would fly us to Taipei to celebrate the Lunar New Year when my cousins would get a break from school and have time to play. We went, that is, until my 2nd-grade principal called and said my mom needed to stop taking me out of school for a month at a time.
Today I’m thrilled to have Madison of The Wetherills Say I Do sharing about her study abroad experience. Studying abroad was something I was unable to do in college, so I’m vicariously enjoying the adventure through her!
Sometimes I look back on my semester abroad and it feels like a complete dream. It was one of the most exciting four months of my life, though it had lots of ups and downs of its own. Looking back though, I’m SO glad I chose to study abroad and couldn’t be happier about the choice I made of where to study abroad.
If you are studying something very specific, you may not have a ton of options of where to study abroad. But even if you are majoring in a foreign language study (which I was), you still have a choice of where to study abroad. You don’t have to default to what makes the most logical sense for your major.
I spent 4 years living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but admit to only spending a handful of days wandering through Boston. It felt so accessible at the time that I rarely found myself jumping at the opportunity to explore one of the oldest cities in the US. Just a few weeks ago I visited again, and found myself spending the majority of my day alone. This was fabulous– I felt like I finally saw parts of Boston I hadn’t noticed before. Funny, isn’t it, that we appreciate the towns of our past more once we’ve left? I often wonder if I’ll miss SoCal more than I’m willing to admit. But I digress.
Boston is no hidden gem; it has been a popular destination for Americans and internationals alike, not least because of its sophisticated melding of historical and modern. But the history is really what Boston is known for– and it has no small amount of charm.
I love it when I find something that never ceases to fascinate me.
I’ve sung the praises of California’s central coast enough for you to know that this is one of my absolute favorite parts of the world. Nothing can parallel its crashing waves, myriad shades of blue, or the fact that it’s all very accessible to intense hikers and slow wanderers alike.
The first time I visited Point Lobos was not so long ago. It’s a popular stop for visitors to the area, so I’ve often skipped over for fear of having a hard time parking.
Pebble Beach is well-known for a few things: excellent golf courses, stunning coastlines, and large-for-California mansions. Located just south of Monterey, Pebble Beach is a branded, gated community that sees thousands of tourists each year. Famous for its stunning 17 mile drive, PB is a must-see for anyone traveling down California’s coast.
I grew up traveling down to this region– its kelp-dotted waters still cause me to remember times at the beach with family. But this is no ordinary beach: it is less appropriate for tanning and more appropriate for hiking, photography, and picnicking with a coat on.
There are no real “secrets” in Pebble Beach, but there are must-see stops along the way. Here are my tips for visiting this stunning coastal region.