I recently went to Morocco, and for the first time, I traveled alone. It didn’t have much planning or preparation, but booking those tickets was the best thing that’s ever come of not being able to sleep.
As I sat there on the plane on the way over, panic hit me. I had no money (just my card) and nowhere to stay (I hadn’t been able to get through to any hostels).
…my card wasn’t working.
My panic didn’t lessen as I got off the plane and tried to get money out of the ATM, only to discover my card wasn’t working. Luckily I had twenty pounds in my purse I was able to change. This would be enough to get a taxi from the airport and cover the first night… But it wouldn’t last the week!
I got a taxi with two girls I met in the airport called Abby and Jess, and then stayed the first night with them. Having no plan ended up more than working out.
…a man lying in the middle of the road…
As all the crazy motorbike drivers in Marrakech’s medina (old city) charged towards me, it was reassuring to have company. Especially as we passed a man lying in the middle of the road who’d crashed.
Eventually, after a couple more failed attempts, I got money out. At that point, I knew I could do it. Travelling alone needn’t be scary.
There was a spontaneity I’ve never had to the same level before. I and I alone, was in control of my plan, which I let it be moulded by the people I met. Abby mentioned a waterfall where the sun and the spray make rainbows and you can swim behind it –Cascades D’Ouzoud.
…alone with men who got the wrong impression.
The next day I went there on a bus. Two woman called Malika and Fatima accompanied me most of the way, giving me food and putting perfume on me. Then they too were gone and once more I was alone and not knowing who I was going to meet next.
My travel guide had the line: be cautious but not paranoid. I had it in my head for the whole trip, but it’s a line I still can’t draw. I ended up ignoring people who were being friendly and being alone with men who got the wrong impression.
…never accept a Berber massage…
I get the feeling one should never accept a Berber massage (though I’m intrigued to find out what it involves). The offer always seemed to come with an attempt to lean in for a kiss, or unwanted grabbing.
But despite all my cultural blunders (men and women, for example, don’t tend to eat together unless there’s more going on), I’ve never felt so at home in another country.
One man even gave me a ring…
I learnt I didn’t have to push aside everyone who asked me to look in their shop. In fact, when I stopped, I was invited in for free mint tea and got to speak to some of the most down to earth and open people I’ve ever met.
One man even gave me a ring which he refused to accept money for. Another gave uncanny insights into my life (his first statement was you’re born in the summer, I am). I joined him and his friends for dinner; one of them was a nomad and explained the lifestyle. He was far more interesting than the palace I’d just visited.
…I was getting on one of those motorbikes…
The shop owner then offered me a lift to the bus station (I was en route to my plane home). I gratefully accepted and we walked outside towards his car. We then stepped around the car, to my confusion. Then I realised, I was getting on one of those motorbikes that had triggered such fear in me from the first night. I took a deep breath.
Travelling alone as a female, I believe, is almost safer because people want to help you. Just make sure you get out of situations that make you uncomfortable. We have a tendency to be overly mistrustful. Caution but not paranoia – I’m sure the line can be found. But missing it makes for interesting tales.