Ambling around the city streets of Agadir, Morocco, I follow the map on my phone, guiding us towards a local nail salon. It’s past eight o’clock at night, and the streets are starting to get busy. A couple of friends stand on the sidewalk, simultaneously having a conversation and watching my friends and I get lost; a few musicians walk by, recognizing us from the restaurant and giving us a wave; a group of men play soccer in an open square while another closer to us tries to help us find our way.
As small as these interactions are with people, they prove to be some of the most important. Travelling is more than seeing famous sites and exploring a new city; it’s understanding the culture around you and absorbing what you see. When you’re exploring a new city, it’s important to take in everything you see. A camera can’t always capture the beauty of traveling. Your phone wont be able to build friendships and memories with friends. Take a moment to breathe and watch the surroundings, even if it’s just watching the sunset or looking at the stars.
Later that night, after my friends and I got back from the nail salon, we found our way onto the balcony of where we were staying. We pulled some plastic chairs onto the concrete and gazed at our surroundings for an hour. The city of Agadir was brightly lit. Lights of yellow, red, green and orange shades filled the lower third of the skyline and the faint sound of city life filled the air. Looking up, we saw the dark night sky illuminated by the dozens of stars scattered beautifully about. I was in awe. The peace of the city outskirts combined with the company of my newfound friends and breathtaking views made for a memory I’ll never forget.
For the next sixty or so minutes, my friends and I found ourselves talking about everything and anything. My newest piece of conversation was on the recent massage I had received at the nail salon. “She turned the lights off and put on ambient music but didn’t tell me anything. I was so confused,” I told them. I had asked the owner for a massage, and without much instruction, she guided me behind a curtain, turned the light off, played music and walked away. It was a very confusing time. We laughed over the story and switched subjects. We talked about what we wanted our final projects to be on, our past classes and what we wanted our final projects to be on.
There’s something special about traveling that can only be understood when you take a break from everything and look around. When you finally take a minute to breathe and not worry about how a picture will look, if you’re going in the right direction or what’s next on the itinerary, you’ll see a different world. You’ll see what you had hoped for and what every traveler desires to see – something new.
Alexandria Saurman can be contacted at