I love exploring different countries primarily for their food, culture and people. I enjoy writing and sharing about my visits, knowing that my stories will evoke great enthusiasm from my readers. As I prepared for an excursion to Morocco, it struck me that what drives me is a sense of exploration. And, that exploration is not merely jetting off to foreign locales. Exploration is a pursuit!
To connect with old colleagues like Chef Jean- Georges Vongeritchen whom I had met back in the Hong Kong days during our work at The Mandarin Oriental. More than that, I am propelled by the exploration of life – this is my pursuit.
Exploration can happen to you wherever you are – you needn’t book a flight to become an explorer. The local places and people and experiences are all opportunities for discovery. It simply requires identifying what is unique and undiscovered – basically, there is a lot to explore.
Explorer at Heart
Never having thought of myself as an explorer, upon reflection it seems an apt description.
But what exactly is “exploration”?
Certainly it requires observation. As we arrived at La Mamounia in Marrakech, I was immediately drawn to the architecture, aesthetics, colors and grandeur of the ornate resort that was built a hundred years ago. But it was the lush and well-manicured gardens that drew me in. Exploration is much about spotting “life” happening. And nothing is more life affirming than beautiful gardens.
Exploring Means Engaging
However, there is more to exploration than mere observation or presence. Being in a new place doesn’t necessarily mean that we have captured all that a new place or experience can offer.
For that we need to engage and listen. Get involved. Become a part of that place, experience a situation beyond what we can observe on the surface (with our eyes).
During our first meal in Marrakech, we were served a rich, textured, bright orange jammy chutney and I immediately had to find out more. As is common with me, I spend time getting to know the servers wherever I eat. So, I called the server over to inquire about this jam-like delight.
Abdul, well versed on the menu, explained it was made from local organic pumpkin! Never had I encountered that. I continued to question the recipe and made a note to inquire further with Executive Chef Agouray, during our pre scheduled meeting.
Discovering New Friends
To truly explore we need the ability to observe with our eyes, but it is much more. We need our ears…and much more, we need our mind. It is by processing a compilation of inputs (which requires more than just passive acknowledgment of something new) – it is engaging in the undiscovered. Exploration is much about listening with all of our senses.
As my husband can attest, I don’t settle with simply concluding “oh, that’s interesting.” I need to know more. We all do, if we are to enrich our lives. Not just attaining more “facts”, but more knowledge and know-how. We need all of our senses to be shocked every now and then.
I stopped a manager just outside Le Bar Majorelle, to inquire about the orange and lemon groves I noticed. She explained at length how the property contains olive trees, banana and other produce, which is used in many of the restaurants. “Every morning, our guests receive fresh orange juice from our own grove!”
She was so pleased to have the chance to share about the work she loves, that suddenly we were engaged in conversation. We made a connection. It just took one question. But by showing interest in someone else’s work, we struck up a lovely dialogue and I made a friend.
I have made a few new friends here since arriving. After only a day, people know me by name and I know them. They take extra care to ensure I am well looked after, and I take the opportunity to praise their efforts. To build them up.
It Involves Work
Don’t get me wrong. Exploration is not always easy. It takes work. I tend to plan out most of the reservations, car pick ups, etc. with the hotel concierge prior to our departure to ensure a quality time at the destination itself. Sometimes language barriers and time difference can be challenging but the communication via phone and email ahead of time is most beneficial in most cases. This also tells me the hospitality style and level of the establishment.
Just arriving in Morocco was a great challenge. Long lines at airport gates and passport control. A lack of clarity about what forms to fill out and what the “rules” are. But through all of that, I find ways of seeking out new things. (Of course, upon arrival in Morocco, I ended up having a long chat with the passport control officer, who was so pleased and proud to talk about his home country.)
Discovery involves attentiveness. What are the details that matter? That’s what I ask of myself. What captures my eye should involve someone – a person who can help me in my exploration. This is the moment where we need to engage with people.
Be in the Moment
In our “connected” society it is easy to allow the internet to do our learning for us. Thank the Lord, I am still “old school”. I want to hear and learn from people who should know, rather than just looking it up online. Its not always easy just walking up to someone to learn more, but the repeated effort in asking, is what makes discovery possible.
Engaging with others also allows one to stay “in the moment” and not be drawn to easy answers. Be in the moment. Seek out that person and give them the opportunity to share.
And I guess that is what exploration is ultimately about – giving others the opportunity to guide us in discovery. Unearthing the truth about a new thing, requires people and vantage points that I won’t have. I can discover something new, but always with my “Kiran filters” on. I need other filters, other points of view, if I am to truly understand something new.
Upon our arrival we were warmly greeted by hotel staff. Then served a refreshingly special welcome drink, of almond milk laced with orange blossom essence. Bandar, the Concierge, told us “this is especially for you, our VIPs!” I remarked, ‘I am sure every guest is a VIP for you’.
Exploration takes us outside of ourselves, to discover what is special about some place else or someone else. That is what life is about. Yet, somehow, discovery also prepares us for self-exploration. To better understand what makes us tick – our foibles and strengths alike. We needn’t fear taking an exploration into our own life.
But we must continue to explore…make the most of each day, wherever there is something to discover.
Don’t stop exploring!