Thoughts on Morocco III – traveling

Morocco is an exotic country for many Europeans and traveling inside Morocco has its perks. The most obvious advantage is that it’s cheap, and if you take the time and patience to do it like the average Moroccan – with train, bus, and taxi – it will come out really cheap. You will also get the chance to meet the locals, something that is hard from a rented 4×4.

My advice is to travel in groups. If you travel two-three people, chances are you’ll get invited to people’s homes. You’ll be fed and even hosted by complete strangers, something that doesn’t happen very often in urban Europe. 6 is also a magic number when traveling in Morocco. It’s somehow unlikely that families will have the place to host all of you, but there’s a big advantage in mobility – you are exactly the right amount of people for a big taxi (grand taxi).

If you choose to travel like the locals, bring a considerable amount of patience. Trains usually come on time, but buses have nerve-breaking delays. In remote places such as Beni Mellal or Azilal it takes time until the taxi fills with the six passengers it needs to be full. So options are that you either wait or pay for the remaining empty seats. Which is cheap, but you’ll miss the chance to hug a stranger while sharing the right seat, no seatbelt, while the driver tops 100 on a curvy road…

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Thoughts on Traveling

Today my friend and business colleague from Morocco, Amine B., asked me why I travel so often and far from home. Why am I far from my family, and why am I not married yet? – it’s not uncommon for people here to get married in their mid twenties.

The question came as a surprise and my frugal response did not satisfy my friend’s curiosity. Neither was I happy with my answer.

So next week when I meet my fried I’ll explain him that it’s learning that I’m seeking and that living and working in different countries has taught me so much.

Living in Slovenia and Belgium allowed me to experience a work environment where trust, fairness and respect were almost unquestionable. It challenged my previous experience and this stuck with me ever since. I’ve taken this values and now they’re with me no matter where I move.

I perceived people in Poland as professional in their work, structured and respectful, while at the same time warm and friendly to strangers. I enjoyed tremendously my six months in Krakow and it’s this kind of structure in the work environment + warmth towards those around you that I’m seeking in the city that I’d like to call home.

Morocco had challenged my work values. As I said before, the structure that I’ve experienced in Slovenia, Belgium and Poland stuck with me, and Moroccans view time a bit… differently. This being said, it’s the country where I’ve met, by far!, the most hospitable people no matter where I’ve traveled. It was incredible to be hosted, fed, and helped by total strangers. From now on, I’ll do me best to replicate this kind of kindness and hospitality no matter where I am.

All these experiences have made me a better person. It’s hard to imagine a better way to become more cultural aware, more assertive (taxi drivers are taxi drivers no matter what country you are in), and more relaxed about cultural differences. Traveling has made me more respectful, more confident, more resilient and more detached. While this post has touched on the personal aspect of living and working abroad, I think it’s just as important to mention that the cultures I’ve experienced made me see things from more than one perspective. I’ve had the opportunity to build a set of skills that are easily transferable to a globalised work environment, and I believe that these skills and behaviors make me a better colleague and leader.

Disclaimer: this post is biased by my optimistic nature. My travel experiences are themselves strongly biased by that. Changing countries is not always easy and pleasant, and I’ve had my fair share of CRAP (Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, and Pressure). The positive aspects, though, greatly outnumber the negative.

Train ride stories #2 – the happy grandmother

“You can achieve anything you want, as long as you want it strong enough” said the old lady in the train to Timisoara. She was going to see her new-born grandson for the first time. She might have been over enthusiastic.

It was fascinating to listen to her. She was very positive and told me that, although she made a lot of mistakes, when she felt decisions had been taken by a drugged version of her, things she believed in had a way of sorting themselves out.

Enjoy Freedom By Traveling Light

After finishing my work in Krakow I decided I will return to my thoughts of not owning more than I can carry. This lead to some serious choosing and selecting. Clothes that I spent a lot of time looking for have went into the donation bag or in the bin. One of the advantages of being part of cool organizations is that they constantly print t-shirts for various occasions. It also means sometimes we get attached to these items, as they are the present connection to that past event or person. I had to give up a lot of those, some of which I haven’t used in months.

Tons of advice has been written about packing light. Here are but a few I’ve used:

I like this advice: <<The name of the game in world travel is being “fashionably light.”>>

A tip that I created for my own needs and habits is this one: give yourself time when getting rid of stuff. Take a week, for example, and sort things out for a few minutes each day. Sometimes, what seems important today will look different in the light of a new day.