In daily life, I work at a social services government agency that helps to fund child welfare programmes in Florida. I love my job because it has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of kids in our community – it’s really important work. Yet, the years following the pandemic have hit hard. Our workload ramped up but we were understaffed.
I was asked to help lead the team which meant picking up a lot of extra work. The stress became unbearable and felt suffocating. I was unhappy and exhausted all the time. I would leave work and not want to see or speak to anyone. I also realised many of my friendships were unsupportive and quite superficial. I felt alone, and ultimately lost.
When I finally recognised that a lot of this was burnout, I sought help. I found a therapist and committed to putting myself first. I made a promise that I would take a long trip to help me let go and restart. That led me to finding Flash Pack and booking a dream two-week escape to Morocco. It gave me something to look forward to; something that was purely fun and just for me.
Flash Pack enabled me to travel with people at a similar point in life
I’ve long been fascinated by the beauty and culture of Morocco; it’s one of those places that has always been on my bucket list. However, I didn’t feel confident about the idea of traveling there alone. As it turns out, my concerns were unfounded. Morocco is a relaxed, open country and I felt safe at all times. But still, it helped to experience all it has to offer with a group of like-minded travelers.
I was drawn to Flash Pack as it enabled me to join up with people at a similar point in life to me. Our group was beyond that 20s stage where you want to get drunk all night, but equally, we were game for sharing some full-on adventures together.
Also, I’m now in my 30s and a lot of my friends who like to travel are married or have kids. They aren’t in that space where they can just pack up and head off on a global trip alone.
There weren’t any cliques or people being left out
I was nervous about the dynamic before meeting everyone but I needn’t have worried. As ten strangers, we formed a really solid crew. From the get-go, everyone was lovely and it felt comfortable to hang out together.
There weren’t any cliques or people being left out. And even when there were opportunities to have lunch or dinner on our own, we tended to come together as a group anyway – we got on that well.
There were quite a few people in the group whose experiences overlapped with mine, too. For instance, one woman lives in New York where I’m originally from. She also works in international development, while my background is in global health. We had such a lot in common.
Our guide, Sara, is one of Morocco’s few female tour leaders
Then, and this might sound a bit silly, I noticed my roommate had similar speech patterns to me. When you’re talking with people who have husbands or partners and kids, they naturally talk about them a a lot. Whereas when you’re a solo person, you tend to reference your parents more because they are your primary family.
My roommate did exactly that, which I could relate to. I didn’t feel weird talking about my parents because she was doing the exact same thing.
Our dynamic was also helped by our guide, Sara, who was amazing. As one of Morocco’s few female tour leaders, she’s faced struggles of her own. She’s also really proud of her job.
I was surprised by the vastly different landscapes
Sarah was always there for us, no matter what we wanted. She cared for us, but she also felt like a friend and one of the group. She created such a warm and welcoming vibe.
One interesting thing about her being a female leader was that she was able to shed light on what life is like for women in modern-day Morocco. I was so curious to hear how the country’s king, Mohammed VI, was working to expand female work rights and open up access to services such as reproductive healthcare.
One of the things that surprised me most about road-tripping around Morocco was how vastly different the landscape is. We started on the Atlantic Ocean before travelling to the mountains, where it was all green and lush. Then a day later we were in the heart of the Sahara desert. It was all such a huge but incredible contrast.
Sandboarding down sand dunes in the Sahara was a highlight
I’m not normally adventurous but my trip to Morocco was full of excitement. From camel riding to sitting in a vintage motorcycle sidecar through the Atlas hills, we packed a lot in. We even went hot air ballooning near Marrakech one morning, which wasn’t at all on my radar as I’m actually scared of heights.
It was as an optional activity. And, as I approached the trip with the attitude of wanting to say yes to everything, I decided to go for it. I got up at the crack of dawn and saw the sunrise over the Atlas Mountains. Not many people can say that. It was such a special experience.
Sandboarding down sand dunes in the Sahara was a highlight, too. I spent a lot of time falling off but it was just so much fun.
My escape to Morocco was the mind break I needed
In terms of food and drink, we drank a ton of mint tea (it’s a symbol of hospitality in Morocco). We also visited a local family’s home to make pastilla together. It’s a delicacy made from chicken with almonds, sugar and cinnamon all wrapped in filo dough. It was delicious. I also tried a camel burger in Chefchaouen, too, which tasted a lot like lamb.
Overall, my escape to Morocco was the mind break I needed after an intense few years. It was two weeks of solid fun that was neither stressful nor boring. To the contrary, it was rejuvenating in all the ways you imagine a trip to be.
I felt so much better returning to my life on the other side of it. It’s actually hard to describe the difference. I’d managed to switch off, so much so I forgot my password the first day back. We are still not fully staffed and the work load just keeps coming, but I’m in a much better place to manage the stress.
The adventure made me realise I miss traveling
The experience made me decide to travel more often, too. I used to hop around the world a lot in my previous role in international development. My adventure to Morocco made me realise I miss traveling as it really helps me to reset. So next time, I won’t wait years. In fact, I’m already planning my next trip.
JoAnn DiLernia works in child welfare and traveled with Flash Pack to Morocco.
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Images: courtesy of JoAnn DiLernia and Flash Pack