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I camped in the Serengeti. If that was the only thing I could say about travel in 2015, that would be enough. This was, I believe, my most-traveled year of my life. From November 2014 until the end of December I made three trips to Ireland, about seven trips to NJ, two Sonoma trips, a Chicago trip, a Myrtle Beach and Charleston trip, and many New England weekend trips, including Mystic (twice), Newport, Portland, and Cape Cod. Phew. Can I do it all again?

Throughout the year, especially August – November where I flew about every two weeks, I swore I wanted a quiet, homey 2016, but here I am, once again wanderlusting. So much of the world to see and such a short life. I am grateful for each corner of it I have been blessed to see. Here are just a few highlights from my 2015 travels.  Since there are so many photos to share, I am going to break this up into two posts. . .enjoy!

Serengeti camping

 

Serengeti sunset

Serengeti sunrises and sunsets were pretty much life-changing.

 

Maramboi Tented Camp

Escaping a Boston winter to lounge poolside at a game camp wasn’t too bad either.

 African elephant

I will never forget the first elephants we saw in Tarangire National Park. Mind, blown. I’m getting a little teary-eyed just writing about it.  I fell in love with the Tanzanian landscape, the food, and the warm welcome of the people. And the kids. I absolutely loved and learned from these little ones.

Between November 2014 and November 2015, I got to visit Ireland three times, which made it feel even more like home. Over the course of the Ireland trips, we got to eat my favorite things and to spend lots of time outdoors.

Connemara

Ashford Castle

Seeing Ashford Castle from a boat on Lough Corrib was sensational. Ashford Castle and Cong are must-visits on any trip to the West of Ireland!

zipline adventure

Ziplining in Ireland was another step outside my comfort zone. Between camping and zipping, I feel like I was pretty brave in 2015! Ireland visits gave us a lot of family time, something I would like to be better about in 2015. I need to slow down and be present; travel and family make that happen.

Galway was Galway, and with the length and frequency of our trips, I got to spend a lot of time just being there, and I loved it.

sunset over the Claddagh, Galway Ireland

In addition to logging international miles, I also zigzagged across the country twice this year to visit Sonoma for work! In June I traveled to Sonoma County to meet a client and to plan for Sonoma Wine Country Weekend PR and Social Media. Combining work and one of my favorite places was, as you can imagine, pretty amazing.

Willi's Wine Bar

There was obviously a lot of food and wine but also learning and connecting.

wine tasting

I loved the wine at Ram’s Gate and Fog Crest and Cain and so many others. Getting to take not just one, but two trips to the high country at MacMurray Estate Vineyards, a journey reserved mostly for press and other VIPs, was one of the highlights of both trips.

MacMurray Estate Vineyards

MacMurray Estate Vineyards Soaking up the sun and discovering new Sonoma food and wine favorites with my husband after the work was done was the icing on the cake.

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Tags: Africa, Ireland, Serengeti, Sonoma, Travel, travel blog, travel blog posts, travel blogger, travel blogging, vacation

Cultural Heritage Centre ArushaCultural Heritage Centre Arusha  Cultural Heritage Centre Arusha Cultural Heritage Centre Arusha tanzanite

Cultural Heritage Centre Tanzania Cultural Heritage Centre Tanzania Cultural Heritage Centre Tanzania Cultural Heritage Centre Tanzania

It’s been months since our trip to Tanzania, and we still talk about it just about every day. I can’t say enough what an amazing place it was, and if you would like to read the rest of my Tanzania posts, please visit my Travel Blog page.

One of our stops on our trip was at the Cultural Heritage Centre in Arusha. The Centre is a really cool space full of art and information on Tanzanian culture. We toured the property on our own, taking in arts and crafts, animal sculptures, dishes, jewelry, antiques, and beautiful grounds. We also had the opportunity to do some shopping for arts and crafts as well as the rare gem Tanzanite, something I regret not buying as it will soon be gone.

It wasn’t quite as exciting as camping in the Serengeti, but this was still a really worthwhile stop and one I enjoyed. Tanzania is full of beauty, in its landscape, its people, and its arts and culture. and the Centre is a wonderful glimpse into that.

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Tags: Africa, Arusha, culture, safari, Tanzania, Travel, travel blogger, Travel Tuesday, vacation

Just about everything we experienced in Tanzania opened my eyes a lot wider and often made my mouth drop open in awe at the beauty and vastness and warmth that we experienced. Each and every day came with lessons and new perspectives, often some anxiety at the newness of it all, but most of all growth and change and doing and seeing things I never imagined. Every lodge, every meal, every game drive made me fall a little more in love with Tanzania, but it was meeting school children that completed this trip.

Over the course of our travels, we visited several schools. Some were random drop-ins, where the children had never met Westerners. Thanks to Grand Circle Travel, we were prepared with soccer balls, which, in Tanzania where kids play with balls of trash taped together, are like gold.

school visits in Tanzania Whether we were scheduled to visit a school or not, the things that didn’t change were the looks on the children’s’ faces, the pride in their schools, and their desire to show off for their guests.

Tanzania school

 

school visits in Tanzania

 

The schools themselves were mostly very simple, though the secondary school we visited had some new buildings and a computer lab with tablets. For the most part, however, the schools were marked by broken windows and cracked floors; they are in need of repair, they are in need of assistance.

But that’s not what they are all about.

Tanzania schools

The children in these schools are often hungry, many are missing one or both parents due to death, and some of the children walk for over an hour each way just to get to class. Their challenges are massive; they are unimaginable, and yet these children are absolutely overflowing with joy and appreciation.

soccer in Tanzania They were joyful especially when the soccer balls came out. They were full of curiosity and song. They melted my heart over and over again on our visits.

The school where we spent the most time was the Ayalabe School, which is supported by Grand Circle Foundation. A little about the school:

Ayalabe has 15 classrooms and 17 teachers that serve 379 students, ages 5-16. Due to overcrowding and a lack of funding, every 2-3 students share a single desk and the student-to-book ratio is as high as 1 to 7.

The school constantly owes on its line of credit to local stores where they buy school supplies. Prior to our trip, we were informed of what the school needed, and we all stocked up on crayons, pencils, notepads, bubbles, stickers, and more to bring to the kids. Generous donors also sent items with us; in all we had 10 duffel bags full to bring to the school.

Tanzania

Other items included hula hoops and jump ropes, which were a huge hit with the kids.

Ayalabe School

The little girl on the left kept holding my hand; it was the sweetest thing. Her sweet smile and quiet demeanor set her apart for me. Her little glittery sneakers, worn and with holes, were clearly a point of pride, and she beamed when I complimented them. I find it hard to even write this or to think about her, possibly going to school with a growling belly or not having opportunities to go beyond primary school due to poverty. What’s worse, much worse, is that things like domestic slavery and sex trafficking are all too common. Children left to walk long distances alone or play on the side of the road while parents farm are easy targets for sick and greedy minds. Learning about it after actually being there was all too much to bear.  The teachers and donors and program managers for these schools are doing amazing work for these kids. They see such difficult things day in and day out. I don’t know how they keep it up, but they do, and with love. There is a harsh reality learned at an early age, and it is not okay.

schools in Tanzania

 

 

On a lighter note, our visit included bringing enough books that each child could have a book of his or her own, and we did some reading aloud in English while our guides translated into Swahili. The schools do teach English, and it was sweet to have the children try to communicate with us in our language while also teaching us words in theirs.

Grand Circle Foundation School school visit in Tanzania Ayalabe School  Ayalabe School The Ayalabe School and the other schools we visited, including a secondary school sponsored by Grand Circle Foundation, are doing great things. In the secondary school, the foundation is providing scholarships to students, mostly girls, so that they can stay in school. They’re bringing bicycles to help with the hours-long travel to school. They’re giving girls simple items like sneakers and toiletries, all things their families can’t provide for them, but most of all they are giving these amazing kids more confidence and curiosity. In the secondary school, one of the young girls, who has never left Karatu, never been on a plane, told us she wants to become a pilot. I have chills thinking of her dreams and ambitions, and as I ready to go to sleep tonight, I pray that with the help of the community and her own drive, she will be soaring someday.

If you would like to learn more about the schools in Tanzania and how you can help, please visit the Grand Circle Foundation website.

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