As the time in which I planned to volunteer at a work exchange grew closer, and my travels with Mal shortened, I began to worry. I had sent two work exchanges messages asking them to confirm for me whether I’d been accepted for a position, and although both had seen my messages, neither had responded. One was in Chefchaouen, my next city after Fez, and the other was back in Marrakech. A few more days passed with hearing nothing, so planning on going to Chefchaouen soon and with the date of either work exchange looming in the near future, I sent a message to cancel on the host in Marrakech. I hoped that spending some time in the mountains and working at another hostel would be fun, but little did I know what I had signed up for. Going on Hostelworld to book a place to stay within the “City of Blue,” we found a ridiculously cheap hostel called Riad Baraka and immediately booked our spots in the dorm rooms.
This was when everything got weird. On Workaway, a website in no way affiliated with Hostelworld, I received a message from the same host I was planning to work at the hostel of, asking if I had booked a couple nights to stay there. I was immediately taken aback. I pieced together that the same hostel we had booked at was indeed the one I would be planning to work at, but why were they sending me a message through Workaway? The woman who I’d been talking with the whole time through Workaway mentioned that the price was wrong on Hostelworld, yet didn’t tell us anything about an alternative price, or whether they’d value the incorrect price or even if we’d receive a refund. Her messages through the work exchange website had always been short and unpunctual, so I was confused by yet another short and curt response, which at first I chalked up to an inability to use the internet well.
With the realization that I now knew the hostel we had booked at was the same one that I was planning to work at for a month, I figured it wouldn’t be an issue to ask whether both Mal and I would be able to stay for a couple days considering after Mal left, I’d begin working there and helping out. Sending a message before going to bed in the evening after a day of exploring in Fez, I woke up to see that the woman had once again seen my message, yet not responded. Finding the hostel’s telephone number online, I called so that I could ask the woman why she hadn’t responded.
Right off the bat, I could tell that this wasn’t a place I would have wanted to work. With her condescending attitude, the owner of the hostel told me that she had indeed seen my message, but thought it was disrespectful that I would ask for my friend to stay for a reduced price, even though I’d be working there. I figured this wasn’t out of the question to ask, as I would be spending the next month there, and went about sending the email in the politest of ways. Yet this woman found it an appropriate response to yell at me through the phone about “how dare I ask for a discount.” She told me that she thought I was “cheeky” and that they had an error with the hostel website, resulting in the price being a lot lower than expected.
Instead of apologizing for cancelling our order or unprofessionally contacting me through Workaway instead of my email that had been registered with the hostel booking website, she continuously belittled me over the phone, to my speechless and shocked response. The phone call ended when I told her how I was on a budget trip, and would probably end up spending my days prior to working at the hostel couchsurfing instead to save money, and then she hung up on me.
Not only had I cancelled on another work exchange in Marrakech, but now the hostel in Chefchaouen had gone sour. I sat in my bed in Fez, astounded at the conversation and series of events that had led up to someone reacting in such a disrespectful way to another human being. What would I do with this month long gap of time in my schedule when I had planned to work in Morocco?
I quickly called family to explain my predicament. Happy that I had not put myself in a position to work with such a crazy character, I began to brainstorm other ideas, which was when I remembered that I had been keeping up with an incredibly fun, open, and positive mother of a family looking for help around their house in the countryside of the UK also through the Workaway website. I’d been talking to Zillah for a couple months now, but hadn’t told her my dates of availability as they had been changing so frequently. I fathomed what looking after two unschooled children would be like, in addition to living in the countryside of the UK away from a big city for a while, and the more I thought about it, the better it sounded. I needed a break from constantly moving, a place where I could feel the winds blow through fields and fill my lungs with fresh air.
Instead of spending my time exploring Fez, I was left to sit inside and waste the whole day sending out tons of Workaway messages, while Mal and Iga (who had arrived late at night from down south to come meet us) explored together. Hours of messages and thinking made me come to the conclusion that my time in Morocco would end sooner than expected. Like a sudden gust of wind, I was to be off on another unplanned adventure, flying to Natalie and Ben’s in London again for a week of (hopefully) figuring out where I would head next, and awaiting many messages I had sent out. As the cards began to fold and all the other work exchanges within Morocco turned up blank, I heard back in the UK from three different exchanges that were more than willing to have me come to join. Still, the idea of watching artistic and friendly children sounded like the most fun option. I was in luck when a few days later, I heard back not only a YES from Zillah, but that I could start after a quickly thrown together and spontaneous roadtrip with Natalie in the south of Spain.
In such a quick turn of events, I had completely and drastically changed my plans. But as this new idea of flying out to London dwelled in my head, I quickly grew excited. How often does one have the opportunity to travel with not just one, but both of their siblings in foreign countries within a couple months span? Immediately the shock I felt from my plans being flipped upside-down turned into joy as I realized how lucky I was to have family close by, and a sister adventurous and fun enough to go off to a country we both (partially, her more than I) understood the language of!
When Iga and Mal finally came back from their day of adventures, I had a radical twist to my travel itinerary compared to a few hours prior. Both were happy and enthusiastic about my ability to quickly turn over a new leaf, and we celebrated by all booking a new hostel in Chefchaouen that we would head to in the early afternoon via hitchhiking, a feat that would prove difficult for three people to do together.
In the early afternoon we awoke, had breakfast, and hit the road. By the time we had made a sign and were at the recommended hitchhiking location, it was already almost three in the afternoon. An hour later, we still hadn’t received a ride, and started to worry about reaching Chefchaouen before sunset. Having a couple locals recommend us to take a bus to Meknes where our chances of getting a ride directly to Chefchaouen would be higher, we sadly admitted defeat and bought tickets, recollecting our esteem before another attempt would begin.
Getting out of the bus, we walked all the way through town to the main road that led north toward Chefchaouen, and began to hitch. However, after another hour of unsuccessful attempts, we walked further down the road to another intersection where more traffic would be driving. Two men picked us up, and communicated to us that they weren’t heading to Chefchaouen, but a town about an hour away.
Feeling as though our options were slim at this point to get a ride directly there, we got inside, and laughed at one another as we attempted to communicate through language barriers. At one point, we stopped at an orange stand and the men got out, buying a massive bag of some of the most delicious oranges that I had ever eaten, and shared a couple with all of us crammed in the back seat. The juice drenched our hands as we threw our peels piece by piece out the open windows, basking in the rays of sun infiltrating the car. Finally upon reaching the village that the men were driving to, we got dropped off, and they were kind enough to write down their address and phone numbers in case we were unable to make it to Chefchaouen.
Walking through the town with very little traffic and the sun dropping below the buildings, we looked at each other in dismay. After another thirty minutes and still no ride, we decided to take the one taxi waiting at the end of the road, and were able to bargain for a price with the help of a villager who had come out to try and chat with us while we waited for a ride. The taxi then dropped us off in the next biggest town close to Chefchaouen, and within ten minutes we were able to get a ride from two French guys road tripping all over the country in their camper van.
Six or so hours after we had begun our hitchhiking adventures, we were finally in the City of Blue! Exhilarated by our long, but memorable day, Mal and I decided to walk around the medina close to our hostel, and were equally amazed and astounded by the varying colors of indigo surrounding us at every corner. The night ended with a delicious avocado smoothie and we effortlessly passed out in our room upon returning.
The next few days were spent relaxing, hiking mountains extremely off any beaten path with Tomas, a friend we had met in the hostel, and getting lost in the blue. Mal and I cooked enormous meals from produce that we bought in the local marketplace, sharing with other friendly faces from the hostel, and feasted on enormous (fifteen cent) artichokes three nights in a row. Iga went off and did her own thing but we would regroup later at night to chat about our days. The hostel was not only exceptionally clean, but run by a compassionate family who loved company. This city felt like paradise, and although I was sad to be leaving in a couple days instead of working in the hostel, I knew that I’d be back sometime in the future, and that the hostel hadn’t been the right choice.
On we went to Tangier, where Mal graciously rented a modest hotel room for us to celebrate our last night together in comfort and solitude. Unfortunately I had begun to grow sick, so I cooped myself inside, enjoying our privacy and last moments together before Mal would head on a ferry back up to Spain to catch her flight home from Madrid. In the next days I would spend another night within Tangier of (mostly) sleeping off my sickness, then unsuccessfully hitchhiking back to Rabat where my flight out to London awaited me. The next chapter was slowly unfolding, and I grew eager to begin the planning process of Natalie and my spontaneous four day trip together in the south of Spain before a train ride out to the countryside of the UK.