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  • Writer's pictureGina Greenlee, Author

A Moroccan Epiphany

Hiking Boots

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If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. Thomas Edison

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On day 13 of a 14-day hiking trip across Morocco – from the Atlantic Ocean through the Cedar Forest and the Atlas Mountains, past oasis-cradled kasbahs and the velvety dunes of the eastern Sahara – in Marrakech I changed into dirhams the last of the American dollars I brought with me to tip my guide.

Rain drizzled, the sky grayed and I was dragging physically and emotionally, as I tend to do at the close of an extended, overseas journey: the adventure is near its end and the impending obligations of real life crowd my thoughts and siphon my energy. Also, I had planned to walk across the city to a Vietnamese restaurant I read about in a guidebook and, as usual, I was anxious about getting lost. When I approached the moneychanger, my defenses were down.

As I silently slipped the bills through the slot, the moneychanger asked me in French if the equivalent of $40 was all I wanted. Without thinking I said, “Oui. Je retourne aux Etats-Unis demain” – I’m returning to the United States tomorrow. I was surprised at how effortlessly the words tumbled from my lips without the usual puttering translation inside my head, a lingering habit from my college language study.

I surprised the moneychanger, too, because he remarked on the high quality of my French. When next he launched into questions about my life back home, the pressure mounted and my self-consciousness returned. Though I longed to converse with him, I couldn’t keep up. I wished he would stop talking in French and finish our transaction.

But on a day that had begun as a downer, I felt buoyed as I tucked my 400 dirham in my money belt. And for the first time in 20 years, I believed that I could be fluent in another language.

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It is our beliefs, more than our experiences,

that determine life’s possibilities.

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Life Lessons from Solo Moments on the Road


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