May 27th, 2015 | Uncategorized
Last week, I joined a few other Victory scholars, including Christine from Trinity College Dublin, Kelsey from University of Limerick, and my best mate Caroline, on a spur of the moment trip to Marrakech, Morocco. We wanted to go somewhere that was a little bit off the beaten path, and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to sort out all the details. It’s amazing how much simpler and more affordable travel becomes when one is already abroad. Granted, we picked the cheapest little hostel we could find and packed nothing but little backpacks (because the space on the airplane was so tight)… but that’s what its all about right?
Before we even landed, I was blown away by the shape and beauty of the clouds during the descent to Marrakech. The next best part was stepping off the plane and registering warmth/dry air for the first time in nine months. The taxi could only take us so far towards our destination within the city, as we had to get out and walk through much smaller, windy roads to finally arrive at the hostel in Marrakech. The air smelled so strongly of spices it was almost tangible, and it left us all craving some authentic Moroccan cuisine!
We spent the next three days traveling to the Sahara desert with a group of other young travelers from around the world. Though the trip was 11 hours in length, the scenery and stops along the way made every second worth it. The terrain in most places was just indescribable, and we had the opportunity to speak to many of the locals through tours of little villages and historic locations. I noticed after driving past several secluded towns and villages some interesting cultural themes in terms of the locals’ daily activities. There were women who spent their entire day washing clothes in the river. There were children walking up and down the road following tourists asking for small change, sometimes offering little gifts like a camel made out of grass, using the only English words they knew to complete the transaction. There were men who managed tiny shops selling unique, handmade crafts and articles of clothing. There were lots of people working in fields or ushering donkeys down the road carrying giant bundles of wheat. Village after village, however, there were people of all ages just sitting by the road, seemingly content to stay in the same place and just observe the world around them as the hours went by. Most of the time, people would be sitting alone, even though they may have been twenty yards away from the next person just sitting alone doing the same thing. Others in the van noticed it as well, and as a foreigner, it forced me to imagine my life compared to theirs… what brings them satisfaction, happiness, contentment, and what it takes to achieve all those things for the average person living in the part of the world that I come from.
It’s the type of experience while traveling that makes you return home with new eyes. I think sight-seeing is enriching as well, but there’s something about going off the beaten path and making a travel experience unique that can really have the potential to teach you the most. I certainly wouldn’t have planned an exotic vacation around the idea of travelling 11 hours into the middle of nowhere so I can observe the activities of the people in secluded villages, but since I was already in that situation, I ended up learning a valuable lesson in simplicity. I come from a culture that could (quite fairly) be described as having an insatiable desire for MORE. I sometimes notice how I am a reflection of that culture, even since having moved to Northern Ireland. I noticed how little it takes to make those people in Morocco content, and it encourages me to develop a better relationship with the present moment. Instead of complaining or resisting any situation on the grounds that I find it “boring” or lacking something, I can recall what I noticed while in Morocco and use that memory to bring everything back into perspective, thus cultivating a higher level of gratitude and awareness in my daily life. It’s that element of travel which makes it all worth it for me in the bigger picture.
The rest of the trip included riding camels through the desert, eating our weight in couscous, watching Kelsey break it down with the locals to live music around a campfire, haggling over the price of souvenirs, learning interesting words in other languages, and getting a wee bit of food poisoning. Needless to say… we loved every minute of it.
I am going to miss the maze-like roads and beautiful scents of Marrakech, as well as the amazing views of the Sahara Desert and the quaint villages we passed on the way there. I am grateful for the people of Morocco for sharing their culture and giving me an experience I won’t forget with some of my favorite fellow Victory Scholars.