Tag Archives: Morocco

The Dangers of Coming Home – and other Travel Dangers

From 1998 to 2013 – I was pretty well on the road. From 1998 to 2001 I was exploring the USA from North Carolina to Florida to California to Alaska and loosely based in Seattle and Bellingham – with brief periods of stable employment (which wasn’t so stable actually and hence, brief.)  There were a few adventurous trips to Canada, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom and domestically – but for the most part – I was exploring without fear by thumb, vehicle, and whatever means I could find – I lived in vehicles for extended periods, had rough permanent camps in the forest, and dreamed of jumping to Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Europe.

In 2001, I made that jump – first backpacking and roughing it through China and Southeast Asia and then after the devastating events and effects of September 11th, 2001 – I made the leap to Hawaii – without a doubt, my best move ever.  I lived in Hawaii longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere – and while there took the time to explore the islands, take an extended trip to the Philippines, and thanks to the generosity of my partner at the time, to see a bit of the South Pacific around Tahiti. I also began to feel like I wanted more from life and followed the rather overesteemed course of earning a degree from the University of Hawaii – and in the process borrowing around $28,000 U.S. dollars.  About the time I graduated in 2008, the economy crashed and burned – the destinations I had really wanted to go – Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, the Punjab, Iraq – they were mired in war and terrorism and seemed like they would never emerge as a place where a guy could just wander around and check things out – so I crossed them off my list – which really sucks – but was the right decision – which is why you haven’t seen a youtube video of me getting my head cut off – absolutely not worth it.

So, with worthless degree in Anthropology in hand – I set out to explore the rest of the world.  Here’s a funny side note – a big part of the reason I pursued a degree was because I wanted to teach English in Japan and it required a BA in any field – the great recession pushed so many college grads into looking for teaching jobs in Japan that the requirements increased so that only those who majored in education or TEFL or English really had a shot at the jobs – by the time I earned my degree it was worthless for the purpose I’d wanted it for…

With no plan and not much money – I visited family and friends in the USA and caught the first flight to Europe I could afford – bringing me to Barcelona, Spain – I had no intention of returning. None. Zero. Not a bit. Of course, that changed when I met my future wife in Morocco and realized I had to return to the USA to fulfill the paperwork needed to marry her – I chose a girl in a country where there was no option to forego marriage and run away together and where marriage was a paperwork nightmare – so there I was – I came home and gathered my documents – again not intending to return.

Oh, here’s something else – I married a person from a country that most countries don’t want immigrants from and from which many illegal immigrants migrate – so , since by that time I was earning my income from a combination of travel writing, blogging, and off the books hotel and tourism consulting – I wasn’t able to provide the necessary ‘sponsorship’ guarantees or financial records to bring my wife with me to the countries we both wanted to visit – our one attempt to go to Paris ws stymied by the French Authorities despite the fact that we had return flights, reservations at hotels, and a verifiable amount of income in the bank – mainly because my wife was Moroccan and I didn’t have an employer – self didn’t count. So, I travelled on my own…which is kind of a bummer when you are married.

We were limited to a few countries – Turkey being one of them – where we went and lived until the birth of our daughter – I busted balls to ensure my daughter got a US Passport and US Citizenship – but we still had the issue of my wife’s nationality – so, after much thought and discussion and an astounding years worth of paperwork, documentation, and interviews – we returned to the USA to put her on the path to US Citizenship (I returned, she emigrated for the first time) – and here we’ve been since –

And – at this point – about a year and a half in – it feels like we may never be able to escape.  As a family, we couldn’t afford to return to Hawaii – $9 a gallon milk and rents that start at $1500 for mediocre apartments and then go up rapidly – maybe I should have taken the leap right away while we had some savings…instead I thought I would be able to parlay my experience in travel and tourism into a job with a San Francisco startup – since the economy was improving – yeah – haha – the job market never picked up for 40-something year old guys embarking from long periods of self-employment – we couldn’t even afford to rent a house or apartment in California with landlords ignoring our housing references from Turkey and Morocco and demanding first, last, and deposit on living spaces that started at $1800-$2000 – yeah right – $6000 to move in, then the utility deposits, then the other expenses of moving in – and all of that on the heels of moving my family from the other side of the world – it would have left us with nothing – nada- zip – but maybe I should have done it.

Cross that Bridge when you come to it

Instead I moved us to a dying town on the beautiful Oregon coast where we have a nice little 3 bedroom house with big yards, garage, and have managed to open a little antique shop- all for less than a month’s rent in a crappy apartment in Hawaii or San Francisco – but, on the downside – we live in a dying town and making ends meet is not as easy as it was several years ago when single ads on this blog would bring in $400-$800 a year – those days died with all the Google updates and penalties – at one point – Vagobond went from a pagerank 4 to a pagerank 3 – which took my prices down more than 50% – the changing SEO environment took prices down further and most companies stopped paying for ads or sponsored content – I stopped accepting offers when they dropped to $100 or less per annum – not worth the risk – especially when the ads were for finance or casino sites – no thank you.  Travel blogging is pretty much dead for me – it was great to spend four hours a day on content when I was earning money for it, but without the cash – I can’t justify it any longer – which is why there has been so little new content over the past year and a half…Google killed travel blogging, as far as I can see.

But, back to the title of this post – the dangers of coming home. Aside from Google – it’s become very hard to get back on the road – every penny we have gets sucked out – whether by our vehicle (approx $400 per month for gas and insurance and routine maintenance – without major repairs) health insurance, groceries, rent, utilities, and incidentals – we’d love to take a trip to Morocco and see my wife’s family but there is no way we can afford the $6k-$10k it would cost – not to mention the cost of shutting our business for a month…that’s the big danger of coming home – it’s very easy to get stuck – we are stuck with a capital S and every month feels like it could suck us down into a whirlpool of destruction – and that $28,000 I borrowed to pay for my worthless degree? Somehow it has become $40k and I’m on the verge of defaulting – I have no idea what will happen then…

It would be great to just chuck it all and split – but it’s no longer a possibility – our daughter is getting close to school age and we are seeing a huge number of reasons not to put her in public schools – but we have to figure something out – we just don’t want her to turn into one of the cellphone toting zombie girls we see American schools turning out – her vocabulary is already larger than most 16 year olds and she is 3. Oh yeah, let’s send our smart nice kid into a school system that is dumbing down the tests instead of improving the teaching…no way.

Then there is the stuff we see in the news – Turkey – which we love, by the way – is totally screwed with the Islamic State on two borders and violence reviving among it’s own Kurdish population because of the insane policies of Erdogan – then there is the war across the Black Sea from Istanbul in Crimea, Ukraine, and Russia – whoa – way too much going on in Turkey for us to go back right now – WAAAAY TOO MUCH!

Then there is Morocco where they are increasing persecution of foreigners – yeah, maybe it’s just one homosexual who has been arrested but I don’t think so – it’s a broader conservatism which is sweeping the Muslim world and making it dangerous to be a foreigner in Muslim countries – dangerous to be there and then dangerous to come home – and then there’s Ebola which oddly enough landed in the USA before it landed in North Africa – or maybe it did anyway…it’s too early to tell what the disease has done in Africa where reporting is anything but instant…

What about Europe? Same issues as before – my wife is still a Moroccan National – we’re here for that citizenship – we want her to get that blue passport but by the time we get hers, I won’t be surprised if my own gets revoked for defaulting on my student loans- do they do that?

And that, my friends, is the danger of coming home – you might not be able to leave again…be very careful!

Extraordinary Carthaginian Vagabond – Hanno the Navigator

The voyage of Hanno the Navigator 500 BCIn the annals of great explorers, there is one name that is often overlooked – that of the Carthanginian Periplus of Hanno – later known to the Greeks as Hanno the Navigator . Neither a Greek nor a Roman, but a free man of Carthage and perhaps one of the great unheralded navigators the world has ever known.

While the exact dates of his explorations are not certain, historians agree that they took place sometime around the year 500 B.C.E. It was around this time that Hanno left the city of Carthage – for those wondering, Carthage was located approximately where Tunis, Tunisia now sits.

Hanno left Carthage with a fleet of sixty rowing ships for the purpose of colonizing the unknown territories of Northern and Western Africa. With him were an ungodly number of people which counted in somewhere around 30,000!!!! Hanno’s job was to take all of these people and get them set up in colonies in the great unknown areas.

Passing through the Pillars of Hercules (between modern day Gibraltar and Tangiers, Morocco) the fleet set out into the Atlantic Ocean and turned south.

They founded a city called Thumiaterion at approximately modern day Safi, Morocco. From there, having left a number of settlers, he continued Southward to the isle of Cerne – a place much disputed and lost to history but given the voyage of Hanno, probably either Tenerife and the Canary Islands or less likely, Cape Verde. Even more fanciful is the idea that Hanno reached Atlantis…but who knows?

From Cerne, Hanno sailed back to the mainland and found a large river. Judging by the descriptions of the animals and landscape, we can assume that he was in modern day Senegal or perhaps The Gambia.  He encountered not only elephants, reed filled lakes, crocodiles, and hippopotomai, but also hostile natives that drove he and his settlers back to Cerne.

From Cerne, again, Hanno went further south to find a land that was wonderful by day but lit by fires at night.  He rounded the cape of Hespera Keras and encountered a people steeped in mysticism and music. His own mystics (an essential party to any Carthaginian voyage advised leaving quickly) and so they went south again.  This time they reached modern day Guinnea-Bissau and the Isle of Orango upon which they mistook gorillas for a race of hairy men.

Hanno the Navigator - Finder of Gorillas

In its inmost recess was an island similar to that formerly described , which contains in like manner a lake with another island, inhabited by a rude description of people. The females were much more numerous than the males, and had rough skins: our interpreters called them Gorillae. We pursued but could take none of the males; they all escaped to the top of precipices, which they mounted with ease, and threw down stones; we took three of the females, but they made such violent struggles, biting and tearing their captors, that we killed them, and stripped off the skins, which we carried to Carthage: being out of provisions we could go no further.

This is as far as Hanno reached before returning to Carthage with Atlas lions and stories of wonder. He left seven colonies behind (all in modern day Morocco) and presumably returned with much lighter ships. It is no wonder that Hanno became king of the Carthaginians. History knows him as Hanno II of Carthage.
ship of carthageThe voyage of Hanno is much in dispute, in order to come to a greater understanding of it, I’ve referred to many books and online sources, none of which were more helpful than this article which details the fact, the fiction, and the speculation.   http://phoenicia.org/phoewestafrica.html

I too, am guilty of some speculation but in reading the accounts of Hanno the Navigator, the above description of his voyage feels the most right to me.  One thing that can’t be argued is that the voyage of Hanno was one of the great epic voyages of all time.

Can Hanno the Navigator even be classified as a vagabond? To my mind, the answer is yes – in that a vagabond is anyone who sets out on a voyage of discovery where the unknown is the biggest thing that is known.  But, like everything with Hanno – all is in dispute. We don’t even have an idea what he looked like.

Ibn Battuta – Moroccan Vagabond

The greatest adventurer of all time for me is the Moroccan vagabond, Ibn Battuta. He not only traveled everywhere in his known world, but he wrote about it in ways that no one before him had. Ibn Battuta’s journey lasted 29 years, so by Moroccan standards, my wife should be understanding of this current journey I’m on.

Ibn Battuta was the only world traveler in Middle Ages and he achieved fame because of he visited every Muslim ruler’s land of his time. He also traveled in China, Sri Lanka, Byzantium (which included huge amounts of Europe, Turkey, and Central Asia) and Russia. He traveled over 75,000 miles in his lifetime. And keep in mind most of this was by foot, camel, or horse. There were no frequent flyer programs then. He traveled like a nomad throughout the world and in the process, he introduced (and is still introducing) the cultures of the world to one another.
ibn battuta
Ibn Battuta was a well known traveler who lived according to the slogan ‘never, if possible, cover any road a second time’. He traveled on camel, horse, by boat and on foot. He went as far as he could through every means of land transport. He also traveled to West Africa and visited Timbuktu, Niger, and Mali. He distinctly described the existing political, social and economic conditions, religious matters, and position of women in the nations and regions he visited.

Ibn Battuta Resources
The Adventures of Ibn Battuta
The Travels of Ibn Battuta in the Near East, Asia, and Africa
Traveling Man: The Journeys of Ibn Battuta

He was elected Chief judge of Delhi, and he spent his life as Qadi (chief judge) of Morocco in the city of Fes for twenty three years, meanwhile he also wrote of his travels which at the time included almost everything that was known about the world.

At the age of 21, Ibn Battuta started his travels from Morocco. The main reason for his journey was to go on the Hajj, the long journey to Mecca, like all other Muslims who are required to do the same during their lives if possible. travels of ibn battuta

He traveled for 29 years and covered almost 75,000 miles where he visited 44 modern countries. He faced many dangers and adventures on his way. Bandits attacked him and he nearly drowned in a sinking ship during his travels.

ibn battuta on camelIbn Battuta was born in Morocco in a Muslim family in 1304. He studied Muslim law and in 1325 he left the place to make the journey to Mecca. He was very interested in adventure and world travel. Traveling to Mecca through land and by sea was dangerous. He traveled on land with a donkey at first. Later he joined a caravan with other travelers.

Ibn Battuta was asked to dictate the story of his travels to a scholar by the Sultan of Morocco. Today we are able to read that story in English and the story is called “Rihla-My Travels”.