So finally after being a single mother of three boys for ten years I was going on a holiday with one of my best friends. I was not someone’s mother, someone’s sister, daughter or someone’s manager at work, just me, Josie!
My friend Simon said “You choose the country” and so I chose Morocco, having always been intrigued by what I thought would be the exotic food, the architecture, the geography, the Sahara etc. I was also intrigued to experience Islamic culture in a moderate country. All of the above turned out to be amazing but what I didn’t expect was that Morocco, its people and its culture, would change my life’s direction forever….
For the past 10 years I had felt a disconnection with people around me. I had thrown myself into being a ‘good mother’, giving my children a stable home, staying in our existing large house, so much work and maintenance. I had spent the last 4 years in a management role at work, working insane hours, raising the boys, housework, an acre of garden, everyone saying I don’t know how you do it? Well I was exhausted, had become unfit, I was grumpy at home (sorry boys!) and I was unhappy too. I had a good income which was helping with the mortgage but my life was always go-go-go, my mind constantly on the next thing to do.
It wasn’t long into our trip that Morocco had begun to creep under my skin, the tangible connection between people, the sense of community and family, the beautiful call to prayer. This was a different way of life, some western influences no doubt, but a life not focused on material wealth, but first and foremost on relationships and family. Moroccans ask how you and your family are, they ask about your relationships/family and your job, well that may come much later. Contrast this with what is a very common scenario when meeting someone here at home, more often than not the first question is, “So what type of work do you do? “
And so it happened in the Atlas Mountains half way through my trip, that moment of clarity, a realisation, a life changing moment, cliched perhaps, but real never the less. We had spent the day at a remote Berber village and experienced the generous hospitality of a family who had so little themselves, no electricity, no running water or sanitation, a very modest home of 2 rooms. As mint tea was poured, two little girls appeared, one sat down and it was obvious she had no underwear, had soiled her dress but she was laughing with her sister, intrigued by these strangers in her home.
While her father smiled and encouraged her, she passed around biscuits to us all. Our tour guide Tariq Hammoudi told us of their modest life, the daily hardship they endure, the sheer hard work involved in everyday living but despite all this they were incredibly happy and very grateful. Experiencing this brought me to tears, it had a profound effect on me and I had to walk away for a small moment. Later that night sitting on our hotel terrace drinking mint tea, the sun setting, the wondrous beauty of those mountains all around me, I truly felt at peace. The sounds of the village, young men gathered around together singing and most striking of all the sound of children playing not with electronic devices or toys, but with each other, running, laughing.
I had already begun to fall in love with Morocco but these mountains and the Berber people in particular had taken hold of my heart. I paused and then realised that I was misguided in my life. I had made choices which I thought would best serve my family but which had made me unavailable, too busy and pre occupied to stop and hear the sounds of my own children. I vowed then and there to go home and try to live differently, slow down and have more work life balance.
It lasted three months before I was on that high-speed train again! However that moment in Ouarzazate had stayed with me, this reminder of what is truly important in life, how easily seduced and deceived we can be into thinking that enough is never really enough. No doubt those Berber villages would like some progress and development in order to make their everyday lives easier. One can only hope that ‘progress’ does not destroy the intrinsic beauty and connection that simplicity of life brings.
I knew I was lucky, I could make a different choice, and so I did. I resigned from my managerial role, I now work 4 days a week, I am selling my ‘large’ home to live happily in a smaller one and I donate monthly to The High Atlas Foundation, an organisation with whom I will have the privilege of doing some volunteer work this November.
Tariq once said during our tour ‘We are lucky in Morocco because we don’t have oil. Oil brings much money to a country but it does not make a country rich.” Never have truer words been spoken…
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To check out The High Atlas foundation Josie will be working with in November, Click here.