The Sahara was an experience of a lifetime, mostly because we never knew what to expect. We took the slow route to the desert, a two day journey by car and camel. Our driver, Ahmed, took us to various sites along the way including an old castle where Gladiator was filmed. When we could go no further by car, we jumped on our camels. This was our first surprise. I thought we would be going with a big tour, but there were only two camels, actually they aren't even camels they were Dromedary because they only have one hump, but for writing purposes I'll call them camels. So there was one camel for me and one for Davin and our guide Moustafa would lead us by foot (the Moroccans don't actually ride their camels, because what we would find out is they are super uncomfortable). So we jumped on and I figured we would be meeting up with a big group in the Deserts Dunes. We rode two hours into the desert, slowly watching all civilization disappear, until we were completely surrounded by amber colored sand in all directions. I asked Moustafa where we were going and he just pointed into the distance and said there. I looked at Davin, shrugged and went with it. We kept passing all of these luxurious camps with huge tents to house many people, and colorful pillows and Moroccan rugs. I began to get excited thinking this is where we were going. But we kept passing by them. Finally, I knew we had to almost be there but I could see nothing but ruins in front of me. Our camel started to slow down, and Moustafa stopped and told us we had arrived. I looked around, to my left was sand, in front of me was more sand, and to the right of me was a little sand/mud house. I was confused, where was the luxurious camp I thought I booked. I asked Moustafa knowing we had to have made a wrong turn, "Are you sure this is our camp." He looked at me and said, "Yes, tonight you sleep with nomad." Nomads are small groups of people that wander around Morocco and settle for periods of time in certain places, and then move on. They are free, and home is wherever they go. Davin and I looked at each other confused but obeyed Moustafa. We got off and went up to the sand/mud house and were greeted by a toothless old man. We said hello and thank you for hosting us, and quickly found out he spoke no English. He showed us to our room, which had a blanket for a door and a one inch thick cot on the dirt floor for a bed. Then he led us into his sitting room filled with colorful pillows and a "window" without glass that overlooked the Moroccan sunset and brought us mint tea. I was immediately uncomfortable because everything was quiet, still, and slow. We had no phones, no wifi, no electronics, no books, and no one that spoke english except for each other. At this point in traveling I was so used to moving, and talking, and going, and seeing, and doing. Now, I knew these two days in the desert would be exactly what I was not used to, relaxation, and stillness. Davin and I shared a bottle of wine, and our camel guide Moustafa made us a Berber Pizza and Tajine which was some of the best Moroccan Food I've ever had. After, Davin and I watched about a million shooting starts pass by until we slowly went to sleep. We woke up the next morning and I thought I was seeing a mirage. Slowly from the distance hundreds of camels were appearing from the horizon line as the sun was rising. It was one of the coolest sites I've seen. Getting to stay with our new nomadic friend was probably the best part of our Moroccan trip. I learned so much in a night. He and Moustafa were so happy, they didn't have much, and their lives were very simple, but they were happy always. They even spoke of their happiness frequently, something you don't hear often in the USA. We spent the rest of our time in the desert sliding down Sand Dunes, taking naps in the hot hot heat, talking with our new berber friends. We did eventually get to go to the camp I thought we would stay at the first night. We listened to our Berber friends play the drums and sing about their life and freedom, we danced under the stars, and talked about life in the Desert. I had never been surrounded by so much joy. Everyone I met was genuinely happy and they never seemed to let the small stuff get to them. Our camel man Moustafa became our good friend, who we still talk to a few times a week. Our entire Sahara experience was a journey. We never knew where we were going, we never knew when we would eat, and we never knew where we were. Everything was new, and everywhere we looked we had no experience or image to compare it to. I learned so much about being present in every moment, as well as finding joy in the smallest of things from my new Desert friends.
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Portugal was one of those countries I wanted to go to "someday" but was never at the top of my list. Shame on me. This country was full of unexpected surprises. I had approached my good friend and main photographer for YIREH Casey Liu, about a year ago with the idea of flying her to Europe to do an international photoshoot. Casey didn't have to take much time to think about it, she immediately said she was down. She's a different breed that one. So over the course of the year we began planning a shoot and imagining which country would work best. First we thought Hungary, then we thought Morocco, then Denmark, then we ran out of ideas after they all fell through. We were a month away from leaving and still had no plan, no model, no makeup artist, and no location. Casey was then contacted with another opportunity in Portugal and threw out the idea of shooting there. I said why not, and it was settled. Little did I know that this would be the perfect location to shoot, with the detailed tiles layering the streets, nostalgic buildings, colorful pathways, breathtaking panoramic views, and friendly locals, we couldn't have asked for more. We spent our days eating pastel de nata's while roaming the streets, finding cheap restaurants owned by funny local "casanova" men, and drinking 3 Euro bottles of delicious wine. The shoot went seamlessly the model and makeup artist were perfection. This was country number 2 on Davin and I's 7 country 52 day list. It began the theme our trip would unfold into, be open, and have no expectations. We couldn't have asked for a better start with close friends, in an amazing country. We left with full hearts ready for the next adventure that would be Morocco.
Why we travel...
I grew up in a family that moved around every two to three years, so when I turned 18, it was natural for me to start traveling on my own. A few weeks out of high school I went on my first medical relief trip to Guatemala, then two weeks after returning from that trip I went on my first humanitarian surf trip to Indonesia (where I ended up meeting my husband). Since then I've been to over 15 countries, and returned back to several of them many times. I have now introduced the travelers lifestyle to my husband as well. YIREH is rooted in travel. It is actually how the brand started. I kept meeting such amazing artisans and families on my trips whose talents and needs I couldn't ignore. Traveling has kept our mind outside of the box, it has allowed us to learn about other cultures, and that there is more than one way to life. It has allowed us to understand ourselves more, as there is nothing like being outside of your comfort zone. Traveling allows us to live a simpler life, as we measure every purchase we make in plane tickets (i.e. this ___ cost half of a plane ticket to Indonesia!). But most of all it allows us to stay open, open to new adventures, people, languages, foods, cultures, transportations, conversations, and so on. It is all about the journey, living in the present moment, rather than through a to-do list. For me, traveling is how I draw inspiration for each collection YIREH produces, the prints, colors and styles are all inspired by the people and places I've been blessed enough to encounter and visit. We are so excited for this upcoming journey.
Join us as we travel to 7 countries and 20 cities in 52 days.
We were lucky enough to collaborate with local Hawai'i based creative and letterer Kat Araujo from @Kataraujostudio . She wrote out our mission statement in her calligraphy and owner of YIREH Emily Valdez did a write up below of why each statement is significant.
YIREH: (year-EH) Will provide.
For those of you who have been wondering, YIREH is not a cool word that we just made up. YIREH comes from Genesis 22:14 and the full phrase stated is Yahweh Yireh, meaning the Lord will provide. This has been an important verse in my life (Emily Valdez, owner/designer of YIREH) for the last 6 years. I felt that if I dedicated my life to the Lord and always gave my all I would always be provided for. This is the root of my company. To always give my all, and to use this as a creative outlet to help others.
Before I founded YIREH I traveled to over fifteen different countries just for the love of learning more about other cultures, their customs, and their people. This has inspired my designs greatly. We incorporate a lot of other cultural practices into our design such as handmade embroidered lace called Kerawang. The ocean has also been a big design influence. We are based on Oahu, and do our production in Indonesia so we are constantly on some sort of island. I like to think our clothing is the perfect partner to travel with and make you feel unique and different while you are exploring a unique and different place.
It is very important to me that everyone who comes into contact with YIREH is positively impacted in some way. I believe that everyone has a unique gift to offer this world and that every life matters. I try to make each individual woman who wears my clothing feel loved, appreciated, and special. I also want YIREH to be an outlet to inspire others to live the best life possible, and take risk towards living out their dreams.
This is the most important part of YIREH. I founded the company on a full-circle-movement mindset (which means that everyone who comes into contact with us is positively impacted in some way). YIREH started as an investment in people rather than product and has remained this way every since. Making sure we are an ethical brand, that always values human lives above the production of a product. We also give 10% of our profits back to various social causes and small business start ups. Currently we are in the process of purchasing a car for the family that helped start YIREH in Indonesia because a driving business is their ultimate dream. These sort of investments are the sort of thing we've done from the beginning and we will continue throughout the lifetime of the brand.
You can read more about how we got started on our ABOUT PAGE
Thanks for reading.
YIREH's first fashion show was a huge success! We were lucky enough to have 8 beautiful models and over 20 helpers running our pop up booth, and helping behind the scenes for the show. The shows theme was the balance between hard and soft. We really wanted to show another side to YIREH, and put on a SHOW. Below is a short highlight video from the show. Enjoy!
Designer: Emily Valdez
Video: Shaneika Aguilar
Fashion Show Producer: Samantha Feyen
Make Up: Risa Hoshino, Jasmine Mullins, Ashlee Valeros, Jordann Aguon
Photography: Vina Faye Cristobal