by Allison Macsas
March and April were a world-wind.
My role with Rogue Expeditions took me first to Morocco with a group of 19, a trip that we wrapped up in Spain. From there, it was off to Kenya for a test-run of our November trip, then back to Spain for a 12 hour laundry-sleep-and-email stop before heading back to Morocco to meet our second group of 19. After ten days there, we went back to Spain once again with the group before finally boarding a plane back home to Austin.
That’s the nutshell version, though in reality those five weeks were five of the most impactful weeks I’ve ever had. I’ve traveled plenty, but have never gotten to share it with so many people for such an extended period of time. Friendships were formed, meals shared, photos taken, lessons learned, languages practiced, stories told, limits pushed and many, many miles run. The Morocco trips were as close to flawless as we could have possibly hoped for – across the board our guides and drivers were thrilled, the group dynamics were fantastic and our runners repeatedly thanked us for the experience of a lifetime. Kenya was everything I’d hoped for and more, a place filled with the some of the warmest, friendliest people I’d ever met, sights that most people will only see via National Geographic documentaries and Iten. The itinerary we’d created was top-notch, far beyond our expectations, and we left knowing that we had a new unbeatable experience to offer.
But, for all of these successes, I made one big mistake: I didn’t write about it while it was happening.
There were many reasons as to why I didn’t, chief among them the fact that, as a guide, I was “on” during all waking hours. There is no sneaking off to open your laptop, nor do you want to, and once you finally do retire in the evening, it’s deep, immediate sleep. During those five weeks, there was only one full day that Gabe and I had all to ourselves, and we spent it watching mindless movies in a hotel room in Marrakech. I did well to keep up with our social media channels, updating the world on our adventures with one-line snippets whenever we’d get a bit of workable wifi, and figured that I’d write an epic recap once we got home – and that’s where I went wrong.
Despite the around-the-clock responsibilities, we weren’t “busy” in the typical sense; we were engaged. There was rarely a reason to rush – these are not grab-and-go cultures. There are views to take in. Things to learn. People to connect with. Meals to savor. Miles to be run. Or not, if you don’t feel like it. Sunsets are appreciated, and weather largely determines what will or will not happen that day. The internet may or may not work, and you soon stop really caring either way – the world is right there in front of you! Everything was mafi-mushkil or hakuna matata – no problem, no worry. Working or not, I’d never felt so present, so THERE, and I’d definitely never appreciated my ability to run as much as I did during that time. It’s easy to recite the “live in the moment” mantra, but have you ever actually experienced that? For five straight weeks, I truly did, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it go.
But then, back to Austin. A place that I love, full of people that I love, and that I really was excited to return to. But, it’s a city and, like in any city, time waits for no one. Within two hours of landing, Gabe and I both had insurmountable to-do lists running through our heads. All of our conversation instantly shifted to “tomorrow I need to…” or “this weekend we need to…” Present moment? No time for that! Dinner was grab-and-go, interaction devolved into staring at our phones and neither of us slept well that night.
The next day it was back to work, back to pre-dawn workouts with Team Rogue and back to spending a significant amount of time sitting in traffic as I tried to get to and from these places and others. Of course there was a ton of work to catch up on, family & friends to catch up with, new trips to focus on and a big race to start silently stressing about – reflecting on and writing about my travel experiences immediately found a home at the bottom of the list.
After a week of this, I had a serious discussion with myself during a morning run. I reminded myself that “busy” is not a bragging right, that “tomorrow” is never guaranteed and that very few “stresses” actually matter at all in the scheme of things. Where had my mafimushkil, hakuna matata attitude gone? I reminded myself that just a few days prior I had been acutely aware of these things, and that there was no excuse for forgetting them just because I was back home. If anything, home is the most important place to live out these lessons.
You know what? With a little effort, it worked! In my day to day routine, I began to walk places, take in my surroundings, busy schedule be damned. In work, I would take a step back the moment that I began to feel overwhelmed by to-do lists and emails, refocus, and simply work on each thing, piece by piece. In my personal life, I’ve made a point to refrain from the phrase “too busy” when it comes to plans with family or friends. And in running, I managed to hold onto the incredible feeling of freedom and pure joy that I’d experienced running through Africa. It led to one of the best races I’ve ever had, just a few weeks after returning home, and I feel confident that it’s going to lead to big things this fall.
There is nothing better for the world than people getting out and experiencing the world. It educates, it opens minds, it connects. Much like running! I’ve always been a big believer in this, and saw it firsthand in many of the runners who traveled with us over that month. It reaffirmed everything that we’re doing with Rogue Expeditions, and everything that we have planned. Two months later, I’ve had my time to reflect, and now I’m ready to write about those experiences – a short series will follow over the next few weeks, covering the highlights, the big moments, the lessons and the aftermath from each segment of that world-wind. So please, take a break, slow it down, and read along!