To live is to change.

“To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.”
– Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

Why did I come here? How have I changed? What Is the story I will tell when I finally come home?

I came to Morocco because I had stopped growing. I was content in Missoula but I wasn’t becoming the person I knew I wanted to be. I had come to a standstill. When I told my mom I wanted to go to Africa she said “Michael why could’t it be France? Britain? New Zealand?” “Because this is what I need to do ma”. I wont say that I chose Morocco simply because it would be a challenge but it was a factor.

After 5 months I think I got exactly what I wanted. I lived, I changed, I gained an unlikely story. I know that I have changed. How I don’t know, I wont know until I see myself reflected in the perplexed eyes of the people I left behind. I know that my life has been altered. I have rediscovered my love for making music, I have learned to unleash courage and that I didn’t even know I had. I have found resilience in my darkest hours, I understand myself better and I cant go back. I am marked by this place, I am still investigating how.

When I return to Montana what will I tell them? That I was Lawrence of Arabia galloping through the desert on on a camel? That shopping malls look exactly the same everywhere you go? No, I will tell them “There were good days and bad, Morocco isn’t better, its not worse, its just like Montana, full of kind generous and welcoming people, breathtaking scenery and experiences that will change your life.”

At the close of my time in Morocco I want to send out some thanks…

To Paola: Thank you for the adventures, for the laughter and tears, you understood me from the start and saw who I was supposed to be, because of you I am closer to becoming him. For that and so much more thank you.

To Noah: Thank you for uncovering my love for music I abandoned it years ago. I will always treasure your spirt and our friendship.

To Nabil: Thank for your generosity, the translations, your laughter and smile. I couldn’t ask for a better example of hospitality, kindness, and understanding. To my moroccan sherpa and dear friend thank you.

To my new friends: Thank you for welcoming me into your lives it has been a great honor to get to know you. All of you have such bright futures I cannot wait to see what where you go next.

To my friends back home: Thank you for answering Facetime calls at 3am. “My love for you burns with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.”

To my dear brother and sister: This is more an apology. I am sorry that I could not be there for you these last few months I have not been present as I should have I will see you both soon. Thank you both for supporting and encouraging me.

To Nathan: If I’ve learned something here its that it doesn’t matter if I’m watching the sunrise in the Sahara or going on a 3 am Walmart quest, what matters are the people you share it with. I am lucky to be your friend. I treasure our adventures. Thank you for being my friend.

To my mother and father: Thank you for teaching me to be strong for being an example and for letting me go (like you had a choice). Thank you for letting me make mistakes and then helping me up after. I am blessed to have you.

The adventure isn’t important its those you share it with even if its just yourself.

Safe travels thank you for hearing my story,
Michael Nelson

“Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time
Don’t say: «We have come now to the end»
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again”
– Annie Lennox, Into the west

The things I lost

While traveling in Morocco I have lost 2 debit cards, $90, a wallet, a drivers license, an iPhone 4, a student ID, a passport and all but a shred of dignity. Wether these things were stolen or lost they are gone. At first glance this list is substantial, and when compiled I felt like I should have just been sent home and put out of my misery.

I spent a while feeling this way. Each time I lost something I would promise myself It was the last time. And when it eventually occurred again I would only affirm this great fear that I didn’t deserve to be here. It was in a bus station in Agadir when I lost my wallet, student ID and $90 that I truly wanted to go home. I was embarrassed and tired. Ashamed that I could be so stupid to continue to lose my valuables, I was not just penniless for the rest of spring break I was blue too.

Of course I was fine. My friends were champions and all helped me get through the rest of the week. And most astonishingly my wallet was found and posted to a lost and found board online and was returned to me (without the cash (gotta pay that $90 idiot tax sometime)). But something had changed in me. A month later when I lost my phone in the back of a taxi I spent 1 hour distraught and angry at myself. I then calmly accepted the fact that I no longer had a phone and made a list of reasons why I needed it, and the answer was I didn’t really.

These are things, some of them are important others are not. Some things you can afford to lose others you cannot. But trust me as an expert on the subject when I say there is always a solution (unless you break the law and become the next episode of locked up abroad). I lost all my Identification including my passport in the Charles De Gaulle Airport and look at this incredible journey I’ve been on.

If you really want to hold on to your belongings get a body wallet that can be hung around your neck or strapped to your body underneath your clothes. Keep your passport and documents in there. Only keep a small amount of money in your wallet (I only keep $20 or so). Travel light! Only take what is absolutely necessary the less you take the less you have to lose. Have a routine, this can be hard when you are on the road but even just doing a check every time you are about to leave a location and every time you arrive is good. Have a designated place for your items. If you loose everything (like I did) take a moment and think what are your assets and what has to be done. Don’t stress, don’t beat yourself up you aren’t solving any problems that way. There is a solution, you are smart, you are here for a reason and you will get through it.

What was most comforting to me when I had lost everything was the list of things that I had gained while I was in Morocco. In this beautiful place I have gained a tan, and a beard, I am in the best shape of my life, I have improved my french and arabic, I have learned to dance salsa, I have learned to play the ukulele, I have gained incredible friendships, tasted delicious food, I have watched the stars in the sahara, and I’ve found myself.

I have paid a fair price. I am stronger for my trials. I have learned how to hold to the things that are important (the hard way) and to let go of the things that are not.

Safe travels
Michael Nelson