Monday, July 20, 2015

My love of travel extends well beyond my role
as an integrated marketing manager for Travel + Leisure. Seeing the world has
always been a top priority for me, whether it's exploring the fjords of
Norway or the rainforests of Costa Rica. In Morocco, I met a Journeymaker who
transformed my trip into the desert by showing me an authentic—and
captivating—way of life.   American Express Travel has opened doors to
the world for 100 years.   To celebrate its centennial anniversary, they
are honoring the Journeymakers – the people whose passion, knowledge and
dedication take travel further so visitors may enjoy richer and more rewarding
journeys. Journeymaker: Mohammed of Morocco Since I
was a young girl, my dad has fostered a sense of adventure in me through
father-daughter dream trips we take together every few years. In fall 2014,
this tradition took form as a 10-day vacation to Morocco. Our goal was to
venture into the Sahara desert for a two-day expedition and overnight
encampment. On the trip, we met Mohammad, a local Berber nomad born and
raised in Merzouga, who would guide us through the undulating desert landscape
on camelback. The trek into Morocco's legendary Erg Chebbi was a truly
once-in-a-lifetime experience. About 10 minutes after leaving the small city
of Merzouga, we were surrounded by a sea of windswept sand dunes—and all we
could see for miles were those soft rose-colored hills. It was a place so
majestic, so secluded, and so quiet, it felt otherworldly—almost like
visiting the moon. Leading a caravan of Arabian camels, our guide, Mohammad,
would bring the one-hump dromedaries to a stop every so often to check the
sand patterns and track our way back to camp. Even for Mohammad, who has
spent his entire life in this region and has never left Morocco, let alone the
Sahara desert, there is no way to memorize the route back; every day the
desert literally changes with the wind and there are no roads or landmarks to
provide bearings, only a keen sense of navigation. In this remote region, he
lives peacefully with his wife and two daughters in a hut held up by twigs and
blankets. His English is limited, but when I asked him if he might like to
visit New York City, he said, "I would, but it's not likely. I'm like
the camels. I like it here. " In the evening after returning to camp,
we gathered for a traditional meal prepared by Mohammad of delicious
chicken tagine, which was tastier and more authentic than anything we had
sampled in city restaurants. That night, he didn't just tell stories about
surviving the frequent sand storms or hold up polite dinner conversation, he
welcomed us into his actual home like we were old friends and showed us those
very same stars he slept under each night. By the end of the meal, I realized
guiding tours wasn't just a job for Mohammad, it was about sharing his love
for the desert. Even though our workplaces might be entirely
different—mine an office in New York City, his a vast desert without street
signs—we were both fueled by a desire to find those authentic experiences
which inspire people to travel in the first place. I realized travel isn't
just about running through a checklist of landmarks and must-dos, it's about
placing yourself in a different place entirely and living in the moment
whether your home is on—or off—the grid. Mohammad wasn't just a guide,
he was a host and fantastic one at that. Mohammad is my Journeymaker. Go
to Journeymakers. com to recognize your #Journeymakers.  
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Hogwarts Express Journeymaker: Mohammed of Morocco Since I was a young
girl, my dad has fostered a sense of adventure in me through father-daughter
dream trips we take together every few years. In fall 2014, this tradition
took form as a 10-day vacation to Morocco. Our goal was to venture into the
Sahara desert for a two-day expedition and overnight encampment. On the trip,
we met Mohammad, a local Berber nomad born and raised in Merzouga, who would
guide us through the undulating desert landscape on camelback.

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