Lisa Jorfald’s love of travel extends well beyond her role as an integrated marketing manager for Travel + Leisure. Seeing the world has always been a top priority for her, whether it’s exploring the fjords of Norway or the rainforests of Costa Rica. In Morocco, she met a Journeymaker who transformed her trip into the desert by showing her an authentic way of life.

July 27, 2015

My love of travel extends well beyond my role as an integrated marketing manager for Travel + Leisure. Seeing the world has always been a top priority for me, whether it’s exploring the fjords of Norway or the rainforests of Costa Rica. In Morocco, I met a Journeymaker who transformed my trip into the desert by showing me an authentic—and captivating—way of life.  American Express Travel has opened doors to the world for 100 years.  To celebrate its centennial anniversary, they are honoring the Journeymakers – the people whose passion, knowledge and dedication take travel further so visitors may enjoy richer and more rewarding journeys.

Journeymaker: Mohammed of Morocco

Since I was a young girl, my dad has fostered a sense of adventure in me through father-daughter dream trips we take together every few years. In fall 2014, this tradition took form as a 10-day vacation to Morocco. Our goal was to venture into the Sahara desert for a two-day expedition and overnight encampment. On the trip, we met Mohammad, a local Berber nomad born and raised in Merzouga, who would guide us through the undulating desert landscape on camelback.

The trek into Morocco’s legendary Erg Chebbi was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. About 10 minutes after leaving the small city of Merzouga, we were surrounded by a sea of windswept sand dunes—and all we could see for miles were those soft rose-colored hills. It was a place so majestic, so secluded, and so quiet, it felt otherworldly—almost like visiting the moon. Leading a caravan of Arabian camels, our guide, Mohammad, would bring the one-hump dromedaries to a stop every so often to check the sand patterns and track our way back to camp.

Even for Mohammad, who has spent his entire life in this region and has never left Morocco, let alone the Sahara desert, there is no way to memorize the route back; every day the desert literally changes with the wind and there are no roads or landmarks to provide bearings, only a keen sense of navigation. In this remote region, he lives peacefully with his wife and two daughters in a hut held up by twigs and blankets. His English is limited, but when I asked him if he might like to visit New York City, he said, “I would, but it’s not likely. I’m like the camels. I like it here.”

In the evening after returning to camp, we gathered for a traditional meal prepared by Mohammad of delicious chicken tagine, which was tastier and more authentic than anything we had sampled in city restaurants. That night, he didn’t just tell stories about surviving the frequent sand storms or hold up polite dinner conversation, he welcomed us into his actual home like we were old friends and showed us those very same stars he slept under each night. By the end of the meal, I realized guiding tours wasn’t just a job for Mohammad, it was about sharing his love for the desert.

Even though our workplaces might be entirely different—mine an office in New York City, his a vast desert without street signs—we were both fueled by a desire to find those authentic experiences which inspire people to travel in the first place. I realized travel isn’t just about running through a checklist of landmarks and must-dos, it’s about placing yourself in a different place entirely and living in the moment whether your home is on—or off—the grid. Mohammad wasn’t just a guide, he was a host and fantastic one at that. Mohammad is my Journeymaker.

Go to Journeymakers.com to recognize your #Journeymakers. 

You May Like