Could you survive a week with no phone, WIFI or speaking?
The Queenager : Eleanor's Letter (November 6th 2022)
And a special invitation to come with me on a Queenager tour to Morocco in March...
I know you’ve heard lots from me this week – Halloween, interviewing Pippa Wicks, CEO from John Lewis, Vision Express – it’s all been going down!
Well I am pleased to say that I am disappearing off grid for a week. Totally. No phone, no computer, no emails, darn it, no books! I think I’m allowed a pen and notebook but even that is probably forbidden… I’m going to a silent retreat deep in the West Country for meditation, yoga and what the retreat leader calls ‘deep reflection and shedding’. Yup, I am pretty terrified! I’ve never done so much silence, ever. In fact everyone who knows me knows I’m pretty chatty. But I am always banging on about how new experiences are the thing in midlife, so I am practicing what I preach and going to try something completely new.
I feel a bit like I did when, aged 23, I set off for Indonesia to spend two months travelling around on my own. It felt like a great idea until I looked out of the plane above Jakarta and saw the lights of this huge unknown city winking below me and I realised I knew absolutely NO-ONE. I was terrified. But it turned out ok. I made friends, saw the Komodo dragons, ended up as the only Westerner in a tiny town on the West coast of Sumbawa waiting for a boat to Flores and was befriended by a huge Indonesian family…. there was a moment when I was on a long deserted beach on my own with a man with a machete and I thought, crikey, is this it? But that was just my paranoia: he was charming and used the mighty machete to hack open a coconut for me to drink and then took me to hang out with his sisters and all their kids. It was the best.
So I’m hoping that striking out into the unknown – albeit this time on more of an inner journey – will also be a boon! Hope so… it was strange filling out the form for the retreat. They asked about my spiritual beliefs. As a cynical hack for many years – my job as a journalist was to interrogate everything with a rational brain – even being asked that question felt like a jump into something new. And at 51 this is the first time I have ever set off on any kind of a spiritual quest, so virgin territory indeed. I will report back!
One of my intentions in founding Noon was to get Queenagers together so we can support each other, share our stories and inspire each other to find our next chapter. After all, in the 100 Year Life (if you haven’t read Linda Gratton’s book of that title, please do!) fifty is only half way through, so we’ve got lots of time for new adventures. We do lots of exploring what that might look like and shedding the things that no longer serve us, in our Noon retreats but I know that isn’t for everyone. So today I am announcing a different kind of Noon experience, our first Noon Tour.
We’ll head off to Morocco in March 2023. We’ll be a small group of 20, and be led by female guides in Morocco – I love the idea of Queenagers supporting Queenagers in the developing world, that is really important to me and at the essence of this trip. When I travelled extensively in my 20s, like many Gen X-ers I always wanted to get off grid, to experience something of the essence of the country, not just feel like a tourist. That is what we have tried to do with this first Noon tour.
We’re going to travel out together to Marrakesh (yes that is me there last month at the top of this email) on Saturday March 4th 2023 and then head off to hike through the remote M’goun Valley for four days with Mama Bia, Morocco’s first local female guide. We’ll hike for four or five hours in the morning with her, hearing her tales of the landscape and her family’s nomadic past and meeting the locals. We’ll see traditional rug weaving, take part in singing and dancing with local women in Berber villages, they’ll teach us to cook some local dishes and we’ll stay in comfortable local guest houses and mountain gites. I’m told it qualifies as ‘light adventure’ – not too gruelling, but good for the heart and the mind.
I promise amazing views – we’ll be crossing some spectacular gorges and rivers including the Agouti Gorge. There will be great chat and much Queenager bonding. I met the head of Intrepid (our hosts) in Morocco last month. Zina is an amazing Queenager and I was so inspired by how she is training up local women to be part of the tourism industry as a way to female empowerment in her country. I love the idea that we can do good for ourselves and Moroccan women simultaneously.
The idea of the Noon tour is that it will be a bit like our Noon retreat but half the price, more exotic, hotter and we’ll be supporting women in Morocco. By being part of this special women supporting women trip we are providing opportunities for female trailblazers in this beautiful, but super conservative, Kingdom.
It won’t all be trekking I promise. We’ll also hang out in the Djemaa el Fna and the Souk in Marrakesh, watching the fortune tellers, jugglers and snake charmers. And I am really excited about visiting the home of Zineb, away from the bustle of the Medina, a local woman who will cook for us and tell us her story. We’ll fly home on Saturday March 11th. The price is £1,329 per person (including return flights from Heathrow and most meals). If you would rather arrange your own flights the Tour Only price is £949. To book your place call 0800 412 5678. Or to request a call back click here. (I love the Silver Travel Advisory who we are working with on this. They are run by Lisa McAuley who is on our Noon Advisory Board. If you are sick of the impersonality of online travel companies and actually want to SPEAK to someone I highly recommend using them for any holidays or flights you are booking.)
To read the full itinerary check it out on the Noon website. And when you book say you are a Noon/Queenager newsletter subscriber.
Oh and if you are a Paid Subscriber to Noon you can get special free FastTrack at the airport.
(Might be worth becoming a Paid Subscriber if you aren’t already – you get access to my in person Noon Circles, next one in Soho London on November 23rd and invitations to extra talks and consultations with our Noon experts).
Wish me luck on my silent retreat – I think I might need it! I’m comforting myself with the thought that it’s only a week… and at the very least there should be a good newsletter in it!
All the best and DO come with me to Morocco! It will be a blast.
By Eleanor Mills