t h e t r u t h a b o u t w a n d e r l u s t
by Hayley Marshall
I remember coming back from my first backpacking trip – the trip that changed travelling forever. Before it, I had travelled to various countries in Europe, and had even lived abroad for a couple of years in the Caribbean, but I had never explored the entirety of a country and a culture with only what I had strapped to my back. The trips before had been full of multi-day stays in the same hotel, and a comfortable, large, suitcase that I could parade behind myself on the cobblestone streets. This life-changing trip allowed me to explore an entire country, and learn about another culture, so much so, that I would leave the tourist trail and trek out on my own.
I was 16, and on an impulse of wanting to go somewhere ‘exotic,’ I joined one of my best friends and her parents on an adventure to the unknown: Morocco. We spent 16 days travelling from city to medina, then from medina to desert, all the way to the snow-capped mountains. I witnessed such an undeniable change in the landscape and the people of the area that it struck a chord with me. At 16 I was interested in reality TV shows, which college would accept (or not accept) me, and with whom I was going to prom. Suddenly, the beauty of Morocco opened my eyes to a whole new world, a whole new culture, a whole new opportunity for a global connection.
Some would say I had caught the travel bug; I said I found my wanderlust.
Almost a decade later I have ticked a few more countries off of my list: Kenya, Germany, France, Italy, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. As a self-proclaimed “wanderlust-er” I am proud to say that once you backpack, you never go back. In reviewing my travels, memories, and photos I see beautiful places, luscious landscapes, and scenes so differently beautiful I wouldn’t have imagined them in my wildest dreams. These are things I cherish and hold tight to myself, but that do not nearly describe my experiences in these various corners of the world to the greatest extent. They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but I believe the true beauty of the photograph is never acknowledged without the back-story, and the experience created by the connections surrounding it.
One of my wisest friends once said, “We would not be here if others hadn’t helped us to be here.” I nodded, trying to understand what he meant as he continued his thought. We were sitting in a university office at the time and he explained:
- people had come together to make the clothes we were in, to make us comfortable
- people had come together to create the paper we were writing on and the pens we were writing with
- people had come together to make the room we were sitting in and the roof over our heads to protect us from the elements and make us feel safe
What I’m getting at is this: everything we experience, our fond and our less fond memories are, in fact, made up by the people around us. Realistically, we could be sitting in our living room, or traveling the Amazon jungle and what would impact us the most in either situation, what we would remember, and what would shape our memories, are the people around us who contribute to our lives.
So when reminiscing about my trip to Morocco of course I remembered the Sahara Desert, the Medinas of Fez, and the sickening winding road of the Atlas Mountains- but even more I remember the people. I remember Ghalid – the driver that took us from Fez, over the mountains, through the desert, and back up to Marrakesh- explaining that we could call him ‘Harry’ as in ‘Harry Potter.’ I remember sitting in the back seat of the van and learning about the Koran and about the Muslim belief, something fascinating to me as I had never encountered it before. I remembered Mohammed, who helped me onto a camel, then promptly pretended to run away with my camera forcing me into a feat of giggles atop a creature I never believed I would see, much less have to control to follow him. I remember the meeting the workers of the famous leather factories of Fez and wondering how their work, day in and day out with dyes and animal hides, affected their lives. I remember the small child who held my hand as we walked through Merzouga, a tiny town at the edge of the desert. And of course I remember all of this magic in accordance with my relationship with my friend, Jackie, and her parents. The impact all of this had on me was life changing, and the impact of the people around me is what made a true difference.
Whether you travel within your city, your country, or the world and whether you do it with a suitcase, a backpack, or the clothes on your back makes no difference. What impacts your experiences are those you share it with, and all those who have had a part in getting you there.
Hayley Marshall is a global citizen, photographer, and one of the first people to hear about and encourage The Happenstance // Project. Fittingly, she's written our first guest post about something we all become overwhelmed by at some point in her life: Wanderlust. Raised in beautiful British Columbia and currently living in Victoria, BC, Hayley has a knack for connecting people quickly beyond the surface level and she brings a creative spirit to everything she does. Keep up with her travels @hmarshall08