April 3, 2014

“Real” travel and stereotypes

There seems to be something of a competition amongst travelers. A battle over who gets to define travel and impose said definition on the rest of the traveling masses. What does “real” travel look like? What are travelers “supposed” to do? Say? Think? Believe?

Recently I was treated to a familiar speech. A long-term traveler, complete with guitar case, backpack full of patches, full beard, and rainbow colored hat, lamented about the “walking stereotypes” disembarking from boats headed for the all things New Age in San Marcos. He shifted into high gear as he bemoaned the sorry state of Western (i.e. US) culture and scoffed at the new arrivals’ clean, and obviously new, backpacks as if such a thing were a sign of a person who should not be allowed to travel anywhere, let alone Lake Atitlan. Outwardly, I neither agreed nor disagreed with his well-rehearsed monologue but I did have to stifle a smile as I noticed that my new friend, the one busy looking down on those newly arrived “walking stereotypes”, wasn’t wearing any shoes- the most obvious and often pointed out stereotype of gringos visiting San Marcos del lago.

We are all stereotypes, us traveling folk. Every single one of us. It’s likely that we fit the bill of any number of stereotypes before we even took off. Stereotypes exist in the eye of the beholder and we are always, all the time, doing something that fits perfectly into someone else’s stereotype of who we are or where we come from. And yet, for some reason, we insist on going to battle with each other, placing our own assumptions on other travelers, and perpetuating the notion of “us” and “them” within our own little traveling community.

You’ve only been traveling for 6 months? That’s nothing. You’re not “really” traveling until you hit 6 years.

Did you see what she’s wearing? Why would anyone wear that here? (laughs) She must be on spring break.

You brought how much luggage?? Why? I’m a traveler, not a tourist, so I can survive with just a towel and a clean pair of underwear.

Why are you saying “sorry”? Good God, you must be American. Western culture is just so full of guilt! Haven’t you figured out how to let that go yet? You’re in (insert developing nation here) now!

You can’t get mad at men for treating you poorly here. (snorts) This isn’t America.

You’re going to eat that?! You should just eat a tortilla. That’s what the locals do. But then again, I guess not everyone is a “real” traveler.

Here’s the thing- we’re all just trying to figure this shit out. Sometimes some of us are sick of tortillas and just want some damn french fries. It’s not meant to be an affront to other travelers or an invitation for everyone to chime in with their opinions on whether french fry eating automatically revokes one’s “real traveler” card or not. The french fries do not necessary represent Western dominance, lack of awareness over environmental issues, or “fake” vegetarianism. You know what they do represent? French fries. Delicious, hot french fries that taste just a little bit like home after a long day.

Not every single one of us is on the same place on the path. Sometimes we’re not even not the same path. Once in a while, we aren’t even headed to the same destination. The lesson I am supposed to learn in this lifetime, is likely not the lesson you are meant to learn. This just might mean that the way we go about doing things might, just maybe, be different.

I write a lot about the fact that there is no “us” and “them” in general. It may be time travelers internalize this same concept and apply it to their own unique, vagabond community. No more “us” and “them”. No more “real travelers.” No more judgment. You cannot stake your status as a “real” traveler by looking down your nose and smugly insulting others, even if they are “new.” Some travelers eat french fries- even in Nepal. Some have brand new, clean backpacks. They will get dusty and worn soon enough, there’s no need for others to rush it.

Every single one of us, whether on the road for a week, a year, or more is just traveling the path they were meant to travel. There is no such thing as “us” and “them”, whether we are talking about the street children of India or the traveler in the dorm bunk next to ours. Many of us offer grace, empathy, and at least an attempt to understand when engaging with people in the countries and cultures we are exploring- why not off the same to our fellow travelers?

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Category: Ethics

April 2, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Motorbike exploring outside of Chiang Rai, Thailand



What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

Without question it is Wat Rong Kuhn, otherwise known as the White Wat. I read plenty about this wat, designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, and even saw dozens of pictures. Words and pictures alone did not prepare me for the grandeur, beauty and strangeness of this place.

White Wat 1

April Vag 6

Describe a typical day:

In the morning I work for a couple of hours and then we set out on the motorbike for the same place we go everyday for breakfast. We  always change up where we eat lunch and dinner in a city, but once we find a good breakfast spot in town we seem to never deviate from it.

After breakfast we generally hop on the motorbike and go outside of town to places like a massive tea plantation, Buddhist caves, various wats, museums, waterfalls or hiking trails.

After our daily adventure we head back to the hotel for homeschool and to finish work for the day. We then go to the night bazaar where we see the various local and imported wares for sale, mostly to tourists.

For dinner we go to one of the many local stalls selling a type of broth soup that is cooked at your table in a clay pot with noodles, vegetables and meat.

Tea Plantation

Chiang Rai Juxtaposition

Chiang Rai Market

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

I found it interesting talking with the manager of the hotel about various locations to see outside of town. After going through her list of recommendations, I asked which were her absolute favorites. She answered that she had not been to any of them. When I asked her why she said she didn’t have time to go due to her work and family responsibilities.

It was humbling and a great reminder just how fortunate we are to travel and see sights that often many locals are not even able to see. It’s just another painful reminder how unfair the world is.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

I like the ability to quickly get outside of the town and see very beautiful sights. I like that the town and surrounding area are not overrun with tourists or owned and managed by tour agencies and large companies. It feels like the locals’ town.

I do not particularly like the town itself. There is not much about it that I find unique.  Even this, though, has a type of charm when viewed through a certain lens. I would just advise renting some form of transportation when in Chiang Rai because the magic in this area lies just outside the city in the hills, caves, rivers and surrounding villages.

Buddhist Cave

River Thoughts

Describe a challenge you faced:

I got extremely sick due to questionable food while in a village outside of town. I have eaten unidentifiable street food from Istanbul to Bangkok without even a hint of stomach troubles, but I guess I was due. The worst part was that we had to take a bus for six hours the next day.  This experience will not soon be forgotten.

What new lesson did you learn?

I was reminded that I tremendously enjoy having my own transportation, even it it’s just a 110 cc motorbike. Being able to get off the tourist trail and stop where we want has given us some of our most memorable and enjoyable moments. Simple things like finding a game of sepak takraw outside of town was just an unforgettable moment and really allowed us to see the daily life of the locals, something we always seek out.

Sepak Takraw



Where next?

Luang Namtha, Laos for hiking and kayaking.


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Category: Asia, Vagabonding Field Reports

March 31, 2014

You have to get off the paved road to see where you are

“We all know that it’s possible to drive from here to California and stay at more or less the same motel the entire way, in a landscape where certain elements never change. This might have been an interesting experience thirty years ago when it was still new. It might be an interesting experience is you were V.S Naipaul just arrived here from England. But basically it’s a challenge to one’s powers of describing the humdrum. On the Great Plains — and I’m sure in the rest of America as well — you have to get off the paved road if you want to see where you are.”
Ian Frazier, in They Went: The Art and Craft of Travel Writing (1991)

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Category: Travel Quote of the Day

March 29, 2014

Perspective: The road’s gift


“No journey is too great, if you find what you seek” – Anonymous

When I was little, I met counselors from all over the world at sleep-away camp. If you told me the ten year old who acquired a koala singlet from her counselor, would later marry an Australian and live down under; I would have told you, ‘you’re nuts’!

The travel bug bit hard during my first non-family trip. After university, a backpacking journey kept hold. Not far from the traditional American story there was college, graduate school and then a job. As a teacher, I traveled on every break and worked every summer at camp. The world continued to spin on its axis and adult life, as I knew it, was underway.

Meeting my husband on a trip in New Zealand changed everything. Relationships take work (especially long distance ones) and breaks now included international travel finding a spot between Australia and America. After many kilometers (and large phone bills), we married in 2009 and decided to go on a one-year adventure to follow the sun. Bucking tradition of everything I knew, we leapt and had no idea if any net would appear.

Travel lesson #1: I realized, my husband is my net…and gives me the strength to be my own.

That year, everything changed. I could tell you about the adventures, the people, and the sights, but that’s for another time. Most importantly, the vagabonding experience transformed me. It didn’t happen overnight. Sometimes a whisper, while at other times change screamed loudly. Fears packed in luggage were left behind along the way leaving me lighter in personal and tangible baggage. Certainties that allowed me to go were dropped out of airplanes unnecessary upon return. Vagabonding’s gifts are long lasting and perspective changing.

Travel lesson #2: People change but true friends will always be there.

We knew that the two of us could manage distance, but we didn’t know if our ‘home’ friends could. Those who truly wanted us in their lives did make the effort. Staying in touch mattered. We found that the more we traveled, the more like-minded individuals we met. We embraced and befriended locals. We felt a kinship with those who found that the more they explored, the longer their ‘list’. We learned that no matter where in the world, we were lucky to have close friends.

Travel lesson #3: Comfort Zones: Love ‘em and leave ‘em.

Comfort zones are never easy to leave, but more growth happens outside rather than in them. Like it or not, travel forces you outside of your comfort zone. For me, that was change, but the greater gift was realizing what to do with those newfound feelings is what truly matters. The more you venture outside of your ‘zone’, the more the comfortable one swells. Before we left, the uncertainties were frightening. The leave of absence and keeping the apartment minimized risk and allowed me to jump. How did I know if I was going to enjoy this travel/expat life or not? It was scary, yet exciting.

Somewhere along the line, my comfort zone expanded. Maybe it happened when we literally leapt off the edge of Devil’s Pool in Zambia. Maybe it was getting sick on a trip having to use our travel insurance to find a doctor. Maybe it was the search for a new dentist in Melbourne, bush-camping in Botswana or learning to dance in the rain. Little by little, the bigger picture mattered more. Once anxiety producing experiences became a welcome challenge. If I could write Travel her very own thank you card, I would. Foods I never would have tried, places I never thought to visit and communities I didn’t know existed provided direction, and a door to the outside of my comfort zone. Once outside, I couldn’t go back in.

Travel Lesson #4: Perspective-a traveler’s gift.

Travel Lesson #5: Lessons from the road.

It’s been almost four years since we returned from our first venture in ‘round the world travel. Since then, we’ve continued to travel, been touched by a natural disaster and thought a lot about the type of life we want. We relish knowing we are part of a bigger world and are grateful to have both roots and wings. Last year, we took a second ‘round the world trip (three months) seeing more of the world and interacting with new and interesting people. I took another leave and Mathew quit his job for that journey. We were less bothered by the risk. Change continued. Eventually, I resigned from the very structured world of public education and have found a new freelance career. It’s risky, but; I jumped. Maybe we’ll even take the leap to location-independent one day. Regardless of choice, it’s worth the chance to bring out our happy more often than not.

Travel, has been the gift that keeps on giving. It’s how we met and how we experience life. We don’t want to ‘get it out of our system’. We embrace the itch. Travel opened our eyes to what is out there and has given us the courage to take risks to live the life we imagine. The road provided an incredible gift…perspective. Now, there’s no turning back.

“Fate is what happens to you…destiny is what you do with it”

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


Read more by Stacey at the gift of travel

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Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

March 28, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Wandertooth (Geoff and Katie Matthews)

Geoff & Katie MatthewsWandertooth_Portugal

Geoff: 37
Katie: 33
Geoff: Calgary, Alberta
Katie: Vancouver, BC
Geoff’s favorite: “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often” by John Henry Newman.
Katie’s favorite: “Not all who wander are lost” by J. R. R. Tolkien. I also like the line before, “all that is gold does not glitter;” it is such a fitting way to look at difficult journeys.

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Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

March 26, 2014

Field Report: Ayres Rock – The beauty and the culture of the red centre

A big red rock, Kangaroo Dancing, Thorny Lizards and beautiful sunsets
In our fist 3 day stay at Ayres Rock Resort we must have spent about $30 a day, give or take, on food and drink. This however doesn’t include the $25 for a 3 day pass to the Uluru National Park or the $72 we paid for the first 3 night stay on the campground. If $72 sounds affordable that’s because it is but we were lucky to have gone at the end of the winter season. This is when the resort offer 3 nights for the price if 2 on camping pitches.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
Have you ever seen a Thorny Devil? A lizard with spikes all over its body. It’s harmless and if you get near, it stands still hoping not to be seen. The friendly lizard absorbs water from its feet to it’s spikes across the top of its back for consumption. If you were to pick one up and place it on your arm you’ll feel the suction on your skin. They are cute but a bizarre looking reptile.
Describe a typical day:
all activities on the site are included in the price. I would wake up and cook some poached eggs on toast from the camp kitchen. Catch up on some daily news with a coffee. I like to write before midday, an hour putting pen to paper. Get washed and ready and stroll into the town centre. A great indigenous man named Leroy can take you through some bush yarns (stories) about male and female roles in a mob (tribe/family) and talk you through aboriginal weapons and hunting equipment. He is a really interesting man and will happily spend time after to answer any questions you have. I don’t think I quizzed him once without getting a thorough answer – a very knowledgable man.

Soon after weapons it’s time for Udarki (didgeridoo) playing with the Aboriginal Wakagetti team. Again some really great, wise, friendly people who take pride and enjoyment in their work. Be aware that the Didgeridoo is regarded as a mans duty amongst certain aboriginal folk. I loved this as it’s the first time someone has taught me how to really play the instrument unlike my raspberry blowing I did at school!




Once finished its time to make my way to spear and boomerang throwing. This is a great deal of fun, hosted again by the Wakagetti team. Yet another great way to learn some really intriguing facts about aboriginal hunting. If you’re good at the boomerang throwing it is often advisable to duck, they come back fast! It is very enjoyable to watch all other participants climbing over themselves to escape the incoming missile!

Lunch time would be spent at the Kulata Deli where the best sandwiches are made by the resorts indigenous training team. We loved the sandwiches here, my favourite being a turkey and bacon grilled panini stacked with all the salad. This is more than enough to fill this hungry little man!

After lunch it’s a cool down with a swim in the campground’s pool and catch up on my tan. I was looking vaguely like Casper the ghost before I set out in this journey!

After chilling out I would head back into town to take part in the Wakagetti Indigenous dancing. They offer a tutorial taking you through various aboriginal dances. This is then followed up with a fantastic performance from the team exhibiting genuine cultural dancing. I couldn’t resist finding myself up on stage to show my best Kangaroo dance – a great deal of fun.
Then it’s getting time to drive out to the Rock’s viewing point to watch a magnificent sunset over Uluru. This cannot be missed in my opinion – it is a far better sight to behold than a sunrise. If for any reason it’s a cloudy day don’t be down hearted, the most beautiful colours light up the sky and add an array of beauty to an already magnificent view. It can also be a very romantic setting where a cuddle or two can be shared.

Back to camp kitchen for goon (cheap cask wine) and food, typically a barbecue and to converse with the hive of travellers that congregate around the barbecue. Then it’s time for bed. Word of warning – try to hold back on the wine if your planning a sunrise trip because it can be a very early start.

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
The most interesting conversation I had was with a local who worked out of the brilliant Uluru Cultural Centre. When I used to imagine an aboriginal person, I would see a tribal black man. The conversation allowed me to learn that Aboriginal or Indigenous people are not this typical stereotype we often see in books, TV etc. What I came to understand is there are a variety of colours amongst mobs and I was asked to understand that to be an aboriginal man is about being close to the culture you were raised in, to understand and love your upbringing and engage and learn the knowledge and stories of your elders.

I am ever inquisitive and we spoke for quite some time on this subject. I realised that I had a misguided representation of just what it means to be aboriginal. This is often overlooked and can still be misinterpreted.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I love the beauty of the surroundings. The desert is fresh and untouched. This is where millions of years of nature continues to thrive. The red sandy plains reflect the years of natural formation of its beautiful vast landscape. I am yet to find a place that has such varying beauty. The changing skylines give various backdrops to fantastic desert views. There are many beautiful sunsets to be experienced watching the skies light up night after night with the most vibrant reds, purples and oranges. In contrast to this is the powerful lightening storms that can occur. Large thunderous clouds sweeping the skies, lighting up the desert for miles around, often silhouetting Uluru on the horizon. The clear nights offer you a chance to gaze upon the starry cosmos. This leaves you with the euphoric feeling that we as humans on this planet really are just floating on a rock in the large nothingness of space.

I would enjoy watching many creatures that live amongst the bush lands. From the suspicious dingoes to a wondering thorny devil. The trees filled with Brolgas and Magpies to the Goannas that plod along on the land below. Moths the size of your hand, to the angry little Praying Mantis who would offer you a fist fight if you came too close. It is fantastic how all the elements here live and breathe together as one, each knowing there own place in the world.

The only thing I would say I disliked is the endless repetitiveness of the journey here. It is a long drive with very little in between and when your van was as rickety as our van was, you often imagine being stranded in the middle of no where. However I would do it all over again for a chance to relive this experience.

Describe a challenge you faced:
the biggest challenge we faced was the distance from anywhere. The van was in good condition for a motor of its age. The driving hours are long whichever route you take.

What new lesson did you learn?
Being here in the red centre allowed me to understand a very significant part of my English history. As an Englishman I felt ashamed by what had been done to the natives of the land. I was able to grasp a true understanding of what culture, friendship and respect really means. The strength of belief and companionship, the pride of knowledge, what it means to be alive and treating the world around you with respect. I learnt to be at peace with the world. I have found out a lot about myself in my time here. These are lessons and understandings that have helped me as an individual understand what is important in life and what we often miss in the modern western world.

Where next?
It’s off to Sydney!

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Category: Oceania, Vagabonding Field Reports

March 24, 2014

Travel is an implicit search for difference

“We board our jumbo jets precisely to find a world where there are no jumbo jets. We pass through security to get to a land where there is no more need to do so. We look for Elysium in distant lands where there are no hamburger stands and satellite dishes and telephones — and yet all the while men have come before us and built and installed precisely those things that we were hoping to get away from, and have made where we are going just a little more like where we have just come from. So in eternally frustrated hope that somewhere, some God-given somewhere, there is a world without mini-bars and IDD and Visa and, most of all, CNN, we move onward, ever onward, like caribou, like lemmings.”
–Simon Winchester, intro to Martin Parr’s Small World (1995)

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Category: Travel Quote of the Day

March 21, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Charli Moore


Charli Moore


Age: 26

Hometown: Norwich, United Kingdom

Quote: “There’s nothing you can’t overcome if your desire to achieve is strong enough.

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Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

March 20, 2014

Getting robbed and questioning connectedness

Hike Around Lake Atitlan

We turned the corner on the path and my heart immediately dropped. We had seen this man before. He passed us a while back, while we were taking pictures of our idyllic setting. Now here he was, standing amongst the corn, looking out over the lake, and waiting- for us. I knew something wasn’t right and I froze.

He mumbled one word: “dinero.” Aaron looked to me for a translation, not believing what was happening. “He wants your money”, I said simply. “Money, rapido!”, the man said. I registered, not for the first time, the machete in his hand, hanging at his side.

Everything I believe about people, about our connectedness, started to waiver and all I could see was that machete.

Aaron handed over his wallet and threw his hands up. I stayed frozen. I was hyper aware of every move, sound, and feeling but I did not move. The man approached me and I instinctively threw my hands up as well. He took the money out of my pocket, the machete still at his side, and ran off as soon as Aaron made a move towards us.

I exhaled and we took off. We practically ran over the thin path to the next town. Both of us were shaken and afraid that the man who had robbed us on a cloudy day on Lake Atitlan would follow us. He didn’t. He ran as fast in one direction as we ran in the other.

We felt angry, scared, and confused. Where did our beliefs about people fit into all of this? Where did our deep convictions on connectedness and the basic goodness of all people come into play? What exactly had just happened? We weren’t just robbed, it was as if our inner most thoughts had been exposed, challenged, and proven false.

We found a local cafe where we could re-group and I pulled my computer out of my backpack to work….. and stopped.

I had my computer, the one I had been carrying in my very visible backpack in an effort to search out a better internet connection in town. My camera, the same one the man who had robbed us had seen us using, was still dangling out of Aaron’s pocket. My wallet, holding an emergency 100 quetzales, was still floating around Aaron’s backpack. In fact, everything we had brought on our hike was still with us- minus the cash from our pockets.

I started replaying the event in my head. Thirty minutes ago I had been frozen in place focused on a man and a machete. Now I went back over the scene in my mind. He never raised his machete, in fact he seemed to forget he even had one, using his finger to point at us for emphasis. He never touched our backpacks; never reached for the camera whose red strap hand glaringly out of Aaron’s pocket. He never demanded more, accepting what was thrown easily in his direction. And when it was over, he ran. He ran as fast as we did.

Clarity started to overtake Aaron and I. We had just been robbed by a desperate man, likely out of work at the end of rainy season, not a career criminal. We had known enough to be grateful for our safety seconds after the attack, but what had eluded us in those first moments of escape was clarity and the ability to apply our connectedness with the man who had robbed us.

We will never know who that man was. We will never know his story or what ultimately led him to decide to wait for us on that path. What we do know, without a doubt, is that he never intended to hurt us- he just needed money. And ultimately, he needed that money more than us.

Understanding that even good people do questionable things when their backs are against a wall is a difficult lesson to internalize. The moment someone harms us, invades the sanctity of our space, or challenges our convictions, fear takes over and our instinctual response is to protect ourselves, physically, mentally, and emotionally. We make enemies out of men, turn the characters of the story into monsters, and delve into a realm of moral superiority that serves us in that moment. It separates “us” from “them”. It makes us feel better when we decide that the one who just attacked us or offended us was simply “bad”.

But what if the attackers aren’t “bad”? What if they are men and women with their backs against the wall and a family to feed? What if they are as scared of what they just did as the victims are? What if, in some situations, a closer examination blurs the line between “attacker” and “victim”? It’s an uncomfortable thought because it challenges the stories we create to protect ourselves. It also means that there might just be a day when that wall pushes against our own back and we do something we never thought we’d do.

There’s no way around it, getting robbed is no fun. But if travel has taught me anything it’s that our beliefs and our convictions cannot truly exist if they are never challenged and that every single situation, the good and the bad, are the puzzle pieces that make up the whole beautiful journey.

Sunset on Lake Atitlan

Travel is not always pretty. Neither is life in general. It’s the moments of clarity, sandwiched between the exceptional and the horrible, that make you think, for a moment or maybe more, that we are all just human beings at the end of the day and that we are all, truly, connected.

What might change and what might we gain if we stopped separating ourselves into “us” and “them” and started recognizing the common humanity we all share?

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Category: Central America, Ethics

March 19, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: The Morocco most people won’t see

Welcome to Guelmim, Morocco, the gateway to the Sahara!

Market in Guelmim

Cost/day: ~$24

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

Camel meat is a common ingredient in the southern area of Morocco. There are 3 types of camel, and each color has its own function. White camels are special as they can smell water from 30 km. Dark brown (referred to as black) camels are used for work, and the lighter brown ones are used for meat. When you visit a butcher to buy your camel meat, you will find their legs hanging up. Younger camels are used for chops while older ones are more suitable for ground meat. It can be a little disconcerting to see a bunch of legs hanging in the air.

Describe a typical day:

Guelmim, admittedly, doesn’t have a lot of tourist activities. It’s best for those who wish to experience rural Morocco, a slice of life they will never experience in the more commonly visited cities of Marrkech, Fez, Casablanca, etc. However, it is easy to arrange a Bedouin experience in the desert from here. Guelmim is also within easy reach of some great beaches that are not overcrowded and packed full of tourists.

We enjoyed getting breakfast from our favorite cafe (ask for kulshi) and watching the world go by, which is a national hobby. Sip on your wonderful mint tea and savor the ritual that comes along with preparing it. Dip your pieces of bread in the wonderful argan (it tastes like almond butter) until your eggs come out on a sizzling platter. Rip off a piece of bread and use that and a finger to scoop up some egg. It’s a delightful way to begin a leisurely morning.

And no one does leisurely quite as well as the Moroccans.

Supermarkets do not sell fresh foods, so to get supplies you’ll need to visit a few vendors. Spend any amount of time here, and you’ll soon have your favorite vendor for produce, meat, chicken, bread, and so on.

Fruit vendors

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

One of my fondest memories of our time on the nearby oasis was sitting down and chatting with a local about a number of things, one of which included attitudes about dress for women. It was a discussion that really challenged my way of thinking in a way I had not anticipated. It really forced me to reconsider my judgments regarding how women dress there.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

I loved the slow pace of life. It was really fun building relationships with all my regular vendors. Whenever I went into town unaccompanied by son, they would always inquire after him. It was easy to feel like you were part of the community, even if my French was limited and I only knew 4 words of Moroccan Arabic, 3 of which had been taught to me by our favorite bread vendor. He was a wizened man who always had a big, mostly toothless smile and who delighted in hearing me use the words he taught me.

I was not a fan of the mini buses and shared taxis. I don’t enjoy being squished into vehicles.

Describe a challenge you faced:

Communication was the biggest challenge. English is not commonly spoken. In fact, I found more people who spoke Spanish than ones who knew more than “Hello!” in English. My French was pretty limited, and many of the locals didn’t speak that language either. But they were never impatient. We always figured out how to communicate, and when we finally figured out what the other was saying, we would both laugh heartily.

What new lesson did you learn?

Never make snap judgments about a cultural norm. You don’t really know what’s behind it, and once you discover the history and its meaning it may not seem so strange, unusual, or awful as you initially thought.

Thanksgiving on the oasis

Where next?

London! I can hear my bank account crying already.

You can follow along or learn more about our adventures on our blog and by connecting with us via Facebook.

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Category: Africa, Vagabonding Field Reports













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Vagabonding field report: London,UK
Housesitting: A strategy to lower costs and extend travel
Being a stranger in a strange place is a kind of liberation
An Introduction to the Budapest Bath Experience at Széchenyi
Leaping Without The Pile in the Back of the Closet
Vagabonding Case Study: Louise Lakier
How Kayak.com can help you get a free room
Vagabonding Field Report: The coast of El Salvador
Vagabonding Book Club: Chapter Three: Simplicity
The travel writer translates one culture for another

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