June 23, 2018

Update: Following the Known Unknowns

Exploring Azemmour.

Greetings from sunny Morocco. We fully planned this week on writing up a full runner’s guide to El Jadida, we really did. We did make a short stop there for five days earlier this week, en route from Casablanca to Essaouira. And we even did a few reconnaissance runs around our suburban neighborhood. We did not, however, find a place that we dared to open up to full throttle to do a five kilometer fast run. It happens sometimes, running for the first time in a strange place. You head for what’s usually a sure bet at finding a level, paved surface to run on, (parks or waterfronts are usually good bets) and end up watching your every step at what seems like a snail’s pace on crumbly pavement and rocky ground.

Of course, we enjoyed exploring El Jadida and the nearby town of Azemmour. The Moroccan government is pumping a lot into these towns, and El Jadida has joined Essaouira as a designated UNESCO world heritage site.

Everything has gone fairly well in Morocco, as our mantra to ‘hug the coast’ has kept us sheltered from the sweltering summer heat of the interior. Of course, we did take the wrong train out of Casablanca last weekend, and almost ended up in Marrakesh in the interior overnight. Thanks to the good folks at ONCF, who guided us back to the path to El Jadida.

Which brings me to our travel thought of the week. You plan for what you know based on experience and research, but ultimately, you can only be prepared for what you don’t know. Whether you loved or loathed him, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had a point when he was grilled on intel as to the existence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction: there are indeed known unknowns, and then there are the unknown unknowns.

What’s waiting down the road? Is that restaurant open, or does it even exist anymore? Is that website with the local bus schedule ever updated? What would I do in case of an accident or injury on the road? Allotting for extra time, energy and money falls under the Boy Scout motto of ‘always be prepared’ when it comes to solo indie travel.

Doubting yourself is also useful. Have we simply convinced ourselves that something is true, merely because its convenient?

We’re always thinking two steps ahead, planning out ‘if, then’ scenarios. ‘If,’ say, our planned driver doesn’t show up at the allotted time, what’s our backup plan? We’ve backed out of hotels that didn’t quite work out before, and ended up hunting for a roof over our heads for the night at the last minute.

There’s a reason that the flocks of elderly snow birds that descend on Florida stay at the same exact place and eat at the same exact restaurant, year after year. While most folks say they crave adventure, they actually want the familiar in their day-to-day lives. We’ve been there, sure. We’ve made the pilgrimage to the familiarity of McDonald’s or KFC in Casablanca or Seville. Hey, surprises— and even adventure — can await the world weary traveler there, as well.

Ships are safe in port, but ships are made to sail the unknown seas. Here’s to planning for what we know, and preparing for what we don’t know that we don’t know.

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