Our cellphones didn’t work, and nobody complained.
Ok, well, my phone did work, but I used it mostly for navigation.
I recently returned from two weeks Morocco with my wife and two daughters. We hiked the Atlas Mountains, had tea with nomadic Berbers and learned about Islam and Moroccan culture.
And we laughed a lot.
We have always traveled with our kids, mostly opting for off-the-beaten-track options and finding opportunities to interact with local people. With a stable government, multiple ethnicities living peacefully together, good roads and diverse landscape, Morocco sounded like a great country to explore.
And with daughters 13 and 16 years old, it was an extra bonus that the kids’ phones — the communication buffer that many think of as extension of themselves — would only function when we had access to WiFi. To their credit, the girls embraced this technology rationing, and we all enjoyed what happened as a result.
What did the trip lead to?
Asking for help — we hired a few guides during our trip. In the cities, they were invaluable to make sure we didn’t get lost and also to help us understand the culture and see things we would have ordinarily passed by. In the more remote areas, the guides took us places we never would have found and introduced us to people they knew. These personal interactions were among our most meaningful experiences and included having tea with two nomadic Berber families.
Asking Questions — We talked about cultural and religious norms, politics, and how it’s possible to be happy without a nice house and the conveniences we take for granted.
Processing what we were seeing — This time together without distractions gave us the chance to talk about observations and ask questions from our travels — these conversations and questions ranged from “what do they do with the trash from the city once it’s loaded onto the donkeys?” to “why do so many people have bad teeth here?” to “I’m really nervous to buy things when everything is a negotiation” and “does this family really live here in the middle of the mountains in these caves?”
Making mistakes — We lost our way in the Medina mazes and communicated poorly using rusty French skills. Some of these mistakes were humbling. Others just gave us opportunities to laugh at ourselves. I’d like to say that falling for an over-priced rug sales pitch was all art of the plan, but that’s another story…
Playing card games — We talked a lot of trash as we each attempted to convince family members that they should be prepared to lose when up against our individual card playing prowess. This talk often crossed the line well into the range of ridiculous, but as the trip wore on, the talk was almost as much fun as the card games.
Laughing — by the end of the trip, we had a list of nearly twenty different inside jokes that, with one word or movement could make everyone in the family burst into spontaneous laughter.
Opportunities to both talk about things that require time and revisit conversations — Life today moves quickly, and vacations can be one of the few times with family that we’re not looking at the clock or reflexively reaching for the phone in response to a chime. We had almost every meal together, walked miles each day as we explored, and spent many hours together in the car. These were perfect moments to start or revisit different topics with each other — or just sing loudly along with the Broadway show tunes that provided the soundtrack to our long car rides.
Our trip to Morocco provided memories that has already erased any disappointment over missed Instagram feeds or broken Snapchat streaks. It’s a beautiful country with incredible diversity in culture, history, traditions, architecture, landscape, climate, and food. We loved Morocco, but you don’t have to go to get on a plane and head to foreign country to have this kind of meaningful experience. You can pack up the car and drive a day in any direction and experience new things.
“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
- MARCUS AURELIUS