Sunset falling on the Atlas Mountains.
I sat in my kitchen table in two different occasions and waited– nothing. In my hand, a pen, in front of me, my journal with only the date, the time and a title, “What I learned in Morocco.”
The page remained blank. Both times.
I sat there and thought, what did I really learn in Morocco? I had to have learned something! But in front of me, the naked pages revealed nothing.
I didn’t worry though. I knew that what I had learned was still pouring through my consciousness, taking root deep inside my mind.
I knew…but my mind and pages were blank. What did Moroccans and Islam teach me in the last five months? Where were all my deep realizations? Where was my profound understanding of the self?
Perhaps, more than I can share with you right now. As I said, the lessons learned are still being processed and just because I left Morocco, doesn’t mean Morocco has left me.
And so without further delay, I will share with you just a few things I learned in Morocco.
Morocco is at a crossroads.
I learned that Morocco is a country that is not quite African, not yet European and not fully integrated with Middle East.
It is a country that has as much history as it has struggles. It is a country that is a hybrid of its past conflicts and recent conquests. Morocco has been so profoundly influenced by its past – its future is almost unreadable.
Morocco is still developing. Violence and sexual harassment against women is a problem that the country has failed to address. The king of Morocco lives in abundance in any of his five palaces while thousands of homeless Moroccans endure the elements outside. Corruption, wealth accumulation and inequality are unaddressed issues that have slowly been gaining light.
But Morocco is a country rich in opportunities. Its affluence doesn’t come from its GDP or its natural resources; its wealth comes from the Moroccan people – the people who wake up hoping today will be better than yesterday. Its people that have joys and pains and dreams and defeats – just like we all do.
Islam means peace.
Labeling all Muslims as terrorists is as ignorant and dangerous as when Hitler blamed the entire Jewish population for being the cause of Germany’s problems.
There is no difference.
When people use religion to justify violence, for any reason, they are no longer following the principles of their own belief system. Since peace and justice are at the core of every religion that claims that God is their source of knowledge.
Traveling light is a gift.
During my last few days in Morocco, I was traveling with my brother with just our backpacks and duffel bags. By no means were we traveling light, since we each carried about fifty pounds.
I had given away my larger suitcase and most of my belongings to my roommate and friends. I needed to travel with what I considered the bare minimum – and it was still too much.
As we traveled through Morocco, I realized how comforting it is to not have any additional weight on my shoulders. How refreshing it is to not be tied down to anything. How liberating it can be to have nothing but the clothes on my back.
As we moved from city to city, we realized we should have left more behind. Very much like in life, the less baggage we carry, the more free we are to move around.
It is not where you are, it is who you are with.
Bus, taxi and train rides would had been much more uncomfortable had I not had a friend’s shoulder to sleep on.
Hungry nights on top of Mount Toubkal would had been lonely had my soul not been filled with laughter.
The stars wouldn’t have shone as brightly had I not had someone to share my dreams with.
My tagine or couscous wouldn’t have been finished had I eaten alone.
The cities I walked through would have been empty, had I not had someone to see them with.
In my time in Morocco, I learned that it doesn’t matter where you are, it matters who you are with. You can be sleeping in a train station in Meknes, or staying in a luxurious hostel in Barcelona, or rocking on a hammock at home, and none of it would matter.
The place, the location, the time – that is all arbitrary. The people we share it with is what makes the difference.
But never forget the people at home.
Sure, it is nice to travel to distant lands and explore new cultures, but having that little piece of home with you always makes the road seem less dangerous.
I guess what I am trying to say is this:
Leave home, but come back to see how much you have grown. Learn about yourself so that you can teach others about themselves. Keep your loved ones close to your heart, because when the world gets cold, that is the one place where your memories will always keep you warm.
I am still learning who I am.
Perhaps the most insightful reflection that I have acquired is this: I am still figuring out who I am, and honestly, I might never find out – and the best part – that is okay, I have an entire lifetime to do so.
Life is a journey. Our purpose? I will let the dead philosophers argue with each other over the answer.
There comes a turning point, I believe, in every person’s life where we must decide: continue living the life we are living, or take a leap of faith into the unknown, venture into the realm where nothing is certain and everything is a mystery.
In “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” by Joseph Campbell, he calls it, “the hero’s call to adventure.” This is the point where the protagonist, you and I and everyone else, is faced with a challenge, with a quest they must embark on in order to attain completeness.
It is a journey from childhood innocence to adulthood understanding; it is the quest from ignorant prince to enlightened Buddha; it is the merging of two worlds– the unknown and the known, the yin and yang, the light and the darkness– into one ecstatic whole.
Our hero is rewarded with a deeper, more mature and holistic view of their role in the universe.
Going to Morocco was my call to adventure, but as I learned in my time there, the call of duty rings more than once. At any point, life can decide to interfere and once again ask our hero if they would like to embark on a detour from the main narrative.
It is during these detours that I have learned the most about myself. It is during these detours that the deepest parts of ourselves are revealed.
The Journey continues.
I learned that the journey is never over.
I am also learning that just because I am back home, doesn’t mean that the same Kevin has returned.
And now I must wait: for Life, for Fate and Destiny to knock at my door with another quest. A new journey.
The universe knows that I will answer.