There aren't many hotels you stay at when you're on the road that truly feel like home... At least, that's what I thought until I stayed at the Petra Moon Hotel in Petra, Jordan this summer.
Petra is a legendary town with fascinating people, beautiful landscapes and a rich history, so you want to stay in a place that gives you the best opportunity to experience all that. Of course, you also want to stay someplace where you can get straight to adventuring without having to drive far just to reach the entrance to the Lost City. The Petra Moon Hotel is just a mere 300 feet from the visitor's entrance and is a mid-range hotel so it's affordable for families. We arrived at the hotel before check-in, so we normally wouldn't be allowed to enter. The staff was very kind, welcoming us in early and answering all our questions. Our room was ready in about 10 minutes, and someone brought us (and our bags) up.
The room was so great, especially because of how roomy it was. This is perfect for when you're a family and want to be able to move around, store things, etc. without feeling confined and as if you don't have enough space. We had a queen-sized bed and two twin beds, a large sofa with a table/footrest, a flat screen TV, big bathroom, lots of cabinets, mini-fridge and microwave. I relaxed in the sofa a lot and felt like I was in an Airbnb rather than a typical hotel room. It's the little things that count, and Petra Moon went the extra mile to do those little things. They asked us at the front desk what country we were from, and when we got to our room, the cable box for the TV was programmed for that country, with the corresponding channels all set up.
After exploring Petra for hours in 96 degree (36 Celsius) weather, we were hot and tired. So it was amazing to be able to jump straight into the pool and hang out there until sundown. The pool is on the rooftop of the hotel and overlooks the canyons that surround Petra. It's a very unique and beautiful view to have. There's also a lounge area to read or rest. The hotel offers clean towels in the pool area, and we had the pool all to ourselves while we were there. Swimming was a great way to cool off and have fun as a family. We watched the sun set amongst the canyons from the water, which was a wonderful experience. It also made the perfect backdrop for pictures!
A full breakfast buffet is included!
Plus, there are brand new restrooms right next to the pool! This was so convenient. I don't know about you, but I always find it annoying to have to leave the pool, then go all the way back downstairs while dripping water all over the floor and the elevator just because I need to use the restroom.
We rarely eat dinner at hotels, but the Petra Moon hotel offers a barbeque dinner on the gorgeous terrace for a reasonable price, so we stayed and ate there. The ambiance was great: people happily chatting, call-to-prayer echoing through the canyons from the nearby hill-top town and the smell of barbecue wafting towards us... The shish kebabs, vegetables, hummus, tabbouleh, bread, and other dips were very good, and the service was great.
The only thing that was somewhat annoying was the weak wifi from the room, but it was a minor issue.
The next morning, we arrived to breakfast a bit late, but the waiters immediately sprung up to welcome us and get everything ready for us. Everyone worked hard to make breakfast as pleasant as possible, and the woman who made the crepes was a pleasure to chat with. There were lots of choices, and even I ate my fill, which means a lot since I'm not a big breakfast-eater.
It was hard to leave this hotel where the staff felt like friends and the accommodations were spectacular. The Petra Moon Hotel truly offers a more welcoming environment than big-chain hotels, and gives you the traditional experience of residing in the historical town of Petra. The views are incredible, food delicious and the memories countless. If you're visiting Petra and planning on staying anywhere in that area, I would absolutely recommend this hotel!
Disclaimer: I was not hosted at the Petra Moon Hotel, nor did I receive any discount for my stay. All opinions are 100% mine
Feel free to ask any questions about the hotel or our stay! Or let me know your favorite hotel below.
I planned most of our Jordan trip, and my dad and I arranged the itinerary together. But before we left, my dad told me that we were sleeping in the Jordanian desert for a night. So my response went something like this "Cool! In those cabins or the Bedouin tents?" When my dad enlightened me that we'd be sleeping in neither of those, but directly sleeping under the stars, I kind of wanted to scream. Maybe I did... but anyways, what I was kind of nervous about ended up being one of the greatest days and nights of my life, so if you want to camp in the desert someday, book a desert tour in Jordan or just want some inspo to try new things, have a read! :)
We planned to do a half day Jeep tour and sleep under the stars. We left Petra early in the morning and made the two hour drive to Wadi Rum, arriving around midday. Our guide Mohammad from Magic Tours met us on the road, and we followed him until we reached the Rest House. There, where we parked the car and were able to use the bathroom. Since we arrived at the hottest time of the day, we sat on picnic benches in the shade to talk and get to know each other for a while rather than heading straight out into the desert. Mohammad served us Bedouin tea and tied our scarves around our heads into Bedouin turbans.
Before I continue... here are my must-haves for a full-day of exploring and camping out in the desert:
-Water (Seriously, bring a couple big bottles with you. They don't lie when they say the desert is hot and you get dehydrated there quicker than normal)
-A sturdy backpack, preferably one made for camping and hiking. Put all your belongings in one bag so that you don't have that much to carry.
-Toilet paper (there are no toilets, or toilet paper in the middle of the desert. You find your own bathroom in the wilderness and bring your own toilet paper. A roll of toilet paper will become one of your best friends!)
-Flashlights (really important if you want to see at night, as it's pitch black after the sun sets)
-A jacket (the desert is quite satirical. It's scorching hot during the day but gets pretty chilly at night, so don't be fooled and be ready to bundle up!)
- A scarf or hat (we brought our own scarves and had the Bedouins wrap them around our heads. They make great head covers and you look, and feel more like a Bedouin)
-Sunscreen- protect yourself from that sun!
-A portable charger for your phone, because once your battery dies out there, it's over.
Ok, now that that's out of the way, continuing on with the adventure...
We drove through the Bedouin village, seeing how the people of the desert live. There were a ton of small cement houses side by side in what seemed like neighborhoods, even with small stores in between. There were animal pens in the backs of the houses that housed camels. So cool, and quite fascinating! People went about their daily lives, as tourists were a typical sight in their village. Small children milled around, drinking juice boxes and eyeing us. Many waved, as if welcoming us into their world.
We soon left the village behind and entered the open desert. Wadi Rum is pretty unique, because it's not the typical sandy desert. There are canyons everywhere, and big rocks cover the sand. Mohammad drove us all over, while explaining everything in detail. He was a great guide- knowledgeable, kind and hilarious. We soon learned that he had quite the sense of humor! He was always joking about one thing or another. He mockingly said that he left annoying French tourists in the desert for the scorpions and snakes! Mohammad took us to the sand dunes first, where we took pictures and I tried to climb all the way up the towering tunes. It was really hard and an intense workout.
After scrambling in sand dunes, we hiked through a thin space between two canyons. I felt like we were reenacting Lawrence of Arabia. There were ancient phrases carved into the rock in Arabic that were said to be hundreds of years old.
Next came an even longer hike. Mohammad deposited us at the start a long trail that led up sand dunes, up a high pile of boulders, through grassy sand banks and back down to where the canyon meets the desert. The views were stunning, and we passed lots of others tourists. We all walked past each other, greeting each other kindly and glancing around us in awe. The desert had transfixed us all. Mohammad then met us in the Jeep and off we went again. This time we jammed to Arabic music in the car, singing along to the radio and dancing of course. It was heaps of fun!
The truck stopped in a vast clearing with sand all around us. A herd of camels were passing by, and Mohammad explained they were Saudi Arabian camels that had crossed the border. We were about 10 miles from the Saudi border. We pet them, and although they looked cute, one threatened to kick me... XD
We climbed up a canyon, where we had an incredible view of the vast desert. Mohammad, my sister, grandma and I all sat on the rock together like Buddhist monks, laughing at each other and taking in all the sights around us. I felt free... for the first time in my life I wasn't in a place with a ton of other tourists, struggling to see whatever attraction there was. I wasn't confined to four walls studying or thinking of the million tasks I had to complete for the week. I was one with the earth, completely at ease with my surroundings. The desert is truly the most liberating place. I wish everyone could get the chance to go there, because it truly changes you! We all come from these places where life is fast-paced and we never get a chance to stop and slow ourselves down. But when you do, you realize there's a whole other way of living.
Slow Yourself Down....
Our next stop was the Um Fruth rock bridge, a 15m high bridge made of stone. We joined a bunch of other people in completing this climb. Mohammad took pictures of us with the other Bedouin guides and cheered us on. There were little wedges in the rock that we were able to use to climb all the way up. It's a little scary getting up but once you're there, it feels like you're on top of the world! Unless you're scared of heights... then I can imagine it's probably not too fun. Those who didn't want to climb staying near the Jeep and watched, or photographed.
Our last stop for the day was more sandunes. It looked like the Sahara with nothing but sand for miles... Mohammad sped up and down the dunes, flinging sand from the wheels of the Jeep as Arabic music blared and we all sang along. Best. times. ever. Then we met up with the other groups and went sandboarding down the dunes (which was super fun and felt exactly like surfing or skateboarding on sand). Everyone played around in the sand and took photos. Then we sat on the dunes for the most spectacular show ever: the sun set!
Once the sun set, we headed back over to the Jeep and drank tea, crossed-legged on the group with the Bedouins.
We then drove to our campsite for the night. What I especially loved about Magic Tours is how they don't rush you at all. They give you the ability to see everything you want to see while taking your time. They also make an effort to make kids feel special. My sister and I got to ride in the back of the truck, just in time to watch the first stars appear in the sky. We arrived at camp to meet Mohammad's cousin Aid and a French woman named Benedict. Benedict had brought her dog, Shems with her. Shems means "sun" in Arabic, and Shems was such a bright and sweet dog that the name really suited her. The Bedouins cooked (they bury pots under the ground and heat their food that way!) while we chatted with Benedict. We were served rice, chicken and vegetables and watermelon for dessert. It was a great dinner, and everyone felt like family by the end of the night. If you are a vegetarian, just let them know and they'll prepare your meal without meat.
Once we finished eating and setting up camp, we watched the stars for a bit. There were shooting stars every couple of minutes and I was so excited to see them for the first time. We had mattresses and blow up pillows set up on a straw mat directly on the desert ground. I had a bit of trouble falling asleep because I wasn't used to sleeping so low to the ground, but I eventually drifted off.
Around 4am, we were awakened by a pack of dogs barking. The barks echoed off the canyon walls and Shems growled from beside us. Benedict awoke and went to check out what the ruckus was about. She returned after a few minutes claiming that it was just a pack of Bedouin dogs roaming the area. I went back to sleep and woke up again about two hours later.
Waking up in the middle of the desert is the most magical experience. The air is crisp and cool, and it is just complete and utter tranquility. I explored nearby, with Shems trotting by my feet.
Everyone ate a breakfast of bread rolls, and tea before we packed up camp and headed back to the village. We bid farewell to Benedict and Shems and Aid drove us back. My sister and I rode this time on top of the Jeep. We had a view of the entire desert, from the lizards that narrowly escaped getting crushed by our tires, to the Bedouin dogs that walked alongside camels.
Once back at the village, we met up again with Mohammad, thanked him for everything and headed back on our way.
I loved living in the desert for a night, because I got to learn how Bedouins live. They don't live these hectic, conventional lives like the rest of us. They don't chase commercial wealth and materialistic things, but instead care for their animals, take pride in their families and respect the planet and the beautiful desert they call home. It's an awesome life, if you ask me. These experiences will stay with me forever, and I hope to return to Wadi Rum very soon. If you're looking into desert camping in Jordan, GO WITH MAGIC TOURS! You will have the time of your life. They're kind, know the desert like the backs of their hands and safety is always first with them.
If you're trying to get inspiration on doing new things, I hope this helped convince you that sometimes the best things turn out to be the ones you least expect. Take the chance and go for it! I expected to get heatstroke or flip out because of the lack of bathrooms and running water. Instead, I learned so much and instilled in myself a new love for this beautiful land that not many set foot on in their lifetimes.
Thank you for reading!
All the best,
Disclaimer: This trip was not sponsored by Magic Tours. We paid for all activities ourselves, and I have not received payment for this blog post. All opinions are 100% mine
The Lost City of Petra: Picture ancient cities of stone carved into canyons that line the Jordanian desert. It is proof of a city that once thrived and is full of magic. Petra is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and rightfully so. The Ancient Nabateans built the city back in 312 BC and was more recently discovered by a Swiss explorer in the early 1800s. Today, people from all over the world come to witness Petra's beauty in person. I visited in July (which mind you, is one of the hottest times of the year to go!), and had a great time. I've compiled a list of tips and things you should know before going to Petra to make your visit more pleasant. I've highlighted the most important parts of each tip for easier reading. Enjoy!
#1) Plan How Long You're Going to Stay
You can see most of Petra in a full day. It depends on how much time you personally want to spend adventuring in the canyons and visiting the ancient sites. We were tight on time, so we went for not even a full day and regret not staying longer. I know some people who spend up to 3 days there. In the summer, Petra opens at 6am and closes at around 6pm. It closes at 4pm in the winter. If you're going in the winter, fall or spring, you can easily spend morning to evening there. However, if you go in the summer, like I did, it's probably wise to do intervals of 3 hours in the early morning and then 3-4 hours in the evening when it isn't too hot.
After buying your ticket at the gates, you will get a map that will show you all the main attractions and will give you some key information. There's also a chart with the main trails listed, so snapping a picture of it could be useful. You can hire a guide if you want, but do this upon entry because you can get scammed if you try to hire a guide once inside. If you're staying at Petra for 2 or 3 days, you can get a package deal. Tourist prices for 1 day are around 50 JD ($70 USD). We payed a fraction of that price for our tickets though, because we'd brought along our Tunisian passports. If you're from an Arab country, you'll get a huge discount to enter Petra. Jordan acknowledges visits from their Arab neighbors, so they reward them by giving them low prices on big attractions.
#3) Tips for doing Petra in Summer
I was originally a little scared of traveling to Jordan in the heart of summer when temperatures can rise to 40 C easily, but the heat was tolerable. It isn't stifling hot or suffocating like what we witnessed in the U.A.E. At Petra, there are lots of shady spots next to rocks or canyons where you can seek shade and rest for a bit. I made sure to take a rest stop every so often, and drank water. Be sure to bring lots of water, sunscreen and hats! They will save your life! We have a backpack that we always bring with us when adventuring and keep inside our camera stuff, sunscreen, and as many bottles of water as can fit. Also, be sure to wear sturdy shoes like sneakers or hiking boots. You won't be having fun if you're constantly getting rocks stuck in your sandals or if you keep slipping on the rock in your flip flops.
#4) What Should Women Wear?
Jordan is a conservative Muslim country, where dressing modestly is respectful to the culture, and you will avoid people staring at you. However, Petra is a huge tourist destination and it's ok to dress less strictly than you would in let's say, Amman, the capital. Tank tops are ok, and I even saw a lot of women wearing shorts. Still, I tried to dress somewhat modestly. As you can see in the photo below, I wore a full length romper. It was sleeveless, but my legs were entirely covered. This romper worked great because it was made of thin material and was loose and comfortable. I also wore Nike sneakers and a hat.
#5) Animal Rides
There will be many Bedouins constantly nagging you to buy things or ride their camel, horse, or donkey. It's really annoying, yes, but it's just part of the experience. It's how these people make a living. Don't look at things you don't want to buy, and don't feel pressured to give in. Just politely say no, shake your head and walk away. Sometimes the animals are overworked, so I highly recommend not riding animals when you're there. If you REALLY, REALLY can't go on, and I mean if you're falling down and convulsing with fatigue, only then consider riding an animal, but only if you don't see any signs of neglect. Most animals that I saw there were well-taken care of, though.
Galloping through Petra...pure happiness.
I snapped this photo as the boys zoomed through the canyons on their donkey. They are local Bedouin boys, children of the desert. Forget iPhones and TVs, these kids have fun in the best way possible!
#6) The Main Attractions
The Treasury- that huge building that you see all over the place and that is at the top of this page, yeah that's it. The Treasury is breathtaking and I actually screamed when I first saw it. There's nothing like seeing it in person. From the main gates of Petra, it's about a 30 or 40 minute walk to reach it. The Treasury lies within a circle of canyons and there is a huge empty space in the middle where there are Bedouins trying to sell tourists things, and then a little gift shop. We took a lot of pictures here and hung out with the locals. I love photographing people, so I carried my camera everywhere, along with a bunch of lollipops I'd brought with me. Whenever I came across a child, I got to know them for a little and then asked for a photo. I gave them a lollipop after taking their photo and they were pretty happy about that. Almost all the kids speak English because they work with tourists all the time, but we spoke together in Arabic.
The Monastery- This is a stunning little place that was originally built as a place of worship. I was so disappointed we didn't have the time to take this hike. It's a pretty long hike- around 90 minutes and 800 steps- according to all the people I've spoken to who've done it.
Little Petra- This is pretty much a mini version of the Treasury, but it's so impressive.
#7) Eating and Drinking There
There are places to eat at Petra, as well as restrooms, but they're spread out in different areas. One of the places where we rested and bought water was a little cafe about 25 minutes from the Treasury. If you want to save yourself the hassle of finding a place to eat then I would highly recommend bringing your own snacks. This will also save you a bunch of money, because like all touristic sites, food is much more expensive than what it's worth. Stop by at a local shop on your way to Petra and get some snacks. Or if you're coming directly from another hotel, try saving some things from breakfast. This can be especially useful if you have small children.
To be honest, when people ask me what my most memorable Petra moment was, it wasn't seeing the incredible structures from the BC era, and it wasn't long hikes up the canyons. It was an encounter with local boys. We came across two little boys, sitting in the sand. They were covered from head to toe in dirt and didn't even have shoes. They were trying to sell rocks. Most tourists walked away without a second glance.
Through my years of travel, I've learned that the most beautiful aspect of a place is its people. I've learned that this is where real travelers stand apart from the rest. They are the ones who take the time to be kind and understand the lives of others. Some people look, but others really see.
It was not in my nature to walk away from these boys so I approached them and handed them lollipops. They eagerly took them, and I was so happy to see their excitement at something so simple. I asked them in Arabic what their names were and how old they were. The older boy said that his name was Said and his brother's name was Talal. He was 5, and his brother 3. When I asked Said which lollipop he preferred, he held them both up with a cheeky smile. These are the moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
"Do not wait for leaders, do it yourself; person to person. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies"
Eventually, a while after you pass the Treasury you'll come across this place. The monastery hike is straight ahead, and the views are incredible.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Petra Moon Hotel, which is 100 meters from the main entrance of Petra. It is a mid-range hotel, so it wasn't too expensive. We absolutely loved it, and out of all of our Jordan hotels, it was our favorite. The service was excellent, the views stunning and the rooms immaculate. There is also a rooftop pool with a view of the canyons, which was one of the main reasons I chose the hotel, haha! Swimming in the pool was the perfect way to cool off after a long day spent exploring Petra in the heat. And it was the perfect spot to watch the sun set. I'll have a hotel review up soon.
The Hotel Website
So to summarize, you have to go to Petra if you're in Jordan! It's a must. It is so beautiful and the memories and sensation of being there will stay with you for a lifetime. Plan out the length of your stay and what you're going to see and come prepared. Be careful so you don't get ripped off, but most importantly, have fun!
Thanks for reading! Hope this will help you if you decide to visit Petra.
Do you want to go to Petra? Or have you been there before? And if you have, what tips do you suggest for a great visit? Comment below!
Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored by the Petra Moon Hotel. I have not received payment for this post whatsoever and all opinions are 100% mine
When we aren't the ones suffering, it's easy to turn our backs on others. But if we don't help each other, what will become of us? This is not about politics or beliefs- it's about being human.
I was supposed to go to California this summer.
In fact, I'd been looking forward to surfing some of the best beaches in the United States and hanging out with friends there for over a year. But in June, I watched The White Helmets, a documentary about the Syrian Civil War, and it changed everything. The film had opened my eyes to the refugee crisis and made me want to do something so badly. It was impossible now for me to just have fun all summer when there were so many things to be done to help others. I dove into researching every aspect of the crisis, watching countless videos and reading numerous articles. I discovered that over a million refugees had fled to the neighboring country of Jordan, most of them not even living in refugee camps but rather, in urban areas under varying conditions. I told my dad everything I'd learned and told him that we had to go to Jordan. He listened carefully and thought it was a good idea, but told me it had to be either Jordan or California, not both.
That was the easiest choice I'd ever had to make.
I discovered The Syria Fund through Instagram and reached out to the cofounder, Lexi. She was incredibly nice and helpful from the start, and I'm lucky to know her. I met with her in NYC in late June, and was so inspired by her. Lexi had lived in Damascus before the war and started this non-profit organization in hopes of helping the Syrian people who had made her feel so at home years ago. The Syria Fund constantly supplies refugee families who need financial help with food and other critically-needed supplies. They partnered with an organization that founded schools in Jordan that allow Syrian kids to continue their educations. This way, they can keep learning without letting a war put their futures on hold. Lexi made it possible for me to visit one of the schools, and we worked out all the details together. Check them out here !
In mid-July, I finally embarked on this life-changing trip to Jordan, accompanied my dad, sister and grandma. From the moment I stepped foot there, I felt at home. It's safe to say that it is the one country that completely stole my heart. For the first few days, I was a tourist visiting Petra, the Dead Sea and Jerash, but the day of the school visit quickly arrived. My family and I were in Amman on that day, and we drove over early to pick up Owais, one of the school's teachers and coordinators, at his house. We all chatted and got to know each other before hitting the road for Azraq. Owais was so kind and acted as our tour guide for the day. He teaches music, and is very good at what he does. We gradually left the bustle of the capital for gaping fields of dried grass. The number of cars on the highway slowly began to drop, as Azraq is a pretty isolated city in Northern Jordan. We passed a military base and several Syrian border signs on our way, signifying how close we were to the war-torn country.
We also passed Azraq Refugee Camp- the second-largest refugee camp in Jordan and home to over 30,000 refugees. I had chills down my spine as I saw thousands of makeshift homes in the form of white cabins. It's one thing to see refugee camps on TV and to be so far away and sheltered that you don't give it another thought, but being right in front of them was a whole other story.
I was witnessing a place of broken families and lost dreams.
Not long after passing the camp, we pulled up at the school. It was such a cute little place, with about 5 different caravans that made up different classrooms. Inspirational phrases and pictures were painted on the caravans, and each one was meant for a different grade. There was a little playground and a mini library as well.
From the moment we arrived, I had kids running up to me and hugging and kissing my cheeks. They were so excited to see us! Owais started off by giving the kids a brief introduction to who I was, and told them how I wanted to write my second book on the Syrian civil war. I then got to spend around 20 minutes in each caravan and meeting all the kids. I gave them gifts I'd brought them; candy and colored pens, and we drew, laughed and talked together. The majority of the kids don't speak English but I speak some Arabic. Although we don't speak the same dialect, I know some Syrian words and phrases and we were able to communicate pretty well.
One of the first girls I met was Reem an 11 year old girl who holds so much curiosity and intelligence in such a tiny body. She showed me around and drew a picture of her school for me. I was so impressed by her passion for learning, kind heart and ability to speak English. I gave her a signed copy of my book, Spirit of the Wind and told her that she could practice reading English this way. She was so happy and cradled that book to her chest for the rest of the morning.
Reem inspires me, and she is everything I wanted in a main character: smart, brave and determined. I know the main character for my next book would be based somewhat around her.
I went around the classroom, meeting the other students and drawing pictures with them. Most of the kids were from Homs, Syria and had crossed the Jordanian border when it was still possible. The border is now closed. I asked them how their lives were before the war, and they told me it was great, or perfect. They spoke of Syria nostalgically, with a wiseness beyond their years. They all told me they wanted to go back when the war was over. I smiled, because I knew that when they did, they'd be the ones to rebuild Syria. I asked them if they preferred Syria or Jordan, and most of them said "both!" One girl told me she considered Jordan her second country. My dad and I then spoke with the older kids, learning more about their lives before the war and listening to their stories.
Refugees aren't scary. They are kids that have temporarily lost their homes to war. And they are the most incredible kids I've ever met. Sweet, smart and funny, yet they all encompass these old souls because of the things they've seen and experienced.
Meet Ibtisam: a mature and playful 12 year old. She was always joking with us and her friends, yet told me with all seriousness that
she wanted to be a doctor when she got older
to help people.
I told her that I wanted to do that as well. Who knew, maybe someday we would both work together with an organization like Doctors Without Borders and help those stuck in a humanitarian crises like this one.
Meet Amjad: he is a 13 year old boy who has been through more than any person, let alone child should ever go through. And he's always smiling, and so optimistic despite the awful things he's lived through. He told us how his family endured the war with no real intentions of leaving, until an airstrike killed his two brothers. This was their breaking point, and the family decided to leave. They spent three days traveling by bus before they finally reached Jordan.
The family spent a few days at Zaatari refugee camp, the biggest refugee camp in the country, and eventually found their way to the town of Azraq, where they now reside and their son goes to school, thanks to the work of The Syria Fund and its partners.
I also met Asma, a 14 year old girl who was very shy, but incredibly sweet. She opened up to us and explained how her uncle was killed in Syria and she witnessed an airstrike happen right in front of her. Since then, she's suffered psychological trauma and gets scared whenever she hears an airplane (this happens a lot since planes from the nearby military base fly over the school all the time). She began crying while she spoke to us, and my heart broke for her. I look forward to the day when her sleep won't be plagued by nightmares.
I met more kids and heard more stories, but those are better left for another post. Too soon, it was time to leave. Owais took us to visit some refugee families who were living in difficult situations. Some were handicapped, most were very poor, all were victims of a terrible war. We spent the afternoon delivering food boxes to them. Before I'd left for Jordan, I had raised money with a Crowdrise fundraiser and linked it to The Syria Fund so they got all the money. Thanks to many generous donors, I was able to raise over $800. With that money, we were able to buy food boxes to feed these families. They thanked me, hugged me and invited us in for tea. They didn't have much, but they wanted to give us the little they did have.
I was so moved by their kindness, and above all, their resilience.
Money is always needed, so if you want to help, here is the link to my fundraiser: Help me Improve the Lives of Syrian Refugees . Any amount helps, and as you can see, 100% of the money goes directly to refugee aid.
The following day, back in Amman, we worked with a Syria Fund volunteer named Maher. With about 7 others, we stuffed about 100 backpacks with school supplies. The rest of the money that I raised was used to purchase all these supplies! Now, the kids would have material to learn with. I met some incredible volunteers while I was there, including Julie, Maher's wife. She is French and lives in Jordan. She had us over for tea and explained to us that she works for the Middle East Children's Institute and would love to have me help her next time I was in Jordan. I look forward to that! We spoke about the refugee crisis, our visit to the Azraq school, future projects, and more!
This has undoubtedly been the most incredible experience of my life where I discovered my passion for humanitarian work. I'm grateful to The Syria Fund for giving me this opportunity. I'm grateful to the volunteers who work hard daily to better humanity; I strive to be like you. I'm grateful to the beautiful Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for taking in so many refugees and providing them with a place they can call their second home. Most of all, I'm grateful to those that opened their hearts to me and trust me with their stories. I promise to do my very best to bring them to life and make your voices heard. This has only made me want to work harder to provide for refugees, and I can't wait to do more for them in Jordan very soon. I aspire to help The Syria Fund in even bigger ways next time.
This is just the beginning...
Thank you so much for reading! Feel free to share this or comment. For regular updates about the school and to learn more about how you can help, follow @TheSyriaFund on Instagram.
Ahhh Instagram. Where would we be without it?
Through this social media application, I've met so many wonderful people whom I know call friends. I've even met a couple of my Instagram friends in real life, and it was such an amazing experience that sparked lifelong friendships. Social media is pretty incredible, I mean, we can talk to people from other sides of the planet. We are all from different countries and hemispheres, but share a common love of travel and discovering the unknown. I've discovered many hidden gems and destinations just through other people's Instagram accounts. I wanted to share a few of my all-time favorite accounts with you. If you decide to follow them, be prepared to be inspired. Here goes!
(Click on the image to follow them on Instagram. Their blog will also be linked below)
1) @alittleatlarge- Love this fam! The mom, Narelle runs the account, and shares all the awesome adventures her family goes on in their gorgeous home of Australia's Gold Coast. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Australia, and Narelle's account certainly help fuels that love! Mainly featured is Narelle's adorable daughter Tiah, who will keep you young at heart. Occasionally her oldest daughter Bailee also makes an appearance. Bailee and I are actually the same age, which is pretty cool. Narelle's girls and I exchange letters and mail each other things, which is lots of fun. From Tasmania to Indonesia and everywhere in between, travel adventures make their way in this Insta feed. Whenever I head to the Gold Coast, meeting Narelle, Tiah and Bailee will definitely be part of the plan!
2) @mumpacktravel- I've been following Aussie mom Evie for as long as I can remember and she's one of my favorite people to message and chat with. She has been on a two-year long adventure through Asia with her daughter Emmie, and her stunning photos and hilarious captions have allowed them to amass a total of 95k+ fans. I'm glad to say I'm one of them! Evie always keeps travel real, which I appreciate. She shows us that long-term travel is not all rainbows and fun and we all have bad days, but through it all, seeing this beautiful world of ours is so worth it. Little Emmie is quite the character, so funny and joyful. Evie and Emmie also share awesome places from their home city of Sydney.
3) @amorfortravel- The mom, Bel runs this account and is always a pleasure to talk to. They hands down are the most stylish travel family ever! They literally go everywhere, from nearby states to countries across the world, and always have the coolest matching clothes. They will inspire you to book a vacation, even if it's in your own town and become more adventurous. Also, they run some pretty awesome contests on their Instagram!
4) @lifeofkuhl- This Canadian family of five is so adventurous- they always make me want to get out of the house and explore. I love that they show that living a simple life and worrying about the things that actually matter, like spending time as a family, is much more rewarding than chasing commercial objects, which is what most people in society today do. They sold everything to live the vagabond life and also surf and skate, just like me, so it's great talking to them about our favorite surf spots or skate maneuvers.
5) @inspirefamilytravel- This account is run by Sharee, who always leaves such nice comments on my page and shares beautiful photos herself. If you're looking for good places to eat and visit in Australia, especially the Sydney area, you have to follow her. She has the best tips about everything from beaches, to attractions and even food. When I visit Australia, I will definitely take into account everything Sharee has recommended.
6) @rebeltravelfamily- This family from Latvia is living in Greece, so if you're headed there next they have some very helpful tips and hidden gem locations to share. They capture the world through their young children, Harry and Bella, and will inspire you go places you never would've thought you'd end up. Their posts are always beautifully captured with humorous captions that never cease to make me laugh. Such a nice family, and like me, they love sunshine and beaches so we bond over finding the most beautiful ones :)
7) @wanderlust.crew- This fun-loving family always has amazing pictures on their account, and the best blog posts. Seriously, the best! I love reading their blog because it always inspires me. Everything is broken down in a way that's easy to comprehend, with many recommendations and background history for each country. The writing is immaculate and descriptive and the photos are stunning.
8) @travel.with.meraki- This account features stunning photos from all over the world, and the blog is very informative. Kirsty is a very talented photographer, and often shares her equipment and photo-taking tips which are very helpful. If you're like me, and want to improve your photography, specifically travel photography or action shots, you definitely should give her a follow!
9) @familyoffduty- Thass runs the account and shares brilliant photos, of which her adorable daughter Vix is often the star. They have lots of great tips and product recommendations to share. They are currently living in Ireland, and their incredible pictures make me want to visit even more. Thass is also very generous and regularly features other traveler photos on her account to share the love.
10) @aprincessandadoll- My French Canadian friends whom I love chatting (in French!) with. On their account are cute photos of their girls, as they model. The girls have a great fashion style, and you will learn about many great new brands and companies just from following them. They also share photos of their adventures in their home of Quebec and their travels to the sunshine.
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed learning about some new people. Have a great weekend!
Who are your favorite people to follow on social media? Comment below
I'm an author- but I never thought I'd be a blogger. I guess I never considered sharing real life moments, but have always had a passion for it. So, this blog is born! Hopefully we can connect together and help each other find the best in travel.
I'm going to start off by answering some questions. They should give you a good idea of what this blog will be about, and will cover some frequently asked questions as well. Let's get started!
Who are you anyways?
I'm a 17 year old high school student from New York, who also happens to be an author and public speaker. I wrote the book Spirit of the Wind, which I began brainstorming for at the mere age of 8. I've spoken to several hundred students about my book and my publication journey. I travel anywhere and everywhere I can in during school breaks in search of the wild and unexpected. I look forward to the day I can head off to travel for months or even years at a time without stopping.
What inspired your book?
I read so many wonderful books when I was younger that made me want to write my own book. So I did. Throughout the years though, my fun, simplistic story became a thought-provoking novel with a powerful message. During the writing of my book, I began to read news articles and see documentaries about animals who were going extinct and whose homes were being destroyed by humans. I made wildlife conservation the main theme of my book and hoped to raise awareness about its importance this way.
What can you expect to see on this blog?
You can expect to find a place where you can interact with other like-minded individuals. I'll be sharing travel tips, stories from my travels, many pictures, recommended objects and material I like to use while on the road, projects I'm working on, as well as reviewing my favorite hotels and resorts (I also review them here on TripAdvisor where thousands of people currently read my work) and more!
Who will be reading this blog?
Well, if you're reading this, you are one of my awesome readers! I believe that anyone who loves travel, adventure and reading will enjoy my blog. My community of travel families on Instagram will also probably contribute in one way or another.
How can I contribute?
Contributing is as simple as just reading what I post, and if you enjoy my blog posts or have any questions, please leave a comment! It means a lot. If you want me to write for you and/or your blog, feel free to contact me @firstname.lastname@example.org
What is your favorite country?
This question is so hard for me to answer, because every country is so unique and beautiful in its own special way. I adore Costa Rica though, and Tunisia will always hold a special place in my heart because it's my second home and one of the countries I'm originally from. I grew up visiting nearly every summer.
What is your favorite travel memory?
There are so many! One of my funniest travel memories and mishaps was when I was about 11, at a beach resort in North Africa when I was patting some camels on the beach with my cousins. When I was looking away, one of the camels butted its head into my back HARD and threw me off balance! It was kind pretty scary for me because I wasn't expecting it at all!
There was also that time in Costa Rica two years ago when we were crossing hanging bridges in the rainforest and I heard Howler monkeys howling in the bushes, but couldn't see them. I began to copy the noises they were making and howled into the sky. Before I knew it, the monkeys began answering my calls and soon, dozens of them leapt from the trees onto the wires that were holding our hanging bridge. They ended up crossing to the other side along with all us tourists! It was a crazy experience to get that type of encounter with wild animals!
What inspires you?
I am so inspired by the diverse and resilient people of the world. I
love hearing their fascinating and incredible stories. So many
people that I meet when I'm on the road have so little,
yet they're so happy and they make me want to be more like them.
I am also inspired by beautiful places that take my breath away and other Instagram travelers and travel families
who go to so many incredible places and share their stories.
Thank you for reading! I'll try to get another blog post up this week, and then I'm off on some exciting travels so there will plenty to come from that. I'd love to know more about you, so feel free to introduce yourself below!