There were so many things to buy in Morocco.
First of all, I was mesmerized by the olives. I was twenty and had just got over my childhood dislike of them. So I wanted to try every glossy variety—black, purple, green, red. Next, I bought a cheap necklace, heady chunks of incense resin, and a pair of brown clay tagine pots. (After these two weeks in Rabat and Casablanca, I was certain I’d spend the rest of my life preparing Moroccan recipes.) Finally, I was ready for my last purchase: a set of tiny glasses for drinking sugary mint tea.
The atmosphere in the crowded night market was exuberant. As this was during Ramadan, the vast majority of Moroccans were fasting from dawn to sunset—no food or water, no cigarettes or sex. Now, in the market under the stars, it seemed everyone had celebration on their mind. I saw sweets and spices for sale, carpets and baskets. Then I spotted the tea glasses.
The vendor had his wares spread out on a tarp directly on the ground, and when I paused to take a look, there was a random surge in the crowd, and I was shoved—went flying. I thought for sure I’d land on so much delicate glass, but suddenly the same crowd that had pushed me pulled me back.
Not a single glass broke. Somehow, though, my heart broke open. A stranger in a jewel-toned kaftan had taken my hand, and I felt instantly, deeply connected to her, thankful to her. Inexplicably, the feeling of gratitude and connection spilled over. For a heartbeat, which felt like a long time, I loved every stranger-turned-friend—not only those on the streets of Rabat but all over the globe.
This, for me, was a profound experience. Could I have had it in my hometown? Yes, but it’s no accident I had it in a country not my own. As Zen teacher Anita Feng puts it in this issue, “Travel is a meditation because we must constantly inquire: Where am I? What is this? And this? The jolt of foreignness can spur awakening.”
For this issue of Lion’s Roar, the cover story is travel as a spiritual path. You’ll find personal stories of transformational journeys, a guide for going on pilgrimage in India, suggested things to see in Buddhist America, and thoughtful explorations of why traveling develops insight and compassion.
So many of us have forgone travel for the past few years due to Covid-19. These pages will help you plan future trips—whether you’re ready to take them this year or five years from now. And, if you’re anything like me, these pages will inspire you to recall past trips. You’ll want to contemplate what they meant to you, how they changed you, how they’ve stayed with you.
It’s been many years since I went to Morocco. In all this time, I’ve only made a meal or two with my tagine pots, and I don’t think I’ve ever used my tea glasses. My best souvenir—from the French for remember—is my memory of that night in the market. Thinking about the wonderous sense of connection I felt with the world, I get a glimmer of that feeling in this very moment. We really are all connected.