From Sand Dunes to Snowy Landscapes: Family Trips to Northern Africa, Russia, and Finland

Jim Cunning
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Mary Margaret Chamblee and her family have embarked on many amazing journeys, transversing landscapes from the golden sands of Northern Africa to the icy expanses of Russia and Finland. These travels are not merely holidays; they are an exploration within the heart of diverse cultures, and a journey to understand the myriad lifestyles that populate our planet.

The transition of landscapes marks their journeys, each destination is a new canvas, painting pictures of diverse ecosystems and terrains. The whispering sands of Northern Africa narrate tales of ancient civilizations and cultural richness. At the same time, the snowy serenity of Russia and Finland unfold stories of traditions interwoven with the chill of the arctic winds.

However, the purpose of these journeys extends beyond geographical and societal exploration. It’s about sowing the seeds of appreciation for the global tapestry of cultures and histories. The goal is to cultivate an enriching understanding and a profound appreciation for the various ways of life and historical evolutions that have shaped civilizations, thereby nurturing a holistic worldview and fostering a deep, lifelong appreciation for our world's diverse tapestry.

The Deserts of Northern Africa

Northern Africa offers an invitation to a world veiled in enigma and dotted with diverse landscapes. The endless stretches of sandy deserts keep ancient secrets and aesthetic richness, providing a contrasting backdrop to the varying terrains experienced by the Chamblee family.

Cultural Experiences

Embarking on adventures in the Great Sahara is like stepping into a world untouched by time. Camels riding under the boundless sky and spending nights in tents under the starlit canvas offer a rare glimpse of the Bedouin lifestyle. Further, experiencing life in a Riad in Morocco is a window to the authentic ethnic tapestry of the region, showcasing the artistic richness and architectural brilliance intrinsic to Moroccan life.

Historical Exploration

Exploring Northern Africa’s historical experience leads to discovering ancient landmarks like the Medina in Fez and the Palacio da Bahia in Marrakesh These historical treasures are the silent narrators of the bygone eras, revealing the layers of civilizations that have contributed to the region's rich heritage.

Reflections on Diversity

The journey through the deserts of Northern Africa is a lesson in embracing and understanding diversity. It’s about recognizing the distinct ways of life and rich traditions that have been meticulously woven into the daily lives of the native people. These reflections forge a profound connection with diverse cultures, enabling a deeper appreciation for the multitude of lifestyles that coexist on our planet, enriching the global human experience.

The Icy Terrains of Russia

The Chamblee family has also navigated through Russia's diverse terrains by train and by car.

Cultural and Historical Insights

Exploring Russia’s diverse heritage, they witnessed the architectural marvels of the Kremlin in Moscow, the colorful domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the infamous Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The journey facilitated a closer look at Russia’s historical impact and rich legacy. 


The historical tapestry of this region unfolded, revealing the interlacing threads of events, rulers, and ordinary folk that have played pivotal roles in shaping the world’s perceptions of this enigmatic land. A glimpse into its dynamic past reinforced the understanding of its contemporary aesthetic fabric and underscored the invaluable contributions of its diverse populace to the world’s collective history.

The Serene Snowscapes of Finland

Adventure in the Snow

The trip to Finland reached its high point with dog sledding across the icy terrains, ice fishing in the frozen lakes, and witnessing the Northern Lights. A stay in a log cabin in the heart of the Lapland region immersed them in the enchanting ambiance of frozen artistry and wintry charm.

Cultural Interaction and Learning

They dove deep into Finland’s local culture and explored the historical significance of the region, unearthing stories of the land of a thousand lakes. Participatory learning through traditional activities and community engagement enabled the Chamblees to experience Finnish traditions firsthand, enriching their understanding of their culture and providing a more intimate perspective on the life and traditions of the Finnish people.

Engagement in Physical Activities

Finland offered abundant opportunities for engaging in exhilarating physical activities. Cross-country skiing adventures became a mode to explore picturesque landscapes, while mining for amethyst at the Pyha Luosto offered a unique experience, merging learning with excitement. These activities enhanced the enjoyment of their journey and added a layer of enriched understanding and appreciation for Finland’s natural bounty and aesthetic wealth.

A Balanced Journey

Combining Learnings with Fun

Striking the right chord between educational enrichment and exuberant experiences is pivotal for all of the Chamblee family adventures. Achieving a blend of learning and joy, they visit world-famous museums, absorbing the artistic brilliance and historical riches, and partake in joyful local adventures, witnessing the vibrant cultural nuances of each destination.

Active Engagement and Exploration

A spectrum of various physical activities have marked their expeditions, each offering a new exploration perspective across different locations. From local dances that moved to the rhythmic beats of tradition to spirited parades reflecting local fervor, every adventure is a step into the authentic essence of the places they visit.

Hands-on Learning Experiences

The hands-on learning experiences provide fascinating insights and broaden their horizons. The tours through various factories and breweries across Europe are not mere visits; they are interactive sessions where the process unfolds in real-time, offering an in-depth understanding of the craftsmanship, tradition, and innovation interlaced in creating renowned products. These experiences, rich in knowledge and flavored with local essence, make learning delightful while cultivating a deeper appreciation for the meticulous artistry and labor that shapes beloved products.

Cultivating Appreciation and Understanding

Diving Deep into Cultures and Histories

The Chamblee family's journeys are intellectual and cultural plunges into the cultures and histories of the countries they visit. By building a comprehensive understanding of varied cultures, histories, and art forms, they connect with the essence of every region. A glimpse into historical landmarks and significant places is like flipping through the pages of a living history book.

Family Growth and Individual Responsibility

Travel plays a pivotal role in strengthening the bonds of the Chamblees and fosters the development of personal responsibility. By embracing a unique approach to travel—emphasizing backpacking and individual planning—they have integrated the philosophy of self-reliance and collective growth. This approach magnifies the learning experiences and cultivates a deeper understanding and appreciation for the diversity of lifestyles, enabling each member to embrace the differences and similarities that bridge the human experience across geographies, subsequently enriching the perspective on life and the world.

In reflecting upon the transformative journeys of Mary Margaret Chamblee and her family, there emerges a vivid tapestry of experiences, each thread intertwined with distinct insights and a profound understanding of different civilizations and lifestyles. Their journeys, stretching from the mysterious dunes of Northern Africa to the pristine snowscapes of Russia and Finland, have been a monumental chapter in their lives.


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James "Jim" Cunning is a blogger and short story writer living in beautiful Littleton, Colorado. He enjoys writing on anything from local events, news, and issues to positive developments and personalities with a broader national impact.

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