Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Views from the Top

It’s funny the things you think about when you’re scaling the side of a mountain.

I’ll never forget the words of wisdom I repeated to myself as we were hiking the hardest day of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, way back in 2010. Feeling like we may never reach the 14,000-foot peak affectionately known as Dead Woman’s Pass, I decided it didn’t matter if I could make it to the top. All that mattered was that I could take one more step.

This mantra effectively got me to the top, and through many of life’s hurdles in the years that followed. A particularly stressful project. A really difficult workout. Whatever the challenge, I'd encourage myself not to worry about making it to the end. Just focus on taking one more step. As clichĂ© as it sounds, the analogy for life has stuck with me.

Yesterday, while hiking in the mountains of Morocco’s Todra Gorge, I drew another comparison between hiking and life that I found meaningful…

Reece and I were on our own this time, working our way towards a summit where views of the sunset and surrounding mountains were reputed to be stunning. Problem was, there’s no clear trail or signs or anything to guide our way beyond the very subtle path left by nomads and donkeys that follow it into neighboring villages. If we scanned the distance, we could just make it out enough to keep going. But keep our heads down, wary of stumbling on rocks or stepping in donkey poop, and before long we’d find ourselves way off track. Several times I’d look up and realize “Dammit, we were supposed to go THAT WAY!”

Much like life. It’s easy to become consumed with what’s right in front of you, at the expense of your greater goals. Keep your head down and your eyes fixed on your immediate wants/needs/problems/fears, and you could easily lose sight of the path you intend to be on. So every once in a while, look up! Take stock of the world around you. Don’t neglect the big picture. Cause if you’re too caught up in a little pile donkey poop, you may never reach the summit.

Reece taking a detour. (Tiny, top right.)

Me trying to find our way. (Tiny, bottom right.)

It's windy at the top!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Sahara

One night.

Two camels.

Three Berber guides.

A million stars.

A warm fire.

A full moon, to a sunrise.

And us.





Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Kinda gives new meaning to the term "road kill"

When your bus pulls over to the side of the road and you are greeted by this:


Right alongside this:


Grab some meat from the butcher, walk it over to the griller, and he'll toss it back at you with a pile of bread and some sweet mint tea.

And yes, it was delicious.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Chefchaouen

We went to Chefchaouen to see the beautiful blue city of Morocco.

Everyone else goes to Chefchaouen to get high.

We didn’t realize before we arrived in this stunning little town, that it’s basically the birthplace of hash in Africa. Or kif, as they like to call it. We were the only two people in our entire hostel who weren’t off our rockers. And we couldn’t walk five feet without someone very aggressively trying to sell it to us. They were incredulous at our lack of interest. In shock that two white folks with backpacks on their backs weren't there to get high. Wait, you don't want any? Like, at all??

We had offers to visit a local farm… To go to the village and watch them make it… The fun is seemingly never ending for folks who like doing illegal drugs in foreign countries. Call me an old lady, but I’ve seen enough episodes of Locked Up Abroad to take a pass. And lets just say when you live in California, Morocco is the last place you need to be smoking pot. Frankly, the never-ending sales pitch got pretty irritating.

Still, Chefchaouen was in fact beautifully blue.



But if we were to ever return, I'd go prepared.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Funky Old Medina



We are pretty open-minded travelers. And the things we’ve seen on the road have made our outlook on life increasingly positive. Knowing how lucky we are, witnessing incomprehensible beauty, meeting the people we do…  It’s difficult to be negative when you’re blessed with the perspective that travel gives you.

Because of this, there really hasn’t been anywhere in the world we’ve been that we don’t like. Even towns that aren’t great will always have a silver lining. That one meal we had. That one person we met. Some redeeming quality will rise to the surface of every place we visit.

Until… We went to Tangier. I’m sorry. But for the first time ever, we just couldn’t find anything to like about this city. And I think that’s saying a lot, considering how many places we’ve been. The vibe is unmistakably shady. We may or may not have been followed once or twice. There was no real charm to speak of. Plenty of hassle to go around. And the only other tourists were confused cruise ship passengers.

We tried not to judge. To embrace our surroundings and dive in with an open mind. But neither of us could ignore how sketched out we felt. And our #1 rule of traveling is: If we aren’t into something, move on. It pained me to leave feeling like I hadn’t given it enough of a chance. But after just two nights, it was time for us to go.

Granted, our experience could very well be circumstantial. Much like that time we encountered nothing but assholes in Wellington, New Zealand. Or had a travel meltdown and never left that café in La Paz, Bolivia. There are times when surely if a few details were altered, our opinion of a place would be very different.

Our first greeting with Tangier was at night, which is never a good thing. It rained, non-stop. And we went in with expectations based on it's nickname - "The Tijuana of Africa". Each time we ventured out, we couldn’t wait to get back to our hostel. Which, as I write this I realize, WAS our silver lining. We seriously loved our hostel. Super comfy bed, incredibly kind staff, absolutely delicious breakfast, and a pleasant rooftop overlooking the medina. So, there you have it. Guess we’ve still never really been anywhere in the world that we just don’t like.