Taking your teen to non-traditional locales may or may not make sense; a lot depends on what kind of kid you have. I believe you can turn a teen into a traveller versus a vacationer and I’m working my theory as I write this blog.
Years ago, I took my, then twelve year old son, to NYC. He had, for years, complained that I didn’t take him anywhere. So, I did.
Our first day milling around Manhattan and the complaints were plentiful: “I’m hot. I’m thirsty. It’s too crowded. I’m tired. Why do we have to wait in this line?” After a few hours of this; I stopped dead in my tracks, looked my son in the eye and proclaimed. “If you want to avoid discomfort; stay at home!”
I went further to explain that by definition – traveling meant discomfort. When you leave your surroundings and your routine, you enter a state of unknown. Dealing with the unknown, not being prepared for what may come your way, is unsettling.
Fast forward to fifteen….
My son and I are on a five-week odyssey. I have been collecting frequent flyer miles all year, via my American Airlines MasterCard (highly recommend a travel credit card for those of us who love to travel). The miles were there; but the ability to actually turn them into usable tickets was a Herculean feat. One which I barely hurdled, yielding a long thirty six hour rite of initiation into Morocco.
Three planes, four airports later… yes, you read that correctly. “FREE” ticket, remember? – ‘the arrive at Heathrow airport in London depart from Gatwick airport somewhere else in London trick’. Nevertheless, the price was right and when you’re planning weeks on the road, every dollar counts.
My teen rallied upon our arrival at Heathrow and insisted we spend at least a few hours in London proper. He wanted to earn his England passport stamp. Lugging our American-sized suitcases, we hopped the Heathrow Express into Paddington Square in Central London. We had just enough time to grab a flat white and a lemon tart. Then, find a place for my teen to consume more substantial sustenance. Here’s the deal when traveling with a teen, the stops for food are frequent, and as a women in menopause those stops are spectator-only.
Marrakech did not disappoint. We only had two full days and took full advantage of both. If you are a monument aficionado our itinerary will not appeal; I built our two days around what would excite my traveling companion – remember my ploy to turn him into a ‘traveler’?
We stayed at Riad Dar Andamaure in the Medina. A Riad is unlike a hotel in all the right ways. For us in the U.S., think Bed and Breakfast. Historically, Riads were traditional Moroccan homes, normally with two or more stories around an Andalusian-style courtyard that contains a fountain. They were the stately city homes of the wealthiest citizens such as merchants and courtiers. They now provide travelers a beautiful and homey place to find refuge at the end of long travel days.
We shared a room with twin beds. Marie and Herve had the expression the ‘devil’s in the details’ nailed down. The beds were incredibly comfortable, the linens soft, the towels luxuriously absorbent, the staff ‘magic kingdom’ friendly and helpful, and the food exquisite.
My son eats healthy at home from a well defined, not to be deterred from, pallet. At Dar Andamaure he devoured the curry spiced omelette, inhaled the fresh-cut fruit, the home-made yogurt, and still found room for the pastries and crepes. Tagine, couscous, curry, and vegetables by the forkful found their way into him throughout the day. My initial concern of him having to survive on bread alone for nine days were quelled immediately.
So, what does an itinerary built for an almost sixteen year old male look like?
Camel Ride. How can we go to Morocco and NOT get on a dromedary? We used Marrakesh Travel Services and were completely impressed. From an on-time pick-up, to donning on appropriate camel-riding attire, to nursing babies, to charming banter from our guides; the two plus hour excursion was a major thumbs up. Trust me when I say an hour plus on a camel is PLENTY of time.
Traipsing through the Medina, the old walled city of Marrakech. We spent a few hours walking through the Marrakech Medina – dodging donkey pulled carts and motor scooters, shaking our heads NO all the whilst proclaiming over and over and over and over again: “La, Shukraan”, which means “No, Thank You” in Arabic. Sometimes, with little luck.
Day trip to Ouzoud Waterfalls. The falls are located near the Moyen Atlas village of Tanaghmeilt, in the province of Azilal, 150 km northeast of Marrakech, in Morocco. Using the same travel company as the day before, I felt assured we were in good hands. And, I was right. This trek was much longer, closer to three hours each way, but worth every minute.
Upon our arrival we were met by a local Berber guide and taken on a six-hour walkabout through the Ouzoud Park. The day was a blend of a tiny bit of education, a smattering of well-meant hyperbole, and a whole lot of physical outdoor activity. The perfect concoction for a teen-aged boy.
The day was packed: learning about the local Berber people, which by the way comprise 70% of the Moroccan population, a short boat ride, a very cold swim under
110 meters (360 foot) water falls, and providing ‘wild’ monkeys with a human perch and some peanuts; all juxtapositioned against the backdrop of a majestic cascade of waterfalls.
At a height of over 100 metres and a width of about 1,700 metres, the Victoria Falls are the largest sheet of water falling in the world. However, the Ouzoud Cascades can claim they are taller – beating out the Zimbabwe natural beauties by 2 meters of height. And while there are plenty of taller cascades on the African continent, these falls are worth the investment.
The afternoon ended with a generously portioned meal of a vegetable/rice appetizer, chicken with lemon and olives tagine, couscous with a myriad variety of roasted gourds, bread, and watermelon. All for the about $10 U.S. or 100 Dirham per person. Yes, we had no choice in restaurants, and barely any choice in what to order. Ordinarily that does not sit well with me, in this case, it was welcomed and throughly enjoyed….by us both.
As an aside, and it’s not a small aside… I did not have enough money in Dirhams to cover the food bill. The proprietor of the restaurant, who’s mother made all the delicious food, fed us and asked us to pay the driver upon arrival back to the Medina. He was incredibly gracious and trusting that we would pay our debt and in turn the driver would honestly turn the money over to the restauranteur the following day. Trust is alive and well in North Africa; I am happy to report.
We are currently on a train, relocating from Marrakech to Fes. It’s an eight hour journey at about a $35/ticket cost. The teen is crashed, headphones in ears, music drowning out the six different languages in the train car. Our fellow travelers have access to Arabic, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and English…. Just more reinforcement for Mama’s life lesson that being multi-lingual is a magical key that opens doors most cannot walkthrough.
We shall see what Fes brings our way and report back.