Zineb (@travelwithzineb) reveals the challenges and beauty of traveling alone as a woman in Morocco.
Ever wondered why travel can be exclusive to a certain category of people? Have you dreamed of all the amazing destinations these people can afford while you scroll down on your Instagram feed and cry over the perfect settings, lights and landscapes influencers display on their accounts? Who said you can’t do the same and while on a limited budget! Once you change your travel mindset, you will find out about all the amazing possibilities and you’ll discover that the internet will allow you to delve into how to save more, travel more and essentially do it your own way.
As an African woman, I started nurturing my passion for travel since birth, I guess. I still remember how excited my siblings and I were to pack into our tiny family car to hit the road up to the Northern coast of Morocco. As I grew up, major financial problems occurred and suddenly, all the travels stopped. I then figured out that my dreams can be bigger, brighter and crazier than what my family could afford. That’s when I realized that the only way to get where I wanted be was to work out my plans and my travel cravings around something else, and it was not about the money. It was the unlimited opportunities and ways that are displayed on the internet like Couchsurfing, Facebook and Airbnb.
I started to dig into these possibilities and I found out that I can actually travel with really limited means. From friends who are willing to host, to people who are being generous and helpful along the way, I was finally collecting valuable memories. The backpacking travel style was the starting point and is still my favorite way to roam the world.
But, because there is always a “but” to things, deciding to travel solo as a Moroccan African woman alone was not an easy task. You might be wondering why that is? Coming from a relatively conservative family, I met a lot of hindrances along the way. And believe me, it was not easy to stick to what I wanted to do, to convince the family and to deal with prejudices of a society that still think of women as property.
I started traveling in 2010, however, it was only in 2014 that I started traveling as a backpacker and in 2015, I tried traveling by hitchhiking. The first time I hitchhiked was in Europe where I totally felt safe. And only in 2016, I decided to give it a go in Morocco, because hey, if I can do it in Europe, why not in my home country? Ever since the desire to try did not stop growing and so, the decision was set to hit the road with a female friend of mine. It was a whole new experience and we decided to take big taxi (Moroccans will relate) then to try our first “thumbs up” on the road. We hence made our way from Fez to Errachidia by hitchhiking, then Merzouga, Tinghir, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Essaouira, Agadir, Sidi Ifni and we ended up taking our last ride to Casablanca.
During the entire trip, we asked for the hospitality of random people we met on the road or what we commonly call in Moroccan Daif Allah, the guest of God, and we used Couchsurfing or stayed at friends’ places. Since then, I have been feeling confident about hitchhiking as a woman traveler especially in Morocco and by extension in the Middle East or in Africa in general. I tried it in other countries like Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia, and I can say that it has been a wonderful experience on several levels and I am thinking to go for other countries the same way.
When I share my travel stories with people, the first thing they ask is “Aren’t you afraid?” This is followed by “Don’t you think that you should not travel alone as a woman? What if this and that happens to you while you travel solo?”
The idea of traveling solo is not new and I am certainly not the first woman who has done it. Of course, life is made of risks and one has to be cautious. Life is meant to be lived just once and you have to take risks while doing it. Either you take it all or you leave it all to other to badass people to take advantage.
Traveling alone as a woman in a country such as Morocco is definitely challenging, both for the traveler and for the society. When you hit the road and you wait for hours on the side of the road to get picked in the middle of nowhere of “deep Morocco,” you can’t escape from the wondering looks and whispering of men and women who see you as an alien with your backpack and your hair in the air. A solo woman traveler in Morocco and in Africa, in general, embodies freedom and bravery, all of what our traditional societies cannot accept overnight. Simply because you are a woman and you are vowed to gender-based qualifications, many feel that traveling alone does not belong.
Change starts from here. When you see more and more girls grabbing their backpacks, tents and sleeping bags to go give life a try, my hope is that a revolutionary mindset changes and that women keep striving for what we are all meant to do.
An earlier version of this story was originally published on Travel With Zineb.