Back in the early 90s I genuinely wasn't sure where my life was heading towards and needed some direction, so one day I’d booked a one way ticket to the other side of the World and jumped on a plane.
I’d only visited Europe and North America a few times and I remember arriving on my own in Sydney, exiting the airport and wondering what the hell happened next? I knew nothing about guidebooks, the internet wasn’t the go to option in those days and all I had was some cash in my pocket and a small amount of confidence. Somehow and over the best part of a year that trip ended up in Northern China! It was a trip full of emotion, real adventures, struggles, illness, laughter, danger, friendship, achievement, direction…….
I flew back to the UK and within months set off on another trip overseas.
I talk a lot about ‘itchy feet’, or the desire to not rest in one place to long, the need to explore, to found out whats round the next corner, the fascination of meeting new people, being accepted into different cultures and constantly having new experiences. I’m not a huge fan of North Face kit, but I like their strap line - ‘ Never stop exploring’.
The mountains give me a chance to explore, but my first passion of travelling will always out trump them.
I’m fortunate to be able to blend these 2 passions together on a trip and share this with folk. My winter mountaineering trip last December was a perfect combination with a week spent in the beautiful High Atlas and a visit to the incredibly fascinating city of Marrakech.
The trip was made up of individuals, who had all come from different corners of life, all uniquely rich in their own worlds, dropped into a rich culture and the laughter, sights, pain, smells, frustrations, tiredness, success, friendships that we all shared will stay with us forever. These experiences are more valuable than any mountain.
Part of the attraction to this area is the ease of travel, only a few hours flying time and just over an hours drive time to the mountains. Life in Morocco has a pleasantly slow pace, at times there is no sense of urgency, I sit there sometimes and wonder what’s happening and how it’s going to happen because we’re so used to ‘it happening now’, I’ve learnt there’s no need to though, it’s as and when and it always comes good! It’s fascinating to watch.
The Moroccans and Berbers understand the true meaning of hospitality, don’t expect polished fake hospitality where it feels like you’re being offered a ‘high standard’, this is genuine and it’s meant. It’s in their style so the more you relax, ask questions, laugh with them (even when things don’t go right!) and make the smallest of effort with them, the more rewarding the time on the road is.
I love their honesty, at times it can appear quite black & white, sometimes words are lost in translation, other times it’s just …honest. It’s comical too when we’re trying to be very British and polite, but aren’t being quite truthful, especially with food when the chef has knocked up his families famous recipe and we’re served it the following night again- ‘because we liked it so much’!!
I’ve travelled to places where I’ve lived on packets of biscuits and bottled water for several days as the only other option was unidentifiable chunks of food that had been kicking around for a while and was unlikely to agree with my digestive system! When you taste food cooked well with flavour in a simple manner, what else do you need? My trip to Morocco is too short and focussed in one area to truly experience what is on offer in this country, but we certainly get a ‘flavour’ of it, although to be honest I don’t miss cheesy triangles or eat them at any other time in my life!
Time is a gift and if we were allowed to buy one thing in life, then I’d purchase more time. Life on the road gives me time and it takes me back to that first trip of mine where I could slow life down, pause, think, get lost in my own little world, chat with others….such simple things in a normally fast paced life. I don’t play cards back in the UK, but my poker head returns as soon as I leave the shores, it’s funny how you can lose hours in a card game, but who cares, theres only one thing to worry about that evening….winning! How does watching the locals play cards for hours seem like a virtual TV, but really enjoyable?
I have no idea……but it’s everything I love about travelling.
I discovered years ago that the experience part was more important than a ‘thing’. I’ve seen Ayers Rock, Borobudur, the Komodo Dragon, jaw dropping tropical beaches (remember the Beach - I was a couple of years ahead of Alex!), City of Petra, the Pyramids, the Acropolis, inside a live volcano, the highest mountain in the World, the Plains of Africa and hundreds more ‘things’ that are on folk's wish lists. Can I honestly remember them all…..kind of. The funny thing is I can tell you exactly who I was with on that day…even in ’93’.
If Never Stop Exploring is for you, then Morocco has to be on your pathway this December.....