Don't believe it when they say Morocco has beautiful landscapes.
They're not beautiful; they're breathtaking.
Don't believe it when they say Moroccan people are friendly.
They're not just friendly; they'll welcome you into their homes for every meal.
Don't believe it when they say Morocco is colorful.
This country has more colors than you could ever dream of.
To be honest, I didn't know what to expect with this country. Morocco was always on my list, but so is every other country in the world. And like a lot of other countries, it was definitely not at the top of my "places to explore next."
When I came back to the states, a majority of my conversations began with "So why Morocco? I mean, what made you want to go to a country like that?" And to be blatantly honest, it was just by chance that I ended up there.
I had time off of work for my wedding and honeymoon, and I knew I wasn't going to let that go to waste. But I only had those days off and no more. So the top of my list at the time-South Africa, Philippines, Maldives, Madagascar, and Rapa Nui-were not feasible, all with a travel time of at least two days there and two days back.
So what next? Where do I go? I started looking into Argentina and Guatemala, but both were countries I wanted to be in for more than two weeks at a time. Iceland? Tempting but I knew I wanted to camper-van it and didn't have much time to organize and prepare for a trip like that.
So I sat down and googled camping trips, and the Sahara popped up. I looked up caravan tours and the dates fell perfectly in line with my time off. That was it. Immediately after seeing pictures of those bright orange rolling dunes, I knew what I wanted to do; I just had to figure out how to get there.
Within 24 hours, I had my flights and hotels booked along my route. The countdown began... and so did the anxiety.
Like I mentioned in my last post, I was scared shitless before I left. I honestly didn't put much thought into the planning of the trip at all. I knew I had a flight and places to stay but I was about to experience some serious culture shock.
With my first night in Casablanca, I had a minor breakdown. As soon as I got off the plane, I realized that I was way WAY beyond my comfort zone. I've traveled a lot, but everywhere I have been, the people of that country have at least known a minor amount of English. This is the first country I've been to that they looked at me like I had four heads when I said "Hi. Do you speak English?" And you know what?
It was incredible. And also insanely terrifying at the same time. All the signs were in Arabic so forget the fact of even trying to sound out the names of cities or which way I was trying to go. So I sat outside the airport for an hour at a small café, letting the culture soak in a bit, while I studied the small amount of Arabic I knew.
Finally, I see my last name on the sign of the driver I hired and off we went into the city-an extremely dusty, construction-filled city that is. I got to my hotel, of which couldn't have been more colorful inside but couldn't have been grayer outside. I dropped my bags off and went to catch a taxi to the mosque. A taxi cab ride the wrong way and a few dirhams later, I was back at the hotel, realizing how unprepared I actually was for this city.
Did I make a huge mistake? Who did I honestly think I was traveling alone to a country like this? There was no way for me to communicate for food, for a ride, for even directions. The front desk only spoke Arabic and some French and here I was, a blonde American girl who speaks only English and Spanish, in the middle of Casablanca with two days to spare.
As the sun was setting, I went back to my room, showered, and turned on Stranger Things 2. Yes, you read right. Here I was in North Africa, doing exactly what I would've been doing if I had stayed home. This wasn't what I imagined.
But before I fell asleep, I promised myself that no matter how uncomfortable I was, I wasn't going to let fear and assumptions take ahold of me, I'd get out of my hotel room, and I'd push myself to meet people and explore in the morning.
That's when everything changed.
I woke up, had the most delicious Moroccan breakfast for free, met a Moroccan man who spoke a small amount of English (enough to tell me which way to walk when I left the hotel) and met a blonde German girl who was willing to walk to the mosque with me. I had a smile on my face again and knew this was exactly where I was supposed to be.
For the next ten days, I would make the greatest memories of my 29-years on this earth. For the next ten days, I would realize more and more every day that even the shittiest things in your life happen for a reason, and that reason for me was scaring me enough that I almost gave up the life I was dying to live for a life that I was dying in, and allowing me to realize that I deserve everything I have always wanted.
The next ten days were spent exploring Fes, Meknes, Merzouga, Todra Gorge, Ait Ben Haddou, and Marrakech, to name a few. There's so much to tell, but more than will fit in just one blog post, so I'll stop blabbing here. But don't worry, the story has just begun.