by Kate Ferguson
In the fall of 2015, I was lucky enough to join Rogue Expeditions on their Run Morocco: Mountains & Coast trip. Upon my return, I found it difficult to capture and relay the magnitude of my experiences. There was so much to report and process: breathtaking scenery, delicious food, wonderful people, adventure and oh yeah…running!
Oddly, it was in listening to a podcast that I was able to place my trip in a context that would translate to my audience and activities here at home. The podcast, entitled “How to live to be 100+” describes improving quality of life for longevity. As a nurse who specializes in wellness and prevention, I was intrigued. I smiled as I listened to the National Geographic reporter describe his research on regions throughout the world with the highest number of centenarians. The parallels between my experiences in Morocco and the characteristics that facilitate living past 100 were undeniable!
Here are the criteria Mr. Buettner outlined and my experience of them in Morocco:
Eat a Plant Heavy Diet
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words! But I’m not lying when I say that the food we had in Morocco was INCREDIBLE! How can you beat having a private chef setting up picnics for you with locally sourced, organic vegetables cooked to perfection in a tagine while you sip sweetened mint tea from a perfect Moroccan tea glass?
Drink Wine on a Regular Basis
While our wine consumption on the Morocco trip probably exceeded the limits of what is considered a “healthy” amount, cheers-ing each night as we watched the sunset and reflecting on the pure incredulity of our day was a beautiful moment of gratitude. And I’m sure we got a healthy dose of polyphenols as well!
Be Part of a Tight Knit Community
All runners know that surviving a tough track or hill workout together immediately bonds you…for life! There’s something about that shared suffering! Now imagine the bond created by running in the Atlas Mountains for the first time or down a Moroccan beach while the sun sets on the horizon. Or the conversations that are had in a Saharan camp while you look up at the Milky Way and more stars than you’ve ever seen.
The friends you make on a Rogue Expedition will always be the people that you shared all of these “firsts” with. If nothing else, community is what these trips are all about. Not only the community of people on the trip, but also the people that make the trip possible: the organizers, the cooks, the snake charmers in the markets, the jewelry, rug and pottery artisans, the shop keepers, and the random guy riding a burro that somehow finds Hamid on a dirt road in the Atlas Mountains to deliver a package (I’m still baffled by that one!) It’s these people that enrich the experience by sharing their excitement and culture. They will change you and your perspective on the world, forever!
Have a Spiritual Practice
Whether you find yourself in the mountains, on the coast or on the edges of the Sahara, the one Moroccan constant is the call to prayer. Personal religious belief aside, it would be difficult to dismiss the beautiful cultural practice of ritual prayer.
For me, these moments were a reminder to pause, be present and offer gratitude for the entire range of experiences on this adventure and a sense of connection to something larger than myself.
Buettner describes elderly members of these centenarian communities moving with intention: climbing stairs to visit a friend for afternoon tea, walking to the local market, carrying groceries home and tending to a garden. On our trip, runs were scheduled with similar purpose. “It’s 8 miles to breakfast.” Or “This route will take you by a beautiful view of the ocean.” And “Lunch will be waiting for us at the tent that marks the end of the route.”
Know Your Purpose
Mr. Buettner also introduces the Japanese concept of ikigai as another centenarian community characteristic. Roughly translated ikigai means “a reason for being.” He further explains how waking up with purpose and intention for the day is what keeps one healthy, moving and motivated. If the mind is engaged, so is the body. There’s nothing like a trip to another culture to give you a sense of purpose, ignite a fire in your creative and curious mind and change gears from the routine of daily life at home.
So, what’s the take away? Go on a Rogue Expedition! It will change your perspective and, who knows - it may even help you live to 100!
Kate is a runner, nurse and world traveler currently residing in Jackson Hole, WY. She discovered Rogue Expeditions back in 2013 when she joined our very first Run Tahoe trip and, luckily for us, brought her adventurous attitude and infectious smile back for Morocco last fall!