Nomad is a word I used to throw around loosely, but after meeting this nomad family, I finally have a better understanding of what it means to move from place to place as a means of survival and not out of having wanderlust.

It’s been 21 days since I’ve been in the Sahara and I really haven’t seen much. I’ve been avoiding much of the tourist attractions and using my time to instead rest, read, write, and repeat.

I’m collaborating with Hsain, a former nomad and current business owner of Merzouga Dunes Luxury Camps. We’ve finally gotten past the formalities of treating me like a guest, I help myself to the kitchen for snacks whenever I want, and now we can engage in deeper conversations about the behind-the-scenes operations of running a luxury desert camp and, what I’m here to talk about today, nomad life.

I’m introduced to Mohammed, an older man with clearly defined wrinkles on his face that looks plenty hydrated.

“This man has four wives. He eats a lot of couscous at night!” Hsain points teasingly at Mohammed.

Mohammed doesn’t understand English, but I assume Hsain translates because Mohammed quickly smiles and then laughs showing me all of his yellow teeth.

Hsain and I walk around the nomad village and he points out one tent that works as a pantry and another used for cooking. There’s a clay oven much like the one I saw during my bread baking lesson only smaller and with tiny stones added.

“When it’s windy, they use this gas stove. When it’s not windy, they use wood fire to cook.” Hsain explains.

I see a little girl with a faux fur lined hood and bare feet running at us from a distance, but my attention is diverted when I see a couple of baby goats. They’re so cute! I know, I’m being a typical girl.

Hsain picks up the brown one and puts it into my arms and I hug it tight against my chest.  He picks up the white one and then tells me to hold them both. My heart is melting when the white baby goat opens his mouth wide in a bleat sounding almost like a human baby. They are only three days old and you could see the dry umbilical cord still attached.

I goat double the love.

Now that I got over my animal fix, we join the nomad family for tea under an open shelter that’s shaded by tarped blankets made from wool and goat hair. I notice many of the ropes are also made from the same fur.

Mohammed pushes a small tray of nut-sized snacks for me to try and then pours each of us a round of mint tea. The tea is less sugary than I’ve had lately. I’m enjoying this cup more than the others I’ve had recently and make it a point to compliment it.

I’m sitting there and listening to my friend speak in Berber without a clue of what they’re talking about. The little girl finds us and finds a place right next to me.

I’m relishing the moment but at the same time I want to ask a lot of questions to understand more about the culture without being too inquisitive. There’s that fine line of being in the moment but also taking advantage of an opportunity to get to learn something new.

At one point in our conversation, Hsain mentions “We have no pharmacy here. The government won’t provide us with one.”

In a way, I don’t know that they need one. I’m reminded that everything they use to treat their illnesses is natural. I asked what pregnant women do when they’re ready to give birth.

“When they’re ready to give birth, they let their people know, and then we get them comfortable and relaxed enough to have one. No hospital.” explains my friend. ‘It’s not like modern [Moroccan] women in the city who have it this way…” he points to his stomach as if he were making a slit for a C-section.

“How are the roles broken up between the men and women?” I ask.

“It’s traditional. Women take care of the house and men work outside. It’s not like modern people. It’s a lot simpler. They don’t have same problems like modern people. “

We might have a lesson or two to learn about nomad culture. Their presence feels like one of a wise man: few words, an abundance of smiles, simple, honest and happy.

“At what age do they start grooming the children to start playing a more prominent role?” I start digging some more.

“Nomad children don’t have an education, you understand? They sometimes have a mobile school come by and will teach what they can, but they don’t always know when that is. The school comes when they can. “

My question wasn’t really answered but I let it go. He did further explain that sometimes there’s an opportunity for the nomad children to leave their families and get an education like he and all his brothers did.

Mohammed continues to refill my tea glass. I’m drinking it much faster than everyone else. This isn’t the first time I notice how quickly I seem to finish my tea next to Moroccans who seem to take their time and sip a lot slower.

Mohammed’s wife sits in silence off to the side and her swaddled baby is now asleep on her back. The little girl is feeling less shy and pokes me. I’m playful back putting my hand high for her to slap and then pulling the ‘down low, too slow’ move.

The ‘down low, too slow’ has a universal playfulness. I don’t know why but kids always seem to get a kick out of it. She then pulls my hand and observes my half-worn red nail polish and then puts my hand back down.

Hsain gets a call from his dad, who is still living his life as a nomad and hands the phone over to Mohammed. Mohammed puts the phone to his ear and begins talking loudly as if the recipient was a few tents away. The phone is on speaker and I don’t understand what’s being said but it sounded like a lot of teasing and a lot of laughing.

“He knew my dad from 40 years ago in Algeria as nomads.” Hsain explains.

Our pot of tea is finished and our little dish of nut-sized snacks is empty so we felt it would be a good time to leave.

We stand up, say our goodbyes, and then I’m huddled together in a group photo with the entire family. One thing I am reminded at the very end is, “Moroccans do not have poor people. Everyone has food to eat.” and this is true. There’s no reason to feel sorry for a nomad for the way that they live. If anything, I think it should be taken as a lesson conceptually as way to live.

Is Mount Toubkal and are the Atlas mountains safe to travel after the recent Scandanavian murders? After having recently trekked these mountains only weeks after the event as a solo traveling female, I’d argue yes.

I’m only into my second day in Morocco before I heard about the murders of two Scandinavian girls.

“Have you heard about the two girls who were murdered a couple weeks ago? Everyone is talking about it. This is rare though, and these girls were traveling alone without a guide.” says a friend I met up with while in Marrakech.

I don’t bait for more details and leave it at that.

I sign up for a winter trek with a local company and learn there is one other girl who will be joining me. Two girls? Is that enough for safety in numbers?

It’s only one day before my pickup from Marrakech and when I tell a friend abroad that I’ll be going on my first winter and altitude trek in North Africa’s tallest mountains.

“Did you hear about the beheadings?” says friend.

Ugh, I really hate hearing about this news. I view this one isolated event the same way I view the mass shootings we hear about all over the news in the not so scary USA. I say “not so scary” with a bit of sarcasm.

I search the keywords to pull up the article about the two girls and see an image. Immediately I close out and remind myself not to feed into the fear mongering news. I’m NOT going to instill fear in me.

It’s game time and the other girl and I am picked up Marrakech and on our way to Imlil, the base village before many Atlas mountain treks. There were a couple of opportunities for us to talk to each other about what happened but she and I were both on code that both of us wanted to remain ignorant of what happened and enjoy our trek.

We are almost up the hill via car to our riad but are stopped for our first police checkpoint. Two police officials approach the vehicle and ask for our guide’s documents and our passports. They ask him a few questions and we make it to our final destination.

That afternoon our mountain guide takes us on an acclimatization hike, we enjoy a nice lunch on the hill, and then make our way back down the hill to rest up for our 2-day ascent in the morning. It’s quiet here.

We leave around 9 am to ascend for about 6 hours up Mount Toubkal. There aren’t many people on the trail. My trekking buddy and I continue to avoid talking about it, but then we reach a shack about halfway up and our guide stops about 100 feet downhill of it.

He points uphill and says, “This is where it happened.” and then proceeds to tell his story. “Nothing like this has ever happened here and it was not by our people. I saw the girls with my own eyes after it happened and was sick for a week. Everyone cried.” 

My guide continues to go into the story in grave detail that I’ll spare you. We walk next to the shack and he points at the dirt near my feet at where it happened. It feels grim and eerie, but no signs of a crime. My guide and trekking buddy begin walking ahead of me and I sneak in the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” in a crossword motion over my face and chest. I’m not religious but it’s something that we used to do when I was young and it brought comfort to me at that moment.

There were three other checkpoints on the trail. Our guide had to provide his information and the police officials were documenting our passports. At least they care, I’m thinking. Hearing my guide’s personal story and the several checkpoints reassured me. We’re still the only two females I’ve seen on the trail.

We’re at base camp now and finally, see other women (though only less than a handful). The rest of the trip feels quite normal. We summit and never felt unsafe with our two nights at the refuge.

On the way back down the hill, I noticed more groups of women and more trekkers making their way up the trail. This is a good sign.

If you’re a solo traveling female or girl traveling with an all-girl group – I’d recommend hiring a guide to go. In fact, I think that’s the only way you’re allowed up the hill now after the incident. Hopefully, this eases some of your concern. If you have any questions, leave me a comment in the box below.

I’m a huge wine lover and my love for sake doesn’t fall short either. I’ve tried sake ice cream, bought sake Kit Kats, and sampled a half-dozen sakes from the local Family Mart and 7 Elevens in Osaka – like literally lined them all up side by side and compared characteristics. I have even gone to sake bars tasting each of their selections until they’ve run out of things for me to try. I began thinking to myself how can I up my game a bit?

Cancun is a lively beach city on the Caribbean side of Mexico filled with white sandy beaches. The city is also known for its many tourist spots such as the El Meco Archaeological site, the Temple of Scorpion, El Castillo, and La Isla Shopping Village. Cancun is not as widely well-known as other international cities (unless you’re American and grew up watching MTV Spring Break – did I just date myself?) But there are a few logistics that you need to know before you go to this breathtaking city.

I recently got a job as a divemaster on a liveaboard in Hawaii and one of my guests told me I absolutely had to dive in Cozumel when I told her about my upcoming trip to Playa del Carmen. Because she and I bonded overseeing dozens of dolphins together along the Kona coast and that she has over 2,000 logged dives – I felt her word could be trusted.

I first found out about Reiki almost five years ago when I lived in downtown L.A. and had a strong desire to want to try it. The idea about removing energy blockages intrigued me and at that time I probably needed it more than I do today.

I have felt so much joy in my life since I quit my desk job and sold everything I owned to travel the world.

Occasionally I’d see a Reiki service pop up but the cards never played out to where I could see what the hype is about.

There are lots of cool holistic style healing activities to do on the tiny island of Caye Caulker that include aura cleansing massages, yoga, and other various types of massages from outdoors next to the beach to an air-conditioned quieter setting in a building.

What to Expect?

I didn’t do any research or reading up on what to expect before I booked a last minute appointment, but I did remember vaguely that for some people they felt a lot of heat coming from their Reiki practitioner.

I didn’t feel any of this so it made me wonder if I had a good Reiki guy. At first, I was expecting a woman so it did throw me off a bit. He also told me to focus on one color or things that were bothering me.

You start off by laying face down on a massage bed. You have about 10 minutes to reflect and then your Reiki practitioner comes in. It started with a bell (one that I never heard before but long echoed in an enchanting way). You can hear it close and near your ears moving.

He then begins the treatment and places his hands on your shoulders, body, and feet. You turn over, slides a smooth rock under each hand, covers your eyes, forehead, and other parts with tiny stones, and he repeats the sessions. I got whiffs of peppermint throughout. Mellow music continues in the background.

My mind is focused on green. All I could visualize was a blank slate of green and then it changed to blue. I had a few random thoughts about the guy last night who tried to hit on me with his girlfriend right there then I kept thinking about my blog and what I recently wrote. Love. Should I make this Reiki treatment about my energy blockages with love?

It wasn’t until at least 15 minutes that I felt my first tingling sensation. I feel like I was slapped with it because it came suddenly. That’s when I was thinking, “Oh! Okay, this is what it’s about.”

It ends with the smell of sage and then a misty spray over your face and body.

After the treatment, my body definitely felt tingly but I wasn’t feeling refreshed or amazing like I thought I would. It made me wonder if I got good treatment. I’m relaxed though and noticed my appetite had returned. I’m thirsty. I’m fatigued and really tired.

I guess that’s not too bad considering I could have had a case of diarrhea instead, eh?

It’s been almost 6 years exactly since my last visit to Playa del Carmen. I was a much different traveler then; a tourist traveler instead of a backpacker. I stayed at the Hotel Riu Palace Riviera Maya, an all-inclusive beach resort. The beaches were pristine and what I proclaimed as the best swimming beach I had ever been to. The food was meh. The clientele was mostly European. It was a quiet and relaxed former fisherman town with a sophisticated touch.

I’m sitting in the passenger side of a Robson R22 and my fingers go “click, click, click” against the key. I then hear two blades spinning above like the windmills at sunset in the Mojave desert. 

I’m feeling very Amelia Earhart at this moment. Like a boss. I completed my safety checks from the interior, pushed a few buttons, got us up in the air, and now I have full control over the steering.

Taking a helicopter flight lesson is the most exhilarating activity I’ve tried. Forget skydiving, jumping off of bridges, leaping from the world’s largest swing into large canyons, or swimming with humpback whales. This is it. This is my defining moment.

Overlooking the panoramic views of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps of New Zealand has me sold.

It did take me a little bit of research and thought about whether or not I wanted to get my fixed wing or rotor wing private pilot’s license (PPL). What helped my decision are the types of activities I could do with a rotor wing. But even before that, I got the idea about taking flight lessons when I thought it would be cool to be a skydiving instructor. Then I was thinking, ” Why be a skydiving instructor when I can be a pilot instead?” That later manifested into, ” Why be a fixed wing pilot when I can be a rotor wing pilot?”

Helicopters can go forward, backward, and from side to side. It doesn’t require a long landing or lengthy runway to get up. With a PPL you can take your friends’ heli-skiing (collaborating with RedBull adrenaline adventures is another dream of mine), go island hopping, or land yourself on a yacht.

I have this pipe dream of being a Divemaster, wino, and pilot. Imagining myself in Santa Barbara’s wine country (Solvang or Los Olivos) and parking my chopper there overnight with guests enjoying our favorite wines and then hopping over to the Channel Islands for some camping and scuba diving.  Pipe dreams can become realities though. All you need to do is have a vision, take that first step, and see where it goes.

 Do you have a pipe dream? If so, please tell me about them in the comments below. 

NYE for me seems to have an ongoing theme, and that’s of me puking. I was thinking about what I did last year and where I was, and that was me hovered over a dirty nasty public toilet.

I kicked off the New Year in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I spent the evening with strangers and a man who identified himself as, “The Clint Eastwood of Yogya.” He snuck in a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label that can’t be found anywhere but the airports because of Java’s strict liquor laws and offered to share some with me. I was also with another group who I met from Instagram, and they shared arak (Indonesian moonshine). So I was mixing apple flavored rice wine and whiskey. I know better to be mixing, but I’m a glutton for punishment and never seem to learn my lesson.

I barely made it to the new year. I began throwing up in the restroom of the bar I was at and recorded a video of me pissed off as I transitioned into the new year with mascaraed smeared eyes and puke breath. Grrrreeat, Celia. You’re so typical American now.

Not my finest moment.

This is the third year I spent it vomiting, but this time in Te Anau, New Zealand. It’s like I’m marking my territory. “It’s not a new year without spraying all over the place like a dog, right?” …says no one ever.

But I’m proud it wasn’t my fault this time. I got a 24-hour bug the day before NYE, so my stomach was too sensitive to drink much.

I ended up meeting with a friend I met while sailing across the South Pacific. We met at a boatyard on a tiny atoll in French Polynesia over a conversation about the shitty wifi and trying to identify who bought out all the chicken leaving us stuck with canned foods and pasta. Then we found each other again in Tahiti where we were both stuck for what felt like an eternity due to boat delays. Then again in the tiny town of Te Anau. She was staying at a motel across the street from where I was staying. Life is funny.

We gave each other a big hug, had a glass of champers (I wasn’t going out like that with no champagne into the New Year), and then walked a few minutes before midnight to the lake where fireworks were scheduled to go off.

For a small town, I was a bit impressed by the amount of buzz. The usually quiet streets were lively with music and crowds.

BOOM. Fireworks!

Wait, what? I didn’t countdown! Nobody counted down! I feel cheated. Why wasn’t there a countdown!?

All whining *cough*wining* aside, it was a pretty perfect display with unobstructed views despite the rainy weather. I loved that I could show up a few minutes before, not have to elbow my way through the crowds, and even more – I remembered it all!☺

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