No More & No Less

Looking back it was Morocco that made my trip what it was and will always be in my heart. It was Morocco that bluntly reminded me of who I am in this world and what I remain in every country in it. I am human, nothing more and nothing less. The more I learned through out my trip, the more I realized I didn’t know. I wanted to experience how different people lived in places foreign to me to see if maybe I “fit in” naturally somewhere better than I did in the place that I called home. But instead I ended up relating to an aspect of local life in every country just as much as I didn’t relate to other certain native customs.

I guess, before I left for this trip I had always, even if subconsciously, labeled my self as an American. A title that I was equally proud and embarrassed to have. It was the only place I had ever been, and the only land I had ever traveled.

(Granted, there is a lot to see here.)

I have made my way from east coast to west coast, up and down, and border to border, many times over. Yet I have never managed to witness the marbled depths of the Grand Canyon, the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellow Stone, or the idealic beaches of Hawaii.

Before this trip I had the desire to meet the “French”, the “Irish”, the “Italians”.. etc. I wanted to travel their lands, speak their language, eat their food, and learn what it was to be someone else from somewhere else. Where they happier, healthier, more fulfilled? I didn’t know, but if I ever planned on graduating from college, getting a job, and a mortgage like I felt I was supposed to, I was going to have to find out. Because honestly, at the time, I felt anything but happy and fulfilled. (Which left very me much unmotivated in general) So maybe, just maybe, it was my environment and not me that was the problem.

I had experienced a lot (very quickly) by the time I made my way to Morocco. (Even more quickly when I was introduced to the Schengen-Zone Three-Month-Countdown that came free with my tourist visa). So much in fact that I had a hard time processing it all.

I had decided that Ireland was the place for me. The music, the friendly citizens, the conscientious values.. But then I went to France. France was definitely the place for me. I thoroughly enjoyed their cuisine, value of art, and the pride they took in their traditions and customs. But then I went to Italy.. which must really be the place for me. A land so beautiful and diverse filled with history and art so old yet so preserved that many times I felt that I had traveled back in time.

What did this mean? I could see myself living every single place I visited and felt at home every time I made a new friend. But where did I truly belong?

In the end I didn’t get the answer I was looking for, but only because I was asking the wrong question. I didn’t find my one true home. The place I was meant to be born in. The one country inhabited by people that magically related to all of my personal thoughts and ideals.. Because that place doesn’t actually exist. You probably knew that from the beginning, but I honestly didn’t. There was a part of me then that expected to find my paradise on Earth. That part of me may be gone but I can assure you that I did not come home disappointed…

(In part) because of Morocco.

When I arrived in Tangier, I arrived as an American ready to experience what it was like to be a Moroccan. I arrived feeling naively wise, well traveled, and ready for all the good and bad the country had to offer…

or so I thought.

I arrived with the preconceived notion that I now knew what it was to be French, Irish, Italian, and Spanish. I was eager to compare and contrast this country’s culture with the others and add new adventures and experiences to my life story that I one day hoped would be rich and eventful enough to write a book about.

And after my first few days I was not disappointed. It was my first experience in a mostly Muslim country. It was my first taste of Africa. And the scenery, interactions with locals, and general life definitely gave me the perfect setting of what it was really like to live somewhere completely different from home.

It also made me realize something else. Something incalculably important. I realized that there was no way to compare and contrast Moroccan culture to my own. There was no good or bad to be weighed. Everything was just.. different.

Staying with Leslie and meeting all her (mostly male) friends helped me in this journey, but it was the country itself that reprogrammed my brain. How can a place so vastly different than home yet not be worse or better than it? Why did I feel an inexplicable draw toward a place that I also wanted to run from?

Somewhere along the line I had forgotten the human element. When I stepped off the boat and onto Moroccan soil, I entered a place with “set” ideals yet the diversity of the people and cities was almost too vast and dynamic for me to comprehend. Just like my own country, and just like every other country I had visited. I began to think of the other places I had been to and how not every experience that I had there fit the profile I had allotted to each country. Not every person fit the stereotype I had assigned them. And like Morocco there were advantages and disadvantages to the lifestyles, cultures, and customs there.

It was all about how I chose to perceive them.

Because in reality, I got into heated debates with the locals in Ireland, I felt snubbed by the English, I got robbed in France, I felt abused by my volunteer boss in Italy, and I got bedbugs in Spain. Yet I had had the time of my life. I felt so grateful for every single moment of my trip. The negative experiences felt more like obligatory obstacles that only occurred so that I could appreciate the amazing-soul-shaping-moments I was lucky enough to have. Like hiking the tallest sea cliffs in Europe in Slieve League, accidentally finding myself in front of the Big Ben, dancing all night with friendly Parisians in France, escaping Certaldo to explore Florence with Jenn, and seeing Picasso in Barcelona. Everything bad felt like a small price to pay for how gloriously humble and elated the good made me feel.

In Morocco I was forced to face the answer to my initial question and my reason for traveling. My dissatisfaction with my home life wasn’t because of the country I lived in, its government or its citizens. The problem ended up being me. It was me all along. I chose to feel oppressed, judged, and unfulfilled. I wanted something different than what I thought my life had to offer when in reality life offered me nothing less then the ability to do whatever I wanted. I just wasn’t choosing to do things that made me feel free, accepted and fulfilled. It was my own self worth and my own choices that left me feeling less than. And it may have been a plane that brought me back to Earth many times over, but it was Morocco that brought me back to life. Well, it was actually many different places and experiences that brought about this revelation, but the ability to see them for what they were and what I needed to be occurred in Morocco.

When I retuned I was asked the inevitable question of “What was your favorite country?”. A question I could not and cannot answer. But once I told my mother that Morocco was my favorite place. The one place I felt it was truly necessary that I travelled to but when asked why I could not give a definite answer. I had not yet processed everything like I needed to and had not yet even come to the realization that all of that truly did happen to me because it seemed too impossible for me to comprehend once I was back on American soil. How could I, Rachel Lastname, have backpacked Europe? How could a non-college graduate from conservative Alabama have harvested olives in Italy, dangled my feet of the edge of Mont Saint Michel and explored the ancient underground prison in Marrakech?

I knew that I had done those things yet they still somehow felt impossible, as if it had all been a dream..

But it wasn’t. And the answer as to how I did it is actually embarrassingly simple. Because I chose to. Because thats what life has to offer. It allows you to choose to make all of your experiences positive no matter what they are or where they take place. I know that not everyone is as inexplicably lucky as I am in that I was able to choose to travel, but we are all awarded the gift of choice in one way or another.

I think (hope) that I learned how to better choose whats best for me. But I know that I have also learned how to accept all the choices I have made up to this point because they have paved the way for so many amazing things so far. I did not just choose to travel once, it is an aspect of my life that I plan on  continuing until.. Well, until I just don’t want to anymore, or at least until I don’t need to anymore.

But until then, stay tuned internet because there is so much world that I have left to experience. Currently my sights are set on Asia, and it may take may moons for me to turn this new dream into a reality but I am armed with something I didn’t have the first time around. I have the invaluable advantage of knowing that I can.

I battled with myself over the idea of going back and rewriting all of my former blog posts. To make them less prejudice to the country I was in and to make them more inclusive with my new found revelation that people cannot be defined by their nationality (not even me). In the end I decided against it. My blog may not always be politically or socially (or grammatically) correct. But it is a truth. It continues to be an accurate account of my truth, and that is a quality I want it to preserve. It is a tale of not only what happens but how it makes me feel and of my thoughts and opinions at the time that they occur. I choose to be proud of the final result. (As much as I want to dismiss my narrow minded beginnings)

Because a good novel never starts with an all-knowing narrator, and a good life never starts with a perfect person.

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