Europe/North Africa 2016

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All albums have now been published to Flickr, for my trip from September to October 2016:

Morocco



Camino de Santiago



Gibraltar



Madrid

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North African awakening

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“Do you remember your first kiss?”

Tangier, MoroccoThis has been Tangier for me. In the short two-and-a-half days of being here, I feel like a lost child at the start of a grand adventure, full of bewilderment and awe, distracted by the sounds, the smells, the living. To some it’s a dirty, downtrodden port, a necessary evil on your way to the true Morocco, or while you await escape across the strait to the safety, familiarity and comfort of Europe.

I’ve quickly come to recognize it as the crossing point of cultures and worlds, which never truly fit the ethnocentrism of the West or Middle East but which instead just seek to survive as some conceptual hybrid with a subtle hint of obliquity. The blackened streets are colored with the oil of life and every single layer contains a narrative and some you feel, a parable. Dark alleyways exhaling seductively deep whispers of ‘hey my friend, I have good hashish’ and the oh-so-sweet aroma of mint tea, seek to serve as icing on an already decadent, yet slightly deviant cake.

Tangier, MoroccoI commented to someone that the difference between crowds here and in Madrid is that instead of the insanity and aimlessness of tourism, every person here appears to walk with purpose or doing *something*. Selling, buying, drinking, eating, fixing things which look completely beyond repair, dodging the petite taxis careering down cobbled streets or just simply engaged in conversation. Maybe it’s been the overly emotional Camino I just finished but this reminds me of why travel is so important. Not for the Sun or beaches but to experience all walks of life; to appreciate what you have back home but not equate it to happiness and to continually show how absolutely bloody wonderful it is, to be alive.

When life hands you lemons, you can’t always make lemonade

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In my travels over the years, I’ve been lucky/blessed/fortunate, or whatever adjective you can summon (as well as incorporating intervention from a customary deity of choice), to not reach the position of having to cancel part of my trip, after it had been booked.  Sure, there have been many plans along the way which were modified heavily and even postponed for years, but never with only three weeks until departure; the honeymoon is over and I’m finally giving up my (multiple, arrrgggghh!) non-refundable flight cancellation cherry.

I always say things can be worse – of course they can. It’s just travel, it’s just flights and money and time and, well, going to places which inspire my love of the planet (even occasionally its people!).  I constantly remind myself that the unexpected news I received could have been delivered while I was already in-situ and then I would have been royally fucked.  It’s a temporary setback which will get resolved and should send me on my way for the second half of the journey, less than a year later than planned.

See, sometimes when life hands you lemons, a number of them are not ripe.  In this situation, it is sometimes better to place those to one side instead of compensating with extra sugar, to hide the acid, all in a forced attempt to make lemonade.  You will spend endless hours on tasting and mixing, constantly trying to sweeten something which is Just Not Ready.  As soon as I took my own advice and meditated on this as a life lesson, it all made sense.

Let’s look at the upside.  India and Asia aren’t going anywhere in the next year (unless you’re prescribing to end-of-world scenarios) and every bit of foundation, planning and research for going there, has already been done; all I will need to do is re-book the same hotels, the same flights and off I go.  Heck, I can even plan on longer in some of the places, now there’s no time restriction.  This is looking good.

Of course it doesn’t come for free and the loss of $1500 worth of flights is a hole in the pocket I did not need to feel burning through.  So what could I have done? Travel insurance first before flights? absolutely, refundable flights? Possibly but at a higher cost.  Saving more money to cover these kind of setbacks? Well, duh but then if we wait for the ‘perfect’ day, the commitment of going in the first place, often suffers diminishing returns, at the hand of other life issues; too much planning and contingency, can cause suffocation of the intent.

What’s important to remember here, is that a setback in life is hopefully temporary but even if it isn’t, there’s invaluable experience and learning to be acquired and absorbed. One day, you’ll reach into your life to find out that those lemons have ripened and you’re ready to finish making that lemonade.