I came across this quote not a long time ago. It really stuck to my mind. “If I rest I rust. ” words from Helen Hayes, an accomplished American actress who won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award as well as receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom and awarded the National Medal of Arts. Wow.
“If I rest I rust.” Well surely Hayes didn’t rest nor did rust.
Since I left the comfort of my mother’s nest and moved out west, I’ve constantly been craving for more. I’ve tasted what it was like to live freely, adventurously, passionately… I was always planning the next adventure, and always had a destination country next on the list to visit. My bucket list evolves each year and my biggest dreams never fade to exist. I got to travel around the world, live and work abroad, volunteer overseas and even start my own business. And I get to adventure outdoors with my dogs and play in the immense backyard that is my home, the PNW. I live a spontaneous and rather adventurous lifestyle with amazing people by my side. And I am beyond grateful for that. But yet, I need more. Is this too selfish to admit?
When slowing down isn’t enough
Getting older makes me slow down. Having senior dogs also keeps me closer to home. Having to stay in one place, I try my best to change the familiar sights and diverse my days: hike a new trail, explore a new town, camp at a new spot, cook a new meal, try a new craft… I even started to play the Ukulele backwards and am re-learning my Spanish. But the region where I live is getting insanely busier by day, and after a while, I feel that the places I enjoy become a little too crowded for my wandering soul (I guess that’s the price to pay when you live where people vacation).
Surely, my heart constantly pangs for a new thing to get excited about.
Strangely, I’m the first person to hope to inspire people to live the moment. I’ve always believed that we need to learn to slow down time, and be in the moment if we want to live well. Inevitably, when I do things, I’m there 100%. Or so I try.
So why is there is a constant yearning in the deepest part of me to be in a place I’ve never been? Why am I constantly distracted by my dreams? Why is my mind always wandering, longing to where I’ve been, and homesick for a place I’ve never been?
Is there all there is in life?
I’ve read once that the evolved human brain constantly needs something to keep him occupied. As such, we are always on the search for purpose, meaning, adventure, happiness… Some of us have created bucket lists, others have a goal ladder they wish to climb and some are content just the way things are.
I wish I could be content in one place. I try. But my desire never ceases to end. I long for more and am never fully satisfied with what I have. The truth is that this fiery desire holds me close to my dreams…
Wanderlusting and the ceaseless yearning for an extraordinary life
Sorting through my boundless wanderlust, I find myself longing for a life spent at sea. Diving everyday with sea life, eating the fruits of nature, volunteering in communities, away from the mainstream, waking up and going to sleep with the sun, living with the pulse of the ocean, one wave at a time… To me it calls for freedom, peace, simplicity, a dream lived awake. Careful what you dream for, right?
I recently took a wonderful trip to Japan, with an incredible layover in China. It’s been a while since I stepped out of my country and explored a different part of the world. Far away from home I felt at home… in the uncertainty, in the unknown, in the newness. I came back refreshed, revitalized, rebooted. It was extraordinary. And it leaves me with exceptional memories. But coming back to my beautiful home the travel blues hits. Instantly. Back to ordinary. Two weeks was way too short. And I’m back on a severe case of wanderlust.
Fear of settling down
In the past years, I’ve been stuck in a routine, living a predictable life, filled with small pleasures and frolic adventures. But I’m afraid to get a stable job and be locked in one place. I’m afraid to upgrade my living situation, afraid to jump into the mortgage world, have payments, have commitments. I’m afraid of settling down.
The slightest bit of idleness affects me. I’m afraid to rest for too long. I fear stagnation. I fear to see the years blend into one another and forget to move forward and progress.
Maybe I just need that one big adventure. To get it out of my system, before I slow down again and put my feet on the ground. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll always be restless. Maybe I’ll always chase this extraordinary life. And maybe that’s okay.
If I rest, I rust
I’ve been trying to find good enough reasons to be satisfied in the present moment. I try to do the things that make me happy on a daily basis. But I can’t ignore that ache for more. It exists for a reason.
If living the journey is the goal, if pursuing a life well lived is the path we are on, it will not be restful. It will not be comfortable. Nor will it be easy. But it will be exciting. It will be valuable. It will be worth it.
So I’ll keep pursuing the most important things that my heart aches for, even as crazy as they are. Because as long as I can feel, I am living – and as long as I am living, I’ll keep moving.
Maybe you are the proud owner of an Epic Pass, or Hakuba has just been on your list for a while now. Either way, you’re excited to meet face to face with the breathtakingly beautiful Northern Japanese Alps and eat Japow for breakfast and traditional foods at night.
Surely, Hakuba stands out as one of Japan’s top winter resort areas, offering some of the best winter sports action in Japan. The host of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics consists of 9 ski resorts stretched across a broad valley, and provides more terrain, vertical rise and advanced ski and snowboard slopes than anywhere in the country. Abundant snow falls and excellent powder conditions make Hakuba a continuous top choice of skiers and snowboarders from around the world.
I recently got back from an amazing snowboarding trip to the Japanese Alps, and wanted to share with you my top things to do in Hakuba for the most epic winter trip.
1. Book a Ryokan
Ryokan are Japanese style inns found throughout the country, especially in hot spring resorts. Renting a ryokan is an amazing opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and hospitality. A typical ryokan has a relatively large entrance hall, with couches and chairs where guests can sit and talk. Shoes are removed at the entrance, and if slippers are provided, they must be taken off on tatami floors. The rooms offer elements such as tatami floors, sliding paper doors and windows, futon beds, Japanese style baths, a low table and floor chairs, sliding doors and some supplies for making tea.
Most ryokans feature common bathing area, usually segregated by gender, using the water from an onsen (hot spring) if any are nearby. High-end ryokan may provide private bathing facilities as well.
Renting a ryokan is a special and relaxing experience that everyone should take the opportunity to try.
2. Soak in an Onsen (Japanese Hot Springs)
The hot springs of Nagano are treasured throughout Japan as some of the best. Among the most famous, the Hakuba Valley’s hot springs are renowned for their strong alkaline waters which leave the skin soft and smooth. The mineral water of the onsens is also famous for its healing properties, perfect for soothing sore muscles after a day in the mountains. Onsens in Japan have been used as a cure for physical ailments, as well for their beautifying properties. Soaking in an open-air bath under the backdrop of the Northern Alps after a day on the slopes is one of the highlights of a Hakuba winter vacation.
If your accommodation doesn’t have an onsen, click here for a list of local hot springs. And don’t forget to bathe your tootsies in Tsugaike Kogen in the foot onsen after a big day on the slopes (located near the base of the gondola).
3. Pack Up at the Convenience Store
While we enjoyed eating on lunch on the mountain and going out for dinner, we decided to pack up at the store for quick-to-eat, cheap and yummy breakfast goodies.
Onigiri is the staple of comfort food in Japan, and a very popular dish for breakfast. These rice balls have so many flavours like salmon, umeboshi, Japanese pickled plum, bonito flakes, different kinds of fish roes and so on. One onigiri in the morning and a cup of green tea kept me full for a whole morning on the slopes. Quick, healthy and delicious!
Also, nothing is greater than to start the day with a nice and warm cup of soup (your accommodation will most likely have hot water available at all time).
We loaded our bags with Ramen noodles, onigiris, egg salad sandwiches (incredibly yummy) and fruits (try the Nagano apples they are sublime). And of course sake, local beers and plum wine.
4. Ride the TsugaPow DBD Trees
Located north end of Hakuba Valley, the resort of Tsugaike Kogan offers one of the best powder ski areas in Hakuba. For intermediate and advanced powder and trees seekers, the TsugaPow DBD (Double Black Diamond) area offers some of the best lift accessible powder runs in the valley. A 15-min safety course highlighting dangers, risks, avalanches, wildlife and rules is required to pass the gates.
5. Hire a Backcountry Guide
The Japanese Alps receive an average of 12+ meters of beautiful powder snow each year, and no other mountain range in Japan has comparable terrain with amazing powder. If you wish to get off-piste, access epic terrain and ride the fantastic backcountry Hakuba has to offer, there are many companies in the valley that offer group tours of all levels, as well as tailored tours.
6. Eat and Drink in Echoland
Rather than a single hub, Hakuba is a vast area with multiple villages. Known as the heart of Hakuba, centrally located between Hakuba 47 and Happo ski areas and surrounded on all sides by the Misorano area of smaller hotels, pensions, residences and holiday homes, Echoland has the highest concentration in town of bars, restaurants and shops in one small area, mostly all located on one street. There are some great little Japanese eateries and izakayas where no or barely any English is spoken, and you really feel like you’re in Japan.
Note that most restaurants on Echoland are extremely busy. It is extremely recommended to make booking wherever possible. Some restaurants won’t accept reservation, so arriving before 6pm help.
7. Experience a Japanese Izakaya
An izakaya is a typical Japanese gastropub where people enjoy coming for a drink and a bite to eat. Known for their bustling atmosphere, tapas and local sake to enjoy in a comfortable, relaxing environment, going to an izakaya with colleagues after work is a cultural habit in Japan. While the Japanese are generally very reserved, in an izakaya the atmosphere is very lively (literally a gathering to drink). It is a popular place for employees to meet after the day’s work to relieve stress and have a good time together.
8. Follow Hakuba on Social Media to Stay in Loop of What’s Happening in the Valley
After a fantastic day on the slopes, be sure to check out Hakuba’s diverse nightlife, which offers something for everyone. Whether you are in the mood for a quiet pub, live music performance or high-energy dance club, Hakuba’s après ski scene has it all. To stay in the loop of what’s happening in the valley, follow the official account Hakuba on social media.
9. Do visit the Snow Monkeys Park
It wouldn’t be a total epic winter vacation in Hakuba without a visit to see the monkeys of Jigokudani. Located near the base of the Joshinestu Kogen National Park, the Jigokudani Yaen Koen (otherwise known as the Snow Monkey Park) is home to a very special troop of monkeys. Those are the only wild monkeys in the world known to bathe in hot springs, making them truly unique. Whether you rent a car or go as part of a tour, the snow monkeys definitely need to be added to your list!
10. Have the Best Time
Sometimes we don’t realize how happy and carefree we really were until we no longer feel it. It’s important to recognize those moments and appreciate them. Take pictures and videos, and share them with your friends online, but remember to turn your devices off once in a while. Enjoy yourself, take in some culture, try traditional foods, chat with locals and embrace and respect customs and traditions. Some of you might surely come back, and others just know that they want to keep on going and discovering new and exciting places. Whatever you choose to do, cherish every moments and have the best time! You might just look back at this trip one day and realize how lucky you were to have fully experienced it.
I slipped my feet into the white sand. Its cool composure liberated me from the throbbing pain. I was too exhausted to jump into the ocean and wash out all the dirt on my face and my hands, and the sweat that has accumulated on my skin and my clothing. I laid there for a couple of hours, soaking in the warmth of the sun, the breeze of the sea, and the sand between my toes, thinking about nothing but: I did it!
Seven days ago, my girlfriend and I had packed our backpacks with everything we needed to survive for a week: camping gear, hiking clothes, dehydrated food, and survival kit. We had planned this trip for a few weeks and were anxious to finally begin. The West Coast Trail has always fascinated me. I’ve heard about it from fellow adventurers I’d met along my travels, and it seemed like the kind of adventure I had to put on my bucket list. I am no expert hiker, although I have several trips under my belt. The Pacific Northwest has been my backyard for over a decade now, offering many trails to wander, glacier-fed lakes to discover and mountain peaks to conquer. I have also hiked around Kathmandu, Nepal, staying in tea houses, eating home-cooked meals and carrying a small backpack. But the WCT was the kind of adventure I’ve never done before. It was a physical and mental challenge far beyond anything I’ve done. It was much more than just a stroll in the woods.
The West Coast Trail is a gruelling 75km long backpacking trail hugging the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Construction of the trail debuted in 1889, originally part of a communication system connecting the British Empire in North America by an undersea cable which ran all the way to India. After the wreck of the Valencia in 1906, the trail was improved to facilitate the rescue of shipwrecked survivors along the coast. It is now part of Pacific National Rim and is known as one of the world’s top hiking trails.
Day 1: Embrace the opportunity
Gordon River to Trasher Cove- 6km
Butch took us to the trailhead across the Gordon river with his fishing boat. We jumped off the craft onto the sand, only to be welcomed by a 52 rung vertical climb ladder. Welcome to the WCT!
My bag was heavy. It pulled my shoulders and the strap on my chest pushed my lungs making it hard to breathe. It wasn’t that the trail itself was hard, but rather acclimatizing to my gear. My 43 pound bag carried all I needed for surviving a week in wilderness. I did read it shouldn’t be more than 30% of my weight, yet bringing a deck of cards, a reading book, tank tops and too much food seemed to be essential and weightless at first glance. I regretted my amateur decision of bringing the unnecessary every step I took, carrying a bag nearly half my weight, turning into a turtle camouflaged by her shell. It was a slow march through the woods, travelling 1km an hour.
As I hiked I pondered what drew me into doing this trail. It wasn’t solely for the remote beauty of the coastline, the impressive old growth forests and the endless empty beaches. I wanted to test my capabilities, to see how far I could go physically and mentally. I was attracted to the sheer challenge, to the experience, to the accomplishment, to the opportunity to learn and to grow.
When we got to Trasher Cove, we set up camp on the beach, and watched the sun disappear behind the trees, leaving an orange glow over the ocean. As the sun dimmed its light, we called it a night.
Day 2: Slow down
Trasher Cove to Camper Bay- 8km
The sunrise was sublime. The sky was clear and the breeze was invigorating. We started the day on the beach at low tide, hiking on black stone shelves, careful about wet surfaces. This part was so beautiful, and pretty enjoyable to trek. We walked through a cave and arrived at Owen Point where a group of sea lions sun bathed on a rock erected from the ocean.
We hopped from boulder to boulder, jumped over crevasses, traversed the edge of a gully holding on a slippery rope.
The magnificence of the views muted me. I was in awe taking in impressive images of the vistas. We took our time, slowing down to admire the incredible landscape.
When the tide rose up, we entered the forest and finished the trek inland. It was muddy, extremely muddy, and we had to be very smart about each step. This very technical day ended up at Camper Bay, where we arrived in our first cable car.
As the sun shied away behind the clouds, we gathered around the campfire with fellow hikers, discussing of food and gear, and sharing stories of the trail and of home.
We retired early to our tent, away from the beach and sheltered in the trees. Then the rain began.
Day 3: Love the journey
Camper Bay to Walbran- 9km
It poured all night, and it wasn’t ready to stop. We broke camp, put on our monster backpacks and headed back on the trail as the heavy rain lashed. The course was challenging and we got to test our skills and our sense of humour on slippery logs, impassable headlands, uncountable ladders, broken boardwalks, thick patches of deep mud, suspended bridges and one more cable car.
It wouldn’t have been the WCT if it wasn’t for the wet weather, the rugged terrain, the remoteness of the trail. I was soaked, dirty, sweaty, yet I couldn’t be more happy to walk this incredible journey.
As we reached our couple last kms, the sun slowly penetrated the clouds. The forest canopy stood high above me as the sun rays filtered through old growth trees. I fell in love with the lonesome beauty of nature. It was raw, it was pure, it was terrifyingly beautiful.
The trail opened up to the creek, that ran into the ocean. We walked through the fog, shuffling our tired and wet feet in the sand. Campers setting up their tent, warming up by a fire, and collecting water greeted us with a smile. It felt like a parallel universe, being alone all day in the wilderness and arriving to a place temporarily inhabited by humans. I grabbed my flask of maple whisky from my bag, and took off my shoes. I didn’t want to start a fire, set up the tent, get fresh water nor cook dinner. I wanted to admire that well-deserved sunset.
Day 4: Things aren’t always like planned, and it’s okay
Walbran to Cribbs Creek- 11km
The morning light seeped into the tent. I forced my feet back into my wet socks and boots, and strapped my loaded bag on my back. Our plan was to hike on the beach, but the creek was too high to cross that early. We changed our plan and headed inland, after crossing our third cable car.
It reminded me how in life things don’t always go as planned, and it’s okay. Sometimes we have to change our route or take a detour, but that doesn’t mean we’re not on track.
We arrived at Cribs Creek where I immediately removed my wet gear. I skipped dinner, still full from my decadent $22 cheeseburger I had at Chez Moniques’, a 77-year-old lady who opened up a burger shack in the middle of the trail on reserve land. I was exhausted and chilled to the bones, so after setting camp I crawled in the tent, zipped myself into my sleeping bag, and let my head sink into my pillow.
Day 5: Keep going forward
Cribs Creek to Tsutsiat Falls- 16km
It felt like a never ending story. My bag seemed heavier than the first day, carrying wet and sandy gear. It was a constant effort to stay upwright. I longed for nothing more than water and to take my pack off my shoulders.
It was a slow progress, stepping one foot in front of another, carefully watching every movement, every step. My eyes focused on the slippery roots, the sinking mud holes, the loose sidewalk. It became so technical I’d forget to look up. I had to stop, not only to rest my back from the load, but to admire the scenery. I stood in a world of infinite, pure and quiet beauty.
I’d take a deep breath, taking in all the fresh air and the beautiful images. Somehow it gave me energy to pursue. As it reminded me why I was there on this trail, how going forward was the only way to see more, to know more, to live more.
The last couple of hours were brutal. My body was about to collapse in the loose sand, my hair sticking to my face, my provision of water rapidly diminishing. I knew I had to keep going forward, because going back to where I started wasn’t an option. So I put one foot in front of the other, over and over again, because at least I was going somewhere. And I was going to make it.
I was drained, in pain and on the verge of collapsing when we arrived to the falls, but I was also over joyed and astonished of how far I’d gone.
Day 6: Appreciate the details in each moment
Tsutsiat Falls to Darling Creek- 12km
We woke up to the roar of plunging waves. We admired the falls rushing their fresh water into the ocean bed. The birds songs travelling through my head overpowered the pain on my body. I was ready for another day.
We started off with a series of climbing ladders. I’m not sure if I got used to them, but I didn’t mind them. I had a couple days left on the trail and I was going to win. The clouds rolled in but it never rained. The overcast weather was ideal. There were some really nice stretches in the forest, and cliffside paths, with the ocean appearing in occasional views. I had to pause to appreciate the precious details of my surroundings. It was the lush greens of the trees, the water dripping from the tip of the branches, the sun filtering its timid rays through the fog, the sea foam caressing the sand…
It made me realize that since I’ve been on the trail, my mind never wandered like it does back home. I was so focused on each moment, on each step, free of appreciating the perfection of every circumstances. My mind wasn’t trapped in the past or the future. I was right there, in the reality of the moment, precisely where I was supposed to be.
When we arrived to Darling Creek, we found ourselves completely alone in wilderness. Hikers kept going further on to the next camp. We decided to stay, and enjoyed the whole beach to ourselves. We finally managed to have a raging bonfire, dry our clothes and boots, carved our names on a buoy and share our highlights of our trip, while sipping on the last drops of our whisky and savouring the ice cider I kept for our last night.
The sun came out for a last show of setting light and glow.
Day 7: Push your limits
Darling Creek to Pachena Bay- 14km
We rose up to a moon crescent and a starry sky. It was 4am and we had a big day ahead of us. We couldn’t miss our shuttle in Pachena Bay back to Gordon River, and considering our slow pace, we had to have an early start. We poured the Bailey’s we kept for that morning into our coffees. I don’t know if it was the caffeine I didn’t have in a week, or the small dose of alcohol in my body, or a sudden boost of stamina on my last day, but I felt awake and energized. I knew I had to push myself even more today than the others. I had to, and I would. I was committed to accomplish this hike with bliss.
The first couple of kms were on the pebbled beach. We arrived at the other camp where everybody were still snoozing. We tiptoed through the tents and took the trail inland, making our way through the forest in the darkness of dusk.
This last stretch was the easiest of the whole trail, and we crunched distance like superheroes. I didn’t let my back, nor my blisters, nor my aching knee, nor my exhaustion discourage me. I was in such a mindset to push and keep going that I couldn’t feel anything anymore but my mind taking over my body. I was in a state I haven’t been in while, pushing myself well beyond what I thought were my limitations. I became numb to my pain, and felt the exhaustive exhilaration of pushing myself to my limits, with a burning desire to make it to the end.
We travelled 14km in less than 3 hours. And then there it was, the end. We have arrived.
We did it.
We signed off and unloaded our packs from our backs. We took off our shoes and our gaiters. We were the first ones of the day to complete the hike, and we had 4 hours before our shuttle. So we took the trail that headed to the white sand beach.
Humbled and blissed
The coastal trail had humbled me. I was brought into the flow of life, embracing the immense beauty and magic of each moment. I had pushed myself further that I’ve gone before, and discovered a strength within that assured me that I could achieve anything I set my mind to.
The WCT reminded me the importance of setting ourselves goals, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, challenging ourselves to take one more step, running when we can’t walk anymore. By physically and mentally pushing ourselves, we discover that pain and exhaustion lead to incredible feelings of joy and success.
Life is about choosing our own path, taking risks, embracing uncertainty, taking the unpredictable turn, falling down, getting up, and never giving up when the road gets tough. We are stronger and greater than we think, and are capable of anything we set ourselves for. As long as we keep moving forward. As long as we have the right mindset and are not afraid to cross the creek and get wet.
Promise me we will always be wild, running barefoot in the dirt, wind messing our hair, sun freckling our skin. That we will free our inner savage, and embrace our beautiful flaws and blemishes.
Promise me we will always be bold, living lively, fiercely and colourfully. That we will smile often and be silly. That we will dare to escape the societal mold, and float everywhere but mainstream. That we will always be courageous enough to listen to our heart and live the life we always imagined.
Promise me we will always be spontaneous, avoiding schedules that make us rush, breaking routine that makes time fly. That we will never be trapped in familiarity and comfort, becoming creatures of habits living a boringly predictable life. Because life is much more interesting when we experience the unexpected.
Promise me we will always be authentic, revealing our unlimited self in all our rawness and realness. That we will always live a uniquely crafted life, choosing experiences over things, finding the positive in the negative, discovering beauty in what people dismiss.
Promise me we will always be vulnerable, daring to take off our mask and emotionally expose ourselves. Because it takes courage to be imperfect, to let go of who we think we should be and to become who we really are. There is a stunning beauty in vulnerability.
Promise me we will always be kind, with an open-mind and compassionate heart. That we will always cherish unity and interconnectedness of all life. Everyone has a story, and everyone has something unique and beautiful to give.
Promise me we will always be adventurous. That we will break ground into new experiences and seek novelty. Because adventures make us come alive. After all, life is made to be an adventure.
Promise me we will always honour our fears, embracing the feeling of the unknown. Because if there are no fears, there is no adventure. And really, life is much more adventurous the moment you add uncertainty and fear to it.
Promise me we will always love. That we will forgive and let go of things. Because we know we make mistakes too. Life is much more beautiful where there is love.
Promise me we will always wander to places we’ve never been, near and far. That we will get lost often in beautiful places so we don’t forget who we are.
Promise me we will always chase our wildest dreams with eyes wide open. That we will never stop on believing in our potential and never question our capabilities. Because we are here once and what we do matters. So let’s live the life of our dreams!
Promise me we will always be wild, jumping feet first into the world, adventures messing our routines, experiences freckling our memories. That we will free our wilderlust, and embrace our beautiful mess. Promise me we will always inspire others to fully live their one wild life, so we never become extinct.
I was 5 years old. I sat in the staircase of my apartment building where I resided with my mother. I looked through the window I faced, pondering the why and the how, trying to define the meaning of myself: Who is this person inside of me? Why do I think like this? Why do I act like that? Why do I feel this way? At such an early age I already had a deep interest for existential philosophy, although I didn’t have the knowledge nor the experience to answer much. There was a constant hunger to know more. A need to fill the void. I’d ask my mother:” Who am I?” She’d answer: ” You’re my daughter. You are Capucine and you are 5 years old.”
What is it that we really need in life? Shelter, food and water, clothes, love, safety? While those are the biological needs of the human being, the modern world has added a terrifying item to the list: money. In fact, money has created a world of wants over needs, a society of consumerism with a lust for wealth and power. But does money make us rich?
While most will refer to being rich as material wealth and copious amounts in bank accounts, I believe being rich is a quality of life. Being on earth is a gift of incredible wealth and money is only delusional. In fact, money creates unethical and immoral behaviours, and distracts and disconnects us from living a nourished and meaningful life.
Last summer I bought an RV. I was tired of paying steep rent and always being behind with money. Little did I know how much it would change my life. In fact, it made me richer. Here’s how:
I have time to appreciate the little things
When I downsized my life to live in a trailer, I never felt so relieved. I finally got rid of things I didn’t need, and only kept the necessary. Long hot showers, laundry and TV have become luxurious activities. Big dinner parties have turned into outdoor gatherings. A large wardrobe have turned into a small selection of clothing. Owning less makes me appreciate what I have even more. And anything else is luxury. Owning less makes you realize that you are doing just fine with what you have. It makes you appreciate the little details that life brings. It makes you slow down, take the time to smell the fresh air, and admire what’s around you. It makes you grateful.
I have the ability to live wherever I want
By opting for a life in a trailer, I can go day by day and and am not attached to any mortgage, or lease. I can choose to take on the road to choose a different backyard, or set anchor for a while. Having the freedom to move whenever and wherever I want means that I am not tied anywhere and am free to live the life I want to lead.
I am debt free
Owning less means more money in my pockets. In a few months I managed to pay off a travel debt that followed me for years. I was never able to pay it with my rent being so steep. Living in a trailer means that my bills are much lower. I also drive a used car that I purchased cash, as well as my trailer. Living with the minimum means that I have fewer bills (campground fees, cellular, and car insurance). Now I spend less than what I earn, and manage to have some savings that allow me to get closer to my dreams. Being debt free and financially stable is a pure freedom.
I choose experiences over possessions
I have less goods to take care of and don’t need a stressful high-paying job that I don’t like just to pay the bills. That way I have more free time being with the people I love, bonding with my dogs, spending time outdoors, getting creative, and pursuing my passions. With more money in my pockets and more free time, I get to travel more, adventure often and experience life at its fullest.
I own less, but I gain more
By owning less, I have the opportunity to live more. Living off grid gives me the opportunity to get closer to nature. Not only does living in nature is known to lower stress and increase happiness and physical health, but it also offers me a unique and incredible backyard overlooking the range of the Coast Mountains. I might live in a small trailer, but my backyard is immensely peaceful, inspiring and grand.
Wealth is subjective. But I sincerely believe that money doesn’t make us rich. We have to think beyond money to define success. In fact, happiness is the key to success. When you start appreciating the little things in life, take time for yourself, cherish love, kindness, gratitude and compassion, nurture social connections and family ties, spend less than what you earn, own less to live more, I think you find the true essence of being. Once you understand that wanting is a desire and not a necessity, you start living authentically. And being content and happy with what you have, I think that’s the richest a man can be.
Right here, tucked into wilderness, and inside my RV, I got everything I need. This lifestyle allows me to get closer to nature and to people, spend more time doing things I am passionate about, focus on dreams and goals, and connect with my one-self. And for me, that is true wealth.
The sun painted the sand a peachy light, at times switching to rosy stripes. My scarf protected my head, shielding from the fieriness of the midday sun. My legs dangled on each sides of his ribs, 6 feet from the sandfield. He wasn’t the cushiest ride, but I couldn’t criticize – I was the one sitting on his back. His hoofs softly brushed the golden sand. His lashes were lengthy and thick, mighty and majestic. Sometimes he would turn at me, requesting a scratch on his long wool neck. His name was Africa. An athletic and elegant 21-year-old dromedary, worker of the desert.
When my mom told me she’d meet me in Morocco after I completed my volunteering program, I was overly excited at the idea of travelling with such a cultivated and well-travelled woman – my beautiful mother. At 63 years old, she was ready to jump on local buses, eat from street stalls, ride a camel through the desert and get lost in the chaotic Arab country. A few years earlier, she travelled solo, within an organized group, to Morocco where she experienced it all. She didn’t want me to leave the country without seeing the Great South so, after travelling Marrakech and Essaouira together, we jumped into a 5 day road trip through the High Atlas Mountains, all the way to the entrance of the Sahara Desert.
We could have rented a car and done the drive ourselves, since the roads are well maintained, it is easy to navigate and traffic fairly makes sense. But we treated ourselves with a driver, to avoid confusion, save time and get to know more about the country from a resident’s perspective. We met Hocine, a young Berber who was going to chauffeur us on our journey aboard a spacious and comfortable wagon.
Day 1: The Road to Ouarzazate
We left Marrakech early this morning and headed south towards Ouarzazate. The two Kasbahs we visited didn’t impressed me as much as the drive itself. The winding road through the Atlas was stunning, with earthy mountains and vast dunes forming the view, and a variety of fruit trees such as olives, oranges, lemons, dates and figs colouring the lunar landscape. Berger and their goats were seen climbing the mountains in search of a meal, accidentally throwing rocks on the paved road. I glimpsed at men travelling long distances on donkeys, artists selling handmade pottery and crafts and vendors selling fossils and mineral rocks from the Atlas.
We arrived in Zagora where Ismael, our 16-year-old chamelier, guided us through the obscurity of the night. Aboard our own camels, we ventured to what seemed to be a space odyssey through a lunar sandfield. We had no control on our animal, had left all our belongings in the car (requested to only bring the essential) and put all our trust in this boy. What was thought to be a 20 min camel ride ended up being an hour journey through the darkest night. We finally arrived at the bivouac, where we laughed about what just happened, glad we made it safe. We were invited to join fellow travellers sitting on the sand. Tea was served and conversations were shared with the Berber. A delicious couscous was prepared then served in the main tent. There were chanting and dancing around the bonfire, feet in the sand while the moon slowly climbed into the darkness.
Day 2: Sunrise camel trek in Zagora
When Ismael whispered “it’s time” at the door of our tent, it wasn’t 6am yet. There was no possibility to sleep in or snooze for an other 15. It was time. I put on my hoodie, wrapped my scarf around my neck and grabbed my camera. Barefoot I left the tent and climbed the dune ahead. Fellow early rising companions were sitting atop the dune, blankets around their shoulders, camera on tripod ready for action. I looked at the horizon. At the end of this terrain of sand, stood the mountains. And there it was. The first ray of the sun, penetrating the blue morning light.
We cameled back to our vehicle as the sun slowly reached up to the sky. We were relieved to see Hocine, along with all our belongings. Back into the car and en route to Mergouza.
Day 3: Entering the door of the Sahara in Mergouza
I got introduced to Africa. Entering the doors of the Sahara, we embarked on a scenic and pleasant 2 hour journey through the silent dunes of Erg Chebbi.
We arrived on time at the bivouac for the sunset. I jumped off Africa’s back, feet landing in the cool shaded sand. I scratched his head as a thankful gesture, also giving him a slight break from the resting flies on his face.
I challenged myself in a race against time towards the highest dune ahead. I wanted to be a spectator of the most impressive sunset. I’ve seen a lot of setting suns, over oceans, mountains, cities and landscapes. Therefore, I was still a virgin of this upcoming spectacle. Sitting atop this challenged dune, the sand slowly cooling off underneath my feet, I admired a sea of seemingly endless sand dunes: quiet, scenic, majestic. The scarf that once protected my head soon covered my shoulders. The sun slowly disappeared behind the dunes, cooling the air and leaving room for the moon to take over the sky.
Berber carpets were placed on the sand in front of each tent. A short table was placed on top, with cushions at its sides. handmade blankets for extra comfort. Dinner was cooked and served by the chameliers on each table. A delicious traditional couscous paired with an authentic Moroccan mint tea. Romantic candlelit dinner in the middle of the desert, in the comfort of the cushiony sand, under a shimmering African sky.
Day 4: Todra Gorge in Tinerhir and the Road of the Thousand Kasbahs
Watching the sun rise over a sea of sand dunes was revitalizing. I jumped on Africa and we took the road back to civilization.
On our way to Tinerhir to go explore the Todgha Gorge. My stomach is upset and I can’t even swallow a sip of water. While my mom is dining solo downstairs, sharing my sickness with fellow travellers, I am stuck in bed with the worst dizziness. If it wasn’t for the kindness of the guesthouse host bringing me a Vervaine tea and some rice, I would’ve not eaten in 3 days. I managed to rest, have one bite of rice and magically finished the tea. The next morning I was welcomed by everyone in the dining room, asking how I felt. Thanks mom!
Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding and language barrier between our guide, our driver and us, we ended up skipping the Gorge, at my greatest disappointment. Instead, and little did we know, we were brought to a Berber women carpet factory where our guide strongly forced us to purchase a product, making us feel bad towards the hard work of women. I’ve been travelling Morocco for 6 weeks now and I’ve heard the song before. I have already did my part and I hate when people see us as travelling banks. I friendly told him that I came to volunteer in Morocco. He understood right away that my finances weren’t similar as a wealthy European traveller. However, he turned to my mom who felt so bad that she ended up buying an expensive piece of carpet that she’ll never use. Oh mom! Things like that unfortunately happen when travelling in foreign countries where tourism has a challenging impact on locals. We were very disappointed in not seeing the gorge, but at this point it is what it is.
We headed west on the “Road of the thousand Kasbahs”, a spectacular drive along desert landscapes, snow-capped mountains and palm groves. We also stopped in El Kelaa M’gouna, the “Valley of the Roses”, to grab rose water spray bottles, which made for great presents to bring home.
Day 5: Wrapping up in Ouarzazate
I felt like I froze up in time when I entered the 11th century Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou. The walls made of red mudbrick formed a labyrinth of inhabited homes, souvenir stalls and view points. While most residents now live in a more modern village at the other end of the river, 8 families still inhabit this fortified city.
Last stop is at the Atlas Studio where many Hollywood and famous movies have been filmed. We walked through the impressive decor, fighting the gusty sandy wind.
Back in Marrakesh, we thank Hocine and generously tip him. He’s been a helpful and attentionate chauffeur and we wish him the best. It’s been a great adventure here in the Great South of Morocco and am so fortunate I got to share this amazing experience with my mother.
For more information about the excursions, check out www.clickexcursions.com