Transitioning from Cape Town Mountains to Marrakech with a Positive Impact
It is hard to believe that a whole month has passed since I boarded an airplane to a foreign continent with my life packed into two bags. It is even more difficult to believe that it has only been a month and yet it feels I have lived a year’s worth of experiences. At orientation they told us about the “time warp,” the feeling that time during Remote Year is completely skewed and makes absolute zero sense. A day can fly by while feeling like an eternity. I have had good days and bad, been joyful and sad, but luckily I have been surrounded by an amazing community to share my experiences with, and for that I am grateful.
I write this third post from Marrakech, Morocco, 7,270 miles away from Cape Town, South Africa, and 3,476 miles away from Boston. While I am now a bit closer to home, I have never found myself feeling further away in a completely different world. The transition from Cape Town to Marrakech was not easy, involving over 24 hours of travel between multiple flights and bus rides. However, once we arrived to our new home I knew that I was ready to take on the next challenge and have a completely different experience than the month prior. From the people, food and culture, to the housing complex, workspace and architecture, everything about this new city is drastically unlike from what I just became used to. But that is what Remote Year is all about: getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing the world one month and country at a time while living life as a digital nomad part of the digital transformation revolution.
The second to last day in Cape Town was one of the most rewarding days of my life. As part of our “Positive Impact” initiative, we had the privilege of volunteering and playing with the kids of the Philippe Township, the second largest township in Cape Town. This was an amazing and humbling experience filled with lots of laughter, games, painting, and some light construction. The event took place at the community center that two of our local experience managers helped create and continue to help sustain. This site consists of several buildings and amenities: an office, main recreation building, a classroom, a soccer field and even an actual recording studio where local aspiring musicians come to record in hopes of being discovered.
The most recent addition to the establishment, which is still a work in progress, is a youth center, where kids can go hang out, play, and lead discussions. I was tasked with helping assemble and mount a whiteboard, which was a much more challenging task than I had expected due to having one hammer, a broken handsaw, and an uneven wall. Luckily this turned into a group effort with a few of the local teens assisting me with the project. It was a true group effort and the outcome produced immediate gratification. The second part of the setup was putting together an outline for a massive banner which the kids beautifully decorated later in the day. Dozens of kids worked together drawing and painting over the course of two hours, with the finished result now hanging in rec hall. One of our experience managers who is a local DJ hosted a DJ seminar introducing the locals to music methodology and the process of creating a live track. My favorite part was towards the end of the event, when all the kids were running around either playing soccer, teaching us their dances and games or having us give them piggy back rides around the field. The joy and laughter radiating from these children was inspiring and a real reminder not to take life for granted. Overall, this day was a fantastic final memory of Cape Town and of all its beautiful sights and experiences. Cape Town introduced me to a new family and provided me with unforgettable memories, and I will surely be back soon.
Morocco overall is very different from South Africa. While primarily a Muslim country, it is very diverse with a strong French influence. There is no Uber here and every cab ride must be negotiated in French. So far my high school skills have carried me, but I look forward to the language courses we will be taking next week. My goal, and everyone else’s in my group for that matter while in Morocco, is to find more of a work/life balance than I was able to achieve in Cape Town. For the first several weeks we were meeting each other and getting used to being fully remote, along with having endless amounts of activities. I found myself working very early in the morning and late into the night most days, and had to miss out on several excursions due to meetings and tasks. However, I did learn JOMO (the joy of missing out), and found that time by myself myself working was necessary to feel accomplished and stay on track. I knew that if I missed a day of work, it would be easy to get trapped in email-jail, only pushing projects and deadlines further out. Although I already have a solid grip on this concept, I look forward to using improved time management skills to prioritize certain tasks and meetings while building a healthy schedule that will still permit me to do the activities and trips I desire most.
On several occasions I had to take calls and meetings while on the road or at an event, something I was not used to. I found connecting to WiFi very easy and my local sim card allowed me to hotspot when necessary. In Morocco, we have more data on our phones than we did in Cape Town and WiFi is still readily available. While our new apartments and workspace have a different look and feel to them, both have very strong connections and provide lots of convenient areas to work from. Continuing my normal cadences has not been a problem and I am always available through my phone app.
This week we had an “UnConference,” where every member of our group shared a slide explaining what they do, the skills they can teach, what they want to learn from others, and what they are working on. This was a follow-up to the skill sharing we had already begun, but with a more organized and focused goal. I was happy to hear that there were other people interested in SaaS sales and operations, and some already used Salesforce and could help me develop a deeper knowledge. A big interest of mine that many share is web development and blog creation, something I am already working on but would love to learn more about. Next week I will be posting several profiles highlighting a few of my fellow Remote Year digital nomads. As for now, time to get some work done while eating all the tagine.