Tag Archives: Difficulty

“Sorry Son, But That Wanderlust is a Chronic Condition…”

27 Sep

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I didn’t want this inspiration forced. Luckily, today was just one of those days.

After a long hard weekend wrestling with a host of things that threatened both my inspiration and my peace of mind, I deemed it time to go on a nice long run, reflect on everything and try to refocus. It was at this point that I had an epiphany. That moment where you just… know. The problems are still there, the situation hasn’t changed, but all of a sudden it all begins to make sense.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately getting lost in things: work, social issues, my future, and of course, music. Things that grab hold in your head, and transplant you somewhere else. Whether it is across the globe, in a constructed reality, or rocking out to some song in the middle of your bedroom, you’re gone for that moment of time, and in it there is a certain understanding that can’t be ascertained from your physical surroundings. According to my brain, I have been in purgatory, on the top of the world, Morocco, France, Home and Boston all in this week regardless of the protests logic will make against that.

So how does this all fit together? Well, quite simply actually. But let me bring up the two points separately before bringing about the conclusion. The first is, as I like to put it, my wanderlust. I recently stumbled across a band called Gogol Bordello, and after they had me convinced that I should start wearing purple, I ran across a song entitled “wonderlust king.” Intrigued, I hit play. After two listens I was convinced: I had just found my new anthem. It was then that I began to draw my entire life, all my hopes, dreams ambitions and fears into one never-ending string through one concept and one concept only: travel.

In high school I wanted to be an engineer, but I always was plotting a way to go live in a van, skiing my way through the American west. Common sense eventually seized me of that idea as it was replaced with pragmatic thoughts of college, again satiating that thirst for, if not travel, the hope of future plans. As the concept of leaving for college became less of an adventure, my sights turned elsewhere again, leading to an abortive road trip attempt in my summer prior to leaving for school. My year at Geneseo included study abroad and transfer applications. My decision upon leaving that fall was simple: whatever next year held, it was going to hold it in Milan, Italy or Boston. But I couldn’t even wait for that. Nope, for that summer I reinvested myself in my cross-country road-trip ambitions, this time succeeding, making it from my humble home in Saratoga all the way to San Francisco in just over a week’s time. Boston beat out Milan and then proceeded to latch onto me in the fall, providing some of the excitement I had been searching for. But, even Boston’s allure couldn’t keep me forever, and it was off to Rabat, Morocco followed closely by Hyeres, France, and finally, back to Boston once again.

This little bug, this little, barely traceable tick in the back of my mind seems to have latched on to me and provided me no way out other than to continue following my gut. Keep your cruises; keep your pampered vacations, your hotels and your quiet luxury. I’ll take a pillow, a crap car or cramped buses, dirt as my Modus Operandi for food and bed, and the open road. As long as there is something I’ve not seen, people I’ve not met and adventures yet fulfilled, this will forever be my drive, my motivation, my desire. And, furthermore, and to put it bluntly,  people on that cruise ship don’t exactly rate on my “people I need to meet” list. Whatever this is, wherever it will lead me, you can be damn sure that I’m going to follow it for now.

It’s this little bug that has led me through 31 states and 10 countries in the span of 4 years that has outstripped most all of my family members roamings. It is this bug that has given me 2 surrogate families, the most intense highs (and lows) of my life and a photo album for the ages.

But, it is also this bug that has led me to sacrifice much of what I could have had in return as well. It is this bug that has given me my greatest struggles, and has taken away many of the things I miss about being in the same place day in and day out. Thao Nyugen wrote a song that has remained my rainy day anthem for some time with the refrain:

“Oh, geography… is gonna make a mess of me”

Geography, long-distance lines of communication have existed as so much of my weakness for so long now that it becomes frustrating and confounding. The downside to having a life flung across the globe is, well, you can only be in one place at one time, and so you have to eventually sort out your priorities, and without fail, I have always managed to lose at least one thing in the tussle. Nothing in this life is truly free, and sometimes it’s a much easier a concept to think about than one to accept.

Whether you feel inspired right now, or depressed, it’s of no consequence, because now is the time to blend this all back in on itself.

In doing so, I’m going to borrow from one more musician, and this time I’m going with Jack White.

“Jack White performs his music unlike most other artists. He will purposely place things out of reach, for no other reason than to make things harder for himself.”

Huh?

“He believes that it makes him sound better. He believes that the struggle, the effort, the force, is what makes his work what it is.”

I happen to love the White Stripes, so this is a poignant message. If you don’t well, go find your insight elsewhere for this one.

All of these quotes, ideas, and concepts had been floating in my head prior to today. And, as I was walking back getting down to Jay-Z/Pharrell’s “So Ambitious,” someone loaded this mishmash of inspiration, melancholy and prior philosophical vomit, mixed it up nice, and fired it through the haze that had been surrounding my mind.

It was then that I was able to once again accept the good the bad, and come to the same conclusion I have drawn so many times before. Nothing worth having is ever easy. Comfort and convenience don’t build character.

Alright, I give up, the bug bit me, and I am going to continue to roam this earth to the best of my abilities and search out a few more of those less traveled roads in the process. How and in what capacity? Well, let’s throw a TBD on that for now. And yes, the sacrifices and shit that have come my way for the decisions I have made will continue to sting from time to time, but once again I have realized that it is worth it. What I have sacrificed is minimal compared to what I’ve gained. These stories, these experiences, the people I have made connections with and this life I have built of my own drive and ambition, is something that no one and nothing can ever strip me of.

It is this life I have chosen to live, it is these decisions I have chosen to make, and it is this life right here that is a product of all of that.

I have a few more seas to cross, a few more mountains to climb, and a few more sacrifices to make before I reevaluate my path.

Until then,

I’ll be quite comfortable being a “Wonderlust King.”

As for my word:

Espoir (hope)

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Ce n’est pas Maroc…

8 Jun

Instead of harming the internet, my friends, family, and imaginary group of avid readers with another blog, URL link, and page that will never be checked, I’ve decided to update my current page and continue to use it as my source for these “musings.”

It’s been a while since the last update, and many things have occurred since then. My triumphant return to the U.S was relatively dull, and my subsequent month in NY even duller. I mean, let’s face it, after 4 months in Morocco, daily showers, utensils and a soft legitimate bed had never before in my life been so welcoming, but that’s not the stuff that makes stories. No one wants to read about how I was nice and clean, could eat whatever whenever, and slept like a baby at night. Comfort and convenience don’t build character, and idle hands find a video game controller much more easily than they should. As you can tell from this short description, there isn’t much here to tell other than that I caught up with my friends, relaxed, and tried to digest everything that had just happened to me.

My final week in Morocco was filled with exams, so like any other finals week, it was nothing but stressful. However, after writing over 100 pages of double space material over the course of the semester on nothing other than the shabby (but lifesaving) computers in my family’s house and the internet cafes, I will never again complain about any technological set-up that I have in the U.S. No matter what it is, anything would be easier than trying to pen a final paper under cover of night in my house hoping someone doesn’t yell at me for using the computer, or sitting in a humid internet café jammed next to 4 chatting Moroccans trying to pen a worthy research paper on a questionably legal version of Microsoft Word. After a trial like that, you begin to appreciate your good fortune in a way you never thought possible. With perseverance, some help and a little luck, everything I penned turned out decently, and I was proud of the work I accomplished. I ran the gauntlet, and spent my final hours in Morocco seeing my first sunrise and pre-dawn (much easier when you just don’t go to sleep), saying my final goodbyes and avoiding any embarrassing displays of emotion in the process (الحمد لله, or “praise be to god”), and buying all those presents I had been avoiding shopping for until my final day. My trip back was the closest to Odysseus I’d ever felt, and it was damn good to be home.

After a few days home, however, the mindset that had made me comfortable in Morocco turned around to slap me square in the face. It’s that cruel mistress we like to refer to as “reverse culture-shock.” It took the form of a crippling boredom, and a general frustration with my fellow countrymen that I question if I will ever get over. Questions like “did you eat dirt there?” “Did you have electricity?” “Did you sleep in the dirt?” still provoke a muscle spasm or knee-jerk reaction that forces me to bite my tongue lest my vocal chords betray me and turn me into “that guy.” These questions, whether joking or earnest, serve as a painful reminder that most people will never know what I know, but more importantly and depressingly, they don’t care either. When ignorance takes the step toward bigotry, toward misconception, toward an ill-informed life, I can’t help but simmer inside. Most people see Islam as nothing more than a sadistic-psycho with a really long beard chanting “death to America” and women with a veil and no rights. Maybe you don’t believe that, and maybe those people joking to me about me eating the same material I sleep and walk on don’t believe it either, but if we continue to perpetuate these defamations, all we do is perpetuate a subconscious feeling of superiority. When we start to break down these notions though, and begin to see people for who they are, we all begin to see that the struggles we face are universal. We all bleed, cry, laugh, love, hate and die. We all fight with our parents, friends, lovers and people who work at the DMV. Regardless of who you are, how big your pocketbook, brain, ego or muscles are, you will always be more like other people than you think, and only once we are able to realize this on a large scale, our path through history will not change. It’s not easy, and I myself have been guilty of these mistakes, but all it really takes is some self consciousness, and a desire and drive to improve. No one can ever ask anything more of you.

*Steps off Soapbox*

These concepts developed during my time in Morocco, and have continued even to today. In a way, this is what I feel my experiences have taught me. You may not arrive at the same end, but I can guarantee you that after 4 months away from your own language, your own culture, everything looks different. It’s an experience I will never forget, and one that will forever be a part of me. Looking back after a month has past; I don’t feel as if much has changed from the last time I wrote. I’ve fallen back into my previous life, but I will continue to feel this way for a long time to come.

My next adventure has brought me to a totally different environment, a small town on the French Mediterranean called Hyeres. I have only been here for 5 days, and the sights and smells have already begun to captivate me. The town is gorgeous, and I’ve had very few complaints so far. I’m slowly trying to remove the obnoxious “In Morocco…” from my vocabulary, and experience this for what it is, not for what it is compared to my last experience. In the end, however, I know that my knowledge will be helpful, as I’m already feeling comfortable here. In the end, I think that, just like my last experience, the people, sights and adventures will captivate me as long as I am ready and willing.  I hope the stories in my next post will be proof of this thesis.

Time to bridge the language gap:

Fi Mustakbell, Inshallah (In the future, if god wills it)

Will now be,

Si tous marche bien (If all goes well)

Experiences Can No Longer Be Contained In Words…

22 Apr
As I write my second to last entry in my Moroccan epic, that bittersweet feeling that has permeated so many moments in this experience has begun to seep back into my mind. This will, effectively, be the last post I author while sitting in Morocco. (The last post of the experience will be written in NY, before I alter this blog to accommodate my escapades in France as well). I’ve found myself worried about the withdrawal of excitement that may strike me when I return to the States, and have already started to concoct ways in which to avoid it (Mt. Washington ski/hike, a few weekends in Boston, plus what will inevitably grow into yet another summer of too much traveling, yet again fighting to contain copious amounts of wanderlust).

The last few weeks, between Gnawa music, the eventual successful trip to Kenitra (thank god), hiking the second highest mountain in Africa, Jebel Toubkal, (prompting the desire to find my way to Kilimanjaro… someday), I have to say that I tried. Regardless of my continued travels, and attempts to see all of Morocco, I still can’t shake the feeling that someway, somehow, I fell short. I don’t see this as any deep failure on my part, the human mind has a funny way of either thinking it has too much time, or not enough. We all fall into the same pitfalls, wasting time on facebook, email, or even just sleeping, and before we know it the time is up.

I definitely squeezed as much as I could out of the weeks following spring break.

Weekend 1,

Physical and economic recovery from spring break, some work and a few low key evenings relaxing and planning the biggest weekend of the semester.

Weekend 2,

Al-hayt Al-usbooah Kabeeeeeer (the biiiiiiig weekend)

Ready?

Go.

Train leaves at 3am Saturday morning.

Arrive in Marrakesh at roughly 8am. After some confusion and a complete inability to procure a decent breakfast, we settle on some coffee and hit the grand taxi lot. After meeting a crazy San Fransisco native who lives as an ex-pat in Paris, six of people cram into a beat up Mercedes to make the 2 hour ride to Imlil, changing drivers randomly and without warning 20 minutes outside Marrakesh proper (This is Morocco, This is Morocco…).

Make it to Imlil alive and well, grab a quick omelet, haggle over a guide only to realize we can’t, and decide to take the budget tour. Get our crampons (a bed of large metal spikes you attach to a shoe to walk through snow and ice) and start the 5 hour hike to base camp. Our oxygen is slowly disappearing (Base camp is at 10,000 feet. Rabat? Sea Level.), we are getting more and more tired as the day wears on, and the exertion is not ending. But,

Oh. My. God. was it gorgeous. This place was true back country, the wilderness in all its rugged glory and an environment that takes your breath away (in more ways than one).

4 hours in and I’ve given up trying to talk to anyone. Pushing, thinking only about my surroundings and the bed waiting for me not far away. As we approach base camp, snow begins to dominate the landscape and we are engulfed by a a slowly darkening sky (sunset was 2 hours ago due to the sheer rock face rising up on either side of us).

5 hours after our departure, we arrived. Exhaustion now means something wholly different from what it used to. I was on the verge of nausea/body shutdown.

After 30 minutes of slow recuperation and replenishment, I was alive, but exhausted.

8pm bedtime,

Wake up at 4:30am. Let this go on the record as the ONLY time I will ever wake up at that and and feel well rested.

5:30am and we are suited up and ready to go. The sun had yet to make its way above the solid rock that rose on all sides of us, so we started the exhausting hike pre-dawn. After some struggles, we make our way up to the summit (in the process getting lapped by some crazy Spainards…).

Summit at 10:30am. Gorgeous. This is one of those things you have to do yourself, because no amount of pictures will ever allow you to bask in this the way you need to.

“Time to head back down…..wait, crampon is coming undone. Really, again? Whyyyyyyy won’t this thing stay on, and more importantly why is our guide 500 feet ahead of me helping the female of our group who clearly no longer needs help? Does he even know where we are in relation to him? Ahh screw it, I don’t need his help anyway, plus she could use another Berber husband. Forget the crampon, I’ve got one foot that still works. Damn, snow is slippery, boot skiing time, and……go.”

I proceeded to make my way down the last quarter of the mountain on  some skiing skill, a whole lot of slipping, and a whole ton of luck. It was at this point that I determined that my Berber guide was no longer going to keep me any safer than I was going to be alone, so needless to say I stopped listening to him. (But, in retrospect, I would much rather have this story than have had his help…..foolish pride sort of a thing).

After a 4 hour hike back to Imlil, tea and a 2 hour taxi, we arrive in Marrakesh, with the Toubkal Gauntlet clock running at roughly 42 hours.

After a good warm meal, we hit the night train to Rabat.

Sleep?

Not if you don’t have a seat. What was to follow would rank among the most surreal 4 hours of my life. After 30 min stoop sit in the diner car, a booth in the car opens up.

Run.

Seat.

Safe.

I put my head down after shaking off some creepy army guy, wrap my personal belongings tight, and pass out.

1 hour passes.

Awake again.

Creepy army guy is trying to force some strange child’s head into his lap….no….the table? This is too much, back to sleep.

1 hour later… army guy gone, new guy next to me. Good, he speaks Fus’ha and French. We’re in Casa, and that seat bench is open? Great.

Restaurant bed, One more hour. Back in Rabat. Perfect. Sleeeeeeeeeep. (Followed by the most painfully sore 2 days of my life).

Weekend 3? Sick due most likely to the last weekend. Weekend 4? Work and relaxation in Rabat, and a good reminder of why I’m going to miss this place.

Now for a A Tribe Called Quest song, a deep breath, a pensive pose and… scene. Time to try and muse these last 3 and a half months into one thought flow… (and avoid the finals workload a little while longer).

PART II

I came here off of a sigh and a half-hearted acceptance. Oh… Morocco, yeah sure… *mumble* It’s not Niger…

I left behind my ease, my comfort, my stability. I gave up something I had spent the past year and a half building in Boston. I was really finally truly happy in that place, but, I also couldn’t help but shake the feeling that I had to shake so many times before. Comfort was never really the top priority. I left behind a place I was finally happy with when I left Saratoga. I did it again when I left Geneseo, and I did it a third time when I left Boston, and they still to this moment those decisions rank among the most intelligent things I’ve ever done. I now have 4 homes, so many friends, so many experiences and so many memories.

A couch is comfortable. You sink down into it, and never want to leave. You get your friends, your geographical comfort, and you don’t ever want to leave it. I don’t know, maybe something is wrong with me, but I cannot see the time in my future when I’m ever going to be able to fully accept that. I won’t lie, I’ve lost a lot from my wanderlust and movement: money, connections, security, and dare I say, even a tear or two along the way, but at no point in this entire experience have I ever felt that I made a mistake. I look at my future, and more of the same lies in my path. Fullbright? Peace Corps? Am I ever going to spend more than 28 months in any one place? Not likely. I’m not saying that what I set out for myself is something everybody should do, but I think that my underlying motivation runs through everyone:

Never, ever, for the love of god let your mind get the better of you.

Yeah, that was vague, but what I’m trying to say is, people, myself included, tend to get so set in our ways that we lose sight of the truly important things. We stay in the same place for nothing more than fear of moving. We date the same person for a year for shear fear of change. We spend our lives eating the same thing for fear of tasting something bad, and we trod in the same footsteps as everyone else for fear that walking off that path may lead to an injury.


I have, without posting my entire life story on the Internet, been victim to all of the above at some point before, and let me say this : New places are exciting, change is inevitable (and is often a good thing), new things taste damn good, and in my opinion, that less beaten path is 10x times more beautiful.

I write all this to preface my thoughts on Morocco for two reasons. One, I want to explain why I feel the way I do about Morocco in more abstract terms to outline the concrete, and two, maybe, just maybe someone will stumble across this and be inspired to do something daring, something new, and understand the point I’m trying to ramble to death.

A few discussions with old friends, family, weathered colleagues, and new friends have got me to thinking a lot about this experience, and I hope that the cathartic release of these thoughts will give these 4 months a little justice:

I left everything to come to a place that I knew nothing about to learn a language I was half-heartedly interested in and do things that I thought could easily be a boring waste of 4 months. But, on the other hand, somewhere deep down I knew that this was my only shot at study abroad, and I had to either take a leap of faith, or forever spend my life just guessing at what could have been. I held tight, bit my tongue, and sat down to truly prayed for the first time in a long time, hoping that I wasn’t making a mistake.

I got here and my honeymoon period lasted about two weeks. Everything was new and cool, but that ended, and the culture shock set in. I can’t speak these languages, I don’t know whats going on, I wasn’t ready for this, what am I doing here? I just want to go home……give me my old life back. I knew this was bound to happen, but I questioned everything, trying to cling to everything I left behind, praying, hoping, that I was still right.

I was.

I adapted, I began to get comfortable, bond with new people, and I began to really, truly fall in love with this place. The daily battles, the constant frustration was accompanied with the most acute feelings of accomplishment I have had in my entire life. My life was constantly changing, and constantly throwing me for a loop, but I was hitting back, and loving every minute of it. Every day a new challenge, and every day a new reason to shake my head,  look into the clouds/ceiling and think “yeah, this definitely isn’t the US.”

Other people I know here have complained, spent many a weekend bound to the house, wondering why they didn’t feel the same way the students in past semesters had felt. I knew why. For many of us, our heart had never been in this trip, in this place, and we spent more energy thinking about home than we did about trying to enjoy this for what it was and stop thinking about what it wasn’t.

I have a confession. I’m going to have to fight back the emotion when I leave this place like those before me. I put myself into this experience. I spent my time in the Sahara Desert, on the tops of the Rif and Atlas mountains, in the obnoxious city centers of Casablanca and Marrakesh, on the beach, in the medinas, in the souks. I spent my time navigating Rabat at two am, getting yelled at for violating house rules, having dumbed down discussions in Arabic and French. I ate unsanitary street food, stopped using utensils. I spent a week in Spain and Portugal by myself just because. I did what I could, I did what I wanted, and I dealt with the consequences of those actions as they came to me. I regret not a single decision. In fact, I would go so far as to say that every decision has lead me to where I sit right now, and dare I say am very happy with that place.

In my opinion, there are less bad experiences than there are bad mindsets. If my battles here have taught me anything, it’s that people will construct whatever they need to in their minds to keep things out, or let things in. Morocco was not what I wanted in my study abroad……but I made it what I wanted. In the end, it was the experience I wanted, and it was the experience I got. I will never forget, for the rest of my days, the places, the people, and the experiences that stole my heart, that made me think, and that made this semester the best of my entire college career. I give up Morocco, you win…….Ahebuka (I love you), happy?

Morocco may not speak the language you want to learn, may not be your top choice of location, but its environments, its people, its cities and its atmosphere will make you love the place, all you have to do is make sure you are ready for it.

Anyway, that’s my verdict on Morocco. You can agree or disagree with me, but I will forever be sticking with my verdict. Come into this country with an open mind, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

I will leave you with this advice: If you ever get the chance to experience something like this… do it. I could just be the best decision you ever make.


“Bi-saha” (this one gets lost in translation)