Taking Those Risks
As a female traveler, and especially when you travel by yourself, you always have to wonder if you're making the right decisions on a near constant basis. Should I wave down this cab? Should I get in this car? Should I respond to these guys who are talking at me? Should I ignore the guys talking at me? Do I smile? Do I make eye contact? Should I walk around after dark by myself? Should I take up this guy's offer to show me around? Do I need to be prepared to fight? Are these guys going to rape or mug me? Etc. It can get a little tiring sometimes.
However, it doesn't mean that you have to shut yourself off to all possibilities. I think it's a constant risk assessment based, in large part, on intuition or gut feel.
Tonight was one of those moments. I took some time out from working so I could do a weekend in Fez and Chefchaouen. At the moment, I'm in Riad Borg Derb in Fez which I left around 8:30 pm in an effort to find dinner. As I was walking out, a young man called out to me to follow him. I said no, I was going to get dinner. But he insisted and said that he worked at a riad where I could get dinner. He also showed me a photo of him at work.
Normally, if this exchange had happened in Marrakech, I would have definitely said no. In fact, my first day in Marrakech, a guy on a motorbike followed me and kept on telling me he would take me to the square and to see the tanneries if I would hop on the back of his bike. But he seemed sort of sketchy and super pushy, not taking no for an answer. So I kept on saying no and he would drive off but then reappeared on two other occasions. I guess it doesn't help that I'm really easy to spot. I think he also told me to go f#&k myself (or something along those lines) when I said no a few times.
But tonight, I didn't feel as sketched out and said why not. Of course, as we walked through some of the darker parts of the neighborhood, I wondered if someone would come up behind me and assault me or if I'd be led into a trap. And the ex-fighter part of me was on alert to the possibility of violence and to be ready, JUST IN CASE.
However, Lhassan was just taking me to Riad Rcif, which is an absolutely stunning place. The mosaic tilework and the woodwork in this hotel is AMAZING. The crazy thing is that you could just walk past it and never know how beautiful it was inside. Regardless, I was the lone diner and enjoyed a substantial spread of cooked salad items, a chicken tagine, and dessert, plus a beer on Lhassan (of course, I did watch to see that it was opened in front of me). I also got a chance to see the awesome views from the terrace after which I asked Lhassan to walk me back to my riad because I was unfamiliar with the winding route (FYI, it's so easy to get lost in a medina). On the way back, I briefly played with an adorable puppy, met his mom and brother, who tagged along for part of the walk (and were super friendly), and talked to one of his friends for a few minutes. And then I was dropped off at my riad to conclude a pleasant evening which started with an attitude of, ok, why not?
And to top it off, my Bolivia-residing Mexican photographer friend, whom I met in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, is on WhatsApp so we can harass each other (me with Google translate to help with my Spanish) sporadically. I am hopeful that I will get to see her in November as I plan on returning to Bolivia so I can pre-acclimatize in La Paz before heading to Mendoza for an attempt on Aconcagua. Additionally, a random connection I made in Quito (a stranger, whom I spoke to for a few minutes during dinner and who ended up surprising me by paying for my dinner and then subsequently found my LinkedIn based on snippets of our conversation) sent me an email (we've exchanged a few) wondering where I am in the world and touching upon his future travels and feelings about the death of possibilities that come with the death of friends (as the price of longevity).
Sometimes it's so easy to remain closed off. But sometimes it's more fun to be open-minded and curious about the possibility of saying yes to an unplanned event. In some cases, it leads you to connections, even if brief, with people who may be on the same wavelength as you in more ways than family or friends, most of whom drop off when you no longer live the same life as they do. It is really about the human connection. We are all very much the same more than we are dissimilar.