Morocco Part 1: Getting Lost In Marrakech

Before heading to Morocco, we read countless blog posts and travel forums about what to wear, how to act, and what to look out for. “Never look at a map in public!” “Don’t take photos of the stores or you’ll get yelled at!” “Smiling at someone will make you a target!” “Never accept the first price you are given!” “Everyone will try to scam you!” The list goes on.

While there is definitely some truth to some of these warnings, having now experienced Marrakech firsthand, I think the key to an enjoyable visit is to be adaptable. Realize that you might get lost, and don’t panic when it happens — or when someone offers to guide you back and then demands cash (Yes, this happened to us.). Know that you will probably end up paying “too much” for something, and be OK with it (unless it really is way too much, in which case, just say no. You know your limits.). And try to be comfortable with the fact that you are an outsider, you probably look like an outsider, and there’s not much you can do about that except to be respectful of the culture you are visiting.

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Norway Part 2: Meeting My Family

As I mentioned in my last post, Norway is an important place for me. Although I am not 100 percent Norwegian (or even close to it), it is the part of my heritage I identify with most — likely because my last name is Norwegian and I grew up in Minnesota, where some 850,000 people are reported to have Norwegian heritage and you can buy lutefisk at the grocery store. While we didn’t have many Norwegian traditions, remnants of the old country did surface occasionally: My grandfather, Owen, and his cousin, Norin, would routinely recite the Lord’s Prayer in Norwegian before meals, and everyone on my dad’s side of the family loses their minds if you forget the lefse at Christmas (myself included).

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Norway Part 1: The Arctic

After we decided to move to Paris, I was determined to get to Norway within the year. Norway is an important place for me. Like many Minnesotans, I have some Norwegian heritage. While part of the trip would be exploring where that part of my family came from (which I’ll get to in a later post), we also wanted to see as much of the country’s natural beauty as possible. And attempting to see the Northern Lights was at the top of the list, which meant heading above the Arctic Circle.

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Strasbourg: Leaving France Without Crossing The Border

I’m not going to lie. I’m a bit sick of our little part of France (you can start playing your tiny violins now). Paris is beautiful, magical, blah blah blah. We’re still finding interesting things to do/see. Recent travels, however, have led us to similar looking and tasting cities. Enter Strasbourg.

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On Feeling Stupid And Self-Guided Walking Tours

Nobody likes to feel stupid. It really sucks. But when you move to a foreign country, it happens a lot — at least in the beginning. In the beginning, it feels like you can’t go five minutes without feeling stupid. Whether I tried to swipe my credit card instead of inserting it into the chip reader, or mispronounced a word and received a prompt (and public) correction, or had to explain in really bad French that my French is really bad so I didn’t understand what you just said to me, I felt perpetually embarrassed.

After swapping some of these stories with a friend (also an American – shout out to you, Carrie!) shortly after our move here, she told me that feeling stupid was something you just have to learn how to do and become comfortable with. This turned out to be very valuable advice.

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Visiting Normandy And The Somme

While originally planning another short trip to check out another nearby city — this time Amiens — I realized how close the city is to part of the Western Front of WWI. For this we’d need a car or an (expensive) tour. After finding a good rental car deal, we quickly put together a four-day trip to check out some of the most important WWI and WWII sites here in France.

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