Last month, I was lucky enough to travel to Morocco with fellow Scholé guides Micah Scholes, Madison Kyle, Vanessa Noble and Amanda Crittenden. The trip all came together very quickly, which didn’t give me a lot of time to develop many expectations about this mysterious land we were about to visit. I leafed through a few travel guides, browsed online and asked friends for some input, but when our plane departed, I really didn’t have a strong sense of what we would find there. Travel is a passion for me, so although I plan lodgings and schedules to make sure we have a great experience, beyond those basics I now love to embrace the unexpected. Morocco delivered plenty of the unexpected.
As we landed in Marrakech, I was immediately struck by how much the landscape unfolding before us looked like the Wasatch mountain front we left behind about 18 hours before. On the right were gorgeous, snow-capped mountains, and below, a desert transformed into spots of green thanks to centuries of human irrigation. As the plane crept lower and closer to the city, architectural differences became clearer. From afar, the city was uniformly tan in color, and minaret towers from mosques in every direction broke up the skyline in every direction.
The walled old quarters in Moroccan cities are called medinas, and cars can only drive up to the outskirts to drop passengers to continue on foot. Our lodgings were within the medina, so a porter met us at the taxi stand to bring us the rest of the way. We were only about 100 feet into the old city when Amanda commented that the place was “enchanting.” That word sticks with me even now to summarize what our journey felt to me. Morocco and its people were warm and friendly, and their culture and history was uniquely enchanting to me.
The archways and atriums of Morocco presented unlimited opportunities to take pretty yoga photos, as my poor husband of Instagram will confirm. But for me, the real yoga came from observation. Observation of my habits, and how it feels to step outside them. Observation of how travel can also create new bad habits without the structure of regular life. Observation of how sometimes things that are different can trigger feelings of fear. Observations of my fears, and the power of noticing them, looking at them, and choosing to keep watching rather than react. And the greatest observation of all – the power of human connection.
Many years ago, while backpacking in Southeast Asia, I started bringing pencils to give to the kids enlisted to sell things in the streets, or otherwise just ask any travelers for money with an outstretched hand. I brought pencils with me to Morocco for the first time in years, as my more recent travels had taken me to more developed cities. Most of the kids I met were quick to smile when I offered them this small gift, but the biggest reaction I got was from a mother walking with her two girls through the Marrakech medina on the last day of our adventure.
As I handed the tiny gift to her girls with a big smile, their mother’s smile was even bigger than mine, and she began to tear up. We are taught to fear so much about those who are different than me, but the biggest lesson I love learning over and over in life is the power of a genuine, heartfelt smile and tiny acts of kindness with all those we encounter. Not everyone you encounter will be ready to receive – certainly not every child wanted the pencil I offered – but if you just keep trying, the love we create together can overcome all the fears we've learned.
Our Scholé Adventure to Morocco was just the beginning. We’re inspired to share the joy of this enchanting culture with our community – stay tuned to join us when we return.