The last 2 days have been….epic. No, wait…they’ve been EPIC.
A little backstory:
I recently started a new sub-business, Traveling MAD with The Budgetnista, with Madeline, a friend of mine. She and I began a travel, research company to help people (you), who want to find awesome trips. After being asked about how we were able to travel so often, we found that many of you don’t want to do the work of finding trips yourselves, so we started a business where we do the research and help you to find the most cost-affective way to have amazing adventures like us.
During one of our Traveling MAD with The Budgetnista, business meetings, Madeline mentioned to me that she was going to Morocco for her birthday in a few weeks and I promptly invited myself. I told her it would be good for the business if I went. 🙂
Fortunately, I had a flight credit and I used it to book my plane ticket. The airline that I used didn't fly to Morocco, so I had to go to Spain first. I decided to extend my layover in Madrid, Spain and spend a couple of days there before meeting Madeline in Marrakech, Morocco. My round-trip ticket from Newark to Madrid was $348 because of my credit, and the 2-hour flight from Madrid to Marrakech cost me an additional $299.
Not bad huh? $647 for 2-round trip, plane tickets to 2 different countries! Now that’s LIVE RICHER in action.
* Traveling Mad Tip: extend your stay in your layover city and get 2 vacations in one! *
Madrid was great! It’s a beautiful city with an amazing mix of old and new architecture. I spent the first 2 days of my vacay exploring the city by myself.
Peep my Madrid pics…
I chose to stay in this awesome hostel in the middle of the city (yes, I said HOSTEL, not hotel). It was called, the Fabrizzio Guesthouse, and for $20/night, it was MORE than worth it.
I find that we (Americans) are afraid to take advantage to hostels. We shouldn’t be. They cost way less and you get to meet the most amazing people from around the world.
In my hostel in Madrid there were people from Japan, Norway, Italy and more. Once I met a jazz singer in a hostel in San Francisco. We kept in contact via Facebook and she invited me to visit her in her home in Berlin and stay with her…for FREE. There is no place else where you can find such a diverse group of friendly, open-minded, travel-loving, adventurous people.
* Traveling Mad Tip: Hostels are also a great place to plan your next trip based upon the new friends you meet there. *
As awesome as Spain was, once I left Madrid, the true EPICNESS of my trip began.
To say I love Morocco would be a gross understatement. I LOOOOOOOVE Morocco. Marrakech is an amazing city. As soon as I landed, its exotic beauty overwhelmed me. The airport looks like a place of worship with its white walls and ethereal architecture.
I’m Nigerian American and have been to Africa before, but only Nigeria. After landing in Morocco, I realize now that Africa will always feel familiar, no matter the country. Morocco felt so much like home; I half expected to go and visit my family when the cab came to get me.
Soon after arriving at my $8/night hostel in Marrakech (yes, I said $8/night), Madeline arrived. At our hostel), we were greeted with mint tea that actually had mint sprigs in our cups. Ummm, it was the yummiest tea ever!
Mint tea is apparently a staple here in Marrakech. I’m sooo making my own mint tea from now on when I get back to the States.
How the The EPICNESS began:
Madeline informed me before even coming to Morocco that she planned to go to the desert. I had no idea what she meant, but once again, I promptly invited myself.
Once we met-up in Marrakech, she explained the hostel had a number of excursions we could book. One of the excursions was camel-riding and an overnight stay in the desert. I was a bit nervous, but my excitement won out. I paid my $75 dollars for 2 days / one night, packed my bag and got ready to have the time of my life.
* Traveling Mad Tip: Do a little research before booking and boarding. Find out the best day trips to take, places to see and things to eat and make the most of your vacation. Use free sites like tripadvisor.com to help you *
The next morning we woke up at 6:30am, ate breakfast (honey on flat bread, biscuits, eggs and of course, mint tea). All of this was included in my $8/night hostel! Still not sold on how awesome hostels can be? 🙂
The mini bus picked us up and our journey began. We drove 8 hours, stopping every 1 1/2 - 2 hours to take in the sites (like the oldest city in Morocco where incidentally, Gladiator was filmed), and the amazing landscapes as well as to eat traditional Moroccan food on rooftop terraces, cliff-side restaurants and other beautifully situated locations. Basically 6 hours of awesomeness. The last 2 hours were admittedly brutal. By then, we all just wanted to get to the desert and ride our camels already.
The last two hours on our bus were totally worth it once we reached the desert and saw our camels….
I was sooooo excited when I realized we had arrived. I waited for a camel speech, perhaps a camel-safety video or some how-to-ride-a-camel lessons. Nope! We were just told to hop on and away we went.
At first I was a little scared… ok, ok, A LOT scared. I mean camels are big, really big and they give you these condescending, slightly “I’m so over this whole taking tourists to the desert” look. Am I projecting?
As you might suspect, camel-riding takes a bit of practice. It’s kind-of a bumpy ride until you align your rhythm to that of your camel. My camel’s name was Esteban (S-stay-ban). In case you were wondering, I gave him his new awesome name. 🙂
Esteban and I got along famously and once we tuned-in to each other. The ride went from cool to amazing 40 minutes into the desert. It was then that it hit me, “I’m in a Moroccan Desert on a camel”. “Like, this is actually my life right now.” (insert slightly hysterical, girly inner scream)
I was humbled and awestruck. To say I felt blessed was an understatement. The camel ride felt almost spiritual. To be in the desert, on an ancient animal surrounded by just a few people experiencing the same thing in their own way. In a word, AMAZING.
We rode for about 1 ½ hours and reached “camp” soon after sunset.
Camp was not what I expected. It was like a condo complex in the middle of the desert! I know, I’m such a city girl, but that’s the only way I can think to describe it. There were 10+ tents arraigned in a huge circle in the desert.
Each sleeping tent slept 4 people, but since we were a small group, we were 2, to a tent. Madeline and I shared one. It was so cute, cozy and comfy!
After settling into our tents, the whole party gathered in the main tent. It was huge and so pretty on the inside. I’d never experienced anything like it. It was all purples and yellows and blues and rugs and fabric.
Our guides sat with us and we all shared where we were from and where we’d been. There were 2 German couples and Mark from New Zealand there with his travel buddy, Nick from Australia. Madeline and I rounded out our small group.
Our guide gave us the best mint tea of the trip thus far and we drank and talked and listened and shared.
After chatting for a bit, we had a delicious dinner of pumpkin soup, bread...always bread, and chicken tagine (my new fav Moroccan dish). It’s like a stew with chicken, potatoes, veggies, lemon and olives. It’s uber yummy.
Just when I thought life couldn’t get more awesome, it did. Our gracious guides started a bonfire in the middle of the tent circle and laid down 3 of the biggest rugs I’ve ever seen and we sat under the stars and listened as they played African drums and sang songs that reminded me of my own motherland, Nigeria.
The sky was indescribable. Being from the city, I’d forgotten just how the sky really looks; a sky not competing with city lights and pollution; a sky projecting stars that have long since burned out, as their light finally reaches the earth below.
I’d forgotten that there were so many stars and that shooting stars happen every few moments to delight us mere morals below. I’d forgotten about the Milky Way and that you can actually see it from the earth with all of its stardust and constellations.
To say the sky was magical would do it no justice. As I lay back on the rug and looked to the heavens and listen to the men’s voices sing out in an ancient harmony passed down from one generation to the next, I almost wept with gratefulness.
Here I was, little black-girl, Tiffany from New Jersey. Who was I to experience such majestic wonder? It was then that I felt the Universe respond, who was I not too?
For ($75) the cost of what many of us spend on a pair of shoes, or lunch for 2 weeks or dinner and drinks out, I was able to experience something I never even knew existed. I was able to marvel at the miracle of undisturbed nature. I was able to connect to all that was and will be, as I lay between the sand below and the heaven above. I felt powerful and slight, divine and earthly, big and small; I felt alive.
Under the stars I renewed my commitment to LIVE RICHER; to purposefully and passionately pursue my best Self and best life. I reminded myself that all of my resources should be directed toward this pursuit. I rejuvenated my creative energy and redirected my personal mission to give as a way of life.
The next morning our guides woke us up in time to see the sunrise over the sand dunes. We had a small breakfast of bread and mint tea (of course), saddled up on our camels and began the journey back.
I’m convinced there is a magic in the desert; that the sand holds a wisdom that we can’t even conceive of; that the men that have learned to live in harmony with it are divinely inspired and that experiencing it for myself, has forever changed me.
Something INSANELY wonderful happened recently...
I was on the phone with one of my Dream Catcher friends, talking about next steps, new moves and dreams and such.
I was sitting at my desk and looked up as I always do, at my Vision Board... and it hit me! My recent trip to Morocco was on there. I'd forgotten that I'd put it there. I had planned, booked and enjoyed my Moroccan Adventure without consciously knowing it had been determined by me years ago.
In 2008 I made up my mind that was going to travel. I'd just lost my job and I wasn't sure how or when, but I knew that I was. I created this mini collage of a Moroccan adventure I wanted to go on.
Every year in January, when I create my new vision board, I would move that mini-Moroccan collage to my new board. I hadn't thought much of it until yesterday.
The amazing part is the pictures in the collage came true! Not only did I go to Morocco, I visited the famous fortress in the picture on the left and each day in Morocco, I'd go to the market in Marrakech in the picture on the right.
I didn't even know these things existed when I randomly booked my trip. I had NO idea what I'd do when I got out there....yet here it was, mapped out on my Vision Board... WHOA.
Sigh... life is truly an awesome thing. There are NO coincidences. All things have purpose. More and more I realize that there is a divine energy that I can tap into whenever I want and live the life I want, no matter my current circumstances.
LIVE RICHER indeed !