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Morocco

A Walk on the Wild Side

sunny 75 °F

Wow. What a trip is all I think I'll ever be able to really say about my 3 day trip in Morocco, but I want to share some of the experiences from the trip that have opened my eyes and affected me the most.

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Getting There

I left Dijon in France early Saturday morning to meet up with my four American friends who I've had the pleasure of traveling Europe with this semester. When we all arrived at the train station, we were waiting to see the platform number for our train to Lyon, and in France it's totally normal to not know your gate until 15 minutes before your train leaves. Well, our train never really arrived, or never left, rather. We never did figure out if it was due to a typical French strike or if was just "supprimé" just because, but we now had to take a later train to Lyon to catch our flight, leaving us with a tighter window in Lyon. I've learned to just kind of let go when traveling and let the adventure happen, especially in Europe and unfamiliar places, because you never really know what'll happen. You just have to relax and kind of go with the flow, or you'll get too stressed out and possibly forget something important... We had to wait a few hours for the next train which we passed laughing at all our stories we've collected from this semester together. When we eventually made it to the Lyon train station we had to take a tram out to the St. Exupery aeroport, a 25 minute ride plus the usual airport nonsense. All went smoothly and we arrived at the airport in plenty of time, but because my friend had checked a bag in Lyon for his flight out, guess what he left at the train station? His passport. Of all things you can do without when flying from Europe to Africa, your plane ticket and passport are the two things you can't. So it was time to form a plan B.

We all decided that he would go back to Lyon station to get his passport and attempt to make it for the flight while we went and waited for him at the gate. At the airport we had to go through 2 or 3 security checkpoints, and the passport check was miserable. No line, mob chaos, 6 stations with only 2 open (typical French efficiency), and the four of us only made the flight with a few minutes to spare. We waited there on the plane twittling our thumbs hoping he'd show....but minutes later the flight was off and we were without our partner. I was pretty sad since I knew how bad he wanted to go on this trip, and the most frustrating part was none of us had means of contacting him to figure out where he was since we're not in our native country and phone service/wifi can be hard to get. It was a smooth flight with a beautiful sunset over the Mediterranean Sea, and 3 hours later we landed at Al Massira Agadir airport in Morocco. I had officially landed on a fourth continent!

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We proceeded to take a cab to our hostel hotel only a few hundred yards away from the beach. This marks experience number one for me. If you've ever seen videos of traffic problems or wild traffic patterns in Africa in class or on the Internet, well, it really does look like that. There are medians and lanes, but no one uses them. Our cab driver drove right down the middle of the two lanes! Whenever he needed to pass he just flashed his brights and cars would move over. And most of the cars are old beat up clunkers that feel like they're going to break down every 5 seconds from the jerking while riding. All of the road signs were interesting too. Because Morocco (le Maroc) was a French colony once, all of the people there speak Arabic as their primary language but know French as well. Because Arabic is read right to left, all signs read French from left to right and Arabic from right to left. It was pretty cool to see. Half an hour later, we arrived at our hostel hotel (which was really nice and cheap too, pool, balcony, beach view, free wifi, 10€/night) and immediately jumped on the wifi to message our travel partner to figure out where he ended up. Very long story short, he ended up back in Dijon, never attempted to make the flight, and had already booked a flight out of Paris for Agadir for the next day. I was pretty excited to have him join us, but it meant that we needed to get all of our "forgetting something?" and "boom roasted!" jokes out before he arrived. We ordered room service for the night since the area around us looked kinda iffy at night and crashed, safely and soundly in Morocco, Africa.

The Moroccan Sun

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Sunday was a lazy day for the four of us, which was a really nice change from most of our travels. Europe is so packed with things to see and do that you can never really see everything, so being able to relax and hang out was really nice. We got up around 11am, and headed to the boardwalk and the beach. I haven't been to a beach in a while since I'm definitely more of a mountains and snow guy than a sand and the ocean guy, but let me tell you, this place was gorgeous. The sand was a little bit more orange colored than most of the beaches I've been too (from what I can remember), and of course I had to go stand in the ocean. I think I might have been the only of my friends who actually went and stood in the water, but I figured life is too short not to stand in the ocean on an African beach, and I'll probably never be back. So, Chaco flips in hand, I ran around in the waves on the beach. The pictures turned out really well too, which I've linked at the end of this entry. That afternoon our travel partner arrived, and now that we were a complete group, we decided to venture out a little bit.

The Souk

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This marked culture experience number two for me here. I'm sure most people don't even what a Souk is, but it's a traditional Moroccan market place of sorts where you can buy almost anything. It's partly open air, partly covered, loaded with souvenirs, trinkets, foods, black market goods, fake bags and shoes, and everyone is in complete Islamic attire. Wowee wowzers. I felt pretty uncomfortable in there at times, but I kept reminding myself that I didn't go to Africa and Morocco to feel comfortable, I went to take a step out of my comfort zone at times, eat weird foods, see a new part of the world, and learn and grow a little bit bigger as a person. The place was crazy. Agadir is loaded with shop vendors eager for your money, and it's not quite as easy to hide as in Europe since we're all white and obviously not Muslim, so we were hesitant to talk to people who approached us. But, a very nice man who works for the government of Morocco gave us a nice short tour of the Souk, and didn't ask for money afterwards. I also considered it an accomplishment that I spoke French to him initially and he didn't guess correctly that I was from the US until after trying France, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand first. I was weary to let on to anyone we were Americans while we were there for fear of being judged, so I played the French card as much as possible on the trip. This brings me to another observation.

On our way to the Souk when we refused to take directions from a Moroccan (since he was probably going to ask for money after), he called us all racists. It's really depressing me that the world feels the need to judge people, anyone for that matter, in any way. You either talk to the man and take his directions to get to the Souk where he asks for money and you lose, or you refuse and he calls you racists for refusing to talk to him. Saying no isn't an option with these people either, it's more of an invitation for them to try harder to sell you. The media today plays up stereotypes and creates false perceptions of people often times in areas of the world that they don't understand. You always fear what you don't understand, but that doesn't mean it's bad for you or even wrong in any way. I wish people would stop judging. We met plenty of very helpful and nice Moroccan people who were delighted to talk to us about America and why we had chosen to visit their country. It's too bad, really. Not all Americans think every turban wearing guy or woman in full Muslim dress is sent to blow up a car in a town near you these days. I should add that it's pretty fascinating to spend time in a country where Islam is the national religion too. Every room has a sign somewhere that points the direction to Mecca, and during the day you can hear loudspeakers come on with a call to prayer and sometimes people just stop to pray. It's a pretty mind blowing experience to me. I don't agree with their religion necessarily, but to see someone's devotion to their faith can be a powerful thing sometimes, and I think it's always important to understand where someone is coming from too because it helps you better understand why you believe what you believe. And if you can't justify why you believe what you believe, then, well, what do you really believe in anyways?

The Camel Ride

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Monday afternoon we had reserved a 5 person camel tour, since we all thought it would be insanely cool to "ride camels in Africa". And, it was. And, we took tons of hilarious pictures that I'm sure will soon be on Facebook... But the camel experience was something pretty special in a lot of other ways too. We rode the camels through a little bit of a desert, national park, to a bird estuary, and through some small African villages. First, the bird estuary and national park on the Sous River was gorgeous. I've never been anywhere quite like it. It was kind of like the stuff you see in Planet Earth in some ways, but to actually be there was amazing. And the African sky is just...unique. It's different and unlike anywhere I've ever been, too. We rode through some African villages on our way back too, which was eye popping in an incredible way. On our left side we had a walled up lush, green, golf course with gorgeous sweeping views of the mountains near Agadir, on our right we had fences where African villages were, and around our path there was trash. Tons of trash. It was striking to me how polar the world is sometimes. We continued forward into another village where kids were kicking around a soccer ball, women were hang drying clothes, and men we in shops. Buildings were just concrete and cement blocks, most of which had wavy tin rooftops held down by more concrete blocks. And around all of it - was trash. It was a, although brief, look into the world that some people live in. I mean, it wasn't your typical commercial of starving kids in Africa who are paper thin and dying where they ask you to call and make a donation, but it was pretty eye opening. It fascinates me to think that that's the way of life for some people, and yet we listen to people in American complain sometimes about stuff. Never again. It's a reminder to how lucky some of us really are. At the end of the ride we parked our camels at a fence, yes- parked our camels, and enjoyed some traditional Moroccan tea before heading back to our hostel hotel.

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Meals with Friends

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We headed out for dinner on the boardwalk shortly after arriving back at our place (and after posting our obnoxious camel pictures on Facebook and Twitter, of course). I decided that for dinner I should probably try some traditional Moroccan food, so I ordered a Tajine, which ended up being really good. We were able to watch the African sun set over the water on our way to the beach too, which was gorgeous. We had had lunch earlier in the day on the boardwalk as well, so the dinner topped off one hell of an amazing day with friends. It hit me again how polar the world can be though, it's all happy and fun on the beach and the boardwalk (minus the panhandlers) but half an hour away it's poverty and a fight to live day to day. I was awesome to enjoy such good meals and scenery on the beach with friends though, since we all have to part ways tonight to fly home this week. I'm going to miss these kids, that's for sure, but hopefully we'll all be able to visit each other though, since we all live in the same country at least.

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The Journey Home, or, Europe, Rather.

Tuesday morning we all woke up much too early to catch a cab to the airport, which again was somewhat eye opening. We got to see the sunrise from the cab, but drove through some pretty rough looking areas. Again, concrete apartment buildings, many without windows. Trash was everywhere, and people were all standing around at what appeared to be a bus stop. The apartment buildings were unfinished concrete walls, and in some ways resembled a bird coop in ways, grey, dull, dirty, boring, and darkness inside the window without a window pane. It was amazing to see something like that. Shortly thereafter we arrived at the airport, passed all security and passport check points (yippee! no more visa drama or Préfécture visits!) and are now sitting on board a plane back to Lyon. Hopefully we have smooth travels from here back to Dijon where we'll all have to say our goodbyes and part ways to head back to the good ole US of A in a couple days (Africa today, Europe tomorrow, North America Thursday...woo!). It's going to feel good to be home, no doubt, but I wanted to write an entry on my short time in Africa that has taught me so much more than I expected. I left Dijon knowing next to nothing about Morocco and Agadir and attempted to let down all walls and become a sponge to absorb as much as I could from the new cultural experience. I think I succeeded, and I hope you've gotten a few things out of my experiences too.

Cheers!

--Scooter
--@scott_treks

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Picture Gallery

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Stand on the beach in Agadir

The camel tour at the estuary and National Park

Posted by la vita bella 10:22 Archived in Morocco Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains lakes beaches bridges churches buildings skylines people animals birds sky snow night planes boats trains rivers desert paris hiking france culture history travel hotel bus train trekking village river backpack friends garden life live country family africa love hostel photos language french bike morocco europe happiness camels mtn graduation denver international college dijon eye student abroad american chapel panoramic atv experiences residence osprey catholic cultures marrakesh relationship lose learn lyon scout study teva iphone agadir laugh learning euros 360 scouting scouts nigeria girlfriend esc camera+ francophone sncf listen Comments (1)

My 6 L's to Happiness

Found again at last

rain 45 °F

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Over 2 years ago in the summer of 2009, I spent 3 weeks in a place called Philmont. For those who aren't familiar with Philmont, it's a Boy Scout high adventure base in New Mexico just south of the New Mexico and Colorado border. I took part in an 11 day backpacking trek there in the summer 2007 and fell in love with the place. It's been nicknamed "God's Country" by many, and I'll tell you, they don't call it that for nothing. I returned in 2009 as part of a 3 week Rayado trek with 7 other guys who I had never met, but are some of my best friends now because of the things we accomplished together during those 3 weeks. Those 3 weeks were the best experience of my life to date, and has only been rivaled since by my study abroad experience. We'll see where the two stack up when I get home in a couple weeks and can have a chance to reflect. On this 3 week experience, our two staff guides immersed us in what would be known as the "Solo" experience.

During the morning of this solo experience, all maps, compasses, watches, and GPS devices were removed from our 8 person crew. We soon veered off a trail and down ravines and over some hills. I still to this day don't have the slightest clue where in God's Country (or in God's name for that matter) we were taken. The guides split the 8 of us up, one by one, in complete and utter silence. We were all taken to random places and given a water bottle, sleeping bag, journal, and tent rain fly. Nothing more. With the exception of when they brought me small amounts of food, I passed the next 48 hours until they returned alone. I knew we were at around 10,000 feet altitude, but that was about it. It rained twice, and was a constant struggle to keep the shelter I built from blowing away to keep my down sleeping bag dry, essential for warmth during the night.

During these 48 hours, I wrote a lot in that journal, which I took with me to Europe during my semester abroad. Unfortunately, one of the things that I did not write down were the 6 L's to Happiness that I came up with while I was there during that solo experience. I remembered them for the rest of that trip but for some reason never wrote them down. I couldn't remember them when I got home months later, and then they came back to me at one point, but I forgot to write them down, again. I told them to an old girlfriend at one point, but she doesn't have them anymore either since they were erased when we parted ways last year. Every now and then I try to remember what they are, and all I can come up with is Live, Love, Laugh, and Learn, which is all over Google and every high school girl's tumblr page. But for whatever reason when I was in Paris with my family last week for a few days, they all came back to me. All six. So I quickly wrote them down, and I wanted to write a short blog about them in the hopes that you'll save them somewhere too instead of losing them for 2 years like I did. This was one of the greatest things I got out of Rayado, one of the greatest experiences of my life, so I hope you'll get as much from these as I did and still do.

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My friend caught me sleeping on a beautiful morning on Rayado

Live

One of the questions that keeps coming to mind as a wrap up my time in Europe and my study abroad experience and look back at these 3.5 months is, would I be happy with what I did today and the way I lived today if I died tomorrow? It seems like an extreme question to ask sometimes, but I try to remind myself of it as often as I can now. Instead of taking all the short cuts in life to get to where you're going faster, why not take the long road? Why not see what's around that other corner instead of walking home the normal way. Sometimes life's greatest adventures and experiences are right around the corner, and you'll never find them if you don't take a chance and look. Take chances, take risks, and do your best to make sure that when you wake up tomorrow morning, you don't have any regrets about today.

One of my favorite quotes from my 800 page Ralph Waldo Emerson book reads as follows, "My life is for itself and not for a spectacle." I think you should strive to live your life every minute of every day exactly the way you want it to be lived. You should live it for what you want it to be and not for what anyone else thinks it should be. When I look at my life sometimes, I question myself for how true I am being to myself. And if you're not and you're letting other people make decisions for you when you know you'd rather be doing something else, you aren't living your life, you're living the life someone else would rather see you live. It's something worth thinking about to me, and I do my best to make sure I live my life the way I want it to be lived so when I get old some day I don't have a lot of regrets.

Someone read me a quote recently and I don't remember where it was from exactly, but I found it to be especially useful to me as I'm preparing to graduate from college in 6 months: "Don't be so concerned with making a living that you forget to live." It's pretty simple honestly, but it's something that so many people forget about in this rush to work society we live in. Everyone is so concerned with making a living, getting the highest paying job they can, and falling into a routine of constant work that they forget to live sometimes. I hope to have a decent job when I graduate, but if I'm more concerned with the monthly paycheck than enjoying what it is I'm being paid to do, something isn't right to me. Remember to Live.

Laugh

They say that life is better if you just remember to smile every now and then, and I think it's true. (How many of you just smiled?) Laughing is part of smiling, and I think it's important to laugh as much as you can. Life is meant to be enjoyed! So if you're not laughing and smiling, you're doing something wrong. I also think it's important to laugh not just at the world around you (in a good way) and funny moments, but it's important to laugh at yourself sometimes. Don't be too hard on yourself and don't take life too seriously that you forget to laugh at yourself and have some fun. Remember too that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. If you make a mistake, try to laugh at yourself next time, learn from it, and move on. It's good for you, I promise. I never met a happy person who didn't know how to laugh from time to time, so try it.

Love

This goes hand in hand with so many things. Love your family, love your friends, love what you do (if you don't, find something else to do), but I think when looking at those things, you first have to love yourself and your life, and love it for what it is. If you can do this first, the rest will follow and be infinitely more rewarding. Love your family because when everything else in life falls, they'll still be standing there with you. Love your friends, because they've always got your back, and you learn so much from them. You only get into something what you put in, so love your family and love your friends and you'll be loved in return. And if you're not, you've got the wrong friends.

Listen

This is one of the ones that I came up with on my own to add to the L idea, largely because I was alone in the woods for 48 hours by myself. You listen to things around you subconsciously, and you learn a surprising amount of things sometimes if you just take a minute to stop and listen to the world around you. With listening comes learning too, which I keep mentioning and will get to at the end. I think it's important to listen to not only what's around you (for me that was in nature at the time), but also to listen to the people around you. Friends. Family. You learn from them more than you think. Listen to what they have to say and value their insight, it will benefit you later in life. Listen to your parents too. You won't always want to and you won't always agree with what they have to say (I know I still don't), but they have your best interests in mind and are there to protect you. So whether you want to or not, listen to them. Sometimes listening to friends, family, or nature around you brings peace too if you let it in, so I think it's important to listen to what's around you to find happiness.

Lose

This is the second of the six that I came up with on my own during that solo time, and might seem kind of odd to some. How is losing a step to finding happiness? But for me it's like a lot of other things in life, when you're broken down you tend to build yourself back up stronger and better prepared for next time. You learn from nearly everything you'll ever lose, whether it's a family member you wish you could have spent more time with or a your keys at a party because you drank too much. If you never lose anything, you'll never learn how to be better prepared for next time, and you'll never build yourself back up as a stronger person in the future. It's also really cliché to say, but if you never lose something you'll never know how much (or how little) you really had in the first place. So I think it's important to lose sometimes to find happiness, especially at those rare moments in life when you lose something and realize how much happier you are without it. But you wouldn't have known that without losing something in the first place. It breaks us down but allows us to come back stronger and better for it. Part of losing though is learning to pick yourself back up.

Learn

Everything I've already mentioned seems to come back to this somehow. You have to be willing to lose to learn how to pick yourself back up. If you listen to what's around, you'll learn from what's around and hopefully learn how to take from those experiences and incorporate them into your own life. You learn from your family and you learn from your friends, and you learn from loving them in many ways. You learn from your own mistakes and you learn how to avoid them in the future. You learn from everything you do in life, and knowledge is power. The more you learn and know, the happier you can be. Try to learn as much as you can from the people and the world around you, it'll help you figure out who you are a lot of times and will make you happier as a result.

Find Happiness

So in summary, if you want to find happiness, it starts here with these. Live, laugh, love listen, lose, and learn. I don't think I've found anything that made me happy in my life that can't be somehow traced back to these simple ideas. They serve as a nice reminder and reality check sometimes too. I try to continually reevaluate my life week in and week out to make sure I'm where I want to be and if I'm not happy with something I want to know why so I can understand it and hopefully fix it. It always comes back to these. I hope people have enjoyed reading this, and if anyone has any feedback or comments on this idea I'd love to hear them too! Too cliché? Funny? Dumb? Thoughtful? Enlightening? Different?

Au revoir!

--Scooter

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Posted by la vita bella 07:04 Archived in France Tagged landscapes waterfalls sunsets_and_sunrises mountains churches skylines people trees snow night rivers paris hiking france travel colorado trekking river backpack aspen ski friends philippines life live country family love man creek rome hike eagle smile happiness mtn denver international college god student abroad american boulder experiences sherman relationship lose learn scout solo study iphone laugh learning prepared shavano princeton scouting scouts girlfriend esc listen rayado philmont Comments (5)

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