Marie starts her epic around-the-world journey by shedding baggage - both physical and emotional
I threw my old jeans and purple sweater into a plastic bag and went down to the used-clothing bin I'd seen outside the El Corte Inglés department store.
I tossed in the bag. That had been my plan, to wear old clothes on the plane to escape the New York winter, then to ditch them in Malaga, Spain, before I headed south to the heat and humidity of West Africa. I'd need them again when I got to Cape Town, where it would be winter, but that was four months and 50+ bus rides away. I wasn't going to carry my winter clothes through 16 countries just in case Cape Town was chilly in June. There are stores in Cape Town, I reasoned. And not long after that, I'd be in Bangkok, where clothes are cheap. I'd stock up there before starting the Asian leg of my round-the-world trip, which would include Tibet and Bhutan.
But then, standing in front of the used-clothing bin, I hesitated. I'd planned to throw out my winter coat there too. I'd selected carefully, choosing a thin coat I hadn't worn in years.
What if I needed my coat tonight in Melilla, the Spanish-Moroccan enclave I was boarding the ferry to in a few hours? What if it was chilly on the ferry? What if I didn't manage to get straight through to the beach city of Essaouira in Morocco the next day? What if I got stuck in the north? Brrr.
You've gotten soft, Marie, I told myself. Ten years ago, on the original year-long MariesWorldTour.com, I wouldn't have hesitated here for one second. And, back then I had less fat to keep me warm...
I took off the coat, slowly checked the pockets, and tossed it in the bin. I heard it slip in, the gentle slide of fabric against steel. There. No turning back.
I hurried down to the port. How was my rucksack still so heavy? I catalogued my possessions in my head, wondering what could go into the used-clothing bin next. Or could the problem be me? Was I weak after years of sedentary desk-job living? Was this the reason I couldn't carry a reasonable amount of clothing and doxycycline around the world?
Sweating, I arrived at the ferry. Had I traveled to Tangier from Algeciras, or gone in the summer, I could shot through to Morocco on a fast catamaran, then gotten a train straight to Marrakech. But I'd been interested in seeing Melilla ever since I'd learned that it featured the second-largest concentration of Modernisme architecture outside of Barcelona—a Gaudí disciple named Enrique Nierto had left his mark. To see Melilla, I had to sit on this ship for eight hours.
The ferry had few passengers and was a bit more rundown than I'd expected. A cockroach scurried around the ladies room. The cheap seats, which I'd booked, were mostly broken, stuck in the reclining position. My iPhone went offline once we got into the open water of the Mediterranean, but I welcomed the lack of distractions. I'd been running at full-speed for weeks—I always say that if you can get out of your house with your passport and luggage, making it onto the plane without having a nervous breakdown, the rest of an extended trip is easy.
We pulled into Melilla after dark, in front of a sixteenth-century fortress. I was finally back on the African continent. I grinned to myself, feeling like an idiot but having no one to share my excitement with. In the morning, I'd dodge women in headscarves and office workers as I took a self-guided walking tour among these lovely old buildings, and then take a #2 public bus to the border for .75 euros, where I'd be able to walk straight into Morocco to catch a Casablanca-bound sleeper train that would connect through to Marrakech. I'd visited much of Morocco on two previous trips, so I'd head straight to Essaouira, which was new to me.
But tonight, in Melilla on the northern coast of Africa, it was chilly. I shivered, then wondered where I could buy a coat.
Marie Javins writes books, teaches aspiring comic book colorists in New York, edits Kuwaiti comic books and travels the world by public bus. You can read more about her current expedition – a second round-the-world journey – at MariesWorldTour.com.