It's my guess that the recipe for self-growth consists of being pushed out of one's comfort zone plus being in an environment that causes one to critically think about the world and their place within it. With a jam-packed itinerary, support, and safety, Carpe delivers just that. Although the true value of a trip like this is created by what you, the student, puts in, Carpe provides an extraordinary opportunity to discover a new part of the world and get exposed to a multitude of diverse ideas and beliefs, an environment prime for also gaining a deeper understanding of your own values and sense of self.
The two months of the trip we spent in Morocco were unbeatable. It seemed like every organization, every homestay placement, every experience was enriching and eye-opening. After our week in Tetouan, the very first city we visited, I was left in awe by the connection and love I felt toward my homestay mother, something I wouldn't have believed was possible between two people who shared no common language. I was left speechless by the majesty of the High Atlas Mountain range we trekked through, and was even more blown away by the warmth of those in Berber villages who welcomed us into their homes with open arms and allowed us to take a closer look at their way of life. We worked with organizations that focused on everything from women's initiatives to innovative new ways to tackle environmental issues. And we ate so. much. tajine. Carpe created some incredible experiences for this program that I truly don't think I would have been able to find on my own.
That being said, the Spain portion of the trip, in my opinion, was a bit underwhelming. Our time on the Camino de Santiago alone made our month in the country worth it, but I'd say the majority of our time did not feel grounded in what was advertised as the true focus of this trip. However, my program was the first in this region; Carpe is all ears for feedback, and I have no doubt that the program will continue to be dialed in with each season. Although my experience in Spain paled in comparison to what I got out of our time in Morocco, the relationship between Spain and Morocco is truly unique and the opportunity to explore the issues and relationship between the two countries from both sides provided so much more insight than if the program was only set in one location.
A big positive of traveling with Carpe is that I found the structure of the program to be very empowering for the students. We are given responsibilities throughout the course of the entire trip that help us gain valuable travel skills that we then apply in a week of travel completely directed by the students. That final week was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.
By the end of my program, I felt as though I had gained such an immense wealth of knowledge about Morocco. I can speak shwiya (a little) bit of Moroccan Arabic, I understand and have seen first hand the diversity of dialects and languages across the country, I experienced the varied environment, from the snowy mountain peaks to the sands of the Sahara, I learned about Islam, the government, environmental issues facing the country, and above all, I met amazing people and worked with incredible organizations that has created a connection with that country that will stay with me forever. Spending three months of my gap year traveling with Carpe was incredible, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to grow to understand another part of the world so deeply, and also grow to learn so much about myself at the same time.