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Ourika Valley

It’s been seven months since I came home and I’m still thinking about my summer in Europe. But these days I find myself thinking less about the things I did, places I went, and things I saw, and more about the experience as a whole.

My trip was nothing like I’d expected it would be, in both good ways and bad. I struggled, stuck between two distinctly different periods of my life. When I came home and people asked me about my summer, my nondescript, lackluster answers confused them. But I didn’t know what to make of the experience then, and I’m still not sure what to make of it now.

While we were in Marrakech, my mom and I took a day trip to the Ourika Valley. My conflicted feelings about Marrakech came to a head that day — I was seeing such beauty around me, was annoyed by the difficult hike that had been advertised as easy, was in a funk I couldn’t seem to break out of, and simultaneously grappling with questions about differences in culture, the value of objects, and the authenticity of experiences.

After the hike, we ate at a restaurant with plastic picnic tables and chairs right in the middle of the creek. My mom and I talked and talked over chicken tagine and, eventually, I felt better. Before we left, I took my shoes off and dipped my feet in the cool water rushing next to our table.

When I travel, I never lose myself. I’m constantly in my own head — analyzing my emotions, anticipating how I’ll react to things before they’ve even happened, and wondering why I’m feeling a certain way and not another. I feel fully and honestly, always right in the middle of it because I don’t know any other way.

I thought the way I traveled — stuck in my own head — made me a bad traveler. I realize now that the way I travel is a strength. I travel completely in the present.

It’s been seven months, and I’m still not sure what to make of my experiences in Europe as a whole. But I know that summer meant something then, means something now, and will continue to mean something for a long time. I’m not done discovering what affects Europe had on me. I’m not sure I ever will be.