Working With Education First (EF) Tours

Two of my trips abroad have been spent with Education First (EF) Tours: Peru and Tanzania. EF became a leading tour company in my school starting my freshman year when my friends and I planned our trip to Tanzania, which happened to be the first international student trip out of our town since 9/11. Each experience with them was incredibly special to me and here’s a full review of each main travel aspect:

Peru Trip crew

Itinerary:

EF has a knack for creating itineraries that are action packed and seamless- when you’re not on a service trip. My trip to Peru was heavily loaded with stuff to do every day and we were easily transported from one place to another, with little wasted time. We stayed in several cities and villages, including Lima, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes, and Puno and never had issues with our lodging and always had something exciting planned for the day. However, during Tanzania, which was a more service oriented trip, we killed a lot of time waiting around in our tent playing cards. While I still cherish these memories, I felt like it was wasted potential to see and do many more new things, especially when we were so far from home. However, some of this may be attributed to the fact that we were one of the first groups in this area; therefore it was necessary to have established relationships with the locals beforehand. Who knows, but I wish we had done more with our time and money. One aspect I particularly felt scarce on was learning the history of the area I was in.

Exploring Machu Picchu

Lodging:

All of the places I stayed were clean and hospitable. The only inconvenience we ever had was we had a bedsheet with a bunch of dirt on it in Ollantaytambo, but both trips had very nice places to stay with great service. Some of the Peru hotels had the best breakfasts I have ever had. In Tanzania, we did spend time in a hotel for one night, but the rest were big mess tent style areas. While the area was pretty rural the spaces were still clean and well taken care of. We fit four people in each tent, which gave us plenty of room for belongings and moving around.

Inside one of the tents in Tanzania
Our hotel in Ollantaytambo (note the ruins above!!)

Food:

EF has done a spectacular job of keeping meals available to people of all needs, from peanut allergies to vegan to food dye (my only allergy). Meals often had a wide range of options, from buffet styles to just a vegetarian or meat option. Everywhere we went it was friendly and well kept, which helps the fear of catching a foreign bug. We got to try lots of local cuisine and cooking styles. I even got to try guinea pig near Cusco, Peru.

Food in Arusha, Tanzania
Guinea pig in Peru

Safety:

At all points in both trips I felt safe. We were never even in any uncomfortable situations or times when health may be compromised. We passed through areas in Peru that were known to be more risky to certain groups, such as Juliaca, but we never stayed or spent time in them. We were completely supervised and had interpreters at all times as well.

Our Peruvian tour leader
Two of our four guides in Tanzania

Cost:

Both trips I attended were relatively pricy (mostly due to flights), but I have mostly felt that the experience was worth the cost. I had a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have experienced traveling solo or even with small groups.

Our Tanzania group

Overall, EF tours is a reliable, trustworthy tour company that offers awesome opportunities. I would and do recommend them to fellow classmates, friends, and peers, as they make sure the trip is seamless and leaves the student feeling fulfilled and maybe a bit unexcited to go home.

10 Years Ago

A Microwave.

When I think of when I first realized I would never see my mom again, all I remember is a microwave. If you asked, I could describe this microwave exceptionally well. It was in the hotel room we stayed in when my mom was hospitalized once again, and was when it clicked that she probably wasn’t coming home. I wanted to talk to her, but my family figured she was too sick for that (or maybe she did), so all I could see was this gleaming microwave. I have not forgotten it.

The memories that I have of this time are very few and far between. I know that many people’s minds choose to shut out drastic and life changing events. Maybe this is what happened to me. Maybe I was just too young. Maybe I will never know.

I remember my dad picking me up, walking around my grandma’s driveway and telling me that she’s gone and she can’t come back. I remember the service. I remember only one of my friends showing up and giving me a hug, but otherwise sitting alone. I remember not crying at the funeral. I remember the casket going into the ground with the fresh dirt and the white tent nearby. I remember eating cantaloupe at the reception. I remember looking out the window of the guest room at my grandma’s while crying people stood downstairs. I remember understanding all too well what happened. There was no confusion for me.

Not everything was a bad memory though. I remember opening her care packages with her. I remember when my donkey tried to walk inside the house and we put the cowboy hat on it. I remember gardening. I remember one day when she was really sick, she let me do a puppet show for her. I remember her pulling my loose tooth out because I was too scared. I remember pretending to be asleep so she would leave me on the couch and I’d sneak peeks of American Idol or Animal Cops. I remember pulling out her Harry Potter books and touching the pretty covers. I remember her waking up to comfort me after my nightmares.

However, today, the tenth anniversary of my mom’s death, I am more frustrated than anything else. I wish she were here to hear about my overload of homework, to help me say goodbye to my exchange student friends, to share in my reuniting with my childhood bestie, to give advice on my struggle for finding a job, to listen to mine and Brayden’s adventures, to let me go on a happy rant about the guy I like, to give me courage to tell him I like him, to celebrate my successes and to just be here. But she is not coming back and I have grown to understand that.

I am still processing this and I think it will take my whole life to fully comprehend losing my mom. I still get confused on which memories are mine and which are ones people told me. I’ll miss her at my graduation, at my wedding, when I become a mom. My life will never be perfect, but when I think about others’, is anyone’s really perfect?

I have began to open up about what it has been like for me in the hopes that maybe people can understand me and maybe, just maybe, it can help their experience too, if they have one. I have always had a tendency to stuff everything down, pretend I’m okay when maybe I am not, and it’s becoming time for me to let that go. Writing Celebrate Life in My Eyes was a start to opening up but I have a long way to go.

Hopefully I can conquer this day with strength in the future, but for now I will attempt to express my thoughts in words. Thank you to all those that continue to support me.

In Honor of Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, here are some beautiful things around the world.

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From pelicans in Cabo San Lucas

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To the shores of the English Channel

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To food like this funky green cauliflower

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To beautiful lake views

IMG_2856.JPGTo gorgeous spring blooms (Picture credit to Kiah Mays)

jQ2yB4MjTAa7O++eYQCRJw.jpgTo this hidden building,

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To winding rivers,

IMG_2768.JPGTo awesome vistas

IMG_1973.JPGTo flowers in January,

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And to beautiful skies.

Thank you Mother Nature for all your beauty!

6 Underrated Activities to Add to Your Bucketlist

Out of all the trips and travels I have had, some of my best times have actually been doing random things you wouldn’t necessarily think to add to your list of stuff you want to do. Even in my small hometown, there are plenty of things that I have done that I wouldn’t have thought of if one of my friends hadn’t suggested it. So I guess now its my turn to pass that on to others, in the hopes you get the opportunities to try some of these as well.

1. Cliff or Bridge Jumping

Although its fairly common in my area, I never thought to try this until my summer between sophomore and junior year. At Green Bay, mentioned in my article 6 Beautiful Beaches in Sandpoint, Idaho, my friends and I will go and jump off of cliffs ranging from ten to forty feet high. While this wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I did it anyways and came to enjoy it the more I tried. I also tried jumping off of bridges this year, which provides the same thrill from jumping from such heights (although, I advise you check the legality of this before attempting, as well as the safety, i.e. depth, lack of rocks, other people, etc.). It provides a simple adrenaline thrill during the summer.

2. Berry Picking

Although for some areas of the world, this may be limited, but certainly in North Idaho, if you hike high enough, you will stumble upon huckleberries. Not only do you get to experience their purple deliciousness, but berry picking gives you the opportunity to explore new places and hike to some stellar views. Also, if you are wanting to earn a little cold hard cash, selling them can produce quite the profit. However, check to make sure you are picking non toxic berries. Poisoned customers typically are not pleased.

3. Night Paddle Boarding/ Canoeing/ Kayaking

I honestly don’t think I have felt more relaxed than when I was in the canoe on Sunset Lake with Ki. We just took it out with our mismatched paddles and floated around the glass-like lake. On another occasion, I kayaked aways with some friends to an old cabin with a massive boardwalk. We spent hours trekking up the rotten wood and it was a grand adventure, and one I will not forget.

4. Hammocking

Ok, let’s be fair, hammocks are the best place to take a nap. They are even better when you hike to wherever you strap up, or if you have a hammock stack with some friends. They can be combined with any other adventure, whether it is backpacking or boating or even just taking a break to read. They are small and light, perfect for cramming in a suitcase or backpack last minute.

5. Rock Climbing

If you are looking for a good workout, complete with challenges and blisters, look no further. Whether you are bouldering or top rope climbing, inside or outside, rock climbing is a rewarding workout that can be done pretty much anywhere. It is best accompanied by apple cider, loud music, and of course, friends.

6. Exploring Trails

Wherever you are, make sure to check out local trails because they could lead to anything, such as the mill ruins shown above. You never know what’s around the next corner and it gives an opportunity to relax and appreciate the area you are in. Not to mention that there is usually cute dogs present.

 

What else should be on this list? Comment your thoughts.

Where Namayani is Going Next (and What She is Doing)

Oh dear, as my life progresses more and more into independence, the longer and longer my bucket list becomes. The more places I learn about, the more places I want to go and see. But, for the time being, here is what I am hoping.

1. Kauai, Hawaii – March 31- April 7

I will be traveling to Hawaii for the first time for Spring break with my family. I am super excited because I have never been to the islands before.

2. Portugal/Spain/Morocco- June 12-22

This will be the very first part of a senior trip in which I hope to be road tripping throughout these countries with my aunt and uncle. I am incredibly excited and also a bit nervous to be doing such an independent trip.

3. Peru- Summer of 2020

I am so pleased to announce that I will be returning to Peru with a friend of my mom’s. Hopefully we will be able to see some things I have seen on my previous trip, but also experience plenty of new activities as well!

4. Spain/France (El Camino de Santiago)- One of my college summers

I will hopefully be completing the Camino (an 800km walk across the top of France and Spain. While I don’t know when, I plan to take the train from Paris to St. John Pied de Port, where I will begin the French route to Santiago. If I am really ambitious, I would like to do it in 3 weeks, or possibly longer if I choose to drop down to Portugal.

Why You Should Spend Money on Plane Tickets

I was scrolling through Instagram the other night when a post provoked some thoughts. It was a photo of small things that were expensive, and showed a destination of a potential flight. The costs were equal.

But why would you want to spend your money on something that is only temporary?

Well, to be short, its not temporary.

Traveling is something that will be with you your whole life, no matter where you go. You will have your funny stories, your near accidents, the people you met, the places you went, the places you shouldn’t have went, and much, much more.

Sometimes you buy things and regret wasting your money on them. Traveling is not one of those things. You never regret seeing new places and people. You will keep them in your hearts and minds forever.

I remember even the most boring trips, the long drives to Michigan, and many, many hours of sitting on the floor of an airport waiting for a plane.

I remember the smell of the air in the Kilimanjaro airport and the way my heart pounded as our very skilled driver navigated the very scary highways of London.

I remember the awkward hug I gave Maria’s daughter as they stood in the airport in Venice and when Shad got his electric guitar on New Years.

I remember how cold my knees were in London and how hot and muggy my outdoor room in Arizona felt after monsoons.

I remember the waves ebbing along the shoreline from the Great Lakes and the way the tender bounced as it drove us to shore in Cabo San Lucas.

I remember all of these little details, the things that can not be gained from any other experience. These things are pieces of the world you can’t see in just your home, or on your phone. You have to see them for yourself, have your own experience. As they said in the movie Up:

“Adventure is out there”

 

Thank you to Brayden for the post idea.

Why do you travel? What things do you remember the most? Leave comments below and remember to follow me on social media!

6 Things to Do on an Airplane

Ugh, airplanes.

While I enjoy flying, the task of sitting in the same pressured cabin for several hours is a challenging feat for me. I can’t focus on things for long amounts of time, let alone sleep in an upright position. So, after the euphoria originating from the 30 minutes after take off, what do I do?

1. Read

I know, stereotypical, but for those of you who can be in high altitude, moving objects and not get sick looking at things in detail, reading is definitely a good way to pass time. There is limitless material, and lots of US airports allow you to pick a book and for a small fee, read and return it if you are doing a round trip. This can be super convenient for those who don’t have room on their shelves or don’t want to spend full price on a book they may read once.

2. Watch Movies

Iron Man marathon on the way to Europe? Sure. Movies are a good way to pass time (although once I had to sit for half of Race, the movie about Jesse Owens while trying not to pee my pants due to the passed our drunk Brit next to me. Kinda ruined the movie). For 9+ hour flights, trilogies or four movie series (think super hero movies, Divergent, Hunger Games, Cars, Ice Age, and Toy Story), these will keep you engaged and then you don’t have to remember what happened in the previous one before you watch the sequel!

3. Make Friends

Yes, I know. Lots of us hate that one person on the plane that just keeps talking. But there is multiple occasions on puddle jumpers or 3-5 hour flights that you will be seated next to someone who is willing to strike up a conversation (hints: usually an elderly lady who already read her magazines or someone not listening to music/movies). For example, I spend my flight from Heathrow (London) to Charles De Gaulle (Paris), talking to a man who was writing a book about his travels to South Africa and Iraq about the true meaning of identity and individuality. I found it very intriguing. He also gave me snacks and lots of really good French food. Also PSA: make friends with the flight attendants. There was a very attractive (if I may say so) attendant only a few years older than I who, during his breaks, came and sat by me to talk. His name was Mehrid and he constantly snuck chocolate from the business class for me (what’s up with people giving me food on this flight?). I learned he was bilingual sort of (twinsies!) and was hoping to be a pilot fairly soon. When the flight landed, he grabbed all my bags for me and said he hoped to see me again one day. See? I’m telling ya, make friends on your flights, it’s not all bad!

4. Catch up on Journals

If you are beginning a trip, write out your goals, or a bucket list, or any future plans for this trip. Why are you here? What do you hope to do? Record even the smallest details. My type A personality makes me write these out, which comes in handy in cases such as above story about Mehrid. I couldn’t remember the details or remember where that author had been but boom! there it was.

5. Card Games

For long flights, many screen things (what are the name for these, someone help), many offer board and card games. I personally am a huge fan of solitaire, its a good way to keep your mind sharp and distracted for a while until the attendants bring the food carts around. Don’t know how to play? Well, its a good time to learn.

6. Clean up SD Cards and Electronics

I almost always travel with my laptop/camera/phone, etc. in my carry on. Don’t need it bashed around in my suitcase, thank you very much! But taking the time to put all previous photos and videos on a drive or in files is a very smart thing to do before you embark on another journey. For me, I do this almost every night, but I would definitely recommend doing it in flight at the least. That way you have easy access to documenting your photos and much more!

What do you do on planes? What’s the worst part about planes? Leave comments below and make sure to follow me on social media!