When Morocco relaxed its quarantine restrictions on 24 June at midnight, I wasn’t racing out to the cafes and restaurants, laptop in hand for a change of scenery as I dreamed of doing after about week two of lockdown here in Marrakech.
I was a bit hesitant.
And I think it’s safe to say that I was enjoying the lockdown rhythm I had created more than I realized.
I’ve been saying for years that I wanted to create a slower-paced life, but I wasn’t actually successful in achieving that. That is, until the world slowed down, my Tasting Marrakech tours and travel consulting projects came to a grinding halt, and I had no choice but stay home.
For months I didn’t weigh last-minute work requests against what was already in my schedule. I didn’t have the fear of missing out by not attending an art exhibition opening, cultural event, or the latest movie to hit the silver screen at the nearby art-deco theatre (if you don’t know me, I am most certainly an extrovert). I didn’t have to worry about checking ridiculous amounts of tasks off a to-do list so I could head off on a relaxing weekend getaway feeling like I deserved it.
I realized that I quite enjoyed being at home although I certainly had my moments quarantining solo, and there was no alternative to working from home.
On-going cultural activities, albeit via a screen, provided me with a sense of connection and a dose of culture. I attended house concerts with one of my favourite musicians, joined yoga classes three times per week, participated in museum-hosted talks and InstaLives organized by my friends at MAMMA Group, workshops and masterclasses that have sparked ideas, and an online breakfast club. All activities that left me energized and often inspired, and reconfirmed how much I love working in public relations.
Sipping my morning coffee leisurely and reflecting on the day ahead was a delight (I still managed some PR accounts and continued to provide content for some writing gigs I had secured). I loved seeing only the people within my bubble (once we were permitted to do so of course).
As I prepared a cake from scratch one Wednesday morning, I thought about how luxurious the gift of time is.
As the weeks went by there were times when I sat on my balcony in the evenings enjoying the silence and watching the birds swoop through the air, after the 6 p.m. curfew came in to effect, and felt a certain anxiety about going back to “normal”.
While I hate the term new normal because it feels so prescribed, passive, and accepting of other’s ideas, I am creating my own new normal based on my quarantine reflections. If you listened to my chat with my life coach Ray Beach on episode 33 of my Why Morocco podcast, you’ll know that I was thinking about what I wanted to stop, start and continue as we went in to lockdown on 13 March and a few months in. And this is what I’ve got:
Dining out and dining on the go. Not entirely, but I’ll do it with more intention.
During lockdown I had the opportunity to (or should I say, I had to?) cook every meal at home. I started making my own vegetable stocks to add to risottos, preparing cauliflower pizza dough (and that takes time) topped with roasted veggies, and even my own sugar-free treats.
Over time, I began to understand how what I was putting in my body made me feel and, as a result, I eliminated white flour and sugar. I had diabetic sugar levels in January and I was rather tired of sugar spikes followed by outbursts, unquenchable thirst and often headaches. With the exception of the occasional takeaway from +61, my favourite (Australian) restaurant in Marrakech, I shopped for and prepared every meal myself (with the help of a local producer delivering weekly farm-fresh vegetables). I cried tears of joy when I read my blood test results in May indicating that I have reduced to normal sugar levels. Even my cholesterol, which was never high, has dropped.
Going forward, farmers and small producers will receive a greater share of my food budget which will also be shared with those in need.
I also realized that while I can and have been doing it all myself, I don’t want to keep doing it all myself: managing and executing all aspects of my two businesses, maintaining an apartment, podcasting, and other aspects of my personal life. So I’ll be looking to delegate. But I have a feeling that may be easier said than done.
As I wandered by the letterbox during lockdown, very little arrived with the exception of the odd telephone bill and bank statement. A friend from London sent a handwritten card just when I needed to read some kind words that did not arrive via a screen. So I will resume letter writing. I’ve always been a huge Christmas card kinda person, but I’ve decided to up my year-round game. If you feel the same, hit reply with your mailing address and let’s exchange snail mail.
Speaking up and speaking out more. About inequality and injustice to communities who have not benefitted from the same privileges I have while I continue to learn and unlearn through conversations, online professional workshops and workbooks. Speaking up for myself more when it comes to freelancer rates and respect of time and experience, including how I respond to requests to “pick my brain” about certain topics in exchange for a coffee, and being a female freelance consultant in general.
Three months with very little consumption with the exception of two books, a pack of pencil crayons, a necklace from an independent designer, a jumpsuit and a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, I will continue to consume mindfully. I will continue to support small businesses, and particularly small artisans, as I don’t want to re-emerge in a made in China world. And second-hand shopping when possible, particularly for books, vinyl and clothing.
I love writing and I’ve been taking some workshops and masterclasses, discussing book submissions, participating in writing groups, and submitting my stories to competitions. I want to continue to make writing part of my daily life, through increased writing contracts, but also alternatives for my Why Morocco blog and podcast. More on that after a summer away.
I managed to return to Canada on 4 July 2020 on a repatriation flight. As I write this I am in quarantine ten minutes from Lake Huron where I grew up. The countdown is on until I can hug my family (and eventually swim in the lake, picnic on the beach and grab treats from my favourite bakery) again. The Moroccan borders will open for Moroccan residents and citizens on 15 July, but I’ll be slowing down this summer to help out with family duties and will remain in Canada until autumn.
In the meantime, I have released 33 podcast episodes of Why Morocco to provide travel inspiration and they’re all available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and acast. You can also follow me on Instagram at @mandyinmorocco or @tasting_marrakech.
To support Why Morocco, please consider buying me a coffee nouss nouss. Or hit reply and let me know what you’re planning to stop, start or continue as we emerge from the lockdown.