Faced with the reality of working in a small town pub for the better part of three months of my gap year, I decided that I needed to get out of England. I had a few friends who had already visited Morocco, and I was fascinated by their descriptions of the maze of markets in Marrakech, and camel rides in the Sahara, so this ended up being my chosen destination. Travelling alone was a terrifying prospect, especially as a woman, but I decided that I would not let my fear, or gender, get in the way of my doing something I wanted to do.
I started in Marrakech, which was a bit over-whelming. Nothing had prepared me for the onslaught of people desperately trying to sell me anything from their stalls, or even trying to buy my hand in marriage (I lost count of the amount of times I was asked how many camels my father would accept as a dowry). The hostel I ended up staying in was a haven away from the main square — it had explosions of colourful murals all over the walls of the entry room, couches with embroidered cushions, shisha pipes on each table and fairy lights strung everywhere.
I arrived at the hostel at the same time as two Dutch travellers — Annika, a PhD student, and her brother Robin. Within five minutes of chatting we had decided to take a hostel-run trip to the Sahara together. It was at that point that I decided travelling alone had actually been one of the best decisions I could have made.
We left the next morning and arrived at the camp at sunset, taking a camel ride through the desert to our tents. This sounds like a fantastic experience, but to anyone remotely considering ever riding a camel — don’t do it. It was the most uncomfortable experience of my life. Watching the sun set over the Sahara, however, was pretty special. It turned out that my friend Annika had a beautiful voice, and she picked up a guitar in the evening and serenaded us in Dutch — definitely a highlight for me.
Essaouira ended up being my favourite place in Morocco. A tiny town on the coast, popular with windsurfers, it has a mellow vibe about it which I really liked. It was the only place I visited in Morocco where I felt like I could fully relax; the locals were so laid back. You could climb the old castle walls and sit watching the sea—I did this for hours at a time. I also had the opportunity of travelling to one of the nearby villages and riding an Arabian horse on the beach, which was incredible. Essaouira was the place which I found hardest to leave, and which I would definitely return to. Put it on your list of places to visit if you plan on travelling to Morocco.
My advice to anyone planning on travelling anywhere alone — don’t let fear hold you back. I had some of the best experiences of my life, and met fantastic people from all over the world, but I was able to do that because I was careful. Take the leap and travel alone, but remember not to be naiÌˆve.