Explore Morocco With Leonie Zaytoune

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Culturallyours Podcast Leonie Z Exploring Morocco With A Local

Season 05
Season 05
Explore Morocco With Leonie Zaytoune
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Show Details

In this episode, we explore Morocco with Leonie Zaytoune. Leonie is from Holland but moved to Marrakesh to be with her husband. She shares some beautiful and unique adventures in her adopted home country. She also share some off-the-beaten path adventures around Morocco away from the super touristy places – a country that is known all over the world for its incredible natural beauty and cultural diversity. From restaurants to outdoor spaces, Leonie take us on a beautiful adventure – right from the comfort of our homes.

Show Notes

Karthika explores the incredibly beautiful country of Morocco and the city of Marrakesh with a local Leonie Zaytoune. Leonie moved to Marrakesh to be with her husband and absolutely fell in love with the city, country and people. She shares her love for this city and country – unique experiences in and around Marrakesh. She shares some off-the-beaten path adventures around Morocco that can help us explore this amazing country that is famous for its incredible landscapes and natural beauty. From restaurants to outdoor spaces, Leonie take us on a beautiful adventure – right from the comfort of our homes. Karthika and Leonie also talk about the future of travel as seen from the eyes of a local living in a touristy location.

The Transcript

Karthika: Welcome Leonie. Thank you so much for joining me on Culturally Ours. I’m very, very excited to have you on the podcast and I cannot wait to chat with you. Get to know you a little bit better. absolutely. So before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about sort of who you are, where you’re from just to maybe help set the stage for this conversation?

Leonie: Sure. So my name is Leonie and I’m originally from the Netherlands, that’s the country where I was born and raised, and where I’ve always lived until four years ago. Then I moved to Morocco and the reason for me to move here was because of love because love happens. It happens within their own country. For me, It happened here in Marrakech, 10 years ago that’s when I met my nowadays husband and, we maintained a long-distance relationship for over six years, which was quite a long time off, countless trips and travels up and down between Holland and Marrakesh for the both of us. until, four years ago, we felt like the time was right. Let’s just do it. So, I left Holland and moved to America. So that’s, where I’m situated nowadays.

Karthika: Wow. That’s quite a bit of, a difference and a contrast, everything, right. I would say, it’s pretty much the opposite in everything, but you’ve been, you’ve been exposed to this sort of environment even before you moved here. So the transition should have been easy. Right. I mean and did the good thing.

Leonie: And of course, people always say like, well, how six years, that’s such a long time, or how were you able to do that? And I’m like. I mean, it’s not easy. but we just waited until the time felt right because we both still studied when we met each other and we both wanted to explore a little bit our options within our own countries. And, meanwhile, I traveled here about, I think maybe five or six times a year during those six years. So, for me to move here, I know what I was getting into basically, because I had already discovered a lot of the places where I’ve gotten familiar with the surroundings and of course my husband and his family, and met some friends already here. So, it was not a complete shock or anything eventually. . Even though I must say that living here of course is a different experience than just being a frequent visitor, I would say, but still so far, so good. I’m really happy we took that step.

Karthika: Excellent. So talk to me a little bit about, just, Marrakesh and Morocco, how, especially with the pandemic, how things have sort of been, it’s now almost a year. Gosh, it’s exactly a year. So just tell me how things played out and how things are right now.

Leonie: So, it started about a year ago and I went back to Holland when it started because Morocco was about to fully shut down the borders. and they were headed into a full military lockdown, which was very intense. and I had figured that, okay, I can either stay here, but then there’s no way I’m going to go anywhere for, we don’t know how long. and I felt like I wanted to be in Holland as well for my parents because, in Europe, the situation was really bad at that time. And things were still very new. We had no clue where we were headed to at that point. So I had decided to travel back to Holland, to be with my parents and to look after them. so I have not experienced that military lockdown here, but of course, I would talk with my husband every day and with friends who live here. But that was very intense. I think it lasted for about four months and it meant that only one person per household was allowed to leave the house, with special permission, like a little paper that you could get. only supermarkets and pharmacies were open at that time. The rest was all shut down. The borders were fully shut down, not a single flight going in or out. so, there was a very intense period, I would say for four months, that’s also quite a long time, I would say. And then I think it was late June or mid-July when borders opened again for Moroccan citizens, foreign residents, and family members. So not for tourism yet, but, at least I was able to go back to Morocco and from there on things started opening up little by little. and then it was, I believe, the beginning of October when the borders opened for tourism again. But we have not seen a lot of tourists, to be honest. because of course, each country has its travel restrictions. so, that doesn’t help in that sense. there was a sort of tiny peak, I would say around the Christmas holidays when we would see quite a lot of French tourists, but that was pretty much it. Other than that, we have not experienced any tourism. and the latest status is that now, there is a curfew at night. So during the day, pretty much everything is open. Life is pretty normal depending on where in the city you are. but restaurants are open. stores are open, schools are open, people go to work, people go out for lunch. So during the day, it’s pretty normal again, depending on where in the city you are. And then at night, there is a curfew, so everything has to close at 8:00 PM, and then we have to be home by 9:00 PM. there’s still the mandatory mask-wearing obviously, the vaccination program is going pretty well from what I’ve heard. So that’s a good thing. But then two weeks ago, again, they closed borders for quite a lot of European countries. Also I believe Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, just a whole bunch of countries. So. I don’t know, really know where it’s headed to at this point. but we’re just waiting, I think so far they’ve handled it pretty. Okay. But, now Europe is still pretty bad.

Karthika: And I think the timing sounds about right in terms of just that new strain. I think that was discovered because I was talking to my last podcast guest, she’s from Norway and it was a few weeks ago and she was saying the same thing that the new strain was discovered. And so again, Norway shot everything down. Exactly. so it’s, and it’s, countries like Morocco, Norway, Japan, they’re so heavily tourist-dependent. They are. So it’s, it’s heartbreaking to see, the up and down, it’s like everybody kind of gets ready to gear up to get back to normal. And then again, it’s like a sharp decline.

Leonie: Because things kind of seem to be a little hopeful again, like I said, around the Christmas period, I believe it was when we started seeing some tourists coming in again. Right. And it was quite busy I’m used to it anymore. This is crazy because it was one of the most booming cities on earth, I believe back in 2019. But, so there was a little bit of hope and more and more restaurants and riots also in the Medina started opening up again and we’re hopeful, but, as you see right now, the border is shut down again for most of Europe, which was the main visitors at this point, those were the ones who were still sort of able to travel to Morocco without having too much trouble. but that’s not possible for now, so not possible. We will see

Karthika: It’s a shame because like you said, Morocco and, and Markish, and in all of the cities around are so beautiful. We, it’s like, like you said, like a boom, right? Like every, I think every Instagram account or every social you would see would have something about Morocco.

Leonie: I think I just read it recently because everyone remembers 2018, 2019 words are crazy for tourism. Like I believe just 2019 Marrakesh had over 3 million visitors. So that’s a lot for a that is not that big. so I remember that year was busy and crowded and full. so, it’s a huge contrast with 2020 and still until today, 2021 with not even a handful of tourists.

Karthika: Well talk to me a little bit about Morocco and Marrakesh you’ve, you’ve had you have this relationship because of personal reasons, but also the fact that you live there, what draws you into, into this culture, into this community? Talk to me a little bit about sort of your experiences.

Leonie: So, well personally of course, as you said, why I love this place so much was because of my husband, first of all. But second of all, ever since I came to live here, the thing I love about this place, that it has given me a sort of space and motivation to rediscover myself again, without having to worry about too much of this social pressure and expectations from the outside world. other than in Western societies where life sometimes just feels like a continuous competition. What do I mean? Like we all want the best job and the promotions and the most friends and the busier you are the better because being busy equals being successful, all these things and, moving here to a culture where it’s just a little, different in that sense, I don’t want to say laid back or slower because people work very hard here. Let me put that clear. But, it feels like there are fewer expectations at least like there’s not that social pressure that I experienced back home. . so, in that sense, it made me experience how I can rediscover my feelings, my thoughts, my ideas, and therefore also my potential, because I made that career switch from being a language teacher in Holland to become a photographer here in Myra cache. So, that’s a reason for me, why I love this place. but then more, from a travel perspective, as in tourism and visitors, I think what is so special about this city and the surroundings is that it is so incredibly diverse in, in all levels, just looking at Marrakesh itself. There’s the old city versus the new city, which are two completely different worlds, but so interesting to experience that contrast. And then also the surroundings outside of America, America is, is usually the starting point as well. For one, if you want to make a trip to the Sahara Desert, so you can travel to the desert from here. then there are the Atlas Mountains, which are like, what an hour and a half away from here. if you drive two or three hours, you will reach the Atlantic Ocean and villages like a soda or egg, a deer, like the coastal areas. So, within an hour from here, you will reach this stone desert of edifies or there’s so much diversity to discover and to see here. which makes it very interesting. And particularly, I think for European tourists as well, it’s because within an average of, let’s say a three-hour flight, you’re in a completely different world. Basically. so, all these things and, and also like, I, I believe that the country in general, but also the city of Marrakesh has something to offer for anyone. And for each budget, you can go all the way basic and super low budget. If that’s what you’re like and what you’re into, you can go crazy and luxury if that’s what you want and anything in between. I think it’s, it’s that diversity that attracts a lot of people and what makes it so special.

Karthika: I love what you said. Not there’s diversity, not just in experiences, but also in landscapes and even how you want to experience a particular place. Because a lot of, a lot of times, it’s like you go somewhere and it might not. I mean, the place might be beautiful and everything going for it, but if it’s not your cup of tea, not how you live life you’re miserable. Right. I mean, I don’t, I don’t do cities very well. I love nature. I love the mountains. So for me, putting me in New York City and saying, okay, go spend a week there. I would be miserable and nothing about New York City. It’s a fabulous place. It’s there for somebody who is really into city and city life and study culture. It’s, there’s no place like it or not, but for somebody like me, who is not, foreign to city life, it’s just, I just, a day and I’m like, okay, I can’t breathe,

Leonie: But I understand. That’s the thing. Like I know if my parents would travel here and like my mom she’s okay in the city, she sees the hour and the fun and all this hectic hustle and bustle. But my father, no, Oh God, no, God forbid my father was born and raised in the countryside of Holland. So, no, he doesn’t like cities at all. Not even in Holland, nowhere where he goes, he likes cities, but I know that if he would come over, for sure he would love the surroundings. As I said, the beautiful valleys outside of the city and then the mountains and not too far from here, there’s the Atlantic Ocean and, or the stone desert. And you can go mountain biking, you can go hiking. There are so many things to discover and to see and to do or not to mention the beautiful gardens within the city. those so that there is something for each one I believe, and for each budget and for whatever purpose you have for traveling, whether you just want to go party and enjoy yourself, or just relax all day by a pool, or you want to come to discover the culture and the food do activities, there’s something for everyone. And I think that’s what makes this city so popular.

Karthika: For sure. Now you’ve kind of touched on this quite a bit already, but I’ll ask you the question and give me specifics because I know people, people want to want to hear a local perspective and, where am I going to go and what am I going to do? So if I, or anybody else out there were to plan a trip, and you would be our guide, where would you take us? Like give, give me a sort of an itinerary of sorts.

Leonie: It does depend basically on how much time you would have available and if it’s your first time or not, but, okay. Let’s assume you have, I don’t know, maybe five days, six days. And it’s your first time in Marrakech then I would, for sure, recommend you to book a Riad in Medina. And for those who don’t know what a riad is, a riad is like a Moroccan traditional-style guest house. I would say in the old city center that we call Medina, which is just a beautiful experience because rats are stunning. they are so gorgeous. They’re situated mostly in the heart of the old city of Medina. They serve amazing Moroccan breakfasts. So after your delicious Moroccan breakfast, I will come to pick you up and you would have to prepare for a lot of walking because that’s the best way to discover this city just by walking. I guess we would start with walking around the souks, the local markets because that’s where you also find a lot of interesting places to visit some former palaces and muses that we have here. There’s this beautiful garden that I love inside the Medina, which is called the Sheldon secret or the secret garden in English, which is not that secret, honestly, but it’s just, it’s just a beautiful place, literally like an Oasis within this super hectic Medina. so I always make sure to take people there because especially if it’s your first time in Marrakech and your first day, it can be a little overwhelming depending on how experienced a traveler you are. But, this secret garden is just a place I love because it’s beautiful. They have like, olive trees, they have orange trees, lemon trees, there’s 11 they’re in bloom. It smells really good. There is a little restaurant inside where you can have something to drink or something to eat. and I even just go there often just by myself to sit and read a book if I want to. So it’s a very nice and calm place and not so far from there, there are the muse and former palace that is called Darryl Basha, which shows contemporary art, which is very pretty. but they recently also opened like a traditional, but also a modern coffee house, like a fancy kind of coffee house where they serve over, I believe a couple of hundreds of types of coffee, and it’s just an amazing place. They have two beautiful Moroccan tiles and details everywhere, and it’s an experience to go and drink coffee inside there. you can also buy the coffee. That is a nice place where I would love to take people, walk around the souks to see how the local artists work and all the things they make, the workers, the letter workers, there’s so much to see within a soup-like you name it and you can go get it. They’re they sell anything, rooftop lunch because most of the restaurants inside of Medina have rooftops, which give you an awesome view over Medina. So, rooftop lunch is part of the experience that I always recommend to people. And then, sure. Try some Moroccan food. the Moroccan tea jeans are very good with chicken or with meatballs, or fish or lamp, whatever you’d like vegetarian is possible as well. or maybe Moroccan couscous if you’ve never tried it, even though I prefer to eat it at home from my mom in law.

Karthika: So we’ll come for lunch to your place

Leonie: That’s definitely an option as well. Their hospitality is amazing. Like if someone’s coming over for food, prepare for food. so that would be nice. And then if there’s enough time left, definitely check out some of the surroundings as well, other than just staying within the city. I would love to take people outside of the city as well. Maybe do a bicycle tour or go to this egg buffet stone desert, where you can do little hikes or walk around with a local guide where they do campfires at night with dinner, where they play traditional music, Moroccan music. There are so many things to experience here that I would love to have a full week, perhaps

Karthika: Leonie. I think the way you are kind of going about this, we don’t need more than just a week. We need more than.

Leonie: But if you just want to stay inside of Marrakech, then, of course, Medina gives you a lot of options, just walk and discover that and do not try to have an actual plan because things are always changing here. you make a plan, but the day ends completely different. and what I always recommend people is to don’t just stay in the old Medina, which of course is the heart of tourism where you will find most of the cultural experience. like I said, the old palaces, the souks, the artisans, the more traditional Moroccan life, but I would always recommend people, please do go and check out the new part of the city as well. because it’s just cool. I’d say to see the difference between the more modern and traditional Morocco and also even in Gailey’s, even though a lot of people don’t realize it, but if you look up wherever you walk in, Gailey’s, there’s a lot of amazing architecture to discover. they have lots of amazing restaurants as well, and nowadays you start seeing more and more art galleries opening in the new part of town. So there’s a lot to discover in the newer part of the time as well, I would say. So do not miss that.

Karthika: Excellent. So Leonie, one thing that we are seeing in the travel space is more sort of, grassroots, and I think you’ve touched on this too, just like the local experiences. So the next series of questions, I want to know your perspective. So, what do you like, where do you go? Okay. So, and more importantly, I want to know why, why is it that you’re choosing A versus B, so just whatever you’re willing to share. For like for restaurants or activities. So my first question would be what is your favorite restaurant and why? And I can pick the only one that no, you can pick more than one for sure.

Leonie: To be honest, but again, it depends on where in the city I am. As I said, it’s quite a different experience being either in the old Medina or in the new city. but to start the, in the old Medina, because that’s where most people are headed. Of course, there is one restaurant, which I hope will open up again because they’ve been close ever since the pandemic started. Its a Lebanese restaurant. And I love this place because of the food they serve. It’s such amazing quality and it’s just different from most other restaurants in Marrakech. the Moroccan food is served everywhere. there’s a lot of French influences as well. Its tele and restaurants are everywhere, but Lebanese, I haven’t experienced that much yet. especially not in Medina, maybe in the new part of town, you might find some other Lebanese restaurants, but in Medina and not yet. And they serve, I mean, if, Lebanese food, they serve the amazing falafel, they serve amazing salads. one of my favorite dishes is a sort of chicken rep with cabbage and garlic, which I love. They serve these nice dishes. They call it cheese cigars, I’m a Dutch girl. So I do shut up cheese now and then. and, and the restaurant, I mean, it’s, it’s, I would say more a touristy restaurant. Like it’s not a super local restaurant, but it’s not discovered that much yet by most of the tourists I would say. and they have an amazing rooftop. The staff is very friendly, so I loved this restaurant Navantia so if you’re American you should go there. If you’d like to have a little more, a local experience, like a lower budget, a little more basic, and we’re also local people eating there’s this super tiny restaurant it’s called [inaudible]. And they recently moved to another location, but they were situated right behind the main square in the Medina. and they serve more kinds of snack street, food things, also Moroccan, styled. they serve things like falafel. But also things that they call tacos which of course is Mexican. But I would say they’re rather Moroccan in this sense, like they give their little Moroccan twists to it, kind of like fusion. exactly. And even though it’s super low budget and street food kind of, snacks and things, they serve it in such a pretty and attractive way. They need an actual work and art of it, and it’s run by a Moroccan family, which I like, and it’s super affordable and just right around the corner from where it used to be. I would usually go and have lunch at their place. And then after lunch, I always crave something sweet. I don’t know about you, but that’s just me. I, there on the corner of this tiny restaurant, there always was a local bakery where you can buy a lot of sweet Moroccan pastries and fruit juices and shakes which is one of the best in Medina, I would say. And this is a place where locals go as well. Okay. I’m really hungry right now. I kind of imagine I gained a couple of kilos ever since I got here.

Karthika: Oh, I know every time I go back home to India, it’s just, Indian food is beyond amazing. And I always gained so much weight and I come back and I’m like, well, it’s okay. Because when I come back, I’m cooking for myself and my family. I just stepped outside, and I can get anything. I was. So now what’s your favorite activity to do?

Leonie: So did they say when we do have some free time and you, my husband works a lot and so do I, but the days we take off, honestly, we just enjoy taking the car and going out of the city, we just drive up to a place somewhere outside in nature. Like most Moroccans, most Morocco’s on their time off. They just really enjoy going into nature with their family or their friends, enjoy picnics, outside of this city and just, to enjoy the green surroundings because inside of the city, there’s not that much greenery on our way. We usually grab a coffee to go somewhere, which you get in an actual glass because, in Morocco, you can still buy an actual glass of coffee and take the glass with you. Or you can bring it back later if you want to, Oh, that’s nice. We buy some coffee and some snacks or some fruit and we just go for picnics in the surroundings of Marrakesh. That’s something we love to do. And we recently went to this beautiful village, which is about a 30-minute drive from here, not even probably which is called the headnote. And, and it is just amazing. It’s situated like in the valleys right before the Atlas Mountains. And especially in this time of the year, we had quite some rain in the last few months, but now the sun has come back and it is so green and there are little water streams and, it’s, it’s just beautiful while the mountain Tufts are still snowy and the skies are blue again. And it’s just amazing walking around. They’re discovering these little villages and people in the villages are super friendly and always interested in talking with you, like, where are you from? What are you doing here or inviting you over or giving you recommendations of little places to go, go over there or check this place. Or so it’s, it’s super relaxing to just walk around there and enjoy the surroundings and the people and have a little picnic.

Karthika: Excellent. Now, are there any sort of local experiences? I know you talked about, just kind of walking around the silks and, and, the old town, but are there any sort of more local experience, some thinking like maybe a cooking class or, you mentioned tiles and maybe there’s a painting class. Is that something that you want people to experience because that, again, gives a sense of true Marrakesh rock and culture?

Leonie: So if, if you’re daring enough, there is an organization that is called Picala bikes. The gala is the, like the sort of slang word in Moroccan, Arabic for a bicycle. So Picala bikes, which is an organization that’s founded by a Dutch young woman who also lives here in Marrakesh. And the thing they have done and that they’re still doing is that they educate young unemployed boys and girls on becoming either bicycle mechanics or how to become professional bicycle tour guides. They also offer bicycle classes for young women and girls, so they can learn how to ride, all of these things to educate the locals, but also for the environment. So people eventually, hopefully, might start choosing bicycles over mopeds and motorbikes, which we have a lot here. And these young people that they educate on becoming tour guides, they do these actual bicycle tours. And the thing that I love about these tourists, other than maybe other tourists you might find in this city, is that they take you to different places. They might take you to neighborhoods where they were born and raised. They might show you their neighbors. they take you to different places. And they’ll explain to you the history and the experience from their point of view, which I think is amazing. And, and something you really should try. And other than just the bicycle tour in Medina, they also offer this tour just right outside of Medina, where there is a Palm Grove called Palmetto. And also within this Palm Grove, there are tiny little sub-villages, I would say, that you will pass by where you can meet the people where they explain the things about this poem Grove, what is being produced in this Palm Grove. It’s just an awesome experience. And, both the organization and the youth benefit from it, because they get language classes, they get so many opportunities, job opportunities from this foundation. So, this is a nice project to try. A few are daring enough because of course, the traffic in America is pretty intense. they’re doing it safely. There is a guide in front and there is a guide in the back and, for sure they will get you home safely again, but they show you more insider places from an actual local perspective, because they’re the real locals, they’re the ones who were born and raised here, so they know best.

Karthika: It sounds amazing. And, you’re supporting a good cause. So that’s the other thing too. Now you mentioned earlier that you and your husband can like to take the car and just get out and explore. So where have you gone recently? perhaps, a new favorite or something that your husband sort of, knew about, but hadn’t gone and visited something that you rediscovered that you didn’t even know existed?

Leonie: Well, it was about two weeks ago because, to be honest, ever since this whole past year, we haven’t gone anywhere basically. But just about two or three weeks ago, we decided on a Sunday morning we would go and visit a friend of his, who is also a Moroccan guy, originally from Medina. But he has bought this little property in this village. I told you about calling the hangout. and to hang out is sort of divided, into several parts. There’s like a slightly newer part, an older part, but there’s also this tiny part that is built in Rocky Hill, I would say, within the Valley. and he has bought one of these houses right on top of that Hill. So we decided to go and visit him. And, my husband had been there before, but like quite a few years ago, I had never actually been inside of that tiny village where he lives, because it’s a place where most people just pass by and take a picture of the village, but they never really go in. So we decided to go in there to visit him. And I had the time of my life, even though he’s a 20-minute drive away from Marrakesh. I just loved the overall field there. It was so pretty, so calm. Like you would only hear just the water from the local stream, a little further down to Hill. You hear the roosters. There was like a shepherd walking, his sheep. The local people in the finished restaurant are greeting you and being friendly and you could smell the bread from the local oven. Oh my gosh, that’s amazing. That makes the bread for all the people. And, our friend, he’s working on creating an actual guest house there. and what he wants to do eventually is two in five people over who want to either to stay there or just to have a day experience where he can take them around the farms as well, because there’s a lot of olive farms and fruits and vegetable farms, to go get ingredients and organize a picnic or do a cooking class over there. he’s thinking of organizing artists and workshops because there are also artists in Cindy’s villages. so there’s a lot of options and we didn’t have that much time, but for sure, I want to go back so desperately anytime soon to go and experience that with him to visit these farms and get our fruits and vegetables and prepare a lunch ourselves because it’s just super calming and relaxing. And it’s a very authentic experience, I would say because it has not been discovered by tourists at all.

Karthika: So. And those are the best, the best places to explore.

Leonie: They are. People keep on just passing by and they take pictures of this very village from the other side of the road, but to go in there and experience it yourself. It’s, it’s just beautiful. So that is, that is not, I mean, it’s not that this place is not known or anything, but for me, this was the little gem that I had covered recently.

Karthika: Sounds amazing. Now, Leonie, you have, you live in a place that is fantastic and fascinating and everything that you, you’ve kind of shared. I think people would love to get back there. talk to me a little bit about the sort of, you being, you’re living in a place like Marrakesh and Morocco and with the whole travel industry, the way it is, where do you think travel is headed in the future? And it can be, just your perspective based on everything that you’ve seen so far.

Leonie: Well, one thing I hope for the local people here, we have experienced now how extremely fragile the tourism industry is. the majority of the people here fully depend on tourism and with almost zero tourists coming in, you can only imagine how devastating that is. So I somehow hope that either the governments or the local people or whoever is willing to make a change, can find a way to, of course, still support tourism and attract tourists because it is still an important way of income, but to also find a way that doesn’t make people fully dependent on tourism. So it’s fragile anymore, hopefully in the future. That’s the first thing I hope. but if you’d ask me where it’s headed to, I’m not sure a part of me thinks that people still might be a little bit hesitant to make faraway travels, with all the border closures that happened all of a sudden. But on the other hand, I also feel that people tend to forget pretty quickly, once there is this option to sort of going back to normal, they move on pretty quickly and seem to forget everything that happens. So I do believe that tourism will come back. I do believe that once, the world is, getting on with all these vaccinations or vaccination passports or whatever they’re working on right now, once borders open up again and we can travel again, I think pretty quickly things will go back to that same normal. So I’m, I’m hopeful in that sense. I just hope though, that now we’ve experienced, what life is without travel, what a luxury it is, and what a blessing it is to even be able to travel. I hope we can also respect and cherish the fact that we don’t need that much to enjoy ourselves. It’s awesome to go to faraway countries and, and, stay at the most beautiful or special accommodations or do the wildest activities for adventure and all that. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I just, looking back on the lockdowns and everywhere in the world, I just see people enjoying the simple things a lot more going for walks in nature, going for a picnic, going just even for city walks, even though nothing is open, but, I just hope we can appreciate those little things and do that more on our destinations as well. Just you keep it a little more.

Karthika: I agree. I agree. I think we just like you, you hit the nail right on the head where you, you said, we learned to appreciate the simpler things in life, right? I mean, a couple of weeks ago, we, as a family went into downtown Chicago, which is where I’m from, I live in the suburb and we took the training and it was such a pleasant experience. We were looking at the little stations that went by, we were talking, and we weren’t engaging with each other because otherwise in the car we just have music on and everybody’s, either on their phone or reading a book or just listening to music, there was no communication. So even that simple thing of that, 30-minute train ride, or 40-minute train ride, where we were just talking to each other, you weren’t laughing.

Leonie: I have to focus on the traffic or anything. Exactly. It was like the simple thing of being with each other and walking around downtown, looking at the buildings, it was pretty much dead, but, still, you got to just look at, my kids were seeing this scrolling board that pressed you here and you want to go here. And it kind of like the direction board directory, which is something very new because otherwise, you have Siri telling you to turn. Right. And the thing is, and I see it happening everywhere. I see it with my family and friends back home in Holland, but you’re telling me this as well. and I experienced it myself here in Marrakesh. I mean, now pretty much everything has opened up again. but when things were not open again, I would just go for walks, I would, I mean, and in my case, of course, I’m a photographer, so I just love walks anyways. As long as I bring my camera, I’m fine. I’m good to go. I’m enjoying myself. but like I said, we, my husband, we do a little picnics or, it’s just the simple things just to be out in nature or just walk around and just enjoy those moments and take a little better to look around you because there is so much beauty to discover everywhere, no matter where you are and then cherish that. Let’s never, please, if we go back to sort of normal, just, let’s not take that for granted any longer

Karthika: Now, if, and when or not, I should say if I should say, when, when travel opens back up and borders open up, what are your travel plans, Leonie and where do you want to go next?

Leonie: My very first trip, if the border opens eventually again, and if it stays open, I, first of all, will go to Holland. I just want to visit my parents. That’s first of all. But If you talk about traveling as in discovering new places and, there are still some places in Europe I really would love to see. I would still be there because the covet happened. We were planning on going maybe to Sicily for a week or travel a little bit off the North of Portugal. So those are places I’d still love to visit a little further away, like on top of my list, hopefully, someday Cuba. Oh, I’d love to go to Cuba. I did that. I’ve been dreaming of that place since forever. But it just never happens. But hopefully, maybe now that we can see how fragile this life is and, with the pandemic and everything, maybe we can make it a priority to just go.

Karthika: Sure. Well, thank you so much. Leonie, this was amazing. And I cannot wait to come to visit.

Leonie: There’s so much more. I could talk for hours. I hope to see you and welcome you here and everyone who’s listening. Please come once travel is possible again because tourists are very welcome here.

Karthika: Absolutely. Thank you so much.

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