During my volunteer trip to Rabat, my new friend Paige and I had the opportunity to take a weekend excursion to Merzouga. It’s a small town in the eastern part of Morocco, just 31 miles (50 km) from the border of Algeria. To get there, we took a 10-hour drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains, and the scenery was beautiful enough that I never opened the book I’d brought with me for the journey.
During my volunteer trip to Rabat, I had the opportunity to take a weekend excursion to Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. It lies along the Atlantic Ocean on the country’s western coast and is home to one of the largest artificial ports in the world. The city was originally called Anfa in Berber, but the Portuguese renamed it Casa Branca, or “white house,” when they took over in the 15th century AD and built themselves a large, white fortress. When Portugal became part of the Spanish union, the town was renamed Casa Blanca to reflect the newly predominant language. Today most Moroccans simply call the town Casa.
“Aren’t you afraid to go by yourself?”
Before I went on my volunteer trip to Rabat, that was the question I heard most frequently. I left for Morocco in April 2016, a month after airport bombings in Brussels had left 32 dead and 300 injured, and my flight had a day-long layover in Paris, where 130 people had died just five months earlier in a terrorist attack.
It never occurred to me to stay home. While my “job” on this volunteer trip was to teach English classes at a women’s center on behalf of Cross-Cultural Solutions, the bigger purpose for these excursions is cultural exchange. The only way to do that is to show up and get to know people on the other side of the world.
In looking for our next home, it must be a place that inspires stories. These are some of the stories from our life’s adventures that have inspired us. They are why we travel.
As you learned of my father in Mike’s post about our Australia adventure, Dan Smith is a man of action. He is also a man of the world, and his travels began at an early age. So did mine, thanks to his annual training with the U.S. Navy. He is why I first began to travel, and this is his story of a life of adventure.
High school just could not hold my attention. I was born in San Diego, California, but I was raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When I was in high school, I was always daydreaming of traveling to exotic locations. I dropped out of high school to join the U.S. Navy, and my navy boot camp (basic training) was in San Diego. After boot camp, I completed specialized training at Treasure Island in San Francisco.
I was transferred to a small ship homeported in Newport, Rhode Island. That ship, the U.S.S. Courtney (DE-1021), was set to circumnavigate South America along with four other ships. Our mission was to conduct naval exercises with most South American navies.
Our Australian adventure took us all up and down the eastern coast of the country, beginning with beautiful Brisbane, heading to Cairns for our liveaboard dive excursion along the Great Barrier Reef, then to Sydney and Melbourne for some cosmopolitan dining, museums, and parks. Before we headed back to the States, my brother and sister-in-law surprised us all with a day trip to Mornington Peninsula, the heart of Australian wine country.
In Aboriginal culture, a walkabout historically referred to a boy’s rite of passage into manhood. Today it refers to a nomadic lifestyle, and after walking all over Brisbane, Cairns, and Sydney, it felt pretty spot-on for the way we’d been seeing the sights of Australia’s east coast.
Our walkabout continued in Melbourne, where we stayed at the Radisson in the city’s central business district. It was across the street from Flagstaff Gardens, which is the city’s oldest park, and next door to Melbourne’s famous Queen Victoria Market. Locals call it the Queen Vic, and at 17 acres, it is the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere.
After wrapping up our Great Barrier Reef dive adventure, we met my parents, brother, and sister-in-law for a few days in Sydney. Mike and I tend to prefer staying in Airbnbs where we can meet locals and get a feel for what it’s like to live in a city, but my parents enjoy a bit more luxury on their vacations. And since Dan and Betty were footing the hotel bill for everyone, we spent our nights at the Sydney Four Seasons.
The Four Seasons is located in the city’s central business district, which is also home to the famous Sydney Opera House. We walked in and around the iconic building, taking in the views of the surrounding harbor along the way.
I make high demands on my camera equipment. Not only must it produce high quality video and still photos, but it must also be compact, lightweight, quick to set up, and able to attach to anything. For bonus points, it should also be waterproof. Because, scuba diving.
The 360fly HD is just such a camera, waterproof qualities included.
I learned how to dive in 1984 from a salty Australian dive master named Murray Hill.
There were several Aussies who lived on the Bouygues-Blount Joint Venture compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and they always talked about diving the Great Barrier Reef as a source of immense national pride. So, even though I was treated to some truly amazing diving in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea during those early years, I always placed diving the Great Barrier Reef at the pinnacle of my Adventure Travel list.
After a few wonderful days in Brisbane, we took a short flight north to Cairns, where we would spend a night before setting sail for a week on a liveaboard to dive the Great Barrier Reef.
We booked an Airbnb apartment at the home of Kaj and Nicky, who left us a friendly welcome in our cute kitchen.