My move to Morocco morphed from surreal to solid a couple of weeks ago when a plane ticket to Casablanca arrived. On August 18th I leave Nashville for New York, then Africa. When I land on August 19th the school’s driver will take me from the airport to my new home, an apartment in the Gueliz suburb of Marrakech.
Much has happened since January 28 when I flew to Boston for the SEARCH Associates international job fair and entitled my first moleskin journal (bought at the Charlotte airport), “The New Adventure Begins.”
That winter day, as I had in my first travel journal ever– a spiral notebook my mother gave me when, as a fourth grader, I went on my first flight to see cousins in Atlanta– I knew I needed to record the journey. Something new brewed.
At nine I wrote of climbing on marshmallow clouds, splashing on Six Flags’ Zoom Flume, cheering for the Braves, and learning to like iced tea. Soaring solo, I felt very grown up and alive. Now I look forward to climbing the Atlas Mountains, splashing on white water rapids, riding a camel across the desert, and learning to like hot mint tea. Four decades later, I feel very young. And alive.
Last January, I had no idea I’d be moving to Marrakech. In fact, I wasn’t sure the time was right to move anywhere. I’d signed up for the job fair last fall thinking I’d check out recruiting schools’ presentations and network so that when my son graduated from college in a couple of years, I’d be ready to make my move. But by Christmas I’d mentally shifted from fact-finding to job yearning. For months I’d open my eyes and reach for my phone to check daily emails announcing just-posted job openings. I’d researched almost thirty schools in fifteen countries, and felt ready to walk through whichever door swung open and proved right. For me, “right” meant a place where I could learn, contribute, grow. A move that was best for my family, future, finances, faith and freedom.
I have been happy in Nashville— great colleagues and amazing family and friends—but I’ve always wanted to try on the expat life. For years I was set on Italy, but I became open to international schools from the Americas to the rest of Europe, from Malta to Morocco–the latter where a colleague had taught. She taught French in my room last year during my planning period, and I loved her stories of living in Morocco and France. We became good friends. Wednesday she leaves for Taiwan. She understood my desire to teach abroad and became an inspiration and mentor in making it happen.
While boarding my connecting flight in North Carolina, I unknowingly hit the Kindle app on my phone. Open was a page I’d highlighted in The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho’s story of Santiago, the Spanish shepherd who sets off to realize a lifelong dream to see the pyramids. The passage glowing in fluorescent yellow read:
Looking around, he sought his sheep, and then realized he was in a new world. But instead of being saddened, he was happy. He no longer had to seek out food and water for the sheep; he could go in search of his treasure, instead. He had not a cent in his pocket, but he had faith. He had decided, the night before, that he would be as much an adventurer as the ones he had admired in books.
I identified with Santiago. As a mom it is hard to make this move, but I realize my son and daughter, 21 and 24, no longer need daily “tending.” They have their own lives, are close and competent, and have always, ultimately, been in God’s hands, not mine. As they first left home for college a few years ago, I will leave for school, too. As a woman born a romantic, adventurer, teacher and writer passionate for travel and other cultures, I realize the time for a new story is now.
As I flew over NYC on my way to Cambridge, an English teacher who sees symbols everywhere, I saw the Statue of Liberty and felt freedom. Though I hadn’t interviewed for a new teaching position in years, though I’d been content as a high school department head and college adjunct instructor, a new challenge felt exciting, liberating. As I saw ice and snow on the sea below,
I had no idea I’d land a job in a place where people ski in the Atlas mountains by day and cross the Sahara Desert—as Santiago did—by night.
The fair was an adventure, partly because I’d never been to Boston and an old friend living there showed me where to get seafood from the fish market to Little Italy. It was a lobster lover’s dream. Before flying home I took a tram to Cambridge and spent Super Bowl Sunday at Harvard.
The job fair initially provided opportunities in China, the Middle East, Madagascar, Central and South America. I returned to Nashville and as I did every year taught Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” a poem my seniors relate to in making their college decisions. This spring as graduation neared, I, too, had a big decision to make. Choosing between two (or more) equally good paths—each rendering a different but satisfying life– is confusing. I considered three job offers—one in Dubai, another in Bolivia, and the third in Morocco. The school in Dubai was near the gorgeous Persian Gulf beaches and iconic hotels, and the person who interviewed me was born in my home state of Kentucky.
The school in Bolivia offered a community in South America (a place I love) and immersion in Spanish. The person who interviewed me Skyped from a welcoming farmhouse kitchen on a sunny Sunday morning. Growing up in rural Kentucky and longing for a more simple life, I could see myself happy in such a naturally beautiful country.
Each choice provided “the road less traveled,” and would have, no doubt, made in my life “all the difference.” In the end, I chose Morocco. Next I’ll tell you why.