Midway Moments - Reflections from 5 Months on the Road

We woke up to a morning colder than the others, hopped in the car, and drove in search of fresh bread. Our nutella, jam and apples were waiting to be smeared and devoured.

Yesterday we passed a small bread stall and a bakery. Both had large glass cabinets in the front, with shelves that should be lined with fresh bread, but at the end of the day, each only held three or four pieces. We’ve been here before and this type of Moroccan bread isn’t nearly as good the next day. I mean, fresh bread is better everywhere no matter the country. So, we woke up early in search of these two places.

It’s a Monday morning and hundreds of kids line the streets, sidewalks, and plazas waiting for school to start. There are so many children here. The girls wear white button up overcoats as a uniform of sorts, yet the boys wear whatever they please. Maybe, as Jesse suggests, it’s to help keep the boys focused on learning instead of the girls; maybe it’s just part of the culture in this town.

Everyone is smiling, and this isn’t unique to just the school children. The people in Morocco seem happy, even in places where there is so little compared to what we know. From the sandwich stall man on the streets in Casablanca, to (most) of the businessmen in the Fes medina, to the gas station attendants en route to the Sahara desert, to our Berber camel trek guide, to the workers who waved us down to sit and enjoy tea and musemen (pronounced saamen) bread with us in the field of the Todgha Gorge, to the wife of the former Zebra Camp owner’s chef in Ouzoud who invited us into her home for tea (I know – that’s a confusing one), most locals here seem happy to just be. It’s refreshing to see a culture where people take the time to say hello and really mean it when they ask how you are. And they don’t just say hello to you in passing. The culture here is for everyone to greet to each and every person. It’s a way of life that communicates that each moment with strangers in passing should be just as pleasant as when you greet your family after not seeing them for a while.

So with school children giggling in groups before heading into school, we drove along in search of bread. The bakery, which looked more promising than the bread stall yesterday, was closed to our dismay. The town seemed to still be asleep, save the education crew, so our hopes weren’t high.

It's still strange for a town to still be asleep and the sun barely out past 8 AM after spending so much time in Patagonia. There, the sun was up at 5 AM and didn't set until 10 PM. The days were much longer and started much earlier, but here, the streets were still empty save the children as we drove.

As we inched closer to the second bread option, more children played in the plaza, warming their hands around a barrel fire that they must have built earlier. There were three men lined up outside the stall, with more coming around. The same three day-old pieces of bread from yesterday were still on display in the glass case, but a middle school aged boy was buzzing back and forth bringing fresh bread to each customer in their requested quantities. Some men filled large bags that I could only guess would be served at various tourist restaurants around the Ouzoud waterfall later in the day, while some customers only purchased a small amount that would be, presumably like ours, consumed this morning. The boy who brought us the bread may not have been running around the streets with his peers, but he wore a smile like all the rest.

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Morocco marks the halfway point of our trip around the world. When we left, we told everyone we would be gone for about a year, but in reality, we had no idea when we would come back, and we certainly had dreams that one year would stretch into more. Even further, we secretly hoped to fall in love with somewhere and just get lost there for a while. If we hadn't booked a flight from Buenos Aires to Morocco and Morocco to India a few months back, Patagonia may just have been the place that we let ourselves get lost, and oops, accidentally extend our trip.

The end of our trip was something theoretical; we knew we would eventually come back, but had no real plan to return other than the fact that we would. We knew we would have to get jobs eventually once our savings account ran out, or before it ran out since we are trying to be financially responsible while on the road. We both want kids sometime in the near future, and every moment we spend around kids just makes this desire grow, but the freedom of picking up and going as we please doesn’t mesh with the "American dream” of settling down and having a family and security. So where do we go from here? When do we come home and what will life look like for us after traveling around the world for a year?

Jesse’s grandfather Brookes has somewhat of a saying of old age wisdom that he has shared with both of us more than once, and it’s stuck.

TIME. ENERGY. MONEY.

When you’re young, you have time and energy, but no money. As a kid you bounce around with endless energy and time is so abundant that it’s a concept you have yet to understand. I would say this category goes through your college years or early twenties. The world seems to be at your fingertips. You have wide eyes, big dreams, and all the time in the world to figure out who you want to be, just not the money to make it all happen.

Then comes your mid-twenties to early forties. You have energy and money, but seemingly no time. You’re making strides in your career and earning a paycheck, no longer reliant on your parents for money like you were when you were young. Your career is booming and you’ve earned a raise or two. You pay your own bills and fund your own fun, but time flies. It seems like just yesterday that you lived on your own, but life is going too quickly and you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do. You get married, and then before you know it, you're holding your first, and maybe second and third child. Soon enough, your kids have zapped your youthful energy and you wonder where the time you use to have went.

And then you look back in the rear view mirror; your children are building their own families of their own, you're seeing those gray hairs winning the war. You have money, maybe from retirement or maybe a long and stable job. You have time, you retire or slow down significantly, so although you're much older now, you are beginning to have much more time on your hands again. Time may have slowed down, but you just don't have the energy that you once did.

I'm not saying that life happens like this for everyone, I know it doesn't. But we all have varying degrees of time, energy and money at each stage in life, and depending on where you are, you usually have more of some and less of others.

Jesse and I however feel like we are in the center of an equilateral triangle of time, energy, and money right now, which is something that many people may never feel and for that, we are blessed. A few years ago we made some very deliberate decisions to aggressively save money, focus on pushing far in our careers early on, and we set a full year aside for ourselves, but we aren’t delusional enough to ignore the fact that the only reason we were able to do this was by our parents aiding us in all three of these things at various points over the years. We have time – we took a year “off” from the “real world” to see the “real world.” We have energy – we’re young and although our bodies don’t feel like they did when we turned twenty one, we can carry upwards of a 20 kilogram backpack (Jesse can at least, mine was more like 13) for days on end hiking in the mountains of Patagonia. We might be tired at times, but our energy tanks are full. We have money – we may wish we had more (doesn't everyone?), but we have enough to fund our travels without having to work.

We leave Morocco today and just like that, our trip is halfway over. For the most part we have just as much energy as when we left, and although our savings account is decreasing, the money we saved is going farther than we planned, which is great for us. We seem to be short on time though.

Some people would think it’s ridiculous if we said that one year just isn’t enough to see the world, but I'll still say it. One year isn’t nearly enough time to see the world. When we first built an itinerary rough draft, we had 20+ countries on our list. We keep narrowing this down and spending more time than planned in each place we visit. In five and a half months, we have seen a sampling of life in five countries. The country count keeps getting shorter and the length of time in each country gets longer. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So where do we go from here? We fly to India on a 60 day visa and intend to use all 60 days.

Do we have any real plans to come back to the US? We do. We’ve booked a flight “home” and will be back this summer.

The decision to book a flight back to the US has weighed very heavily on both of us. It’s almost Christmas and for the first time our talks about going home over the past few months seemed real instead of some theoretical event in the future. It's bittersweet. We almost cancelled our flight home several times in the 24 hour free cancellation period. (Even as I revise this post and get ready to publish before we hop on our plane, Jesse just reminded me that we have 30 more minutes left to cancel.) My eyes may be watering, but I feel confident in our decision. However, by committing to something back home over the summer and booking that flight, we essentially are getting rid of the chance to get lost somewhere in Asia for a year or two.

All good things must come to an end though, and having somewhat of a plan will help me relax now instead of having the decision for when to return looming over my head. And let's be honest, if we fall in love with somewhere more than we fell in love with Patagonia, we'll be back.

And we still have half of our trip left. As one traveler put it today, we have so much more time for positive unexpected adventures, like driving around a tiny town full of giggling school children while we search out the perfect fresh bread. We may be running out of time here, but we’ll just have to look at it instead as running into time somewhere else.



Now, what will life look like for us after traveling around the world for a year? Well I'll add that to the list of blog posts we are running behind on.

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We are on the road for a year. If you are reading this then you probably know us personally, BUT if you want to know what we think about ourselves...

 

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