While on Spring Break in Morocco I rode a camel
Ate cous cous
And learned a lot about my own comfort zones
I bought myself a one way ticket to Morocco before knowing anyone would join me. I reasoned with myself that other auxiliaries would be sure to be going as well, I’d make fast friends in the hostels and I’d wear the right clothes while bringing that “don’t fuck with me” attitude that was sure to keep me safe.
In spite of my forced confidence, I was showered with a sea of disapproval from friends, coworkers and strangers. “Go with guys!” a comment forewarned me from the facebook page of my program. “*gasp* Have you ever been to a third world country?” my goodie two shoes coworker began to interrogate me.
The more I talked with people about my trip, the more put off about going I became. I admit to even watching a youtube video on how to tie a hijab. Dress conservatively, Brittany. You don’t want the men getting the wrong idea. Don’t leave the hostel after nightfall. Who knows what could be waiting for you? I was preparing myself to be sent to a war zone.
A few weeks before my flight, my peace of mind came in a short facebook message. It was Kyle, an American I’d met in a hostel in London. “I want to come back,” he wrote. Knowing he was a recently converted travel addict I half-jokingly asked if he’d like to join me in Morocco. A day or so later he had his flight booked! Phew! My new husband!
I arrived in Marrakesh late at night. Kyle had arrived earlier on a different flight. We planned to meet in the main square, a chaotic maze of food vendors and henna tattoo artists. Motorcycles whizzed by me, their mirrors nearly brushing my elbow. Some strange and some delicious smells filled the air. Shouts in Arabic were called over my head. I didn’t get the chance to put my toes in to test the water. Instantly I was forced to come to grips with where I was. As Shakira would say, “This is Africa!”
Kyle and I began our adventure the next day haggling for hamsa hand charms, eating street meat and yet remembering to brush our teeth with bottled water. Although I had the “protection” of being with a boy, I never once feared for my safety (aside from my camel dismount). The locals were friendly. One even told me I was wearing a “beautiful outfit” while we passed walking through the markets. We wandered around the city as the Moroccans did too, politely declined the hashish and beer (yeah as if it were drugs!) the shady man on the beach offered us and even took a night train staying in the sleeper cabin. We were just that hard core.
It wasn’t until the near end of my trip in a wealthier area of Marrakesh that I realized how wrong we were. We sat at an outdoor cafe on a beautiful tree lined street. Well-dressed Moroccans sat at tables surrounding us. Fancy foreign cars rolled by as we sat eating our lunch. Our view? The train station with a big McDonalds attached. I released a sigh and turned to Kyle and commented on how in that moment I felt the most comfortable I had during the entire trip. He agreed and it dawned on us just how much we craved western culture. After lunch we set off to buy oranges and cinnamon, a favorite dessert at many Moroccan restaurants. Eyes bulging we walked into a supermarket, a real supermarket. We marveled the whole time about how big, modern and home-like it felt. Throughout our whole trip we were forced to rough it at tiny mini markets haggling for something as trivial as water. Suddenly we were smacked in the face with a whole different side of Morocco, a side that reminded us a lot of home.
On that fancy street and in that “normal” grocery store I learned a lot about myself. I’ve always prided myself in my travels to the unknown and exotic. I’m the girl who intentionally searched for anacondas in the Amazon. I once coaxed a monkey onto my shoulder from a tree in Nicaragua. I buy one way tickets to countries I don’t speak the language and plan on finding work and friends after I arrive.What am I if not adventurous?!
Adventurous or not, I still have my creature comforts. I’m writing this from a big cushiony chair in a nice cafe with free wifi. A few minutes ago I stood in line wondering to myself how to say soy milk in Spanish, another stimulation of the day that comes with living abroad. In Morocco I believe the stimulation was just too much. A different language, culture and way of life silently overwhelmed me. It wasn’t until I was reminded of my normal did I realize how abnormal Morocco felt for me. I returned to Spain with a new appreciation for the somewhat monotony of my daily routine and also a new sense of how far and wide my comfort zones go.
If you get the chance, go to Morocco. Don’t let other’s words scare you. You’ll likely eat as well as I did and hurt your crotch riding a camel like Kyle. Maybe you’ll even learn something about yourself.