“Did you have an epiphany?” asked my friend on my return from my week in Morocco. “Honestly, I was too busy laughing,” I replied.
The trip to Morocco was Noon’s first overseas adventure – and it was a blast. Eleanor has written brilliantly about the fun, the wonderful conversations, the jaw-dropping landscape, the borderline bad behaviour in the hammam, and the way that shedding our usual comforts and stepping into something different opens us. It was all she says (you can read it HERE), and more. These are my personal reflections.
The trip was just what I needed after a tough year. I lost my sister to cancer in June last year, then seven months later my dad died. And although it happened 12 years ago, we still live with the consequences of the spinal cord injury my husband sustained after a cycling accident when we were living in Singapore. We’ve settled into our new normal but life can be challenging. For a while, I had been feeling that the things that normally tethered me weren’t enough and knew I needed to do something to rebalance.
Itchy feet that love to walk
When I saw the outline of the trip, it appealed immediately. I grew up on the edge of the Lake District so the restorative power of walking runs deep in my bones. I’ve also got chronically itchy feet and love an adventure. On the long drive back to Marrakech from the mountains after almost a week of walking, talking and laughing, we unpacked what it was that had worked so well. Some themes emerged.
We all agree that it was liberating to put down the mental load of daily life, not to be the one who decides and directs, who coaxes and cajoles. All we had to do was have our boots on and rucksacks packed by the specified time, and follow in our guide’s footsteps. Knowing we were being taken care of allowed us to leave our usual roles behind and remember who we are. We had time and we had space, rare commodities in busy lives. It was a good reminder to do things for ourselves more often. Surely, the first step in embracing what’s next in life is to acknowledge the women we are now.
We all felt nurtured by our wonderful guides and by each other. Our largely female support team was there at the start and end of every day, always with a smile, very often with some food and near daily with a drum or song and an activity that gave us a small window to their own complex lives. As we bonded over our many common experiences and shared uniquely difficult ones, we all felt strongly connected. Nothing was forced.
Dark and light
Somehow – laughter must be the key – we managed to be both deep and light at the same time. The sharing of things that had affected us deeply and shaped our lives was often swiftly followed by a discussion aboutthe best technique (with optional demo) for how not to wee on your boots. It was the perfect illustration of how women naturally blend the emotional and the practical to keep things moving along.
We also all agreed that being out of our comfort zone was where growth happens. That’s nothing new; key is to identify what that is for you. Some found the walking hard, others hadn’t travelled independently for a while. The more introverted among us (and I include myself here) were used to spending time comfortably alone so being around 12 other people was a little intense at first. With our individual concerns put firmly to rest, more is now available to us.
What surprised me
From a more personal perspective, I was surprised by a few things. It shocked me to realise that it had been a long time since my face actually hurt from laughing so hard. We get so accustomed to putting a brave face on that we forget to make room for any other expression.
And I had more than a few moments where I felt unexpectedly overwhelmed, as did others. In between the raucous laughter as we were dressed by our guides in traditional wedding outfits, I found myself shedding a small tear. The same happened when I was having henna lovingly painted on my hands and feet. I felt taken care of, and it was lovely.
My soul lifted as we stood at the top of the pass taking in the spectacular scenery. I felt some of the tough, sharp edges that I seem to have developed as a response to difficulties soften a little. Familiar feelings, good feelings. I made a promise to myself to spend more time in the mountains.
Coming home – with memories and promises
Aside from an excessively large bag of spices from the souk, perhaps the biggest thing I took away from Morocco was the reminder that we are never alone in facing challenges and problems. It’s rare to get to midlife without having been touched by something significant – grief, health or relationship worries, concerns about our parents and children, career issues, financial woes, sometimes all at once. We covered it all and shared openly. And when required, we all rose to the occasion beautifully with deep empathy and a collective embrace to lend our love and support.
It’s always a little strange when you come home from a trip. Of course, things were largely the same. Everyone survived, the house didn’t fall to pieces and even the dog forgave mewithin 20 minutes. And whilst I didn’t have an epiphany, I did come away with some fabulous new friends, some wonderful memories and a promise to myself to do more to connect with the things that lift my soul. Roll on the next adventure.
By Ali Fairhurst