Challenging one’s own mindset can be a slightly uncomfortable place to find yourself. It can shake your sense of self and make you question just ‘how’ you have, without intention, imposed your experiences onto others and blamed them for not sharing your enthusiasm and excitement about something you hold dear and feel passionate about.
This sounds cryptic, and I think that’s because I’m still trying, as I sit here writing this, to figure out how best to understand a lesson I have taken from this particular experience.
Perhaps it’s best if I explain it less analytically. I have unashamedly, in the past, encouraged several of my friends to accompany me on trips to one of my favourite countries in the world, Egypt. I have filled their minds and bombarded their ears with my personal tales of a land which has captured my heart. When they have, quite often, booked their summer holiday because I have sold them my experiences with the determined, sometimes blinkered, enthusiasm of a car salesperson.
My honesty is not in question here, I don’t lie to them, I force upon them my comfort, ease and love for Egypt. I sell a personalised holiday brochure. I raise their expectation, and in doing so I raise my own expectations of them. I have at some point during my sales pitch unconsciously decided that they truly will adore this country, they will share my passion for its culture and people, and be equally infected by its charm. So imagine, if you can, what happens when someone I’ve enamoured into spending their hard earned cash on two weeks in my paradise expresses a dislike for it. How to I react when they say they aren’t enjoying their holiday?
If you are thinking I will empathise you are wrong, indeed quite the opposite, I think that it’s their fault, how could they fail to fall in love with this Country and it’s people? I, again, unconsciously judge them as failing to give it their best, to see what ‘I’ see, and I deem that they are wrong, a terrible unintentional arrogance, and one which I was bound at some time to found challenged.
This year I’ve travelled to Morocco, I was sold on an image. I believed and I bought into the experiences of others, I tuned into their enthusiasm and passion, but I found in reality that ‘I’ don’t particularly like what I booked. I found that any awe of Marrakech was soon dissolved in a haze of stinking moped fumes, scenes of chained monkeys which I found unbearable and I felt suddenly that I had failed somehow. Why wasn’t I as enchanted by this city as the people whose experiences I had lapped up, greedily, like a cat offered cream? What was I doing wrong? I was worried about voicing my dislike, I found myself fearing the harsh judgement I’d reserved for people who didn’t love the places I love.
And yet with the answer to the question ‘What am I doing wrong?’ came the lesson I have to take away from this experience. I have done nothing wrong, in exactly the same way that the people who have said they don’t share my love for Egypt, I have merely had a different experience. My expectation didn’t come from an open mind, but from the mirrored images of other people.
Obviously buying into to the experiences of others isn’t a guarantee of a failed holiday, that would a massively incorrect generalisation, and I know from my own experiences that I have enjoyed the recommendations of others as equally as some have enjoyed mine. Those hints and tips have enriched trips and created wonderful treasured memories.
My final few days in Morocco will be spent in Essaouira, a windy fishing port by the sea. It’s calm, laid back and the sun is shining. There’s no sign of chained monkeys, overly exploited snakes and aggressive henna women, but I think that’s all the selling I’ll engage in today, since I’ve learned we are truly the masters of our own destinies.