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Don’t Believe What They Say About Morocco

Don’t believe it when they say Morocco has beautiful landscapes.

They’re not beautiful; they’re breathtaking.

Don’t believe it when they say Moroccan people are friendly.

They’re not just friendly; they’ll welcome you into their homes for every meal.

Don’t believe it when they say Morocco is colorful.

This country has more colors than you could ever dream of.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect with this country. Morocco was always on my list, but so is every other country in the world. And like a lot of other countries, it was definitely not at the top of my “places to explore next.”

When I came back to the states, a majority of my conversations began with “So why Morocco? I mean, what made you want to go to a country like that?” And to be blatantly honest, it was just by chance that I ended up there.

I had time off of work for my wedding and honeymoon, and I knew I wasn’t going to let that go to waste. But I only had those days off and no more. So the top of my list at the time—South Africa, Philippines, Maldives, Madagascar, and Rapa Nui—were not feasible, all with a travel time of at least two days there and two days back.

So what next? Where do I go? I started looking into Argentina and Guatemala, but both were countries I wanted to be in for more than two weeks at a time. Iceland? Tempting but I knew I wanted to camper-van it and didn’t have much time to organize and prepare for a trip like that.

So I sat down and googled camping trips, and the Sahara popped up. I looked up caravan tours and the dates fell perfectly in line with my time off. That was it. Immediately after seeing pictures of those bright orange rolling dunes, I knew what I wanted to do; I just had to figure out how to get there.

Within 24 hours, I had my flights and hotels booked along my route. The countdown began… and so did the anxiety.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I was scared shitless before I left. I honestly didn’t put much thought into the planning of the trip at all. I knew I had a flight and places to stay but I was about to experience some serious culture shock.

With my first night in Casablanca, I had a minor breakdown. As soon as I got off the plane, I realized that I was way WAY beyond my comfort zone. I’ve traveled a lot, but everywhere I have been, the people of that country have at least known a minor amount of English. This is the first country I’ve been to that they looked at me like I had four heads when I said “Hi. Do you speak English?” And you know what?

It was incredible. And also insanely terrifying at the same time. All the signs were in Arabic so forget the fact of even trying to sound out the names of cities or which way I was trying to go. So I sat outside the airport for an hour at a small café, letting the culture soak in a bit, while I studied the small amount of Arabic I knew.

Finally, I see my last name on the sign of the driver I hired and off we went into the city—an extremely dusty, construction-filled city that is. I got to my hotel, of which couldn’t have been more colorful inside but couldn’t have been grayer outside. I dropped my bags off and went to catch a taxi to the mosque. A taxi cab ride the wrong way and a few dirhams later, I was back at the hotel, realizing how unprepared I actually was for this city.

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Did I make a huge mistake? Who did I honestly think I was traveling alone to a country like this? There was no way for me to communicate for food, for a ride, for even directions. The front desk only spoke Arabic and some French and here I was, a blonde American girl who speaks only English and Spanish, in the middle of Casablanca with two days to spare.

As the sun was setting, I went back to my room, showered, and turned on Stranger Things 2. Yes, you read right. Here I was in North Africa, doing exactly what I would’ve been doing if I had stayed home. This wasn’t what I imagined.

But before I fell asleep, I promised myself that no matter how uncomfortable I was, I wasn’t going to let fear and assumptions take ahold of me, I’d get out of my hotel room, and I’d push myself to meet people and explore in the morning.

That’s when everything changed.

I woke up, had the most delicious Moroccan breakfast for free, met a Moroccan man who spoke a small amount of English (enough to tell me which way to walk when I left the hotel) and met a blonde German girl who was willing to walk to the mosque with me. I had a smile on my face again and knew this was exactly where I was supposed to be.

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For the next ten days, I would make the greatest memories of my 29-years on this earth. For the next ten days, I would realize more and more every day that even the shittiest things in your life happen for a reason, and that reason for me was scaring me enough that I almost gave up the life I was dying to live for a life that I was dying in, and allowing me to realize that I deserve everything I have always wanted.

The next ten days were spent exploring Fes, Meknes, Merzouga, Todra Gorge, Ait Ben Haddou, and Marrakech, to name a few. There’s so much to tell, but more than will fit in just one blog post, so I’ll stop blabbing here. But don’t worry, the story has just begun.

 

You’re Going Alone to Morocco? As a Female?!

Yes. I am. The amount of times I’ve heard that question since I booked this trip a few weeks ago is tiring. But I understand their concern. I promised to be my honest, raw self from the moment I decided to start this blog, so here it is. I’m f*cking terrified.

Yes. I am.

The amount of times I’ve heard that question since I booked this trip a few weeks ago is tiring. But I understand their concern.

I promised to be my honest, raw self from the moment I decided to start this blog, so here it is.

I’m f*cking terrified.

I’ve travelled my whole life, multiple times alone before, to many different countries. But I’ve always somehow been in my safe place. From Canada to Europe to Australia, everyone spoke at least a little English—enough for me to get around—so I had no problem wandering the streets knowing that I’d somehow make it back (obviously with the use of common sense). Throughout Central and South America, the Hispanic/Latino cultures are somehow buried deep in my soul so I’ve always felt more at home in those areas than frankly, I do in the states.

Moroccan woman

But this time is different. Very different. I wouldn’t label myself a feminist by any means, but I sure as hell am independent and will stand up for myself when a male thinks they are superior to me (cue to my first post, on why marriage was not for me, at least not right now). So travelling to my first Muslim country where females are expected to cover themselves—and where it is well known that, as a female, you most certainly will be harassed and possibly groped—is a lot for me to mentally prepare for.

But that was the point. Not to be harassed, obviously. But to put myself in a position so beyond my comfort zone that I’m forced to figure out my own comfort.

I’ve been searching endlessly for the last couple weeks of blog posts about Casablanca (where I’ll be for a couple days before travelling along to Merzouga then heading out into the Sahara). Sadly, 95% of the blog posts I see are “How to Stay Safe and Sane in Morocco” or “How to Avoid Scammers and Pickpocketers in Morocco.” I searched and searched for “what is there to do in Casablanca as a solo female traveler” and all I found were depressing, albeit honest, posts about Morocco as a female.

So while I’m terrified… I’m f*cking stoked. Stoked to see what Casablanca, and Morocco as a whole, has to offer a blonde hair, green-eyed American girl like me. More importantly, stoked to have the chance to show off everything you CAN do as a solo female in Casablanca.

And lastly, stoked to check off the next to last continent of my travels. So, does anyone have any good recommendations for Antartica? 😉

Hassan II Mosque

That One Time I Almost Got Married

At my engagement party, my rather dry-humored uncle says one thing to my fiancé: “Man, Paige never wanted to get married. Good luck!” He was right, though. I never wanted to. I had never even thought about a wedding before I actually had a ring on my finger. I had no idea what I even wanted that day to look like until everyone started berating me with that wonderful question of “Have you set a date yet?”

At our engagement party, my rather dry-humored uncle said one thing to my fiancé:

“Man, Paige never wanted to get married. Good luck!”

He was right, though. I never wanted to. I had never even thought about a wedding before I actually had a ring on my finger. I had no idea what I even wanted that day to look like until everyone started berating me with that wonderful question of “Have you set a date yet?”

No. We hadn’t. It had been a month. Most girls plan their whole life for this. I had a month to let it sink in, but somehow everyone assumed I would be so excited that I would have just jumped into every single detail. But I didn’t want to. In my head, standing in front of a crowd of people watching me have an extremely intimate moment with my now fiancé seemed less than pleasing. Having people stare as we awkwardly dance and kiss alone in the middle of the dance floor was all too weird for me. And taking off a garter with his teeth under my dress as everyone cheered? Seriously? Not my thing.

This may not sit well with a lot of people, and that’s fine. But I think traditional weddings are bullshit. To me, it’s an entire industry that has made way too much money off of girls thinking all these tiny details on the day of are more important than the actual signing of the marriage certificate. And trust me on that, I was a wedding videographer in a previous life—ironic, right?

Fast forward one year, and everything I hated was coming true. We had a venue at $100 a head, a videographer, a photographer, a photo booth, a DJ, an open bar, a cocktail hour, the signage, the hashtag, all of it. And I felt like I was getting lost in it all.

But I had him. That’s all I cared about. Yet I found myself wishing that somehow I could go back to the day he got on one knee and just said, “You down for the courthouse and a huge party with friends after?” Damn, would that have made everything easier.

But life doesn’t go as planned. And two weeks before the wedding, I had the delightful opportunity to learn that cancelling a wedding is more stressful than planning one. When you book a venue, you book it a year in advance. And to be brutally honest, NO ONE knows what their life is going to be like a year from that moment. For us, life got turned upside down. Suddenly, a wedding seemed like the last thing we needed on our plate.

And while I never thought about a wedding, I knew damn well that the stress we felt was NOT how a wedding was supposed to feel. That walking down that aisle and the morning of (and frankly even the week before) should feel like pure bliss.

But when you’re adults, have demanding careers, a full schedule, and a hectic life, shit happens. And just like that, we realized that cancelling the wedding was far better for both of us than having to deal with walking down the aisle unhappy, not exactly with each other, but in life at the moment.

You know what… it’s that life happens, not shit. Life. It gets in the way a lot. But when we cancelled the wedding, I wasn’t going to let what I thought was “life” get in the way anymore. I had been so consumed in the planning of a wedding and compromising my former life to live in his that I had stopped doing everything I loved. I had totally lost myself.

So I did what I do everytime I need to clear my head. I booked a trip. But I knew I needed somewhere so far out of my comfort zone that I wouldn’t be able to think about anything else.

I’ve never been married. But I almost was, once. Instead, I left for Morocco.

Morocco