Could you please start by introducing yourself to our readers? Tell us where you come from, a little bit about your academic or professional background.
My name is Houda chaloun, a 35-year-old Moroccan woman who studied and graduated in Morocco with an IT engineering degree. I worked as an IT project manager for almost 10 years before leaving on a sabbatical year to travel the world. When I came back to Morocco 2 months ago, I decided to definitely quit my job and convert to a nomad.
Tell us what made you choose this life, we would like to know how it all started.
When I first decided I wanted to travel for a whole year, it wasn’t something I had been dreaming about for a long time. It came as an intuition, an idea that popped in my mind with no previous notice. It actually made me dream about a new life and I decided to ask my employer for a sabbatical leave. It took around 9 months from the time I had the idea to the day I actually left home to travel.
When I think about it now, that I actually did it and finished my first year of travel, that moment looks more like a tipping point; many different criteria and facts come together to lead you to a specific action or decision. There is no one logical reason behind it except that maybe I had a moment of inspiration and I grabbed it without overthinking.
When and to where was your first trip ever?
I traveled all around Morocco with my parents when I was a child. We used to leave home for the annual vacation leave without preparation or a defined destination and ended up travelling all around the country. I actually owe a lot to my father for being adventurous and fond of travelling. My first trip alone, i.e. without my parents, was to Algeria in a cultural exchange program when I was 9. That was maybe the first fascination I had about the “other”, the one that’s supposed to be different but is in fact just another human being with dreams, projects, joy and fears.
Then I started traveling alone when I was 18 and and more extensively when I started working and became financially independent, mostly to Europe and other Arab countries. The funny thing is that my real first backpacking trip was actually this one year trip in Latin America. I was a tourist and this trip made me a traveler.
Many people around the world wish to be able to travel but end up doing their jobs for years without even moving to the city next to them. According to you, how can we challenge ourselves and hit the road?
I always start with the “what” then I figure out the “how”. That’s for me the most effective way to catch on our dreams.
Visualizing the dream; that can be travelling the world or creating one’s own company or having a child… It doesn’t really matter as long as it inspires you, and that is certainly the first step. When you feel that just the idea of it makes you happy, that it fulfills your soul, only then comes the stage of thinking about the “how”.
Why is that? Because fear is always there and makes us invent barriers and obstacles that prevent us from following our dreams. If I had one piece of advice to give in regards to this matter it would be “just do it” and don’t over think about the issues you might encounter. Do it with what’s available to you but don’t give up because of what you don’t have…yet!
I’m sure traveling has changed you a lot, could you briefly tell us how it has affected you? What are you most grateful to?
Well I might surprise you. I believe traveling did not change me. It only brought me back to who I really am.
When we come to life, we’re the closest to who we are, then comes our education, environment, what the society expects us to be, etc… And without noticing it, we start to put on masks, act, and be the person we’re expected to be, not the person we are.
Traveling can be very liberating when you want it to be, and I did want it to be my bridge to freedom so I can be myself again.
I am most grateful to the people I’ve met along the way, those who showed me that it’s completely fine to be one’s self. Those who don’t judge you and don’t expect much from you. They are just a mirror in which you can see yourself without masks and end up loving this naked, free self.
Stay tuned for 5 more questions in part II of Interview with a Moroccan Nomad where Houda reveals the most difficult part about her traveling experiences and gives great advice for those who wish to set out on a journey soon.