As I begin the journey into the new year I find myself reminiscing more and more about the past year. It was a whirlwind of a year filled with some amazing memories that others only dream about. One memory has been on my mind a lot recently: my travels to Agadir, Morocco. Morocco is one of those countries that I’ve been interested in visiting and I always envisioned exploring the local markets of Marrakech or relaxing at a 5-star resort in Casablanca. Instead, I was headed an hour south of Casablanca to Agadir on a fact-finding mission while developing a start-up business with 3 classmates. While I didn’t get to explore the fancier sides of Morocco, I got something way more out of that trip and an experience that I will never forget.
A little background on our mission there, we were developing a sunstainable business to improve the world’s energy crisis and provide water to underdevelpoed communities through the use of fog catchers. Through our research we discovered that these fog catchers were found primarily in South America and Africa – specifically Agadir. So we set out to meet with a local non-profit that has been using fog catchers to gain more insights into our project and also see the fog nets in person. Little did we know this would turn into a 20-hour journey through the mountains of Agadir with little contact to the outside world. Thank goodness one of our partners was injured and stayed behind.
We headed out on our journey at 3am – we were told that the best time to see the fog catchers in action was early morning just after sunrise and it was going to take us a few hours to get to the top of the mountain where the fog catchers were located. There’s something peaceful about driving in darkness through unknown streets. The quiet calm of a new day approaching and mistakes of days past washing away as the sun rises. We parked the car at one point, got out and just looked up at the night sky. I don’t think I have ever seen the stars shine so bright nor have I ever felt as free as I did in that moment. As we continued driving, paved roads turned into dirt roads and we made our acent up the mountain. We were informed that we could drive most of the way through the mountains and would have to hike to the top (about 30 mins) to see the fog catchers. All in all, our journey was meant to last about 3-4 hours, what we got was…lost.
Of all the things in my life I never EVER expected that I would get lost on a mountain in the middle of the desert in Morocco. It’s like a scene out of a movie. Two Americans and a Belgian lost in the desert where little to no civilization existed. I could probably write a screenplay about our experience. We drove for miles and miles trying to follow a hand-drawn map that seemingly got us more and more lost. Finally, we saw a man on a donkey (yes, in this part of the world farmers and agriculture workers use donkeys as their primary mode of transformation) and of course this man didnt speak a word of English and stared blankly at us as we stopped to get his attention. Again, two Americans and a Belgian – if I was that man I would’ve been wondering WTF we were doing there. We drove along, at this point we were well past sunrise, tired, hungry and more lost than ever. We saw a little village with small houses and a family outside one of them. At this point, the Belgian got out of the car and tried to talk to the man living there – he was out last glimmer of hope in finding our way to the fog catchers. He walked around to the back of the house and I immediately thought ‘great, we are never going to see him again or the man will come back out and charge at us’. Again, it felt like a scene from a movie where the protagnist tries to get help and you never see him again. Luckily, he made it back to the car one piece sadly without any insight into where we were supposed to go.
We got back on the road and drove futher and further up the mountain. It’s quite terrifying and equally liberating to drive basically directionless up a mountain with no end in sight. We were able to get some cell reception and spoke with the man from the non-profit who orginally told us where to find the fog catchers. He explained to us that we had gone too far but there were another set of fog catchers near to where we were. He explained that we would soon come to a point where we couldn’t drive anymore and would have to climb the rest (about 30 mins). Little did we know we had already entered the part where we should not hve been driving. So we parked the car and walked in the only direction we could – UP.
The current time was 3pm, we had officially been on what seemed like a neverending journey through the mountains for exactly 12 hours. With limited resources and even less communication we wondered if we would ever find these fog catchers. But there was also this iinherent motivation in all of us to finish what we started. We had come so far that none of us wanted to give up but also we needed to be practical about our circumstances. If we didnt find the fog catchers soon we would have to retreat back to the mainland to avoid the setting sun that we had watched rise 8 hours before. We agreed we’d give it one more hour. If by 4pm we hadn’t found the fog catchers we would call it a day and make our way back down the mountain. It’s funny how the beginning of the end of something almost always pushes you to work/try harder – I swear in that moment we all walked a little faster and had nothing but determination in our eyes. Suddenly, as we continued to climb we turned a corner and there ahead of us – FOG CATCHERS! We had finally made it! The neverending journey came to an end and our mission was complete. We had found the purpose we had desperaretly been searching for all day. After gazing at these massive nets that almost looked like they could touch the sky, I turned around and I myself felt as if I could touch the sky. I looked out and saw nothing but mountains. It was one of those moments that completely takes your breath away and you can’t help but be thankful. Just like that, all the trials and tribulations of hours past washed away and it was all worth it. That view is something that has been imprinted in my memory forever and it a moment I will never forget.
As the new year begins, I guess I have been reminded so much of that day because that one day represents what we all go through in years, months, and days. We have visions and plans of where are going and what we want; but something or someone prevents us from getting where we want to go. What do we do? Do we give up and do we fight through all the forces telling us we can’t and prevail? I’d like to think that we always choose the latter option but the reality is I believe more often than not we choose to give up. 2018 was a crazy year of ups and downs. Mostly highs (the highest of highs at times) but with those highs came a few lows. The month of Decemebr alone was filled with sadness, fear and all my insecurities came to light. But I decided not to let it get the best of me. I chose to fight. I started the new year perservering through all the forces telling me I can’t. I may not have everything figured out but I believe that everything is going to be okay. I will make it to the top, just like that day on the mountain. It won’t be easy but that’s life. It’s not meant to be easy. It is meant to push us and make us stronger. It is moments like that day that are a constant reminder that I can do anything and I can go anywhere. The possibilities are endless. It is up to us to take advantage of those possibilities and stay determined to complete every chapter of our stories.