Sunday, February 7, 2016

Morocco Magic

I'm on an airplane flying somewhere between Madrid and Moscow, but mentally I am still in Morocco. Life never ceases to amaze me. The universe is constantly giving us exactly what we need; to learn, to grow, to flourish. What I needed was Morocco. Just at a time when I'd felt so mentally exhausted, physically disgusting, and financially depleted, something urged me to leave Europe behind and flee to this colorful country in Northern Africa. It cracked my heart open, leaving me with a smile on my face, a tan on my skin, and sand on my toes.

Although I had an entire list of places to visit and things to do, upon arriving in Tamraght I decided I'd rather be a local for a couple weeks and just stay put. I was feeling all out of whack after 3 months of constant movement between European cities and I knew I needed to regain my peace of mind. I went to Morocco to reunite with a close friend I'd met in Bali while completing our yoga teacher training. She's been living and working in this small beach town for just under a year and it has quickly become home for her. Two and a half weeks later and it felt like home to me too. 

[The woman sitting next to me on the bus had henna covered hands, too cool]

I quickly adopted the 'early to bed, early to rise' lifestyle that is typical in towns revolving around the tides. I fell in love with surfing, although I have a lot of learning to do, and I reconnected to my yoga practice. I saw the sunset almost every night and was able to catch a few sunrises too. I learned how to cook tagine, pour the perfect tea, and analyze the waves. I went to the spa for a traditional hammam treatment, quite literally an overweight Moroccan woman giving me a sponge bath and body scrub (didn't hate it). I even managed to learn a bit of French and Arabic.


[Beach buds]

[I totally played creepy paparazzi on this couple but how sweet are they?!]

Bryony, the friend whom I was there to visit, was in a yoga training at a nearby luxury resort when I first arrived. She had two other friends visiting and within minutes of them picking me up from the bus station we were old friends reconnecting. We went for road trips seeking out the best surf, exploring the local markets, and trekking to Paradise Valley. Blaring music, having sing-a-longs, and laughing until we cried.

[Road trip, searching for waves!]

[Playing photog]

[Banana Village market]

[My favorite!]

[How do they grow so much produce in such a dry country??]

[Paradise Valley]

[I love you Börni Bö!]

I only stayed at B's apartment for one night before going to visit her yoga training at the posh Paradis Plage. We know how much I enjoy a nice resort and pretending I live a five star life, so as luck would have it I somehow managed to stay there for a total of 8 nights thanks to the kind generosity of fellow yogis (thank you Angelic and Christi, I love you). I reunited with my beloved yoga teachers and some other fellow teachers from Bali. Living in my fantasy bubble for a week, I took surfing lessons and lounged around on the beach, sipped mint tea while chilling at the surf house, and strolled along the sand at sunset. Life couldn't get much easier.

[Balcony view at Paradis Plage]

[Doing what I do best]

[Paradis Plage]

[Sun beds and hammocks, Paradis Plage]

Back in the local village of Tamraght, I went with B to her yoga class every morning. An open air studio on the roof of a surf hostel overlooking the ocean. Seriously? I need to move. There's awhole lot of chilling in Morocco. Yoga, surf, relax. Eat. Drink mint tea. It's the simplicity of this lifestyle that has me wishing this airplane would make a U turn and take me back. The food is delicious. The people are friendly. The scenery is gorgeous. The weather is perfect (no humidity!). There isn't a doubt in my mind that I'll be back before long. 

[Yogi loves from all over the globe]

[Cool beach vans, I want one!]

[Calamari lunch time]

[One last sunset before heading to the city]

[Half asleep and trying to blend in]

I love you Morocco, I will see you soon!

I N S H A L L A H ❤️

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Adios España

I really love Andalucia. In my opinion, it is hands down the best region of Spain. The streets are lined with orange trees and palm trees and the sun shines off the white painted buildings while horse drawn carriages stroll through the streets. 

[Horse drawn carriages awaiting passengers outside of the cathedral in Seville]

Granada and Sevilla are rivaling eachother for the number one spot in my heart. For now, I have decided that it's a tie and I'll have to return to both to sort it out. Granada sets itself apart from any other city with its heavy Arabic influences made evident in the Albaycin district and the stunning Alhambra palace. It is also one of the few cities left to still offer free tapas with every purchased beverage. Yes, you get food with every drink you order, even if it's non alcoholic. There is also a vibrant music scene thanks to the high number of musically talented backpackers flocking to the city. 


[Inside the Alhambra]

[The Alhambra]

[Alhambra gardens]

[Alhambra gardens]

[Alhambra gardens]

[Hiking in Sierra Nevada National Park]

[Intricate detailing on the walls of the Nasrid Palace, Alhambra]

Sevilla is beautiful and charming and filled to the brim with history. Priding itself as the jumping off point for Columbus' voyages to the Americas, you notice 15th century history everywhere you turn. It has more of a city feel than Granada, which is more like a big town than a city. Both places have strong Arabic influence from the times of Moorish reign and the effect on the architecture is stunning. 

[Beautifully insignificant street in Sevilla]

[Catedral, Sevilla]

[Chasing the sunset on our first night in Seville]

[Plaza de España, Sevilla]

[Plaza de España, Sevilla]

For our last weekend together, Meg and I hitched a ride to the Atlantic seaside town of Cadiz. Rumored to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, it boasts 3000 years of history and invites you to frolic on its beautiful beaches. I'm not ashamed to say that we did not explore the city at all and instead spent both of our days sitting on the beach and watching the surfers. It was warm enough to sit all day in a t-shirt and we even managed to acquire some tan lines. 


[Finally caught a sunset on the beach in Cadiz]

[Pictures couldn't do it justice]

My favorite quality of Europeans is their immense pride for their home country or city. I have been all over the world and met my fair share of Europeans and all of them claim to be from the "the greatest place in the world!" or "the most beautiful place in the world!" In Seville they will tell you how it was once the most important city in all of Europe because it was the center of the spice trade. In Venice, the venetians will explain their history and point out how they were once the center of commerce in Northern Europe and arguably the most important city during the Renaissance and Middle Ages. In Rome, you will learn about the vast Roman Empire and how it has influenced an extensive list of cities and countries. I once met 2 Portuguese guys in Laos who claimed that Portugal was the most innovative and influential country in the world. We went bowling and they said that the Portuguese invented bowling. We drank beer and they said that the Portuguese invented beer. They made these claims constantly throughout the night until it became clear that none of it was true. Nonetheless, they were very proud men. I envy that pride. I'm not exactly someone you'd call patriotic. 10 cumulative months of backpacking and I've had more moments of shame than pride when discussing my country. I realize that I hit the jackpot when I was born on US soil and I do of course have a lot of love for America but it's amazing how different the world is outside of those rigid US borders. 

While I may not have an overwhelming amount of pride in my country, I have begun to have great amount of pride in myself. I may not be hitchhiking a boat across the Atlantic like some are and most days I really don't feel that I'm doing anything out of the ordinary. There are loads of people doing exactly what I'm doing. But for the standard American it is not the norm. Modesty gets the best of me and I often forget how much I am doing. I hesitate to celebrate the amazing accomplishment of following my heart and my dreams. I fail to recognize that although I may not be breaking new ground in the travel realm, I am in fact doing something pretty cool and hopefully if nothing else, I'm inspiring others to do the same. 

Today marked the end of one adventure and the beginning of another. I always hate goodbyes. Whether they are said to people, places, or things, I always seem to create this final sad scene in my head. Moving out of my apartment in Boston, I can remember walking through the hall and thinking, "this is the last time I'll shower in this bathroom" or "I'll never walk in the door and leave my keys on this table again". Even in the moment, I realized how crazy I was being. Completely overreacting to a very ordinary situation. But I'm a nostalgic person by nature and as such, I feel sadness with every impending farewell. So naturally as Meghan and I spent our last few hours together this morning, hanging on the roof of our hostel in Seville, I started reminiscing in my mind about the past 3 months. A trip we discussed with excitement all summer and now it's already over. 9 countries, lots of laughs, lots of food, and a giant handful of adventures. We tried not to make the goodbye too dramatic for fear of tears so a quick hug and an 'I love you' and I was off to the airport.

Fast forward a few hours and I'm sitting in a hostel in Marrakech, listening to The Doors while a loud Moroccon guy smoking hash interrupts my train of thought every couple of minutes to yell over, "America, you know this song? You know this band?". It's weird that I've just spent 3 months traveling in western countries and haven't once felt that I've really been traveling until this afternoon. Finally some culture shock! It's a familiar rush of excitement that I've been longing for since leaving Asia last April. Camels on every corner, women in hijabs, Arabic writing everywhere. I feel like I'm in the Middle East and it's a very new experience for me. Morocco is my first African country and its unlike anywhere I've ever been before. 

{I've had Shakira singing "it's time for Africa" in my head all day (waka waka eh eh) }

[Spices anyone?]

I've only caught a small glimpse of Marrakech because I arrived in the main square and am staying just around the corner. This souk, the Arabic equivalent to a market or bazaar, is a flea market on steroids. It is absolutely insane! It's a massive square filled with food stands and shops selling everything from spices to shoes to lanterns. It's a bit of an assault on the senses but after such a long time in monotonous European cities I find it to be invigorating. I was on edge when I first arrived because I've been warned about the dangers of traveling alone as a woman in Northern Africa but that feeling has quickly dissipated. Yes there are men trying to lure you into their shops by constantly complimenting you and trying to engage in conversation but they're just trying to make a sale. A simple and firm "no" seems to be enough to ward them off, and when all else fails I simply ignore. Other than some harmless harassment, everyone I've come in contact with has been very kind and helpful. 

[Olives for days!]

I found a food stall crowded with locals in the market and decided it looked like the perfect place for my first Moroccan meal. I took my seat on the long crowded bench, told the man I didn't eat meat, and within minutes I had a full vegetarian spread in front of me. Fascinated by my surroundings, I ate in silence with a smile on my face. It's upsetting to think about the negative stereotypes surrounding Muslims. There I was, a white non-Muslim female, surrounded by Muslim families, men cooking my meals, women trying to sell me Kleenex (bizarre I know), and I did not feel one shred of hatred, racism, or discrimination. Something they probably could not say if they visited America. In fact, everyone was overly kind and patient, helping me to understand the menu and translate what the elderly chef was trying to say to me. (If you're wondering, he was insisting that I return tomorrow). The couple sitting next to me were both dressed in traditional hijabs and speaking Arabic but turned out to be British and on their honeymoon so I ended up not having to eat in total silence after all.

[The cutest chef around. He took my hand and insisted I take this picture so I would remember to return]

I've got my alarm set for 8am tomorrow so I can get to the bus station early enough to buy a ticket and make my way to the surfer clad beaches of Agadir. I've got a welcome committee picking me up from the bus station and although I haven't even met them yet, I have a very strong feeling we're going to get along well. It's a pretty cool thing having friends and friends of friends scattered all over the world. I'm one lucky chick!