Traveling: a learning experience
Tips & Tricks
August 28, 2014
Traveling: one of my favorite activities. It's adventure, learning, creativity, assertiveness, awareness, nature, humans, society and business all together. But it's not all positive, and not all very relaxing. Indeed, when you arrive at home, I'm sometimes exhausted and need a holiday to get over the trip. So here a blog about my latest travels in Morocco, what I learnt, some do's and don'ts, and most important of all: to ENJOY the trip.
My first travel alone was when I was 19: I went to Asia, starting in Singapore, went up to Malaysia and Thailand, of which the latter I enjoyed rock climbing, but also witnessed the Tsunami. Thereafter I went to Nepal, did the everest trek, went with jeeps through the high mountains and desert to Tibet/Lhasa. Then I travelled to the borders of Tibet, the old regions where the Dalai Lama was born. Heading back to Lhasa in a bus where I was the only one speaking English. After some recovering of that harsh trip, I packed by bags and returned to Nepal, where I enjoyed another trekking. Then I headed off with fellow travelers to India: Varanasi, Delhi and Dharmsala (where the Dalai Lama Lives). I became very ill then, but still enjoyed the healing of meditation and good food. I returned to Delhi and went back home and started my studies. That in very short, was my trip in Asia. To read more, have a look at Freedom and Society.
I have made other trips alone in the US, Ecuador, Colombia and Europe. But I wanted to write here about my latest travel in Morocco, because one can still learn from every trip one makes. Morocco: I was kind of prepared for the worst: an Indian situation where people constantly try to make some money and ask you to buy anything from them. In addition, I was prepared mentally to travel alone as a women. However, I wasn't as prepared as I thought. First, I went to a traditional Moroccan wedding of one of my Dutch friends, Zarah Glaap, marrying a Moroccan man. The wedding was beautiful, she was beautiful, and it lasted the whole night, up until 7 in the morning. Thereafter, I joined two couples to travel together by bus to Fez. A very busy, marketing, leather, shopping town in the midst of Morocco. There, it seemed as I stepped back in time to India, 10 years ago. People constantly asking for your attention, to buy from them, to guide you, to do whatever. Indeed, I fell for the leather shop, and got ripped off. I kind of knew it, yet they play it so well that you indeed fall for it. However, afterwards I wasn't happy with that at all, and so that story doesn't end here.
But let me first explain where I went first. I went through a tour with 2 Italian couples and a Mexican up into the mountains and the desert/Sahara. We drove and drove, and the second day we took some camels, went up into the dunes, and stayed over in the night. It was hot, so we slept outside. Back in the car, we drove and drove and drove again (in total for 3 days) till we reached Marrakech. There, we all went our own ways. A bust boy tried to show me the way, but hardly succeeded, and so I started to be cranky. We got lost in the middle of the heat of the day (43 degrees), and I was carrying my three bags myself. Another bust boy came to help, yet he was quite aggressive in the sense that he stood before the door opening of the hostel we finally found, and demanded an amount of money. If someone plays it like that, I'm not inclined of giving any, so I shoved him aside, and quickly ran into the hostel. The hostel owner walked outside and got into a fight with the boys. The later went away, and I was safe and sound in a lovely, friendly and quit hostel. I met the Mexican, and enjoyed the swimming pool at his hostel. It was too hot to stay outside the whole time, although the central square of Marrakech is bustling with activities and things to buy. Yet I was kind of fed up with 'consume and buy'. That's at least not my purpose of traveling!
I went back to Fez, and back to the leather shop which ripped me off. I explained my problem, yet they were in no mood to really listen or even give in. After some frustrations of my side, I had to leave it alone. It was kind of a stressful trip, yet my learning goals were met: to increase my assertiveness, to increase my 'market thinking', and to keep to my principles. But what are the other things I learnt? The more practical ones which you reader could also apply in your travels? Here are some tips and tricks:
Think carefully about your trip. Prepare well, and read the 'warning' chapters in your guidebook.
Calculate how much you would like to spend and how much on gifts for family and friends. For the latter, I for instance usually buy for around € 100 in total. I will now just buy things I think people like, and later, I can chose from my 'gift box' what I give to whom. In that way, you're always prepared to give a (small) gift.
Bargaining: travel first, find out the local prices, and then start to buying. Bargain, especially in Morocco. They expect it from you and it's part of the game. If you don't like it: just say your price and tell them you don't like to bargain. If a price is almost met, but the seller just won't go lower, try including something else on the table (an extra mug, plate, wallet) until the price is met.
Sustainability: make use of eco lodges, eco hostels, eco food, and eco products.
Buy local products, if possible made and sold by women, and buy what you think is durable in the sense of long lasting and strong.
Be assertive, but not aggressive. With being assertive, you can be straight and clear, yet not in an aggressive manner. When nothing helps, for instance when you as a woman are being harassed, then tell them clearly and loudly 'no!' If still things go out of hand, then scream 'Fire'! Everyone will listen to that!
Don't forget: Enjoy the ride!