Explore from Home to Craft Your Moroccan Adventure

Sheep and quince tagine and other delights, local home, Fez

Explore From Home to Plan Your Own Moroccan Adventure

Sheep and quince tagine and other delights, local home, Fez.         Photo by J.T.

 This post may contain affiliate links which means Trip Scholars may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Read more here. Thanks for helping us keep the lights on!

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“No matter what you cook, put this in, everybody will love it!” claimed the spice merchant, gesturing to an enticing dune of ochre powder labelled “secret mix”. The seasoning looked earthy and smelled heavenly, so I took her word for it and wandered out of the old medina with a sack of ras al-hanout in hand. Ras al-hanout translates to “head of the shop” in Arabic, and while this signature spice blend often contains pepper, ginger, cinnamon, and roses, the mix varies wildly according to the maker’s pleasure.  So, too, with Morocco– its rich history and astounding variety of landscapes and cultures make just about any visit a unique, pleasing, and very personal blend of experiences.

Argan nuts for oil at Assaisse Ouzeka women's cooperative, on the road to Essaouira
Argan nuts for oil at Assaisse Ouzeka women's cooperative, on the road to Essaouira. Photo by J.T.
"Hendiya", the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, a tasty seasonal treat sold from street barrows in "Hendiya", the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, a tasty seasonal treat sold from street barrows in Fez
"Hendiya", the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, a tasty seasonal treat sold from street barrows in Fez. Photo by J.T.

While I always recommend leaving room in your travels for unexpected delights, when adventuring in Morocco it’s helpful to narrow down some specific ideas of how you want to spend your time, as the possibilities are multitudinous.  Morocco is roughly the size of California, equally varied in terrain, and arguably even more varied culturally. Do you want to ski the Atlas mountains? Surf the African coast? Trek into the Sahara desert on a camel? Explore caves? Shop the souks? Meet the people? Learn Darija (Moroccan Arabic) or Tamazight (one of the indigenous Berber languages)?

cat in Taghazout.
On patrol, Taghazout. Photo by J.T.
Fishing fleet, cats asleep, Taghazout
Fishing fleet, cats asleep, Taghazout. Photo by J.T.

I had two weeks to spend in Morocco and a handful of goals shaping my pre-trip research, among them: to surf, to explore the Roman ruins of Volubilis, and to hear the call of the muezzin (who chants the five-times daily call to prayer for observant Muslims). I was a woman planning to travel alone to a country I’d never visited before and where I did not speak the language, so this informed my studies as well. Your “must-do” list will surely differ from mine, but as you plan your travels the resources below are a good starting point no matter what you plan to do in Morocco.

Enrich your experience by studying the history of Morocco

Detail from the University of al-Qarawiyyin, founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859 CE, Fez
Detail from the University of al-Qarawiyyin, founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859 CE, Fez. Photo by J.T.
"Yaz", the sign of the Free People (Berbers/Amazigh), Taghazout
"Yaz", the sign of the Free People (Berbers/Amazigh), Taghazout. Photo by J.T.

It will greatly enrich your experience to understand at least a bit of the complex history of the country, peopled at various times by the Amazigh (Berbers), Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Portugese, Spanish, and French! Any article about Moroccan history will necessarily be  long, but this piece gives more context than most, addressing current political issues and staying engaging throughout.

Merci, shukran, tenmeert: the words to learn before you go

tagine
Tasty tagine in Taghazout. Photo by J.T.

Darija, French, and Amazigh languages are widely spoken throughout Morocco. Spanish and English are also spoken, but much less frequently. Honestly, you’ll go a long way with just three words in Morocco, one from French, one from Darija, and one from Tamazight: “merci”, “shukran”, “tenmeert” – “thank you, thank you, thank you”! I found it helpful to brush up on my rudimentary French with Duolingo, a language-learning app which can also teach you basic French phrases from scratch.

Understand how to be a traveler in Morocco

I encountered a warmhearted generosity of spirit wherever I went in Morocco. As a solo traveller, I did do a little extra research beforehand in the interest of safety and in order to be respectful of cultural norms. I found MarocMama a good starting point for people of all genders.

Moroccan Mint Tea
Moroccan mint tea hits the spot after a surf session near Agadir. Photo by J.T.

Delight the senses

Immerse yourself in the sounds and scents of northwestern Africa with the album Morocco: Crossroads of Time. The liner notes give excellent information about Moroccan music’s many influences, as well as recipes for hearty chickpea soup and achingly sweet Moroccan mint tea.

Discover hidden Moroccan gems

This lush “food forest”, thick with pomegranates, dates, quince, and more, inspired similar projects as far away as Seattle. It’s a lovely example of indigenous ingenuity and Morocco’s practical beauty, an unexpected emerald set in an arid terrain of scrub brush, tough little goats, and fossil ammonites. 

Goats nimbly nibbling argan leaves, on the road to Essaouira
Goats nimbly nibbling argan leaves, on the road to Essaouira. Photo by J.T.

Savor memories made in Morocco

The author at the Tangerine Gate, Volubilis
The author at the Tangerine Gate, Volubilis

However you decide to blend your trip, if you keep an open mind and heart you’ll savor the spice of Morocco long after your return. Back home, 6,000 miles away from the Fez medina, I cook dinner with my own ras al-hanout and the fragrance rises like a prayer, reciting over and over: “merci, shukran, tenmeert”.    

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This guest post was contributed by J.T.

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Preparing to Visit Australia

Sydney Opera House

Preparing to Visit Australia

Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia. Photo by Srikant Sahoo

 This post may contain affiliate links which means Trip Scholars may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Read more here. Thanks for helping us keep the lights on!

Australia is a fantastic tourist destination for families, groups, couples, and solo travelers. With spectacular landmarks and national parks, top quality food, friendly locals, and excellent weather, Australia is a spectacular place to visit. It’s also a very comfortable destination: almost everyone speaks English, there’s a thriving tourist industry, and there’s a huge selection of things to see for all interests. But like many countries, Australia has its own idiosyncrasies. Its history is unknown to most, while Australian culture beyond Crocodile Dundee and the boomerang is similarly unfamiliar. So how best to prepare for a trip to Australia? Read on to find out!

Koala
Kuranda, Kuranda, Australia. Photo by David Clode

Map Your Trip to Australia

The Story of Australia

Available on Amazon Prime, the six-part series, The Story of Australia, traces the country’s long history. Beginning with 60,000 years of indigenous culture, the show moves on to cover the first convict arrivals in 1788, the transformative gold rushes, and the six separate colonies forming Australia in 1901. It also covers the traumatic experiences of both World Wars, along with a look at Australia’s postwar development into a prosperous modern nation. It’s a great starting point for those unfamiliar with the broad strokes of Australian history.

For the Term of His Natural Life

Written in the 1870s by Marcus Clarke, For the Term of His Natural Life is a semi-fictionalised tale of a young convict arriving in Australia. The book follows Rufus Dawes, falsely convicted of murder in England, and his journey through the prison colony. Life in the early convict settlements was extremely hard (incredibly, the First Fleet of approximately 1,400 people included a grand total of one farmer), and the book is considered a seminal account of early convict life. Modern Australians are both proud and embarrassed of their convict beginnings, and understanding the convict story is essential to understanding Australia.

World Heritage Sites of Australia

Free

Exploring a country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites is always interesting, as they reflect how various countries see themselves. Australia, is of course no different, and is home to 20 World Heritage Sites. From world famous natural monuments like Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef, to modern buildings like the Sydney Opera House, there’s a great range of fascinating places here. To explore these incredible Sites, World Heritage Journey on YouTube is a great place to start.

Bill Bryson - In a Sunburned Country

British-American author Bill Bryson is one of the world’s most beloved travel writers and the author of many excellent books on travelling in Europe, the USA, Britain and beyond. In a Sunburned Country (also known as Down Under) is one of his best works. Over multiple trips, Bryson visits a surprising amount of the island continent, sharing his findings and observations with the reader as he goes. As an Australian, I can happily report that many of his observations are entirely on point!

Australia

Released in 2008, Australia is an epic movie set during the 1940s on a remote cattle station in northern Australia. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby) and starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, the story combines elements of drama, romance, history, and intrigue. It showcases the incredible landscapes of northern Australia, while also reflecting on Australian attitudes toward the indigenous population as well. Although not a critically-acclaimed masterpiece, Australia is worth a watch for those thinking of heading Down Under.

Rabbit-Proof Fence

The 2002 film Rabbit-Proof Fence is an incredible Australian movie that’s based on a true story. Until 1967, official Australian government policy was that mixed-race Aboriginal children were to be removed from their homes and placed in government care, a policy known these days as the Stolen Generation. The film follows two young Aboriginal girls as they escape their government camp and attempt to find their way home by following the titular rabbit-proof fence–  a journey of 2,400 kilometres through the western deserts. Australia has a difficult relationship with its indigenous population, and Rabbit-Proof Fence is a great starting point for understanding this relationship.

Bangarra Dance Theatre

Free

One of Australia’s premier art institutions, the Bangarra Dance Theatre, is an Indigenous Australian contemporary dance company. By fusing together elements of modern dance with traditional Aboriginal rituals and ceremonies, Bangarra has managed to create something wholly new and unique which all Australians (indigenous and non-indigenous alike) are justifiably proud of. Bangarra celebrated its 30-year anniversary in 2019, launching a new exhibition and digital archive called Knowledge Ground, which showcases its history and highlights.

Home & Away

Home & Away is one of Australia’s longest-running TV shows. Set in the fictional town of Summer Bay and filmed in the Sydney suburb of Palm Beach, this soap opera is a perennial guilty pleasure of Australian television. Interestingly, it’s far more popular in the United Kingdom than Down Under. Plenty of Aussie stars got their big break on H&A, including Chris Hemsworth, Naomi Watts, Heath Ledger, Nip/Tuck star Julian McMahon, Ryan Kwanten, and many others. If you’re interested, just drop in and start watching! Getting up to speed won’t take too long.

Watch Australian Rules football

Free

A purely Aussie invention, Australian Rules football (or AFL for short) is the country’s national football code, with teams based in every mainland state. Played during the winter months (March-September), Aussie Rules is fast, furious, frenetic, and fantastic to watch. The rules are quite technical, but the game itself is open and generally free-flowing, so it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the show. A particular highlight is the Grand Final, played every September at the MCG in front of 110,000 screaming fans. It’s so important, citizens of Victoria get an official public holiday to mark the occasion!

Learn some Australian slang

Free

Australian speech tends to be slang heavy and packed with idioms. Learning to understand Aussie slang can be a real challenge, so it’s best to start early! Words you might’ve heard on Crocodile Dundee like “strewth”, “cobber”, and “fair dinkum” aren’t in particularly common use, but catching a good language guide will help you learn your choccies from your chockers. But a word of warning! Make sure you’re super confident in your abilities before dropping some Australian slang in a pub or social setting. Telling tall stories to gullible tourists is a national pastime, and you might find yourself on the receiving end if people think you’re “taking the p-ss”!

Eat some Australian food

Fairy bread

Free

Australia is home to some of the world’s best produce, including fruits and vegetables, wine, beef, and lamb. And as a highly multicultural society (around 30% of Australians were born overseas), Australia’s culinary tradition focuses mainly on authentic dishes from other cultures, with everything from Afghan to Zimbabwean. But there’s a few home-grown Aussie favourites to try, including: Vegemite, a yeast based spread similar to Marmite; Damper, a soda bread made from flour, water, and salt, cooked over a fire; Anzac biscuits, made from rolled oats, flour, coconut, golden syrup, and butter. And fairy bread– every kid’s perennial favourite. Fairy bread is just plain white bread, laden with butter or margarine and topped with sprinkles or hundreds & thousands (Aussie sprinkles). Yum!

Plan your own trip to Australia

Explore these resources and you’ll see that Australia is a fascinating place. With 60,000 years of indigenous culture, a unique convict history, spectacular natural landmarks, and an intriguing modern blend of cultures, Australia really is one of a kind. 

Whitsundays - QLD - Australia, Whitsundays, Australia
Whitsundays - QLD - Australia, Whitsundays, Australia. Photo by Marcel Wiemers

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DO YOU WISH YOU COULD TRAVEL MORE?

You've landed in the right place! Tripscholars is here to help you extend the joy and wonder of travel far beyond your days on the road. Find travel education tips and inspiration in our ROADMAPS BLOG. Save yourself time and money by using our TRAVEL RESOURCES LIBRARY where we have already gathered top resources for you to enjoy from home. Tripscholars is where curious travelers come for meaningful travel planning and trip research.

This guest post was contributed by Joel at World Heritage Journey

We love to learn from our guest writers and appreciate their expertise! Visit Joel’s website by clicking on his image or name below. Or, use the button to check out his profile on our site.

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How to Be Your Own Tour Guide

Sherbsworld in front of glacier

How to Be Your Own Tour Guide

The Author Guiding a Tour in Iceland.       Photo shared by Sherbsworld

 This post may contain affiliate links which means Trip Scholars may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Read more here. Thanks for helping us keep the lights on!

Are you the kind of traveller who questions what is around you, marvels at old buildings, and gets lost in art? Does understanding new cultures make your journey more heartfelt? Do you love collecting stories of the places you visit and does travelling more make you more curious? 

Travel ignites our curiosity. It fills our heads with questions about how other people live. What do they eat? Where do they work? Who built that, and why? Discovering these answers makes us appreciate our surroundings more, and our travel experiences become more enriched.

Stack of Passports
Tour Guiding comes with some big responsibilities. Photo by Sherbsworld
Packing supplies
Pre-tour packing madness. Photo by Sherbsworld

Since travelling as a young adult, I’ve realised that I have a thirst for understanding the world that I venture into. It’s not just the itch that makes me want to travel more, it’s the lessons I learn when I’m away. 

Realising that I am a traveller of the curious category, and being a storyteller (or chatterbox) by nature, I decided to combine these two passions. I started to make a living by sharing my findings with other travellers and became a tour guide. 

In taking groups around my country, I started to appreciate the UK in a way I never had before. I delved into stories and historical facts. I memorised lists of famous landmarks, events, traditions, and social customs. I plucked out enticing characters from the past, some revered, some forgotten. I started to learn how cities as grand as London and Paris developed, and how people survived wars, plagues, and descimination. 

Group of Tourists
Crowds are the norm as a tour guide. Photo by Sherbsworld

The Importance of Learning Before You Head Out

Travel Books
Study Time. Photo by Sherbsworld

It quickly became obvious that the more I learned before leaving home, the more headspace I had on the road. When you have a bus load of people with various needs and have to deal with traffic, hot weather, downpours, constant questions, and missing people, you don’t want your knowledge letting you down. I never realised before that humans can endure such a spectrum of problems in one day.

Whilst it’s possible to make a decent wage with several companies, the hours are intensely long. You’re often up at 5 am and are dealing with lost baggage, complaints, sick passengers, cleaning the bus, and preparing all the props, notes, and paperwork you need for the day. You’re always required to look happy. 

For tour guiding and travelling yourself, planning eliminates some of the stress from everything that is out of your control. Being your own tour guide means digging deeper and owning your travel experiences. Here’s how you can do it. 

How to be your own tour guide

Dive into the culture before you go

Most good guidebooks have roundup sections on the country’s timeline events and culture. Online, the Encyclopedia Britannica has loads of information on the geography and history of countries everywhere. They also have interesting articles on topics like festivals, lifestyles, and philosophies.

Get up to speed by reading the local news online. Find an author or poet from your country of choice and put it on your reading list. The Bookshop is a huge online store that stocks from independent bookshops for the US and the UK and will source your entire travel reading bucket list.

Start a new chapter

You’re about to make amazing memories and gather a tonne of information. You’re also about to have a lot of time to muse whilst on long journeys or lounging in hammocks. Starting a fresh notebook whilst you prepare for each trip means you’ll have all your information in one place, plus blank pages for reflecting on life and brainstorming new goals. I have a whole cupboard of travel journals full of place names, journey times, anecdotes, films, books, and streams of thought. On rainy days in the future, you can spend hours sifting through memories and conjuring up visions of your past adventures. 

One of the perks of being a tour guide is being paid to get to iconic places.    Photos by Sherbsworld

Take a virtual museum tour

Confession time–  I don’t know every place before I take a group there. I have done many tours ‘blind’. I’ve had a group of 50 follow me down streets I’ve never trodden, and entered many buildings not knowing if I’m at the ‘group entry’ door. The only way to look professional in these moments is with body language, a smile, and of course, preparation. Luckily, I can familiarise myself with new destinations using Google Street View and find my way through the narrow streets of Rome to plan my route. Since lockdown, you can even enter museums on Google Arts and Culture. Many museums and galleries have their collections open for virtual viewing, like the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Make a playlist

Music can instantly bring you closer to your destination, as it invokes the culture. Whenever I do tours to Iceland, I download Of Monsters and Men, Bjork, and Sigur Ros amongst other other artists I discover. Then, when I’m daydreaming with little red fishing huts, fjords, and steaming hot pools passing by, the scenery is accompanied by a beautiful, local soundtrack. When you return home, the playlist will bring back sweet travel nostalgia. A good website to check out is Bandcamp, where you can sign up for free, search music based on your destination, follow the artists you love, and directly support them. 

Hear about notable characters and hidden figures

When I’m on the mic, reeling off facts is enough to put anyone to sleep. My groups always engage more when I’m telling them stories about weird and wonderful people that are connected to each place. Characters are essential for any story, and world exploration wouldn’t be the same without the stories that you uncover. Luckily, there are some highly entertaining podcasts that present, champion, and reveal notable and lesser-known people from around the world. So whilst you’re busy booking tickets and packing your sunnies, you can stick on an episode and discover people you never knew existed. Some of my favourites are The Historical Figures podcast and You’re Dead to Me by The BBC. 

Read kids books

I often don’t have enough time to fully study for every destination, especially at the beginning of my career when the logistical planning was overwhelming enough. All I knew about history was that kings chopped off their wives’ heads and Roman warriors wore short skirts. Luckily, there are some bitesize history books out there that are aimed at kids and nicely simplify history. The Horrible Histories range are funny and well illustrated and cover many world histories. If you travel to Scotland, which has a dense and unruly history, try to get your hands on one of Scoular Anderson and Allan Burnett’s books, such as the And All That series. They make history bitesize and funny and you’ll know your Mary Queen of Scots from your Bloody Mary in no time.

Enrich your trips by being your own tour guide

By being your own tour guide, you’ll gain skills like researching and how to organize. You’ll enrich your travels as you gather stories, facts, and learn about the people and the land. The more we know about the planet we roam, the more soul our journeys have. Travel the world and enrol in the school of life!

Let's Connect

DO YOU WISH YOU COULD TRAVEL MORE?

You've landed in the right place! Tripscholars is here to help you extend the joy and wonder of travel far beyond your days on the road. Find travel education tips and inspiration in our ROADMAPS BLOG. Save yourself time and money by using our TRAVEL RESOURCES LIBRARY where we have already gathered top resources for you to enjoy from home. Tripscholars is where curious travelers come for meaningful travel planning and trip research.

This guest post was contributed by Sheryl at Sherbsworld

We love to learn from our guest writers and appreciate their expertise! Visit her website by clicking on the image or name below. Or, use the button to check out her profile on our site.

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Travels Through Spain: 5 Books to Inspire Your Own Journey

Spain

5 Books To Read Before Going To Spain

Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain      Photo by Adam Cheshier

 This post may contain affiliate links which means Trip Scholars may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Read more here. Thanks for helping us keep the lights on!

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You have an adventure to Spain planned and are looking for inspiration.  Enjoy these five books by authors who fell in love with the country.  Read their memoirs and novels to learn the most you can about Spain and understand its cultural aspects before landing. Then, you will have a good idea of how you can make the most of planning your trip to Spain.

1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorite works from this historic author. It takes place in parts of Spain during the annual running of the bulls festivals of the north; a timeless tradition of Spanish culture which has changed very little.

2. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Fans of Hemingway may want to check out his other famous novel based in Spain, For Whom the Bell Tolls: a story based on Hemingway’s wartime experience covering the Spanish civil war for the North American Newspaper Alliance.

Hemingway is a literary icon with a taste for Spanish culture. Despite his experience being nearly a century on, his words will have you thirsting for Spain.

3. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Lauri Lee

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning is Lee’s account of his true backpacking journey. It was written around the same time of Hemingway’s adventures and is one of the best historic representations of the times in Spain.

 Lee’s explorer soul took him across the country during a period of rare peace in Europe. He traveled from the Galician port city of Vigo, over the Sierra de Guadarrama, into Madrid, and along the Costa del Sol. 

4. Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding

Goulding provides another well-researched look at what he refers to as his ‘adoptive home’ of Spain in Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture. It provides elements of history as well as information on the Spanish culinary scene. After reading, you will understand just how vast and diversified Spain’s culture is, and you’ll be inspired to traverse the beauty of its natural landscapes.

5. Pilgrimage to the End of the World: The Road to Santiago de Compostela by Conrad Rudolph

One of the most popular things to do in Spain, especially in the summertime, is to take the long walk across the north of the country on the Camino de Santiago. There are several trails that wind their ways through small traditional Spanish towns and across vast landscapes.

 If you are interested in learning more about the Spanish countryside, I highly recommend walking a portion (or all) of one of these historic trails. Before you go, Pilgrimage to the End of the World: The Road to Santiago de Compostela by Rudolph is one of the best resources, as far as insights from experienced hikers goes. It will have you scratching at the bit for the beautiful Spanish culture.

How I was inspired

Spanish culture is often seen as one of the most charming and inviting experiences in Europe. What I learned in these memoirs is that Spain is meant to be truly enjoyed– not from a tourist’s point of view, but from a down-to-earth local side.

I’m glad I visited Spain with a laid-back, slow itinerary. When your trip becomes more focused on sightseeing rather than truly experiencing the culture, you miss out on the deeper experiences that are illustrated in these books.  

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This guest post was contributed by Adam Cheshire

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Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy
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