Life in Cape Town was essentially one month-long honeymoon — especially since it was the first exciting month of my Remote Year journey — and as a result, moving to Morocco for five weeks felt like the whiplash equivalent to culture shock.
February was a quiet, pensive and challenging month — and my reflections from the second month of my travels through Africa are a bit more open-ended as a result.
I’ll start from the beginning, though:
Our first Remote Year “transition day” was a long one — our longest of the entire experience.
(Quick FYI for anyone who needs it: Remote Year is a travel program that enables digital nomads to live and work in a different country every month. At the end of each month, you transition to your new home/country.)
We left Cape Town on the evening of Jan. 26 and arrived to Morocco mid-day on the 28th… I think. It’s still — still — a bit of a blur, to be honest. We flew east through Dubai (9+ hours) where we connected to Casablanca (8 hours) — then we drove three hours to our home for the month, Marrakech.
It was long — but traveling with 50+ new friends made it feel more like an adventure. And, well, wine is complimentary on international flights.
Here are some candids from the trek:
In Marrakech, we lived in the Atlas apartments (pictured below).
It kinda felt like Melrose Place, since our entire Remote Year group was housed in the same complex—whereas in Cape Town we were divided between two buildings in separate neighborhoods.
One of the best things about spending five weeks in Morocco is that I had a chance to see a lot of it. Marrakech, of course — as well as Fes, Tangier, Chefchouen, Agadir, Casablanca, Essaouira, and Tagazhout.
… Oh, and the Sahara fucking desert! You wouldn’t believe how red that sand looks in real life.
Here are a few of my favorite memories from the month:
As a carry-over from Cape Town, I noticed I was still experiencing what I’ve come to know as “Remote Year time warp,” which is basically a consistent stream of days where you’re like, “how the fuck is it already 6 p.m.?”
It got “worse” in Marrakech, though — and perhaps that’s because I quite literally spent a lot of the month in limbo. We took a handful of weekend trips across the country — including one 12-hour (and back) road trip to the Sahara desert. Plus, I traveled to Mexico for my sister’s wedding, which entailed nine flights total. Even walking to our office space took 30+ minutes each way.
Obviously not things to complain about, but just painting a picture. And on a similar note:
Moroccan lifestyle was a vast departure from anything I was (or am) used to. I mentioned this in our catch-up post; but by the end of the month, I longed for conveniences I’ve grown used to (and even overlooked) as an American. I missed things like draft beer (nonexistent), the ease of Uber or Uber Eats (nonexistent); tap water, ice, and things like cold coffee beverages (nonexi-… You get it).
I was sick of my limited wardrobe.
My heater never worked.
And in all honesty, I wasn’t in love with my living situation — it didn’t feel like home. My roommate was traveling elsewhere for most of the month, too. (RY is super flexible like that.) Or maybe with all of the collective life shit that was happening, I just missed feeling like I had a home.
We were living amid a mostly Muslim culture, where religion is forefront (you can hear the prayer call five times each day) — that was really cool to experience, no doubt. It felt jarring at times, though, to know that many personal preferences, sexual orientations and choices were illegal.
Yes, illegal — things like homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, even having alcohol in a traditional Moroccan home.
There was one night I drunkenly made out with a Moroccan bartender (lol) only to tear myself away seconds later realizing my actions technically weren’t legal.
(I should note: I know it sounds like I’m complaining or whatever, but I really did love my time in Morocco — I’m just painting an honest picture of how different it felt; especially since Instagram/the Remote Year experience can appear to be an utter highlight reel.)
Now, that collective life shit I mentioned:
As a whole, it was a really heavy month for our Remote Year group.
“The Dip,” as we called it. It reminded me the way I’d feel amid a very grey, cold, dark Chicago winter.
I suppose it’s normal to feel this way in February — like, we’ve got no holidays to look forward to, it’s day-after-day of less-than-ideal temperatures, it gets dark early, and so on… Who can relate?
Among the group, it seemed that everyone was navigating some sort of life transition. Some of my closest friends were blindsided by layoffs, breakups, and — worst of all — death.
It left a palpable layer of emotion across the group. One of those scenarios where you can’t just slap an old fashioned “but hey, everything happens for a reason!” onto the end of your sentences. You know what I mean?
I felt helpless and guilty that I couldn’t shake my own “secondary sadness” from it all throughout the month.
In an effort to find the silver lining, though: Holy shit, did it bring us closer together than ever.
Personally, I began to feel stress and pressure to make big decisions for what to do with my blog/career this year. Most days I’d wake up feeling motivated to tackle my lofty to-do list, but it would dwindle by mid-day.
I’m a big believer that we go through our lives in seasons, and I just wasn’t in a work season in February. I know that’s fucked up (because I work for myself), but I just didn’t. (Work rut, ya’ll — I know you’ve had ‘em too!)
I tried harder, but the more I tried to force myself to do something I didn’t want to, the more I resisted it. And the more I procrastinated. So it was like my own attempts at self-discipline were the very things sabotaging my productivity.
So I gave myself a break and decided to flow through the rest of February. And when I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to produce and monetize and create, my surroundings — Morocco; life, even — felt more magical.
By the end of the month, things seemed to be falling into place. And by the time we were ready to pack up and head to Lisbon (our third month’s destination on Remote Year), I felt so at-peace in many areas of my life.
… More to come on that.
Looking back, Morocco expanded me in ways I didn’t know possible through conversations with people who have entirely different perspectives and life experiences.
My second month on Remote Year/living in Morocco for five weeks pushed me to lean into conversations with people who live, look, dress, think and worship differently than I do. To rethink some of my priorities and values. It humbled me into becoming more fluent in the universal language of human.
(I was an ace at bartering with taxi drivers in Arabic, by the way. Proud moment!)
Friends — fellow Remote Year participants — started to feel more like family.
I became close with people I hadn’t originally expected to, and everyone began to open up about various stages of repair or change they were going through. The healing nature of it all made me realize how much I miss teaching/my life as a fitness instructor…
It was the little things that made it so memorable, like loud street traffic, stray cats (everywhere), road trip playlists, getting lost in the Medina, eating Moroccan tagine for seemingly every meal; and leather backpack-buying adventures.
But it was the spontaneous things that made it meaningful: Tearful conversations on the kitchen floor, obnoxious reunion hugs (the ones that have a running start), dance parties in the middle of the Sahara desert, and a surprise discovery of Imodium, crackers and a bottle of water leaning against my door after that four-hour bus ride from hell.
All things that only scratch the surface for while Morocco will always hold a special place in my heart.
Onwards and upwards to Lisbon, our next Remote Year destination…