How Death & Divorce Led This Travel Writer To Marrakech

"I needed to fall and feel the full weight of that fall if I was to learn how to truly rise."

By Megan McDonough

1 October 2018

Marrakech wasn’t always on my bucket list. Sure, I had seen enough beautiful photos to pique my interest, but my real admiration came from nothing more than a couple pages of poetic prose.

I can’t remember who recommended Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, but whoever it was, I have them to thank. In the opening chapters of the book, the rebellious blue-haired Karou visits Marrakech on a seedy errand that later becomes a major plot point.

Megan McDonough

Even though Taylor’s fictitious world is dark and dangerous, the Marrakech I absorbed from the pages was anything but; it was vibrant, bustling, and full of magic. It seemed like anything was possible there and I distinctly remember envisioning myself lazily drinking tea and working on my own novel, all while taking in the view of an expansive Medina below.

Looking back, I didn’t read that book by chance. Things find us magically and exactly when we need them and I’ve always been drawn to young adult fantasy reads where I can slip out of my world and into another; one where the heroes get their happy ending. I needed an escape, and this book was my portal.

Megan McDonough

It was 2015 and everything around me was crumbling. My father had just been diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma at the age 66. If I learned anything about this aggressive form of brain cancer in the nearly three years he battled it, it’s that it was never a fair fight. It always was, and still is, a death sentence. There was only ever one way this was going to end.

At the same time, my marriage was disintegrating, oddly enough, in almost exact tandem with the escalation of my father’s illness. I didn’t have scars like the ones my father bore from his surgeries—the fine line of stitches snaking across his head—but they hurt all the same.

My job was next on the chopping block, although by my own accord. I had no intention of leaving—if anything, I wanted to cling to the only stability I had left. But my life was beginning to mimic that of a marionette doll. It was the final string needing severing.

I needed to fall and feel the full weight of that fall if I was to learn how to truly rise.

Megan McDonough

When it was all over, my initial relief quickly turned into an abyss of unknowns. For the first time in my life, I felt entirely unprotected. Everything had been stripped away and there was no longer anyone or anything to keep me 'safe.'

I was forced to look into the mirror and accept the truth staring back. I found that by facing my ‘shadow’—the parts of myself I reject, ignore, and dislike—I could also embrace my ‘good’ aspects. I could learn to love myself. Really love myself.

Through it all, I have clung onto the one thing I know to be true; magic is real and it exists in all of us. We simply need to unlock it, and that’s the hardest part. It’s also the most rewarding.

Megan McDonough

And that’s where Morocco ties into all of this. When I started putting together ideas for a retreat, Marrakech was the first place that came to mind—with its vibrant colored buildings, cobbled streets, bustling souks and intricate tiled riads—it’s the perfect place to access this inner magic and truly transform.

I also wanted it to be wellness focused and while I’m a daily meditator, I’m no expert. Ko Im, a dear friend and incredible yoga instructor and wellness practitioner, became the yin to my yang in this coming together of creative collaboration.

Megan McDonough

With the Medina of Marrakech as our backdrop, I knew there’s magic to be found and a way for fantasy to become a very real and worthy reality.

This post is by Journy contributor, Megan of Bohemian Trails.

Megan McDonough