There are so many seemingly insignificant and mundane things in life, especially when traveling on a bus from one city to the next. But if you are traveling as a solo female in another country as well as in another continent, it is far from insignificant. On the first Tuesday of this past February I was getting on a bus from Seville, Spain which would take to me Tarifa, the southernmost tip of Spain, so I could take a ferry ride to Tangier, Morocco. How exciting! There are so many intoxicating rewards of traveling solo, and no matter what I say or write about it, most people won’t try it. The unknown is scary for most, and uncertainty makes people uncomfortable. But isn’t most of life full of the unknown as well as uncertainty anyway? Perhaps I’m the weird one with this philosophy but in this case I’m proud of it.
The bus ride from Seville to Tarifa took about three hours, and because the warmth of the sun accompanied me, I felt so comfortable and relaxed. Then…everything changed. There were maybe a hundred passengers that had to get on the ferry, which looked more like a huge cargo ship. We just parked our luggage in no particular order at the bottom level of the ship, and I was sure my luggage would be mistakenly stolen by the end. Then all the passengers had to go inside the ship and get our passports stamped. For no real reason that I could figure out, we all stood in line for the duration of our ride which was maybe about 40-45 minutes. I had no idea why we couldn’t sit. I felt like some migrant crossing the border, and looking back I would guess that everyone else felt the same way. We all felt relieved when the ship docked, and when I went to look for my luggage, I felt happy again.
The adventure began when a man asked me if I had a ride to my hotel upon disembarking the ship. I actually forgot to schedule my ride from the hotel, but then again, I’m used to finding my own way once arriving. But in Morocco or Turkey, you must always ask how much, which I did this time to the man who approached me. 5 Euros. Done. All the cabs were faint pastel colors, and they were all Mercedes! The man sat in the front seat but he wasn’t the driver. He was a tour owner/operator, and he was calling his people on his mobile as he was questioning me on how long my stay was, where I would be interested in going, etc. He was very polite but assertive. As the car was going through the medina, the old part of town that is very maze like, I became highly uncomfortable, maybe even scared. First of all, I had no idea that my hotel was in the old medina as the pictures showed it being modern. In case you didn’t know, it is impossible to go around on your own in a medina. A typical Westerner would get easily lost, and I am terrible with directions. Second, I felt like I had no control whatsoever. Upon arriving at the hotel there was a tall, handsome guy named Mohamed Ali (that was truly his real name!) that was supposed to take me around, and I felt strangely uncomfortable. I didn’t ask for Mohamed Ali’s help, and I don’t recall hiring anybody! But when I realized that there wasn’t an elevator and there was only a small spiral set of marble steps to my room at the hotel, Mohamed Ali took over without me asking. He climbed the stairs with my luggage (very quickly, I might add) like some super hero, set my luggage in my room, told me to take some time getting situated, and he told me he would be waiting downstairs for me! WTF? My head was spinning then and I didn’t know what the hell was going on. There was no conversation of my wanting or needing to hire anyone to take me around whatsoever. I became highly uncomfortable, almost scared. I have never, ever been scared this way while traveling. For some reason my only reaction was fear at that point. But in looking back, I realize now that God was looking out for me. He was making sure that I would be taken care of very well, and just like my first time in Morocco, I would be given the royal treatment.
…to be continued…