A Glimpse of Privilege: How Morocco Pushed Me Out of My Comfort Zone into a New Awareness

Arriving at our new home in Marrakech was exhilarating. We were dropped off in Bab Mellah (also know as the Jewish Quarter) and directed down one of the many narrow streets of the Medina to our Riad, a traditional Moroccan House that would be home to myself and seven other roommates. We quickly explored the many wings, chose our rooms and had a toast to our month in our newly named "Real World House of Morocco." 

Inside our Riad, we created our haven, complete with rooftop sunset sessions, game nights around the fireplace and engaging conversations about life and newly forming businesses. We would connect with others in our group daily for lunches, sightseeing or organized yoga sessions at the community Riad which was across town. Getting to this Riad meant learning our way through the maze of vendors in the Medina - enter by taking a left at the man selling pipes, continue along the row of spices and teas, take a slight left past the leather goods and a quick right at the corner spice shop. Once you pass the row of carpets, take a left towards the men selling pieces of leather and a slight right towards the row of Hammams. Once you hit the end and the man trying to sell you food, take a right and then a left at the "internet here" sign and the Riad will be on your left. If you've hit the restaurant we went to on the first night, you've gone too far. 

We'd test each other to see who could remember the way without relying on the blue dot on Google Maps and even more impressive, who could do it in reverse to get home. 

The sights and sounds filled our senses, and I delighted in the newness of it all. I expected to be hassled a bit, selling things in the Medina is their business, and I was after all a tourist and their intended customer. Looking back, I also expected (naively) that after some time, I'd be hassled less and be able just to wave as I walked by as this would be my route multiple times a day, week after week. In our months spent in Spain and Portugal, it didn't take long for the local vendors and restauranteurs to get used to us and give us a little wave, ask about our day. We quickly became part of the community, and I expected Marrakech to be no different. 

As the days turned to weeks, what was once an exhilarating experience was quickly wearing me down. The verbal invitations to buy their products was now coupled with physical contact - grabbing my hand to try and bring me into their store, holding my shoulder to direct me to their products day after day. With vendors side-by-side for miles, I was on constant alert not knowing who would reach out and when. I tried many approaches, smiling and nodding no, looking at the ground and confidently walking before they had a chance to make eye contact which led to eventually covering my blonde hair, wearing baggy clothes, often with a hood up. Walking the Medina in this way saved me at least 10 minutes each direction as I was getting stopped and grabbed less and therefore became my preferred method, especially when I was in a rush to get to yoga or meet up with friends on the other side.

My energy was slowly depleting, I felt like a balloon that had lost it's air. I was coming home exhausted, wanting to hide away in my room which felt like the only place in the city that I could be alone for even just a few minutes. I wasn't writing, I wasn't sharing, I was simply trying my best just to be. I started to wonder what had changed so drastically between being high-on-life in Spain just weeks before to now feeling so lost and drained. 

I realized that each day before stepping outside of my Riad, I was mentally preparing and putting energy into simple things that I never had to think of before. I had never thought twice about stepping outside of my door or walking down the street in all of the areas that I've lived previously. I had never had to think about my clothing in a way that I was now considering what could draw me the least attention to quickly and safely get me from A to B. I had never had to cover my hair or hide my smile and friendly personality to fend off continual unwanted advances.

I was in an extended defense mode, protection mode, for the first time in my entire life. Of course, I had gone through fleeting moments of fear, the thought that someone might be following me or walking down a dark alley alone, but that was a different feeling, a feeling that passed quickly and I knew would soon be over. This fear was subtle, but without an end in sight that didn't involve getting on an airplane. At that moment, I received a glimpse of my privilege, and my heart opened to the millions of people around the world that operate, perhaps unknowingly, in a similar environment every, single day. 

My mindset immediately switched from one of selfishness to one of empathy. Here I was focusing on why I wasn't shining as bright and living my highest potential after feeling an energy shift throughout a few weeks when others have lived their entire lives in continual defense mode and led beautiful lives despite it. I received a glimpse of what it must be like to walk down a street where you aren't accepted by those around you, where you aren't considered "one of them" and therefore feel uneasy and perhaps in danger, when people don't care to understand who you are because of what you may look like. Not just around the world, but in cities all across the United States as judgment is passed, specifically when it comes to race and gender. 

Individuals that have to worry about something as basic as their wellbeing, who exert energy into simply existing in the world outside their walls every single day, have a hurdle to personal happiness and success that  I had previously been blind to. That hurdle had never been in my path before, and while I heard it existed for others and thought I understood, I was wrong. 

Morocco pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it forced me into a larger awareness of the world around me and provided me a glimpse of my privileged place within it. I say glimpse because my experience was temporary, it was a peek into a world I will never truly know like those that live it. I have a new respect for those who continue to fly over hurdles, a yearning to understand more about the obstacles I have yet to discover and a passion for removing them whenever possible. 

Nothing to Do, Everything to Gain

When first telling friends and coworkers that I was quitting my sales job in LA and taking three months to travel with a wellness-focused, remote work program I received varied reactions. Some jealousy, some excitement, but mostly concern.

“But what are you going to do?” they would ask.

I responded that I was looking forward to finding out exactly that.

I had often thought about what I would spend my time on if I stopped living up to expectations I had set for myself in the workplace and among my friends. I wanted to be at everything, be the best at everything and not let anyone down. But I had forgotten if I even enjoyed it anymore as it was so routine it wasn't truly a choice in my mind but rather what I was supposed to do.

For the first time since I can remember I have days, weeks, months with no deadlines, no competing meetings or dinner plans, absolutely nothing that I HAVE to do.

I have complete control over my day-to-day and as I predicted, it has been a welcome reprieve and telling tale of where my passions lie.

I am rediscovering my creative side - writing, photography, creating quirky names for group events or offering advice on projects.

I am spending time learning, researching service organizations or reading interesting articles I had “saved for later.”

I am making the group yoga sessions and heartwork sessions a priority, not because I feel like I have to, but because I WANT to.

I am making “me time” a focus and exploring different parts of town, eclectic cafes or new parks.

I am reading more for pleasure (currently “The Book of Joy” - look it up!) and watching less mind numbing television that I used to use as a distraction at the end of a crazy day.

I’m making Skype calls with family and friends become the thing I plan my day around instead of trying to fit it in.

I am using this time to get back to the things that make me happy, that light me up, that make me shine. I am letting my priorities plan my day instead of my daily plans becoming my priorities.

I realize this is a luxury and that not everyone can clear their schedule and travel for three months within a wellness focused, supportive community, however, I feel so foolish for not even trying to slowly incorporate this into my life sooner.

Why was I running around with anxiety trying to accomplish everything others had wanted of me before I took care of myself? Perhaps this is the reason for the burnout that occurred in the first place.

I know I won’t stay in this blissful bubble forever, and when I’m back in the States and in a routine, I am committed to finding balance and making sure that the most important parts of my day are reflective of the most important parts of my life.

We only have so many years, so many months, so many days and hours to enjoy and live life to our highest potential, let’s make THAT the priority.

Valencia - The Journey Continues

We’ve made it to Spain! While it was bittersweet to leave Lisbon after making it our home, Spain has been a welcome change. I’m in love with it all - the food, the people, the apartments, the lifestyle, the language, the siesta time and espresso mornings. 

Our first night here was truly exceptional as we were invited to attend the annual town dinner in an outside suburb of Valencia. We got in our taxi’s and headed in an unknown direction, the home of a friend of a friend. We were immediately welcomed with open arms, hugs and cervezas as the locals practiced their English and we practiced our Spanish to converse. 

When they said town dinner, they weren’t kidding! The village came together (~1200 people) to have a catered meal together, long tables filled with family and friends. The dinner started at 10 pm and after a few hours of food and wine running on little sleep from our travel day from Lisbon, I’m bummed I didn’t make it to the live music (went on around 1 am), but I heard it was a blast!

Everyone we met was so welcoming, their love for their community and each other was apparent, and although we were far away, it felt like home. 

Our host Suzi and her friends welcomed us and made us feel at home in Valencia

The next day the celebration continued with a parade and city-wide festival. Mary and I hit the streets and watched with the locals. We didn’t quite understand the history or importance of all the costumes, but they were beautiful, and the city was vibrant with culture and excitement. That day we became the best Valencians (pronounced with a bit of lisp - Balenthains. They also say gracia-th vs. gracias!). 

While the travel is fantastic and a physical form of my time here, I'm also on an internal journey growing both personally and professionally.
Personally, this experience has been eye-opening and having such a dynamic, supportive, loving community alongside me is making all the difference. By now we all know each other pretty well. We know who the communicators are, who likes to organize things, who likes their alone time and who loves to always be in a conversation. We know pet peeves and hot topics, favorite foods and drink orders. 

We are all learning from each other constantly, and there is a line that has been blurred between friends, roommates, travel companions, co-workers (in the sense that we share a space, not that we work in the same industry), dinner dates, workout buddies, and family. A line I didn't realize was so present in my everyday life. 

I have to credit my roommate Jessika (The Petite Nomad) for bringing the realization of this line, and the absence of it within this program, to my attention. I'm telling y'all - the conversations are real here! 

There are intentional times that we dig deep and explore topics such as authenticity, being present, community, etc. and being together for those times makes it so easy and natural to be our authentic selves at every moment of the day. Whether we’re grabbing a cup of coffee or working on our separate projects, there are no walls up, no having to be one person at work and another at home because our lives have blended into one, larger experience. 

Experiencing this is helping me be more present and authentic with those outside of the program. I am no longer different things to different people, but the same, dynamic, multifaceted person to all. The yoga, the meditation, the real conversations have all allowed me to take a different look at myself and be able to better communication who I am and how I’m feeling without judgment. 

Professionally, I am inspired and allowed to be free and creative! Woo hoo!  I’m learning and absorbing as much as I can from my travel mates as some have their own businesses as a result of pursuing their passions. Each day is a learning process. I came into this thinking I’d work solo, perhaps freelance my way for a bit or create my own site and soon remembered that I more so like projects and consulting and working with people - valuable information to have when making my next move. The true digital nomad life can be quite lonely without having a network or team. 

I love being a storyteller, both long form and short form such as pictures with captions or quotes. I’m enjoying the fact that I can be inspired by these people and places and share that inspiration with others and tell the story of that moment in a way that is unique and my own. If I can find a way to work this into a future career, I'd be in heaven.

I was also forced (in a loving way, by GlobeKick) to take a look at not only what I enjoy, but what I’m good at. What skills do I have that may come more easily to me than others? Here's where you, my loving friends and family come in, those that know me better than most as I would love any and all feedback on where you think I excel. I would greatly appreciate your perspective as I begin to focus more fully on my career. 

Thank you all for your thoughts, texts, messages and for being wonderful you! I hope you are finding parts of my journey applicable to your every day. 

I challenge you to explore authenticity, to be the best version of you at all times - at work, at home, with best friends and strangers. 

Until next time - adios amigos! 

Shine Strength

I let others get to me this week, the ones who don't understand and don't support that I am choosing to follow my heart and intuition and see where it leads. I thought I was prepared for the doubt, the questions insinuating I was foolish, but the more darkness that came my way, the less I sparkled with the light I am so longing to permanently possess. 

What was happening? My light is supposed to shine so bright that it lights up others! Why did I feel like I was burning out and shutting down? I had a mini-freakout. 

So what did I do? Well, I took a mixed (and maybe not the best) approach:

  • I had some wine and a good cry while texting a lifelong friend who was reminding me that it is hard, that many people won't understand, and we have to be OK with that. He also told me to snap out of it - I'm one of the lucky ones to have the courage and foresight to take this leap and to live my life with intention. I needed both the understanding and the tough love.
  • I surrounded myself with people and messages that light me up and bring positivity. I reach outed to my best friend who came over to laugh and help me pack, I read books with positive messages that encouraged this life choice and choosing happiness and I turned on some of my favorite tunes.
  • I spent some time in thought and wrote in my Gratitude Journal reminding myself of all that I have to be thankful for, past, present and future. My life is amazing. 

Before long, I felt so silly for letting myself get affected by the doubts of others. 

What I've learned this week is that it's a battle out there - a battle that I need to know how to arm myself for. I need to make sure that every day I am prepared to shine bright and share that light no matter what happens to come my way. 

The things I did to recover should be the things I do every morning to prepare. Read positive, encouraging messages, spend time in some form of thought and meditation being grateful and setting intentions for the day and surround myself with people and vibes that make me shine. 

Taking the Leap

This year has been the year of saying “YES” and letting my heart and soul guide me towards what bring me joy, towards the people and experiences that make me truly happy. It all started with “Do More of What Makes you Sparkle” which has developed into my mission to Shine: to live a life that lights me up and to share that light with others.

I’ve come to realize that we have this one life in a big beautiful world and that there’s no guarantee that we’ll have the time later to do all the things we really, truly want to do right now. I started to ask myself what was holding me back from traveling more, writing more, telling more of the world’s stories of the beautiful people and places that I encounter, and the answer was absolutely nothing.

And so, I am taking the leap. I’m resigning from my job and I’ll be going overseas with a program called GlobeKick to travel, write, learn and most of all LIVE. I’m expecting nothing and accepting everything that comes my way as I continue to follow my heart and take advantage of all that this life has to offer.

I don’t know exactly how my story will unfold, but stay tuned, this chapter is going to be pretty spectacular.

The Start of Something Good

The Start of Something Good
“In a moment, everything can change and in a moment, you can change everything” - Daniel Wallace  

Have you ever had a moment that shifted your entire perspective? Like in the movies where the character finally catches on to something the audience has seen the whole time - a love they almost let slip by or a decision they should have made long ago. ("Notting Hill" anyone?!) In real life, these moments have much less dramatic background music and if you're not careful, can slip by unnoticed.

For me, that one moment happened a few weeks ago.