Morocco: Land and People

man with cane squats by donkey, clutches his head with exasperated expression.

This June I traveled to Morocco with my good friend Erica. Originally conceived as a (hooray-I’m-40!) freedom getaway that I had planned for over 10 years, the purpose of the trip took on a life of its own… BESIDES being a freedom getaway (It was SOOOO nice to wake up whenever I wanted to!), it really evolved into a reflective opportunity for personal growth… basically my own personal Eat-Pray-Love experience (except for the whole love thing; my hubs/love happily held down the fort at home with the kids! haha).

It turns out that after popping out four kids in 7 years, I really just needed some time to think.

boy stands by creepy mannequins

Wanna know our plans?

  • Day 1: arrive in Marrakech, get dinner, SLEEP.
  • Day 2: Explore Marrakech. Do a piss poor job of bartering and get taken advantage of in the souks. Get lost and enjoy the windy roads and chaotic corners. Drink way too much mint tea.
  • Day 3: Leave for the Sahara Desert with our private guide (4 day tour with Morocco Daily Tours). Stop at every possible scenic overlook imaginable, until he figures out that we have zero interest in landscapes and takes us to a local food and livestock market. Jaws drop and we take ALL the photos.
  • Day 4: Volunteer at a boys soccer club, ride camels across the Saharan dunes, glamp overnight in the desert, to the sound of Gnouan music by the fire. See soooo many stars.
  • Day 5: Go sandboarding in the dunes, beat local boys soundly at foosball, picnic in the desert as 110 deg winds heat our face. It’s so quiet.
  • Day 6: Drive back to Marrakech and collapse in our beds.
  • Day 7: Volunteer at Project Soar, an amazing organization focused on empowering young women. Make friends with two amazing young women and their mother and spend the day getting to know their family in their home. Laughter is the only language we share, and we seem to understand each other fluently.
  • Day 8: Bus to Essaouira. Hippies everywhere from the Gnouan music festival. Ride quads in the dunes and shop in the souks and lie on the beach while the most calming sunset envelops us.
  • Day 9: Fall in love with Essaouira.
  • Day 10: Buy shrimp on the docks and cook it on site. Board the bus back to Marrakech.
  • Day 11: Visit the photography museum. Walk around the medina and soak in the smells and sounds. Preserve the sights with photographs. Become quiet, preparing for our farewell. Leave for the airport, FINALLY bartering successfully for airport taxi.

I learned SO MUCH about myself on this trip. Too many revelations to share here in this blog post, especially when you’re probably just here for the photos! HA!

(And if that’s the case, check out my favorites in the gallery below. Click to make them super big!)

Beyond personal growth, I think Moroccans taught me a lot about photography. (Who knew?!)

As a culture, the Moroccan people do not like to be photographed. At all. As a professional photographer, my camera is the tool I use to see the world. It feeds how I see, interact, and process what happens around me. Putting it down forced me to slow down and become more in tune with my own eyes. I started taking pictures in my head instead of with my camera. And amazingly it became easier for me to see which pictures I needed to take, and which ones I could pass by on. Without using my camera, I found myself becoming a more thoughtful, selective photographer.

(Now I just have to transfer some of this newfound patience into my personal life! HA!)

Travel gives you thought space.

You don’t need to have kids to be constantly fighting the need to just BE without agenda or responsibility. You feel it in the tension in your back and in your shorter temper. (At least I do!) I wrestle with anxiety and have been told time and again to turn to yoga or meditation. Which sounds amazing, and also a luxury that I do not afford myself.

Well let me tell you it’s so FREEING to turn off the clock and let go of the checklists and just see where the days take you. 

Sure, we can’t do this EVERY day. But every once in a while? When we’re feeling run down? Why not? 

dirty working man in apron leans against a wall in front of a fire

For me, taking a break from the daily grind to give myself time for my thoughts didn’t mean I was trying to squeeze in ALL THE THINKING FOR THE WHOLE YEAR. Sure, it gave me time to stretch out some atrophying muscles up there… but that time without responsibilities also REMINDED me how important it is to connect with myself often.

As a mom, I am constantly reminded I need self care. But self care is WAY MORE THAN a monthly girls night and some afternoons at the gym! It’s daily attention to one’s sense of self. Like brushing teeth without listing out a checklist of daily activities in one’s head while doing so – instead just paying attention to the way the brushing motion feels. Noticing that the sound of crickets makes me smile and feel calm. It’s the opposite of multi tasking. It’s giving your feelings some space so that you can pay proper attention to them. It’s being mindful of your life.

This is not intended as a manifesto for moms, or for women, or for business owners, or for someone who juggles all 3. Travel is for ANYONE who could use time outside of the daily grind. To think. To be unrushed. To appreciate.

Travel is good for the soul.

man in straw head, face hidden in the shade, cutting open raw fish, surrounded by the ocean and sea gulls flying around.

This won’t be the only time I write about my travel experience to Morocco. I have about a bazillion fun pictures of Erica (and she of me, I’m sure) and lots of advice for travel there. I want to go into much more depth about our volunteer experience, too! Just gotta give myself time to continue emotionally processing the experience. Feel free to gently nudge me along. 😉

mom in robe stands on beach with hand on hip, kids playing beside her, gazing out over the beach water

Travel is in my blood. The urge stirred in college with Latin America, as I taught English in Costa Rica and traveled throughout neighboring countries. I think a piece of my heart will always be in Costa Rica, just as they say you always carry a part of your first love in your heart. In the next few years I am certain nostalgia will have me returning to Latin America, this time to Cuba.

Anyone up for joining me in my Cuban journey??

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