For showing me the serenity of your land, the beauty in other humans, for teaching me the power of everyone’s unique stories, for allowing me to check my privilege, and for being the catalyst of my personal growth - I will forever be grateful for your part in my life.
It all started in March of 2018, when my colleague and now one of my closest friends, Virley, sent me a post on Instagram from GoodTravels about their upcoming Women’s Holistic Retreat to Marrakesh, Morocco. The itinerary looked perfect - 14 women, a gorgeous resort in the outskirts of Marrakesh, yoga/meditation in the mornings, trips to the Medina, and a volunteer opportunity with the children of Project Soar.
I was really anxious being so far from home and completely out of my comfort zone, but from the moment we landed in Marrakesh, we were greeted by warm smiles and friendly natives.
photos by Arnelle
Each day we did something very different - the first day was spent mostly at the resort familiarizing ourselves with each other. The next day we walked around the Medina and visited some of the historic and culturally dense sites of Marrakesh. Then, we went on a day trip to Essaouira where I learned something new - camels are only found in North Africa and the Middle East, anything else you see is actually called a Dromedary.
We had Stephanie Flor, founder of Around The World Beauty with us, who taught us about Moroccan skincare and beauty secrets. On the last day, she took us to the Hamam - a traditional Turkish spa. The Haman is a place where the women would go to congregate, unwind, and make time for themselves - it’s deeply rooted in the culture of Morocco. The warm, marble bath chambers, and traditional Moroccan tea after our therapeutic massage was the perfect way to end the trip.
photos by Arnelle
Although the sights, tastes, and sounds of the trip were incredible, the most fulfilling part of the trip was spending half a day with the girls of Project Soar.
Project Soar empowers young women to stay in school and become leaders in their communities. Adolescent girls are vulnerable and often denied education in most parts of the world which forces them into child marriage and early motherhood. We visited their school in the outskirts of Marrakesh and as soon as we walked in, we could see excited chatter and ear to ear smiles. We started by sitting in a huge circle and going around the room introducing ourselves, sharing what makes us happy, and setting our intentions. Although there was a slight language barrier, I was mesmerized by the beauty of their innocence and desire to pursue education despite the challenges they face. (There were a lot of tears in the room, and most were coming from us - not the kids.)
photo by Arnelle
We then broke out into groups and made friendship bracelets. I was taken aback by the leadership of Sana, a 13 year old girl in my group. She was so good at making these bracelets and was going around the room helping others. We talked about her family, her dreams, her passions. She was wide eyed and full of passion. When she was done making her bracelet, I told her I could tie it on her wrist for her and she smiled and said, “I want you to have it” in broken English. “Remember me” she said. To this day, every time I think of Morocco, I think of Sana.
photos by Arnelle
On the last day, we had a gorgeous dinner together at our resort where we reflected on our trip. When it was my turn to share, I spoke about how each one of us is so different. We come from different backgrounds, different childhoods, different dreams and passions, and different walks of life, but I learned through them what sisterhood means. We are all still very close to this day, and visit each other often! In fact, SheDidThat has four women who came together on that trip. I will go through life knowing that wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, if there is anything that I am struggling with, I can always go to any one of them for a laugh, a drink, or a heart to heart.
Over the course of 7 days we laughed, we cried, we became each other’s confidants. Being an introvert, it was hard for me to open up to a group of strangers. Far from home, unsure of our surroundings, all we had was each other. It’s crazy how quickly we became so vulnerable to each other - opening up about our greatest fears, our trials, our personal challenges, the things that hold us back, the things that push us - all which uncover and reveal the magic that each one of us hold.
photo by Emil Walker
Never have I been in a group where each person taught me something about life and of myself. Some of us may have never crossed paths in this life, especially the girls from Project Soar, but this experience was clearly meant for all of us. The key takeaway from this entire trip was this - no matter what walk of life you come from, nobody’s journey is better or worse, it’s just theirs and each of our journeys is so, so special.
I understand that traveling is a privilege and a luxury but I encourage every young adult to do so if you can, because the benefits of it can be monumental for your own personal growth. It can be a way for you to meet people, try new things, and have new experiences. When I used to ponder about vacation, I would think about the foods that I would want to try, the most “Instagrammy” sights to go to, and the things I would want to purchase and take home. We want to go to the most scenic places and do the touristy thing, and there is nothing wrong with that, but there is something so powerful about giving back to the country that you are visiting - whether that’s volunteering your time or being gracious to the people that helped you through your journey. This is what transformative travel means to me - it’s about having a travel experience that leaves a lasting change in your life. As my first solo trip out of the country, I am grateful to have gone with Good Travels. Their philosophy is mindful travel and a do-good perspective.
My deepest thoughts became my truth on this trip, and to be mindful of that is one of the greatest honors you can give yourself. I leave you all with this - release any thoughts & energies that confine you, that restrict you, that prevent you from expanding to your greatest self.
photo by Emil Walker
So Shukran to the charming country of Morocco, to each of the incredible women that touched my soul, and to Sana, I will always remember you and I will keep this experience in my heart forever.