By Lorie Kleiner Eckert

Let me tell you about my recent trip to Morocco. No, not about the things that I saw -– amazing as they were –- but about what I was thinking during my travels. There were thoughts about leaving the U.S. in the aftermath of Covid. Thoughts on community building. Thoughts on mortality and the need to live life to its fullest. Thoughts on an ever-present topic for me -– comparing myself to others. But surprisingly, NO thoughts about the matzah ball soup and mashed potatoes I would need for the Passover feast I was hosting immediately upon my return home. All of these things are worth talking about!

On traveling outside the United States:

Prior to this trip, I had flown only twice since the Covid lockdown. Both times, domestically. On the first vacation, I came back with Covid. Add to that the many horror stories from other travelers, such as my brother and sister-in-law, who tested positive for Covid in Amsterdam and had to spend eleven days in a hotel in quarantine. (This was when one needed to present proof of a negative test before entering the United State.) Add to that the fact that I am a Very. Cautious. Person. 

The sum of these parts made a trip out of the country highly unlikely for me. But off I went just the same. Yes, I chose to wear a mask while most did not. And yes, minor glitches occurred for me and for some of my traveling companions, but as they and I handled issues, I learned that issues are handle-able. 

Returning home without major incident is a confidence builder. The world is mine! Where shall I travel next?

Community building through travel:

Morocco was never on my bucket list. Indeed, I really did not know where Morocco was when I signed up for the trip. (It’s in northern Africa!) My desire to go was based solely on the fact that this was a congregational trip and I would have the opportunity to get to know some of my fellow congregants better. 

Of course, I could have gotten to know these people via Temple dinners and community service events, but somehow ten days of togetherness on a tour bus will stick with us in a significant way. Not to mention the joint memory of the formal tea ceremony where the tray of filled tea glasses tilted and crashed to the floor before our host could serve us!

If not now, when? And I repeat: If not now, when?

I visited two Jewish cemeteries in Morocco, but that’s not what made me think seriously about mortality –- twice. Instead it’s the fact that two friends died in the two weeks that I was away. That was sobering to say the least but wonderful validation for taking a trip now, world health be damned. 

A friend of mine (also now deceased) said that we are in the go-go years, then the slow-go years, then the no-go years. At age 71, I am grateful that I am still in the go-go years. 

In memory of Dan Gallivan, Herb Asch, and Nancy Lewis, watch me go!

What’s that you’re wearing today? 

Without a doubt, the hardest part of the trip was figuring out what to pack. I was not worrying about climate, comfort, and layers, I was worrying about fashion. I am not the sort of person who pays attention to what other women wear. I just have the vague sense that they are in style and I am not. Further confession, I pay little attention to what’s in Nordstrom’s window or Lululemon’s. I just dress like I dress.  

There was a part of me that thought I needed to buy a whole new wardrobe of athleisure wear –- as recommended by friends at the gym. However, I’m the kind of shopper who is lucky to find one or two pieces when I go looking. Replacing a whole wardrobe is a ridiculous notion. Not to mention the fact that I really like wearing jeans.

While on the trip, I actually paid attention to what everyone was wearing. I checked them all out and I did it every single day. I was surprised to realize that often I liked the way I looked the best! A major takeaway from the trip is that my clothes work well with my body type and that I am fine just the way I am. Wow! 

Let me repeat that too: Wow!

Things I did not think about on the trip:

Another success on this trip was that I was able to leave my normal world behind. I did not worry about anything that was waiting for me at home, specifically, the fact that Passover and the huge ceremonial meal it entails would be happening soon after my return. This was possible because of a change I made to holiday preparation years ago. Instead of being a martyr and preparing the entire meal on my own, I ask others to help. 

It is said that people don’t know what you need unless you tell them. For Jewish holiday feasts, I need help with the matzah ball soup, mashed potatoes, and all the other side dishes. 

There is a version of me who might have passed on this trip altogether because it was too close to Passover. Gratefully, I had my trip and ate a Seder meal too.

And while on the topic of food:

A tagine is the name for a Moroccan cooking vessel and also for the delicious food cooked in it. In this clay and lidded “pot,” foods simmer in a heavily spiced broth until the liquid boils away and the spice is absorbed into the food. Thanks to the conical lid, steam circulates during cooking. The end result is a richly spiced and very moist meal, a must-eat-treat while in Morocco.

But this makes me wonder. What are the must-eat-treats in Italy, Brazil, and Norway?

Gratefully, the world is still mine and I’ll hope to find out!