Category: travel

Jordan Travel Itinerary

Jordan Itinerary

Here’s what we did day by day:

Day 1
Flight from Paris to Amman. Inside customs we used an ATM to get cash (dinars) and had no issues. Right outside customs in the airport we each bought a SIM card for our phones. There were two different mobile companies so we got one of each. There wasn’t too much difference in the price/service, and we each had pockets where one of us had reception and the other didn’t. Our taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was dark and we were unnecessarily nervous about our first time in the Middle East. Driving past an IKEA was somehow reassuring; it reminded me that the city was full of average people with average bookcases.
Jordanian food
Day 2
Eat all the food. Hummus, fuul, falafel, pita, cucumbers, tomatoes, haloumi, zaatar and baklava for days. Toured the Citadel and learned about all the cultures who’d used that site from 40,000 BC until the present. The Roman Temple of Hercules, Byzantine Basilica and Amayad Mosque were all amazing. We then walked to the amphitheater and through winding neighborhoods.
Day 3 and 4
We rent a car! We went for the smaller company, Monte Carlo, and they were very friendly, affordable and safe feeling. Justin drives us south to Madaba to visit some more religious sites. We see the oldest known map of the holy land; a mosaic tiled floor. Driving south we came upon a massive canyon we weren’t expecting. In my head I just imagined sandy deserts, but Jordan is full of sheep at pasture, rocky canyons and cliffs, and even forests in the north. We drive the Desert Highway south to Dana and stay at a tiny little hotel that feels very Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros. We spent the next full day exploring the surrounding nature reserve.
Day 5 and 6
Drive farther south and stop at Shobak castle for a bit of climbing around before we end up in Petra where we spend all the following day as well. It’s amazing. Stay with a local Bedouin from AirBnB.
Day 7 and 8
We drive to Wadi Rum. It’s a beautiful expansive desert we’d planned on exploring for a few nights. We’ve already been roughing it for a week and staying with hosts, and we decide somewhat sheepishly that we’d prefer a private room with a western shower and not having to talk to anyone for a night or two. Drive south to Aqaba and get our first not-twin bed, some alcohol and watch the sun set over the Red Sea, Egypt and Israel. We spend the next day exploring Aqaba, the hotel pool and buying spices as souvenirs.
Day 9 and 10
Drive north on the Dead Sea Highway, stopping at Lot’s Cave, the museum of the Lowest Place in the World and Mount Nebo. Drive past sheep, goats, donkeys, camel and people living in goat hair tents.  Spend two nights in Madaba, driving do the Dead Sea on the full day to float and soak up the salty goodness. Went to a formal restaurant in Madaba for our one fancy meal.
Day 11
Drive to Jerash to discover the gladiator show is canceled indefinitely. We’re pretty worn out at this point so have a sit down lunch and then head to a mall in Amman for some slow indoor wanderings. We spend an entire hour exploring a grocery store. As we went through customs at the airport leaving, one man said “you’re from America? Please tell everyone there how beautiful Jordan is and to visit soon!” oozing pride and eagerness to share his country. It is beautiful!

An American in Jordan: What to Expect

jordan travel tips

We had an amazing time in Jordan, but we didn’t always know what to expect. Here’s a recap on some logistical things that would have been nice to know going in.

Beds – Most places, even nicer hotels, gave us rooms with two single beds. We had to call around until we finally found a two person bed a week in, as we were sick of sleeping alone on vacation.

Toilets – almost every single one featured a spray hose adaption of some kind. We googled it to make sure they were for … clean up, and that is how most people used them. However there still was paper in most places we went. Many public restrooms had attendants, some of whom would sell you paper/soap/etc for cents, or just stand there and hand them out for tips. Some of these attendants were clearly employees (like at nice restaurants), but others were just people who adopted public toilets and kept them clean, knowing they’d get tipped out eventually. Like much of the world, the plumbing isn’t meant for anything but water and human waste – a little bin is waiting for any toilet paper you use.

Clothing – Jordan is primarily Muslim, but there are active groups of Christians and Jews as well. The Bedouin culture values hospitality strongly; everyone we met wanted to make sure we were comfortable and I never felt judged or offending. I brought lightweight long baggy pants, a shin-length skirt, covering shirts and a big scarf. You’ll see people in all levels of dress. In really touristy areas or large cities I fit in just fine with my blond hair uncovered and a t-shirt on. We spent a lot of time in mosques, temples, synagogues and churches. I was there to appreciate Jordanian culture, not push mine on other people, so felt best dressed more modestly than I would at home.

Alcohol – many Jordanians abstain, but if you search you can find local beers, wines and spirits! We liked the anise flavored Arak liquor and were impressed with Petra Beer’s crazy high 13% abv. We found few bars, but some nicer restaurants served alcohol and we also bought smaller bottles and enjoyed them inside our hotel rooms after long days.

Water/Food Safety – we generally only drank bottled water, buying it in huge jugs quite cheaply. We didn’t get too hung up on brushing out teeth with the right water or even on eating only cooked fruit and veg; we had no stomach issues. It is a desert country, so we tried our best to take fewer/faster showers and conserve water as much as possible.

Smoking – at our first hotel the clerk was smoking at the check in desk. I’d read to expect hookahs smoked, but seeing people smoke cigarettes inside is jarring to me as it’s so rare at home!

Driving – renting a car was a great way to get around. People drive differently than in America, and I’d be too timid to push my way through the roundabouts. It helped keep our plans flexible and Justin likes driving fortunately.

Eating – using specific hands wasn’t an issue, but we did get weird looks for wanting coffee before our meal. All the tea and coffee we had came with loads of sugar. The baklava store was my favorite place; you paid by weight for pounds of sweets. We also experimented with a sweet cheese dessert and some new-to-us chip flavors. I didn’t have any trouble finding vegetarian options – the traditional diet saved meat for special occasions so there were lots of bean/bread/veg heavy foods for me to enjoy. Also falafel was clearly the impetus for the entire trip.

If you’re debating visiting Jordan, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Jameel is one of the few Arabic words I retained because everything we saw was “beautiful.”



People are often fascinated or horrified when they hear I use Couchsurfing. This photo is me with my host in New Caledonia experiencing some local culture I would have never found without an insider.

Isn’t it dangerous? No? Yes? A small creep-run motel feels less safe than staying at a well-vetted friendly person’s home. Obviously something awful could happen, but that could happen to you on a train or in a hotel as well. I only stay with people who have many positive reviews and numerous photos and have only had positive experiences.

Do you have to hang out with the person? There’s different opinions on this. I look at Couchsurfing as an active exchange program. If you just want a place to crash you should use AirBnB. If you want to connect with a local you use Couchsurfing. I only ever use Couchsurfing when I’m traveling solo – I want someone to go out to dinner with, and if I’m already with someone it feels third wheel-ish to include them.

Should you “repay” your host? There’s no written rule on this, however the website recommends cooking them dinner, cleaning up or something else with minimal cost. When I’m traveling I don’t want to do any of that. And I don’t have extra space in bag to carry host gifts. I usually offer to take my host out to their favorite restaurant. If it’s my last day in a specific country and I have a bit of local currency I use that as an excuse to pass them some cash. Honestly some hosts don’t want or expect any repayment; they like hosting to get a taste of culture without traveling, or to practice their foreign language skills.

Any horror stories? Nothing awful. At the end of a two month long travel stint I was Couchsurfing at a large house. They had three big couches in the front room, but many roommates coming and going. One was out of town for the week and texted I could use his bed. It had been weeks since I had my own room with a door, so I was thrilled. The bed had black sheets with white stains on them. I can’t recommend the Sea to Summit Silk Sleep Liner enough; it’s great for an extra layer on a chilly night or to not pay for sheets in a hostel, but it’s not advertised as a whole body condom! I definitely used it to keep the cum out.

What about good stories? So many! That’s why I keep doing it. From the Minnesotan in Northern Japan who taught me which ATMs work best with my card to the Easter Island native who brought me to an overnight cave adventure – I’ve met some amazing people. Along with active hosts, Couchsurfing is great for meet-ups. If you’re in an area for a bit and want to meet like-minded people, many big cities have weekly or monthly Couchsurfing meetups. In Brisbane I went to a bar a few times that had drink deals and lots of friendly couchsurfers. Brisbane is also where I used the social function of just posting “hey, I want to go to Surfer’s Paradise this weekend, who wants to drive me?” and ended up beaching with a dutch couple and a local guy. Super fun.

Do you have any questions? Would you couch surf?


meditation and loneliness

In yoga class yesterday laying in svasana, the teacher talked about letting go of things in your head. She talked about how hard meditating is, which you hear a lot if you go to yoga classes as often as I do. But then she pointed out that this is because people are just plain uncomfortable being alone with themselves.

I was reminded of that study saying people get so bored/anxious when left entirely on their own, they choose to give themselves electrical shocks rather than listen to their brains.

I’m in a new city. I don’t know many people in Brisbane. The night before that yoga class I’d sat in a park alone for an hour. It was really hard; the first time I felt truly lonely on this trip (2.5 weeks in of 10 weeks).

I’d just read yet another article on internet addiction and letting go of the constant need to check. I have a data SIM on my iPhone and while I’d like to say I’m succeeding at limiting screen time, I’m mainly worried the battery will drain and I won’t be able to find my way home so I keep it on airplane mode most of the day.

I spend more time with me than with anybody else. Why then is it so painful to have nothing but me around? Can’t I hang out with just me?

I am going to try to make more friends and to email my grandma more. But I’m also going to practice being alone. It’s ok for it to be uncomfortable. That’s where the growth happens, right?

how to speak Australian

I’ve been collecting words and phrases, I’m sure I’ll add more to this as I go.

Dodgy – suspicious, similar to sketchy or shady in the US
Grotty – dirty, needing a shower, similar to yucky
Willy Willy – a small tornado
Comfort Stop – using the loo, as in “I need a comfort stop” instead of “I have to pee”
“I wouldn’t be dead for quids” – I enjoy being alive in this moment
Beanie – a knitted hat, as worn in winter, while skiing etc.
Widow Maker – a gum tree, as their branches drop unexpectedly, and to disastrous effect
Rooting – colloquialism similar to “banging” or “shagging”
Bum bag – a fanny is something else here, so a fanny pack would be pretty impolite

And my favorite new thing: drop bears. An entire species I didn’t know about before. Luckily I’ve been warned and will keep an eye out.

There’s a also different words for things like raisins, bell peppers, and most brand names (like Sharpies, Saran Wrap etc.) but that’s not quite as interesting.

Australian Packing List


I’ve been slowly accumulating travel toys and ideas for a while so I didn’t buy much for this trip. Here’s everything I’m taking for two months of Australian spring backpacking:

Osprey youth backpack (REI tried to talk me in to a woman’s size, but I know my short self and my light packing ways)
Fjallraven Kanken day pack – rolls up super small and carried in the Osprey for flights
LeSportSac shoulder bag – not really made for traveling, but I like bright colors and zippered pockets are nice

image (1)

Camping stuff! Tiny sleeping bag, silk sleep sack, inflatable pillow, metal bowl and mug, bamboo silverware set, plastic plate, sponge, dishcloth, travel towelimage (2)
Bike helmet, REI hat, thin winter hat, scarf, jacket, raincoat and umbrella
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Hoodie, jacket (again, oops!), two cardigans, two tanks, two tees (one long, one short), two leggings, two jeans (one long, one short), one pair bike shorts and five dressesimage (4)
8 travel undies, 2 regular bras, 2 soft/sports bras, 1 bikini, 2 handkerchiefs, 4 pairs socks, gym shorts and tee for sleeping
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All the clothes bundled up, plus two more stuff sacks for organizing, flipflops, waterproof trekking shoes, sandals
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Toiletry bag: deodorant, emergent-c, meds (malaria, traveler’s tummy, sudaphed, ibuprofen, Dramamine), band-aids, keeper cup, sunglasses, ear plugs, eye mask, toothbrush, paste, floss, headlamp, safety whistle, lock, bug lotion, lotion, hair foam, bar shampoo, razor, brush, clippers, mirror, tweezers, barrettes and elastics, sealants, alarm clock, wet wipes, tide pen, safety pins, sewing kit, chapstick, mascara, nail polish
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In my big purse: multi outlet adapter, candied ginger, protein bar, kindle, tablet computer, iPhone case (and phone, used to take picture), tin of hair supplies, real books, notebook, pens, gum, wallet with coin holder and US$, passport, water bottle.