The excitement of “Dude, we’re in AFRICA!” kept Morocco fun for a solid 2.5 weeks.
But in the end, it betrayed my trust one too many times.
And by trust, I mean bowels.
“Morroco: Come for the food, stay because you’re afraid to me more than 30ft away from a toilet at any given time” — my slogan for them
Overall, it was a great, memorable trip that I never need to experience again.
So how’d I go from excited to “over it”? Why do I shutter when I hear the words “medina” “cous cous” or “Rabat”?
Let’s start from where all great stories begin: aboard a pirate ship.
Welcome to Rabat
This was our introduction to Rabat. A karaoke pirate ship with a penchant for 80’s music. Or what they call in scripture, The Promised Land.
Still not sure why I wasn’t there every night. Especially since there wasn’t a whole lot of competition for nightlife.
Because Morocco’s weird about alcohol. You can’t drink in most restaurants and the bars come off the same way strip clubs do in the US — hidden in the dark with a pungent aroma of shame engulfing the entrance.
It seemed whenever I asked someone about their night out the answer was one of three things: 1) Pretty good. 2) Smokey, kinda dingy, and overpriced 3) I was basically assaulted on the dance floor.
After hearing that a few times, I didn’t do much with the night life there. Which was fine. After Lisbon, I was looking forward to calm nights and reasonable bedtimes (yeah being 30!)
The truth about remote work
I love working remotely. But it’s not what it seems on Instagram.
For example, we had a beautiful coworking space.
So why did I never post one of those “Here’s my office for the day — working from a tent with fresh Moroccan tea” pictures?
Because those pictures ain’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Here’s what’s going on behind those pictures that people selling this lifestyle don’t tell you:
- The heat, backsweat, and bugs get old
- If you go outside, the sun is either on your face or a glare in the screen. Making life miserable.
- It’s distracting as hell when you need to get things done. And how long can you really work from a couch?
- If you work from a “cool” spot, like a cafe, internet can be shoddy and muck up your day
Plus, when you do the digital nomad thing, you’ve got no routine. So you’re constantly worried about productivity. It’s amazing, when you ask people how their day was the answer so often is measured in productivity. (Do people in offices do this and I’ve just never noticed before?)
Personally, I need quite so I can focus. I need to know my internet is solid. And I need a chair and not to be slouching on pillows.
Which means I do my best work in the God Damn Cubicles I worked so hard to escape!
The reality is, I spent a good chunk of that month here:
I suppose I’m ranting because I get jealous when I see everyone’s perfect life on FB/Instagram. I don’t want to be part of the problem pumping up a fake life. So I wanted to show you how work really gets done when traveling. At least for me.
Okay, rant over. Back to the cool stuff.
First weekend of greatness
Here’s what’s awesome about Remote Year in particular.
Once again, I found myself at lunch on a Wednesday mumbling something like “Anything going on this weekend?” Next thing I know I’m invited to spend a weekend in Fez to check out the oldest medina in Morocco.
I knew zero about the trip before we left (what difference does it make? We’re goin’ explorin’!)
And was pleasantly surprised to see our bitchin’ accommodations.
So long as you don’t mind the semi-dirty water and cockraoch
doing his Michael Phelps impression, it’s great for a late night dip
During the day, we wandered about the medina. Which is basically a giant maze of narrow roads, stuff to buy, aggressive salesmen and even more aggressive smells.
Scattered around you are mischievous children, some playing tag, others trying to lure you to your doom (or at least to an undisclosed location where you’ll likely be parted with your wallet.)
Now it was here that you’re brave hero (me) successfully negotiated something for the first time in his life.
I was all about getting a cool Moroccan shirt. The salesman was all “That shirt costs 250 dirham”.
And I was all “I ain’t no chump! I’ll give ya 100!”
We haggled, I walked away, we haggled again, I walked away again. He chased me down and met me at 150. Boomshakalaka!
(That’s the equivalent of saving $8)
Now I’ve got a nice shirt that shrinks every time I wash it. So I’ll probably have to give to a girl soon because my middriff isn’t sexy enough to pull of a shirt this short.
On to the second day.
We hired a guide to take us around the medina (to avoid getting lost/robbed) and got into a little Moroccan hustle.
Dude brought us to shops where he was clearly getting a cut from the owners. And these shops had their sales pitches down.
Every place would show you how they made their leather/spices/fabric/whatever it was. Then they’d put their game-face on and start politely-but-not-really insisting you try their stuff on.
Leather store. I really wanted an excuse to buy a
$200 fireproof/waterproof leather jacket but couldn’t find one
That’s the face you make when you tell your guide
not to take you to any more shops but he takes you to a fabric store anyway
After a day and a half in the medina, I learned there’s no reason to spend more than a day in a half in a medina. Ever. I’ve retired from them.
The shops start repeating themselves. The smells don’t get better. You just want to take the stuff you haggled for proudly home, take a looooong shower, and have a bit o’ wine with your friends in your aggressively cool riad.
It’s funny how often the best part of traveling becomes the time you spend just chilling with the people you came with.
The Second Weekend of Greatness
Not sure what happened the following weekend.
Perhaps that’s due to memory loss from head-related injuries playing bubble soccer. Which obviously devolved into “Let’s run full speed into each other”.
Me falling one the left. I thought two of us could
take out the biggest guy on our trip. Nope.
But the weekend after bubble soccer, our fearless Remote Year staff scheduled a trip to a secluded beach. Naturally, I waited until the last minute then took the second to last spot.
We began by wandering around some cities and checked out the coast.
A town we explored. Let’s call it…Asilah?
Then, after hoping in a car with a dude who didn’t speak English, driving many more hours than we expected, we wound up at a gorgeous remote beach where we spent the night.
We basically had this to ourselves
BTW turns out this place had a “bring your own toilet paper” situation. Suprise!
We could only enjoy the scenery for so long before the urge to share it on social media took over.
Faces have been changed to protect the innocent.
All that, mixed with a whole lot of time in the car, obviously inspired us to make a music video.
Weekend 3: The downfall of Rabat
Here’s where my trust in Morocco vanished.
So the food in Morocco is awesome (until the millionth time you had cous cous.) But it gave a lot of us minor (and not so minor) stomach issues.
I thought I was in the clear. I had my sick day, recovered, and believed that meant me and Moroccan food could become best friends.
Then it turned on me. Right when something awesome happened.
Our group was going to do a hackathon. Basically, a handful of us were going to spend a weekend helping a local child education company with their marketing/content/etc.
Using my copypowers to help kids learn good was right up my ally. I was pumped.
Then, I had The Panini of Doom. It sent me spiraling into the 7th circle of hell for 36 hours.
It was like my intestines hit a panic button. Everything inside was looking to abandon ship and take the fastest route out. It turned me into a quivering, aching mess.
Me after eating a Moroccan panini
The hackathon wound up being a smashing success without me (write-up to come.)
And I got better in time for the going away party.
Check out the haggled-for shirt!
“So what have you been trying to tell me with all these ramblings, Brian?”
Oh, do I need to have a point to all this?
Very well then. Some closing thoughts:
At the end of the day, Morocco’s whatever you make of it.
You can hear stories like Nathan’s, the guy on our trip who got robbed at knife point, and think “Okay, never going there”. Not going to argue with that logic.
But then there’s people like our cool Careem drives (Careem is Uber of Morocco) who went with him to the police station. And Hassan, the super friendly and well-connected guy in charge of the co-working space, who rattled some cages and made damn sure the police recovered what was taken.
(Btw I’m not 100% on this story since I wasn’t there and heard it second hand. But this is the internet so that’s close enough to be considered cold hard truth.)
For every idiot there’s a bunch of people making Morocco cool. Like most places.
Sooo should you go to Morocco?
I wouldn’t stay all that long, but sure. Check it out for a bit.
Things like this happen:
Moroccan traffic jam: stuck behind goats
A fine Asilah taxi service
Sunset on the way from work
The general consensus of our group seems to be that Morocco’s cool to visit, you don’t need to stay all that long, and there are places besides Rabat you’d be better off going to.
Check out Tangier, Marrakesh, see ONE medina (make it Chefchaouen), and ride camels in the Sahara. I didn’t do most of that, but it wasn’t until the trip was over I realized that was the best way to do it.