Greetings from the other side of a travel marathon

BY: MADISON D'ORNELLAS

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Before I came on exchange to Scotland I used to dream of having my passport in line waiting to be checked. The sound of stamps thumping on pages of passports. The smell of airplane fuel. The feeling of stepping out of the airport; into a new country for the first time.

Nothing could have prepared me for the two weeks of travel I attempted and conquered in mid-March.  The morning of our arrival back to Glasgow from St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Dublin was hectic. I had three hours to nap, repack, go to the bank and buy food before nine friends and I schlepped across the street to Buchanan Bus Station.

After a ten hour bus ride to London, we would sleep in Stansted Airport until we boarded our late morning flight to Morocco. A friend of mine who is studying in Spain visited Morocco for a couple of days, and her pictures had me hooked: the food, the people, the camels.

I mentioned to my friend Jackie, also an exchange student at Cal State Long Beach, that Morocco would be an epic place to visit. Within an hour our flights were booked. Three weeks and we would be riding camels, roaming through the Sahara Desert with eight other exchange students whom we’ve met in Glasgow.

I collapsed in tears on a couch of our first hostel, which took hours to find while crawling around the old streets of an early-evening-downtown Marrakech. I’ve never been in a situation where keeping my head down and covered wasn’t an option. Morocco’s streets were overcrowded and unsafe for young travelers walking around on their own.   Although the country of Morocco offered an extreme, beautiful culture shock it was the people I travelled with that made the trip. They kept my bearings.

We were surrounded by dunes of history and culture that none of us expected. We were isolated and yet completely surrounded.  I was deeply humbled by Morocco and I feel like a better-rounded traveler having taken that trip.

After leaving Morocco, I arrived back in Glasgow and  I was soon on a bus to London again. This time leaving Stansted Airport to Porto, Portugal— Alone. For anyone interested in traveling for a living, I highly recommend traveling solo while still fresh from trekking the globe for the first time.

Porto is a city where little has changed. Families hang their laundry from lines, church processions are held by the river and wine is still made the old-fashioned way.

Above all, the Portuguese people I encountered on this trip were the most helpful, genuine human beings I’ve come across while traveling.

I now sit in my dorm room after these back-to-back trips feeling like I’ve run a mental marathon. I was high on life in Dublin, on high alert in Morocco, atop high hills overlooking the city and river in Porto.

Moral of this story: Be scared. Be enlightened. Get out there. The world is waiting.