I recently went on a long and exhausting trip to the Sahara Desert. In my mind, when I had booked this trip for my partner and me, it was going to be a romantic getaway with cuddling and star gazing. Instead, what I got was one of the most beautiful scenic views in the world and a long sweaty, stuffy trip. It was the trip thousands have dreamed of, and I am so grateful for every second I experienced.
It took hours to get from Marrakech to Merzouga, where there was a good entrance into the dunes. We hiked through Berber villages, talked to locals, and spent hours in a stuffy van with other couples willing to go through the same pain to see the same thing. It was a chaotic way to bring us all together, and I think we each admired and appreciated the trip in our own ways.
The hour before we arrived, my partner and I were frantically looking out the van windows worried we would miss the desert, that somehow, we would drive over it and lose our opportunity. We were on edge, ready to see the nothingness that represented all the struggles we had gone through the day before.
When we arrived in Merzouga, it was a small town that you could easily pass through and over except for one thing. Beyond the shabby, brown dusty city, there laid magnificent golden dunes that made Aladdin’s desert look sub-par.
The orange dunes clashed drastically with the dark blue sky, you could see the sweltering heat from the sun, warm up every silky inch of the sand, and it went for miles. You could not easily pass this town, but not in the direction we were going.
We got to our last stop, each of us sticky, sore, drained, and a little cranky from such a long journey, but we weren’t done yet. As we relaxed and chatted, our guides were preparing the camels for the rest of the trip, all of us would be getting on camels and riding them out to watch the sunset.
Our tour guides finally pulled us outside to get on the camels; if you have ever ridden a camel, you know riding for a few miles involves wobbly limbs, sore thighs, and a happy smile. After an hour on the camel, I made a clumsy exit that involved the camel falling to his knees one leg at a time and a tour guide holding my body up so I wouldn’t fall face-first into camel dung.
I finally looked around, and for miles, all I could see was smooth orange sand and couldn’t help but laugh with pure happiness. I patted my camel on the head and thanked him for the slightly uncoordinated ride. I immediately took off my shoes and climbed to one dune, it was a spectacular scene.
My partner came up behind me, whispered in my ear that he was grateful to have gone on this trip with me. I had chills. It was nothing I expected but everything I needed. I took his hand, and we climbed and climbed.
The sand devoured my feet with each step, I was leaving my own tracks in the Sahara desert, that would disappear by morning. The sand was like millions of orange and gold sparks that lit up the whole world within view. My heart dropped and bounced, looking at the vast emptiness that surrounded me, but I was not empty; for the first time, I felt full, complete.
For once, I felt like I was on the right path in life, experiencing the right things, wasting money on the right things, for once, I felt like everything that I worked for actually paid off, and that is an incredible feeling. It’s an astounding experience to stand before something that makes your heart flutter, and realize you’re happy with the way things turned out, even if it’s not how you planned it to be.
Instead of feeling small in the middle of a vast space, I felt empowered. I felt like I could take on the universe and be part of something greater than just myself. If I could make it here, I could make it anywhere I wanted to go. I didn’t feel like a small speck in life, out in the dunes, I felt connected to every small grain, every cell in my body, and I smiled knowing I had uncovered some truth in the world.
The sand was soft touches, rippling around my feet step by step, like cascading water. Each particle of sand caressing my ankles, each step up the dunes telling me the top would be worth the view, each step was carrying me closer and closer to the end of the beginning. A new journey was waiting around the corner. Telling me the next time I set out on an adventure, I would be who I was meant to be, with the confidence I had gained here.
I had goosebumps and tears of joy, my partner stood next to me at the top of the dunes. For the longest time, we held each other, just feeling each others presence in the middle of nowhere. For the first time, I realized I had found someone who would chase the stars with me, fight the sun for me, and carry me across the smoldering desert, just to end up in my arms at the end.
Cheers, to one of many.