Featured Traveler: Jonathan, from Memphis

We just spent almost Two weeks with Jonathan in Morocco, and it is safe to say that he is simply always in a good mood.  Always smiling, immersed in Morocco, full of mirth and laughter– this is Johnathan.

Zoom: What was your highlight from the trip?

Jonathan: The night we spent in the Sahara Desert was really unforgettable and just incredible.  That night and the days before and after were the most unique part of the trip, and they were the most memorable.  Everything from the camel rides to the dinner, and even the accommodations, came together to create a really special experience.  

Zoom: How were the hotels?

Jonathan: The hotels made a big difference, especially the ones in Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech.  The Four Seasons, Palais Faraj and La Mamounia were all spectacular, and we particularly enjoyed the three nights at La Mamounia.  The riads in Chefchaouen were not the luxury accommodations we enjoyed in some of the other cities, but they were great choices that fit the city perfectly and we really enjoyed the intimacy and local color they provided.  In Tangier the unforeseen circumstances were unfortunate {last minute hotel change due to a power outage}, but we nonetheless enjoyed the hotel and the change did nothing to diminish the experience.  And I cannot mention hotels without including another very sincere note about how much we loved the desert camp – it was really a fantastic experience!     

Zoom: Did you feel comfortable to be traveling as part of a gay group through Morocco?

Jonathan: Yes, without any exceptions.  And that was a great surprise given some of the things I incorrectly assumed about Morocco.  There was not a single incident where I felt like being identified as a gay tour made a difference. 

Zoom: What were the benefits of traveling as part of a group?

Jonathan: The access – we never waited in lines, we never waited on tables, and we never encountered the “red tape” that is usually an unavoidable part of traveling on your own.  The group instead moved from place to place like a well-oiled machine, and that allowed us to see so much more without the time loss that accompanies waiting in lines and figuring things out as you experience them.  I also liked meeting the rest of the group and enjoyed the development of those relationships. 

Zoom: We traveled some long distances through Morocco. How were these journeys for you?

Jonathan: I sort of dreaded those trips after seeing them on the agenda, and I filled my IPad and backpack with things I thought would be needed to pass the time.  The bus trips ended up being relaxing, and because the bus was comfortable and had wireless access these trips also offered a chance to unwind, communicate with the outside world some, and even spend a little time quizzing Nabil (Morocco’s best guide ever).  Plus we traveled through some incredibly beautiful landscapes, so these trips even ended up being something far closer to a positive part of the journey.       

Zoom: How do you think things would have been different had you organized this on your own?

Jonathan: We would have seen half as much, at best, and we would have learned a lot less about the culture and history.  Plus, we would have waited in lines, made mistakes about restaurants, been without a clue which merchants should be visited or avoided, and generally experienced the trials and errors that are part of traveling on your own.  Sometimes those things can be a fun part of the adventure, but with Morocco we really enjoyed being able to focus on the country and the culture without the homework and planning we would have been saddled with had we attempted this without Zoom.     

Zoom: You mentioned that you usually are a planner and organizer of your vacations. What was it like to allow us to handle things?

Jonathan: It was interesting.  We initially had to resist the urge to overthink details like timing, meals, and even things like the impacts from changes in the weather.  But we very quickly realized that the beauty of being part of a tour with a group like Zoom is that you can focus on enjoying the experience without worrying about all the planning – and that made the trip really become stress free and far more relaxing.  Knowing that someone else was taking care of these things made a big difference – and because these things are handled so well it really added a whole new element to the trip as the hassle of traveling is converted to excitement over what comes next!

Zoom: What do you think your friends would appreciate from the Zoom Vacations experience?

Jonathan: Lots, but most of all the level of preparedness.  We managed to spend eleven easy nights in Morocco, and while our group did hit a snag or two with hotels, weather and other unavoidable circumstances, none of these lessened the experience because Bryan and Nabil were able to figure out an alternative plan before we ever knew there was even a need.  The fact that this much effort goes into the planning was obvious to those on the trip, and I think our friends and others joining Zoom’s tours would all appreciate these efforts, too.   

Zoom: Did this trip give you the opportunity to expand your comfort zone?

Jonathan: Yes and no.  We have a pretty broad comfort zone when it comes to traveling, and while Morocco was definitely a country where the experiences were all new and immersive, the realities that we did not have to worry about safety, logistics, or even finding food all kept us in a pretty comfortable mindset the whole trip.

Zoom: During the trip, you took a lot of photos. Are you the type who always takes a lot of pictures, or was there something special about the scenery or lighting?

Jonathan: Morocco is really a photographers dream, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of editing and enjoying those images now that we are back.  That always kind of extends the trip, and like everything else with Morocco, it has been a great experience.  I definitely take a lot of pictures on trips, but there is no question about it – Morocco was special in every way and the colors, lights, sights and other elements made it all memorably unique.     

Zoom: How do you think our group was received by local people we met?

Jonathan: Very well, and that seemed to be both because we had our guide, Nabil, with us – and he is the most liked person in the country – and because the Moroccans are so accommodating with tourists.  I cannot think of an example where we were not received with open arms.   

 Zoom: Did you feel you had things in common with your fellow travelers? Did you make any new friendships?

Jonathan: This was our first organized multi-day tour, and one thing we took away from it is the acknowledgment that these tours generally attract others who enjoy getting off the beaten path and exploring the world.  We made several friends on the trip that I am confident will remain part of our lives for years, and maybe even more trips, to come.        

Zoom: How was the SHOPPING?

Jonathan: I admittedly had no idea what to expect from the Moroccan marketplaces, and they are one aspect of the country we could have added days and days exploring.  Rather than popping in and out of an assortment of shops, Bryan and Nabil guided us to several more established and legitimate places, which meant that we often got to not only see and purchase high quality stuff, but we also were often able to see the goods being made and hear about the process.  Morocco offers endless opportunities to shop for really unique items, and I cannot imagine a more fun and exciting place to buy just about any handmade item you can imagine.

Zoom: What is on your next Zoom bucket list?

Jonathan: Laos, Sri Lanka, or Vietnam & Cambodia.  It’s tough to pick!

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