That Time I Studied Abroad

Fez and Fever Dreams

Fez, Morocco, December 2010

Some of my travel experiences feel like fever dreams. When I studied abroad in Barcelona, my program brought us to Mallorca for a weekend, and I was sick the whole time so my memories of that trip are particularly hazy. I picked and ate a fig straight from a tree in a stranger’s yard, and it was fresh and delicious, like nothing I’d ever tasted before. I drifted in and out of sleep on a scenic train ride, and I swam in the Mediterranean Sea in the dark, and there was a castle, and my friend got to practice her medical Spanish vocabulary by explaining my symptoms to a pharmacist. I think there was sangria at some point.

Other trips are hazy simply because of how long ago they happened. We forget the precise details of our lives, no fever necessary. It’s interesting going through my old photos and trying to recollect the events that occurred on either side of the camera shutter.

I visited Morocco while I was studying abroad in Barcelona, and I don’t think about that trip often anymore. It’s like a book I read in high school and don’t feel confident discussing with someone who just finished it. I know I enjoyed myself and found it meaningful, but I can’t remember the supporting characters’ names.

I do recall visiting the tannery, pictured above. How we held mint leaves up to our noses so we wouldn’t smell the leather being dyed and dried. I remember the labyrinth of the medina. How on our first day we found our way based on certain distinctive shops, and the following day half of them were closed; our landmarks disappeared into the walls. I remember a young man striking up a conversation with my friend and me in the middle of the street. How we went to dinner with him, and met his family the following day. We almost missed our flight because they drove us to the airport and we got lost along the way. I remember mint tea loaded with sugar and climbing a hill outside the city. We heard the call to prayer first from one mosque and then another and another until the sound was playing in a round, across the city spread out below us. I remember more from that dreamy trip than I’d realized.

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.

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