Our brother/sister trip around Africa ground to a halt at its second stop, in Chefchaouen, Morocco.
Chefchaouen is a sleepy little pueblo in the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco. The entire medina is painted different shades of blue, creating a surreal effect when wandering the streets. Tourism has exploded here in recent years; “even five years ago, Chefchaouen was nothing,” my local friends said.
Chefchaouen is famous for three things, they’d continue:
- The water, which comes straight down from the nearby mountains, and is some of the purest drinking water in all of Morocco;
- The hashish, which is grown in the nearby mountains and offered to you everywhere;
- And ‘the relax.’
Sounds pretty good, right?
Yeah, sounded pretty good to me, too.
“I have to come here at least once a year,” said Waheeb, a Moroccan climber I meet in Chaouen. Waheeb’s a character: he claims to have crossed Africa on foot, from Somalia to Senegal. And I have no reason to doubt his claim.
“Even if I am somewhere else in the world, I will return to Morocco — just to visit Chaouen. My soul just doesn’t feel right if I don’t visit this place enough,” he told me one night, sitting out in the crisp mountain air, staring at the stars.
I could see where he was coming from.
Chefchaouen felt like a bath for my weary soul.
I sat in the stairwell of the hostel, listening to my sister cry on the other end of the telephone.
“Why don’t you want to be with me?” she asked. “Do you know how shitty that feels?”
It was December 2017. I was in Chefchaouen, Morocco, nestled in the Rif mountains. The bite of winter was encroaching. I was cold, and filled with self-loathing.
“There is some part of me that feels like it really needs to go see about this woman,” I said. “I can’t stop thinking about her.”
Five years of planning, interminable delays, and the trip my sister and I had planned to take together around Africa would never occur.
I had fallen in love.
The phone call ended without resolution.
She needed to do something, or I did. I sat on the stairs and felt a blackness in my heart. I was blazing a selfish path of destruction, I knew. I had burnt a hole in the middle of my oldest, strongest relationship — to go see about a person I’d known for only three days. Que romantico. ¿No?
I shot a message to a friend back home: I contribute nothing, M. My lifestyle is so selfish. I only hurt people. What’s wrong with me?
I felt lower than I had in a very long time, But I couldn’t stop. One has to follow one’s heart. No matter the risk, no matter the damage — love is the only force of meaning in this world.
Or so I thought.
This is youth, after all.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably realized I’ve been home for a bit. Home for me is Colorado, USA. Colorado’s one of the hottest states in the U.S. at the moment; one of the top places young people want to move. The migration is major, bringing both skilled and unskilled workers in large numbers to my home.
I can’t blame them; as I tell my friends and family when they ask about my travels, I’ve now seen a lot of places around the world. And the more places I see, the more convinced I am that Colorado is one of the better ones.
Here’s why I believe that:
A reader left a comment on my 2017 in Places post:
“The more you travel, the more you will find that it is the people you meet along the way that matter most… Keep on travelling!!”
I couldn’t agree more. I’d like to share just one small story from this year about some people I met on the road. You saw them last week, at the tail end of my 2017 in Photos post, and you see them again, above.
They are Patty and Jeed. I met them on Koh Lanta, a Thai island, at the end of 2015.
Seventeen of my favorite pictures from 2017 — a year that took me to four continents, six states, and eight countries.
For my 16 favorite photos from last year, check out 2016 in Photos.
Prefer words? 2017 in Places Continue reading