Yesterday I began a journey that I don’t fully understand but know that I need to do. The trip saw a few different directions in the planning stage. First, I was going to simply go back to east Africa and retrace some steps. Then it was three months in Europe: food and art in Italy, France and Spain. But one cannot be in those countries without recognizing the migrant crisis and the deplorable conditions that millions are currently living in. So I looked into volunteering and meeting people doing their best to help the migrants. Surprisingly that ended up going from full steam ahead to a complete dead end. I think many NGOs have closed due to the EU-Turkey deal and others, well, sometimes people are reluctant in sharing their work (but that is another topic for another time.)
In the end, the journey turned out exactly as it was always intended. Over the course of 82 days I will be journeying through Morocco, Israel and Palestine, India, Kenya and Tanzania (for the steps retracing), South Africa and Lesotho. My own pilgrimage of sorts comprising of seva, exploration of my personal spiritual devotion, trekking, art and yoga. All while connecting with whichever souls (and delicious foods) are intended to cross my path and I theirs.
I’m traveling ultralight with only carry-on luggage and a backpack, one pair of Ethiopian WFTO certified Sole Rebel shoes (the bomb dot com) and my mountain boots. The luggage is special to me. It belonged to a much beloved family member that passed away very unexpectedly last year. Her name means “full of grace” and she most certainly was. She loved to travel. She was a school teacher that loved children. She loved the mountains and all that nature had to offer. Being on different continents, we didn’t get to spend as much time together as either of us would have liked before her sudden transition. So she’s with me in spirit on this journey (and carry-on!). We’ll experience whatever unfolds over these 82 days together.
I landed in Marrakech midday today. I’m writing from a riad in the Medina. It’s late. I need to get to bed very soon. Tomorrow is day 1 of an 8 day trek across the Atlas Mountains with a summit of Gebel Toubkal from the Ikhibi Nord route instead of the more commonly used South Route/Normal Route.
I will be in Morocco for one month to explore the mountains and environmental conservation efforts, Amazigh (Berbers) indigenous tribe, art, food, women doing wonderful work helping other women and children – some refugees, some living with HIV/AIDS, some facing poverty and gender-based violence, and all in need of support. And of course – near and dear to my heart – those working in animal rescue and welfare.
Please take the time to check out some wonderful Moroccan initiatives: Amal Women’s Center, Migrants du Monde, Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Sanctuary, Mountain Propre and Fondation Helga Heidrich SOS Animaux. I will be taking a cooking class at Amal and I’m excited to meet all the beautiful rescue animals and the legend herself, Helga in the coming weeks. I hope to link up with Mountain Propre in Imlil and toward the end of my journey I will be visiting Madame Nathalie and the atelier of Migrants du Monde. All the while eating, eating, eating veggie tajine and all the amazing baked goods. Sfinj anyone?