One Of The Most Colorful, Vibrant & Intense Places You'll Ever Visit

On May 24, 2014, my fiancé, Andy, and I got married in New York City. A week later, we hopped on a plane with two carry-on suitcases and two one-way tickets to Paris. We had just pressed pause on our careers, sublet our apartment, and moved all of our things into storage. The only plan was to have no plans at all — and we ended up traveling for 394 days through 25 countries, stopping in nearly 100 destinations. Over the next few weeks, come along on this crazy journey to learn more about how we did it — packing, plotting, budgeting — and see some of the tens of thousands of photos we took along the way.

So where did we leave off? We had just made it to Sweden, our northernmost destination in Europe. Early in our trip, we learned that you can travel freely (meaning on one visa and without border checks) across the countries within the Schengen area in Europe. The only catch is that we had to be out of Europe in 90 days. Knowing that, we were able to book our transportation and accommodations in advance for Morocco, the first country we would visit outside of Europe. From Stockholm, we hopped on a flight back to France to meet my parents. After France, we decided to spent the last 10 of our 90 days in Spain.

As in Sweden, we lost our drive to be super-tourists and photograph our every waking moment in Spain. We the left the camera at home as we soaked up the energy in the streets of Madrid and went tapas bar hopping at night. We were floored by the beauty of Granada, nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, got lost in the lavish Alhambra palace, and watched authentic flamenco dancers perform at night. Our final stop in Spain was the southern, coastal town of Tarifa, where we could see a mountainous, never-ending mass of land across the ocean in the distance. It was hard to believe it was actually Africa. There’s only a short, hourlong ferry ride separating the two continents.

Within five minutes of stepping off the ferry boat in Tangier, our adventures in Morocco had officially begun. Friends of ours had told us about how aggressive the salesmen and hustlers could be in this country, and it proved to be true nearly immediately. We already had a guy following us to the parking lot, trying to grab our bags out of our hands, and absolutely insisting that he had the cheapest ride. After a showdown in the parking lot with four other cabbies, we landed on a price, which was no doubt 10 times the average fare. We had a full day to wander the streets of Tangier before we boarded an overnight train to Marrakesh, so we asked to be dropped off near the Medina. We couldn’t seem to find our seat belts in the back seat, and when we asked our cab driver he just cackled and said, "Seatbelts? No seatbelts here. Welcome to Africa!" Then, he floored it...

Tangier is a fascinating, gritty, cultural melting pot of a city — a mashup of Europe and Africa. We heard French, Arabic, and Spanish being spoken in the streets. We had just entered a whole new world of sights, smells, sounds, characters, religion, dress, food, and language. Rule #1? Don’t try on those fake Ray-Bans unless you intend to buy them...trust me.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We took an overnight train from Tangier to Marrakesh. I must say, we really lucked out with bunkmates throughout our travels. The sleeper cars usually have four berths, so you’re thrown into these cozy compartments with two other strangers. On this particular ride, we met a lovely, young Brazilian couple and swapped our Moroccan travel plans.

We arrived at the train station, got our bearings, and wrangled a cab to take us towards the Medina, where we would be staying. Marrakesh is divided into two distinct parts: the more modern, European district and the old historical part of the city, the Medina. Our cab driver took us from the newer district — easily recognizable by its modern hotels, stores, and fast-food chains — into the old Medina. We met the owner of our riad (hotel) at Jeema el Fna, the main square, because cars can’t go down many of the narrow passages that weave throughout the Medina from there. We arrived very early in the morning, so we got a rare glimpse at the calm before the storm in the main square. In a couple of hours, it would be packed with street performers, salesmen, and food stands.

Our host grabbed our bags and led us towards the riad. Entering the labyrinth of streets of Medina was like stepping back in time.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
I didn’t know what to expect when we approached the old, medieval door that led to our riad. It was about 300 pounds and we had to duck to even get under it. But once through, this elegant three-story home emerged. It made we wonder what other treasures were hidden behind the hundreds of nondescript doors on those streets.

I highly recommend staying in a riad when visiting Marrakech. They’re basically large homes that have been converted into hotels and inns. The key feature is an inner, open-air courtyard. We found our riad on Airbnb and fell in love with its beauty, charm, and hospitality. It was run by three young Italian expats. It was warm and welcoming, exquisitely decorated with African artifacts and every morning, we were served a light breakfast on the rooftop. We even got a home-cooked couscous dinner from one of the owners who happened to be a chef.

We initially thought we had rented one room, but were pleasantly surprised to be handed the keys to this mini studio of sorts which included a bedroom, two separate sitting areas and a large bathroom (for a fraction of the price of a European hotel). The rooms were adorned with original tile and woodwork that was hundreds of years old. We couldn’t believe it...as we did cartwheels through the bedroom.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
A detail shot of the domed ceiling above our bed.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We only had a few days to explore Marrakesh, so we got right out on the day and headed to see one of its most famous structures, the Koutoubia Mosque. Originally built about 1,000 years ago, it’s the largest mosque in Marrakesh. Its iconic minaret encapsulates the core themes of Moroccan architecture — decorative arches, bands of intricately decorated tiles, and those pointy teeth (merlons) running along the top of the walls.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
After visiting the mosque, we were ready to take on the souks (open air markets.) The souks in Marrakesh are the largest in Morocco. You can try to go in with some kind of plan or map, but you’re most likely going to get lost in the endless, intersecting pathways. That’s really the best part! It’s a sensory overload — packed with characters, colors, trinkets, and treasures around every turn. We just let our curiosity guide us. After an hour or so of going in circles, we started to recognize corners and were able to make our way back to the spice market for lunch. This photo is taken from the roof of the Nomad restaurant. Highly recommended.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Rug heaven. I had to use every ounce of my willpower not to spend all of our money buying and shipping rugs across the globe.

Priorities...priorities...
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
And I was crazy about these woven baskets wrapped in colorful yarns. Epic color palettes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
At this time of the day, the sun leaked through the lightly covered roof in parts of the souk — shooting stripes of light across dark alleyways.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
A salesman submerged in a sea of dried fruits. This is one of my favorite photos. It captures the density of the stalls in these souks.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
A shot of the street below, from the rooftop of our riad.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
There’s really no other spectacle like Jemaa el-Fna, the main square of the Medina, which has been providing the same goods, foods, and entertainment for nearly 1,000 years. During the day, you can grab some fresh-squeezed orange juice or watch snake charmers and acrobats perform in front of restaurants. But at night, the food stalls come out and huge clouds of smoke billow over the scene.

Against the advice of many, we braved eating in the square and just followed the rule of eating wherever there were the most locals. We wedged ourselves in-between some locals on a picnic table and enjoyed a variety of small plates. General rule — go for anything that has been cooked and skip anything that may have been rinsed or washed in water. We lived to tell the tale and spent the rest of the night exploring the square and people-watching. It’s just amazing how many people fill this area on a nightly basis. You can barely walk through the streets, because people are shoulder to shoulder, socializing, buying clothing and treats, and zipping by in motorbikes through the narrow passageways.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
In my next venture into the markets, I was determined to find the Souk Cherifia. In comparison to the jam-packed stalls of the other souks, I had read that this space was more like a mall, with individual boutiques. By some miracle, I was able to navigate us to this specific souk — buried inside of another souk — in the midst of 100 souks. At this point, I had looked at endless hours of market finds, but the very last store we walked into caught my eye. If Brooklyn and Marrakech had a fashion lovechild, it would be Marrakshi LIFE. We started chatting with the American storeowner, Randall, and quickly came to learn that he was, in fact, from Brooklyn. He had left his life in New York as an art and fashion photographer to start this clothing line in Marrakech, using local materials and traditional techniques. To make a small world even smaller, we discovered that he and Andy may have even worked with some of the same people in New York.

It was so nice to chat with an American, especially someone so closely tied to our lifestyle at home. He recommended some restaurants and sights to see and we asked for the inside scoop on off-the-beaten path destinations in Morocco. He’s actually the reason we ended up in a small surf town outside of Essaouira called Sidi Kaouki.

I bought a collared, handwoven crop top with thick horizontal stripes and we made plans to catch a drink later at the famous La Mamounia hotel. Sadly, we couldn’t align schedules with our new friend that night. Sadder still, we couldn’t even step foot in La Mamounia ourselves, because we didn’t have nice enough shoes…but we still enjoyed our chance encounter with a kindred spirit that day.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Details at the Souk Cherifia.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
One afternoon, we visited the sweet little photography museum in the Medina — Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech. It’s housed in a renovated inn with beautiful tilework and ivy that drapes into the open courtyard. Its collection includes photographs of Morocco and gorgeous portraits of its inhabitants from the 1870s to the 1950s.

After our stop at the museum, we had lunch at the restaurant Kui-Zin. Since our arrival in Morocco, we had at least one tagine a day and had no plans of stopping. Here, Andy went with lamb tagine with apricots and I had the pastilla, which is basically a sweet and savory meat pie. This particular version is made with chicken, wrapped in a phyllo-like dough, and covered with cinnamon, sugar, and almonds.

And we had to put in an order for the ever-present Moroccan mint tea. If sugar is not your thing, beware. This will knock your socks off. It’s simply steaming hot water, a handful of fresh mint sprigs and an ungodly amount of sugar, all stirred together. But after you get over sugar shock, it is pretty addicting.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
I couldn’t leave Marrakesh without visiting the Jardin Majorelle. The garden and its famous electric-blue villa was once owned by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé. They bought the grounds from landscape painter Jacques Majorelle, who designed it in the 1920s, and were able to preserve his original vision for the space before turning it over to the city of Marrakesh to become a public museum. It’s home to an impressive collection of cacti, over 300 plant species, fountains, ponds, and an Islamic art museum.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We were toying with the idea of making the trip out to the edge of the Sahara desert. Once in Marrakesh, our riad owners convinced us to sign up for a tour through the company they usually worked with. They would arrange everything. We just had to show up in the courtyard the next morning and we’d be whisked away. Andy and I would usually do extensive research and comparison of the tour options out there, but we really liked and trusted our hosts, so we just went for it.

We hopped on a minibus with eight other couples and took the very last two seats in the back row with absolutely no leg room for our 6-foot-4 and 5-foot-10 frames. Only 12 hours to go! The plan was to break up the 12 hour ride out to Merzouga over course of two days, stopping to see some sights along the way. Then, we’d trek out on camelback, spend one night out in desert, and trek back in to make the long ride home in one shot on the last day. I spent most of the time shooting photos out the window of the bus, like this camel-riding pit stop, as we made our way deeper and deeper into no man’s land.

After a hour or so of driving, we hit some mountains and our path started to weave and wind. Before we knew it, the girl sitting next to us started puking in a plastic bag from car sickness. It was the beginning of quite the adventure...
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
One of the most impressive stops was Aït Benhaddou, a traditional mud brick city on the edge of the Atlas Mountains and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This fortified city, believed to have been established in 757, has been used as a backdrop for over 20 films, like Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, and Gladiator. Most of the original inhabitants have moved to the more modern city across the river, but apparently, families still remain in this archaic town. It was one of many villages we passed that seemed as if it had just risen up out of the ground.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
A little friend in a maze of red clay.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
I became obsessed with the doors of Morocco. We could make an entire photo album just out of my photos of doors! Every one we zipped past had a different pattern and a new color palette. I love how the color of this woman’s dress mimics the shapes in the door.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Another shot I snapped as we were driving by at 30 m.p.h. I was so pleased that I caught this woman entering the frame on the far left edge. The vibrant colors of her dress popped so strongly against this monochromatic background and is balanced by the windows and pastel green door on the right. We had never seen earth so saturated in rich oranges and reds. The colors were amazing.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Along the way, we also stopped at Todra Gorge — a canyon in the eastern part of the Atlas Mountains near the town of Tinghir. At its narrowest point, the canyon is 33 feet wide with rock walls that climb up to 525 feet on each side. Can you spot Andy in this picture at the base?
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
More scenes from the bus window. I love the way the yellow of these soccer uniforms dot the sandy backdrop.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
This is it. A little road that appears to lead out to nowhere on the edge of Sahara Desert in Merzouga. After two days of driving in the minibus, we were all more than happy to have arrived at our destination. We discovered early on that the tour company owner’s son and daughter were included in our group. I’m not 100% sure why they were there, but they seemed to be in their early 20s and acted like they owned...the country. They were loud, rude, and arrogant. At every rest break, we had to wait for them to finish the cigarettes and booze they picked up along the way. They blasted the radio at its highest volume and sang along for four straight hours on the bus. No really — four straight hours. It kind of felt like they were just bored and had joined the tour just to see if they could make any of us crack after spending 72 hours with them. Needless to say, we were ecstatic to get out of the bus and on with our journey.

We regrouped in a little hotel on the right side of this picture, strategically packed a light daypack, and wrapped our heads with scarves to protect our faces from the sand.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Ready for his Wes Anderson film audition...
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We crossed the street and started making our way out to the dunes of Erg Chebbi. There were about 30 camels were lined up and ready to transport the multiple tour groups that had now arrived into the desert. I couldn’t believe how vibrant and orange the sand was. It was completely surreal — like a scene from a movie.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
The moment before the fall...I honestly wasn’t that nervous about riding a camel.

I followed the tips that some fellow tourgoers shared on how to get up and keep your balance on its back. All went well. Just as I was admiring the beautiful blanket under my saddle and internally congratulating myself on a smooth ascent, my camel made a very sudden movement. In that split second, I could sense its panic and I just knew I was going down. The camel started bucking wildly and tossed me off its back. I fell eight feet to the ground and got the wind knocked out of me as I landed on my back. Another split second of shock and I heard Andy’s voice shouting “Kate, move!” I suddenly had a slow-motion moment from The Matrix and instinctively began dodging the camel’s pounding hooves, which were now trying to stomp me to death. The camel was finally wrangled and pulled away from me.

I was physically unharmed, except for a few bloody scratches and crick in the neck, but mentally traumatized. Before I could even process what had happened, they threw me on another camel and we set off on the two-hour ride into the dunes. I just remember shaking like a leaf on top of that camel as a wind storm kicked up sand all around us and into my fresh cuts. I was so thankful that they made us all wear scarves, because I had that thing wrapped around my entire face so that sand wouldn’t get into my eyes and mouth.

I’d just like to say that two hours on a camel is not...fun. It’s not like riding a horse. The dunes are so steep and camels' gaits are so wobbly that it felt like I was going to slide off the side at any moment. I was holding onto the little steel handlebar attached to the saddle so tightly that it left an impression in my hands when we finally got off. I can now check the "ride a camel" box...and never do that again. Whew.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
This tent was our home base in the desert for the night. Our hosts cooked vegetable couscous, which we ate by candlelight inside the massive tent. At night, they played traditional drums and sang songs around a bonfire. They had mattresses set up inside the tent, but many people found it too warm and claustrophobic, so we dragged them outside and fell asleep on the sand dunes. I’ll never forget waking up in the middle of the night to what felt like a floodlight being pointed right at me. It was the moon. I had never seen it so large and bright. After a run to the restroom (a.k.a. heading over to the other side of the nearest dune and digging a hole) I jumped back into my cocoon liner and fell asleep under the brightest stars I had seen since we were out on the open ocean in Sicily.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
The morning ride back in.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We endured the noisy, 12-hour bus ride back to Marrakesh with the wild children of the tour owner. At one point, I actually snapped at them and begged them to turn down the music, which they openly mocked me for the entire way home. By the time we got off, we were dirty, exhausted, and trying to shuffle through the madness of Jemaa el-Fna at night. On our way back to the riad, I nearly got robbed as someone tried to zip open my backpack in the crowded streets of the Medina. All in all, we were ready for a change in scenery.

The next morning, we took a bus to the coastal city of Essaouira and happily welcomed the calmer, less congested scene. Maybe we had just earned some street smarts in Marrakech, but we felt less on edge and pressured as we browsed the markets and strolled the streets. We saw windsurfers on the beautiful beachfront and checked out the impressive old harbor, packed with fishing boats. We also stumbled upon a fantastic restaurant, Elizir, that was decorated in a mashup of Moroccan artifacts and midcentury mod.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Rooftops views of Essaouira from our B & B.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Remember Sidi Kaouki? It was recommended to us by the American storeowner we met in the souk in Marrakech. Well, we took him up on that and found a ride from Essaouira to the sleepy, coastal village. And when I say sleepy, I mean one road with a handful of establishments, wild dogs, expats surfers, and tumbleweed blowing down the street. This is the kind of place where camels are lounging on the beach and men ride up to you on wild stallions asking if you want riding lessons. That actually happened.

We stayed in a lovely, family run B & B right on the beachfront and enjoyed a few days doing nothing but reading books and observing the characters of this little world. It was refreshingly untouched.
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