As comfortable as it was at home with meals readily available, Netflix at the push of a button, and old friends free to hang out, it was time to get back on the road. I had arranged to volunteer at a hostel in the mountains at Big Bear, California, for August. I also really wanted to see California before I headed back to Europe for school. I believed that the mountain, the woods, and the lake would be great for outdoor activities and help organize my mind and spirit.
We crowded around the TV in the communal lounge that evening and watched President Obama walk confidently up to the podium. He announced that U.S. forces had captured and killed Osama Bin Laden. There was palpable excitement among us college freshmen. Someone proposed that we drive on down to the White House and join in with a growing crowd that was gathering on the north side across from Lafayette Square.
I felt it in the night air. It was like the college parties that we had gotten so accustomed to on the weekends since the beginning of our time at…
The overnight bus ride from Fez was a restless one.
I managed to take the seat all the way at the front with the view through the windshield, which is always my preference for any bus ride if the opportunity arises. On night rides, I can generally expect to see the pulsating waves of street lamps passing by on the highway and inducing a sense of ease.
Not on this ride.
This bus quickly departed from civilization and we were immersed in pitch blackness. The only light came from the high beams at the front of the bus that illuminated…
What if money could directly reach the people who use it? No banks, no delays, and no fees. People could send each other money without having to go through Venmo or Cash App, paychecks could clear instantly instead of counting business days, and loans could be approved with no waiting period.
I found my hostel just on the fringes of the Fez Medina with the help of many kind strangers. Plenty of people offered to help me find the place, which I was grateful for after my long journey from the airport.
Many of the hostels in Morocco are actually repurposed Riads that were considered quite fancy to stay at way back in the day. The Riad, from the Arabic term for ‘garden,’ emphasizes privacy and shelter from the weather. The center of each Riad typically has a garden or fountain in a courtyard under an open-air aperture that provides a…
Looking out the window of the plane, I saw Europe melt away into the distance and with it my sense of grounding and familiarity.
As land came into view again, I began to prepare myself for my first contact with the African continent. From my vantage point in the sky with the Ryanair logo on the wing providing a spatial point of reference, I could see the magnificent landscape of Morocco. It was far greener than I expected with lakes that reflected calming shades of turquoise and small isolated villages nestled in the mountains.
Dragan lit a cigarette and pulled the ashtray closer to his side of the table. Smoke filled the room and set the relaxing mood that we were in for the long haul. The barkeeper brought two bottles of beer over to us as we both settled into our seats.
The flight earlier that day had been one of those signature quick hopes across national boundaries that are so convenient in Europe. On approach, I looked out the window at the mid-afternoon expanse of bright green farmland covering the surface of the landscape.
In my final semester of graduate school, I had already completed all of the credits that I needed and I was ahead on my masters’ thesis. I had no more requirements to meet. What more ideal situation could a student ask for? I could really kick back and soak in my freedom just as spring was bringing the sun and the warmth.
Instead of attending classes to fulfill graduation requirements, I was free to audit any courses in the catalog purely for my own interest in the subject matter. No grades, no papers, no final exams, and no stress. …
I’m not special in saying that my life was turned on its head in mid-March of 2020. The pressures of quarantine at the very beginning pushed me to pick up habits that I could develop at home. Some of them were completely new, others were ones that I picked up again, and some were existing habits that I devoted more effort to.
At any rate, I set aside time every single day in the past year for each of these habits.
I had been looking for a reason to take the train to return to Sintra since my last trip in November when my flatmate proposed a day trip to the fairytale mountain town before she left to go back to the Netherlands. We made our way through the winding residential streets of Lisbon, rounding the corner at Luís de Camões Square to arrive at Rossio station in the city center.
There is something theatrical to entering Rossio train station. Like the opening credits for a movie, it sets the stage for immersion into a totally different reality.
The curved and…