My Marrakech: One Year Here

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All we know about the future is that it will be different… So we must celebrate the changes. Because, as someone once said, everything will be all right in the end. And if it’s not all right, then trust me, it’s not yet the end.

— Dame Judi Dench as Evelyn, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 

I’d said goodbyes. Hard ones. The kind that make you wonder why you started this journey in the first place.

Dame Cindy McCain, A Move to Morocco

One year ago I stepped into a Marrakech life.  When I left in August of 2014 I was on overdrive; I couldn’t–wouldn’t–slow down to absorb painful goodbyes.  Grief, of course, later hit full force, but I was blessed to be with my kids Christmas and again this summer, reminding me of a bond that isn’t daunted by 4,000 miles.  We spent a perfect last day together before I flew back and they prepared to return to school.  My son suggested Cummins Falls which Travel and Leisure named as one of America’s Best Swimming Holes.  Its near his school, so after we ate at El Tapatio  and stayed at his apartment.

Cummins Falls, TN
Cummins Falls, TN
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Photography by Cole McCain

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The trek there is by river and very slippery. Getting there was a challenge since the sign said “Downriver Trail” and wound up and away from the hole before taking us down. Park rangers ran everyone out an hour before the park closed to give us time for the climb out.

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We climbed to the falls–they went all the way up while I tried not to fall–then we jumped (ok, I slid) in and swam back.  I’d forgotten how beautiful Tennessee Parks are.  It was a day I’ll never forget.

I feel blessed to live in a town that tourists will return to in their minds when work and life gets stressful  as their “Happy Place.” When I’m stressed by the “real world,” I go to Happy Places in Marrakech, too. Literally.  And I look forward to finding more.

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Jardins de La Koutoubia
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Manzil La Tortue
La Mamouna
La Mamounia

I’m so thankful for a year of adventure, beauty, and relationships in this new, exotic land. I came to write, teach, and learn. To find joy in the journey without and within. To grow stronger and lean heavier on God.

I knew when I cried every time I watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I was meant to try life abroad.   Likewise when I finally saw The Second Exotic Marigold Hotel this summer I wailed at the words:  “You have no idea what you’ll become. Let go because that’s when the fun starts. There’s no present like the time.” The first four months I’ll never forget.

I will never let my children go. Or my mom or sister or anyone I love. I carry them in my heart, stay connected on Skype, will see them every chance I get and plan to live near them again.  But with God’s help I am letting go of other things that hinder an abundant life…fear, worry, regret. The illusion and tyranny of control. Of having an exact idea of what my life should look like.  Of having an opinion on what others’ lives should look like. Despite all the travel,  I’m learning to be still and to be grateful for the past, the present, and the future–whatever it will be.  Over the last year I’ve feathered my nest in Marrakech and look forward to all that Year Two holds.

My
My “Blanket Guy”–Mustapha Boukad of Chez Mustapha, 25, Rue dar el bacha, sidi abdelaziz, Marrakech Medina GSM: 062 29 82 41

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Arabian Nights given to my dad by my grandmother, Mama Lou, who took me on my first journeys abroad via her rocking chair.
Arabian Nights given to my dad by my grandmother, Mama Lou, who took me on my first journeys abroad via her rocking chair.

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Mad for Marrakech style
Mad for Marrakech style
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Sahara green pottery, handmade chair, vintage Berber wedding quilt

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From my amazing trip to Russia

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Sometimes my Happy Place is a Marrakech riad,  an Italian vineyard, or a Spanish beach.  But after this summer I’m more likely to go here for escape… watching Jurassic World or Better Call Saul with Cole… watching Game of Thrones with Taylor… skating on river rocks with them both…laughing at dinner with my mom and a movie we sneaked off to see, then eating caramel and chocolate pies in her living room from The Woodshed…taking walks and rides with Ella… talking with my sister over coffee in her backyard…spending July 4th weekend with our families at the lake.

Mom and me at Logan's
Mom and me at Logan’s

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Jeff and Penny’s backyard–beautiful.

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In The Alchemist Paulo Coelho says there are obstacles to fulfilling our personal calling, which he calls “the path that God chose for you here on Earth.” He says whenever we are filled with enthusiasm, we are on track, but many choose to never take that first step toward fulfilling their destiny.  He says two obstacles are 1) “We are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible.”  I can honestly say my mom has never told me any goal is unreachable.  She has supported me throughout my life in every way possible.  2)  “We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting  those around us.” This has been my greatest fear. But I agree with the author: “We do not realize that love is a further impetus, not something that will prevent us going forward. We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey.” My children, family and friends have supported me for which I am so grateful.  Without the support of Taylor and Cole or my mom caring for Ella and encouraging me, I wouldn’t be here.  It meant SO MUCH to me last year when they and my friend, Moni, came to visit.  Having friends here helps, too.  This week was the birthday of my friend, Kate.  Her cake was amazing!

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The author also says many never make a move (try on a dream) because they fear defeat.  Fear of defeat hasn’t been an obstacle for me because if my family is ok, I’m ok. Also  I remember God brought me here and enables me to do whatever I’m meant to do.  I’m glad when we do fail or others fail us, God makes beauty of ashes.

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Just before my first international school interview in Boston in 2014 (which was in the Caribbean, not the desert) I read this in Hosea: “I will allure her to the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards and make the valley of trouble a door of hope. She’ll sing there as in her youth and as a young girl fresh from Egypt (captivity)…I’ll neither leave you or let you go. You’ll know me, God, for who I really am.” Happy Anniversary.

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Cindy McCain

A Southern Girl Gone Global, I believe God calls us to journeys to find our way home--to the person He created us to be. In 2014 I left my empty nest and flew away, too. I landed in Africa. After two years in magical Morocco and one in the Caribbean, I moved back to Nashville where I tell tales from 27 countries travelled, look forward to the next trip, teach, learn, and discover new treasures everyday in my backyard. This travel/lifestyle blog is about letting go of fear, clinging to faith, and following your heart's desires. It's a celebration of beauty, adventure, and relationship. It's about freedom found in roots and wings.

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