1. Conquered fears can resurface
Going from Spain to Morocco, I felt a little nervous. I was leaving the western comforts to go to a place with a completely different culture, where I had to be cautious of the food and dress more conservatively. Walking down the street, I was ultra conscious of the fact that I was different, and super paranoid about wearing my camera out around my neck.
Wait a minute, didn’t I already go to India? And survive? When I reminded myself of that fact, the hesitation went away. But I was surprised that it resurfaced again in the first place. I guess it goes to show that you have to constantly push your bubble, because any advancements made can shrink back and disappear with time. I was only in Spain for 3 weeks and I was already use to the comfort. But thankfully, expanding my bubble back out was a lot easier this time. It’s a constant push and you’re never done, but you do get better and better!
2. Don’t blindly trust TripAdvisor
Going to a hammam (turkish bath) is one of the popular things to do in Morocco, and there are many hammam places that offer similar services. Most places charge about 25 euros for a hammam, a full body scrub, a brief massage, and maybe a face mask.
After some extensive online research, I still couldn’t pick a hammam place to go to. Finally, I decided to just check out the top rated hammam place on TripAdvisor. It was more pricey, at 30 euros for just the hammam, a full body scrub, and a body mask (so no massage), but it was #1, so maybe it had a better experience that justified the price.
Yeah, it didn’t. The hammam room itself was barely warm enough to classify as a sauna, and the scrubs didn’t last very long. I left feeling that there was no reason to pay a higher price at all. So I’ve finally learned, top-rated on TripAdvisor doesn’t necessarily mean the best!
3. Allow room to stumble upon things
As soon as I arrived in Marrakech, I made a list of the top places that I wanted to visit and marked them all down on a map on my phone. I created a plan for which sites to visit on which days and was proud of hitting them all and not missing anything.
However, one evening, I listened to the adventures of some friends from the hostel who hadn’t done any research at all but had just gone out to explore for the day. Without much of a plan, they had stumbled upon almost everything I had on my list for the next day.
From that day on, I dumped the detailed list and made more room to explore. I got some great advice from a fellow traveler: pick two must-see sites for each location and leave the rest open for your adventure.
4. Don’t let bad encounters sour your impression of a place
The second day I got to Fez, I signed up for a tour of the Medina from the hostel because the owner seemed sincere and some fellow travelers staying at the hostel recommended it. It turned out to be an awful tour with a guide who was supremely annoyed whenever I asked for information and whose tour consisted mostly of shops. After the tour, I said I would make my way back, but he insisted on getting a taxi becuase I would “get lost” and made me pay the fare.
The terrible experience left a bad taste in my mouth that I couldn’t get rid of the entire time I was in Fez. I knew not everyone in the city was rude and out to scam me (although the prevalence of touts in the Medina really didn’t help), but it was difficult not to let my dislike of the tour transform into a general dislike of the city.
In truth, though, in the short time that we are in a city, we only have so many interactions and luck largely determines whether they are pleasant or not. Despite the horrible guide and the touts everywhere, plenty of locals invited me to share in iftar, including a man I encountered in the residential portion of the Medina who invited me into his home and introduced me to his sister and mother after just chatting for a few blocks down the street. Try to seek the positive people and encounters, and let the negative ones go.
5. Let go of injustices
Letting go is easier said than done, of course. For a few days after the bad tour – essentially, the entire time I was in Fez – I quietly seethed about just how terrible it was and how it was completely not worth the $25 the guide charged (pretty steep for a tour, especially in Morocco). One could make a reasonable argument that I’m still just a liiiiiittle bitter about it.
But all of the time that I spent resenting the $25 that I wasted cost me far more than that in the end. It got in the way of my enjoyment of the city, clouded some of my interactions with other locals, and also spawned a lot of unnecessary negative thoughts and emotions.
Therefore, even if something may not have been right, let it go. Forgive the other parties involved, and, of course, forgive yourself for being part of it. Then move on and focus on making new, better memories!