It is only when we are uncomfortable that we begin to think differently and push our boundaries.
Rabat, Morocco--- Don’t have a plan.
As I sit in a coffee shop watching a rousing game of pool being played across from me, I’m sitting next to a Moroccan friend. I am locked out of my house. This, folks, was not planned.
I’ve always thought that there was beauty in the unpredictable. Unless it’s my parents springing plans on me last minute. But maybe, that too helped foster a sense of joy for the unknown.
Things won’t always go according to plan. In fact, they almost never do when you’re traveling. So, it’s better to remind yourself off the bat. You may be eating rice and steak seasoning for lunch and dinner. You may not be able to say in words that you really stink and need to use your guests shower. You may even find yourself sitting in a semi furnished mansion talking to a guy with a questionable past at an underground electronic dance party in the middle of nowhere Morocco.
It’s hard to make friends in a new country, unless you stop being such a comfy sissy.
If you know me, you know I will talk to the person at the bus stop and by the time we leave the bus, will exchange numbers and make plans for tea. Some may call me naïve, I prefer adventurous.
It’s not to say that there aren’t evils in this world. There most definitely are. However, the more I travel the more I begin to witness the different ideologies of travelers.
The Planner: The planner will see the sights. They will pay the fees and take the bus tour and book the hotel or Airbnb months ahead of time. They don’t tend to answer strangers on the street. The planner will have a good trip. However, they may miss out on the people. The experience of the area through the eyes of someone who lives there day to day. They will walk past the famous street performer; they won’t know about the show at the jazz club. When things change course, planners, tend to freak out.
The Adventurer: They will message four people on couch surfing until they find a connection. Go out for coffee with the person that sells them their phone and visit a baker at 1am to follow a story about bread. When the friend they made a few days ago says that they should go to a theater performance, they will go. They will talk to the cast and buy someone a drink. If the road changes, they will ask the passerby’s what kind of shindig is hip on the block. The adventurer will be able to have a conversation with a man about poverty, atheism, and life in a new country because they introduced themselves. The doors may be closed, but the adventurer will break windows and dig tunnels for new opportunities to explore.
Plans are important. However, in my opinion, an outline of life is much better than a 3,000-word essay in 12-point font.
There is never a guarantee that you will be comfortable. But, if being comfortable is your objective, you’re not doing it right.
It is only when we are uncomfortable that we begin to think differently and push our boundaries. This is hardly a revolutionary thought. However, it is something that has been on mind lately as someone of privilege, coming from the often stereotyped comfiest of countries.
I am in full guerilla position with my bare feet dug into the sand while using my shoes as spikes to pull myself up a sand dune the size of an ikea store.
It’s around 11 pm at night and I am in the Sahara. Me and five friends walked out of the camp and made our way to the dune after a traditional music performance. I followed Mad Dog using the light from the tip of his cigarette as a makeshift lighthouse. As I dig my toes into the sand, panting, I realize that I am an asshole. We were 25% of the way up looking up at the constellations casually counting shooting stars when I said.
“Guys, we’re going to the top right? You don’t start climbing Everest then stop do you?”
As Mad Dog explicitly says “hell no.”
Mr. Dave replies “That’s actually the first rule of mountaineering. You stop. You die.”
And with that, we got up and began our trek.
We weren’t climbing Everest, and I doubt anyone was facing death, but once we got up with a mission, it was hard to turn back. By the time we got to the top the sand was blowing fiercely coating our bodies like it was preparing to mummify us. Nevertheless, no matter how ferociously nature was fighting us back, the satisfaction of overlooking the Sahara from our own dessert Everest made everything seem surmountable. A cars high beams illuminated a string of sand dunes and the sky seemed to sing.
*Arlinda Fasliu is a junior at the University of Iowa studying journalism and international studies. She will be spending her semester on the SIT Morocco Field Studies in Journalism and New Media program.
Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.