wealth is all relative 2 child beggars

After spending a bit longer than expected in Spain (hey, it was an AMAZING country!! I could easily spend years there!), I was psyched for the next leg of the adventure–taking a ferry across the Strait of Gilbraltar to Morocco!

Boy, was it a fun start. A bit of culture shock combined with an unfortunate (but in hindsight, hilarious) AirBnB mishap. We hadn’t had much luck with requesting hosts for Couchsurfing, so AirBnB is my lodging method of choice.


Our AirBnB host, M, had never used it before. He had accepted our booking a month ago, but then forgot the exact dates, and could not log back into the same account because he accidentally created a different one (beware “logging in with Google” vs. “logging in with Facebook”!). We thought it was a bit odd that he didn’t respond to our multiple messages updating him on our journey there, but we didn’t think much of it.

To be honest, we were also probably having too much fun on the way there. In Spain, there is quite an international crowd. We had met so many diverse, talented, and wonderful people, and the shared car ride we took down to the ferry was the most enjoyable one of all by far! (We rode with BlaBlaCar, a very cool app that lets you carpool with people going your way! Like a safe version of hitchiking! for a small fee to help the driver out with gas, but it is WAY cheaper than buses even!)

We rode with an Italian/Belgian driver who had been up and driving straight for 30 hours, a Spanish middle-aged woman on her way to weekend tripper’s paradise, a small Spanish city in the north coast of Africa called Ceuta, and a young Polish woman who was doing Workaway to fund her travels. SO many languages were thrown around in that car, yet we all understood each other through gestures, facial expressions, and laughter.

When we arrived in Morocco, still no word from our host. No big deal, I thought, since we had the address, and I’m sure we could ring the bell, or find someone’s phone we could borrow for a few minutes. We also could buy a SIM card; there was a phone service store right next door. Well it turns out the address was wrong! Very, very wrong. Like a 10-minute-taxi-ride-away wrong.

Our host, M, sounded so surprised to hear we were there! He was still at work apparently, and still had to pick up his wife. I had taken French in high school, but with fatigue, stress, and disbelief that we had walked all that way lugging our suitcases uphill, I didn’t know how to explain where we were. Luckily, everyone was very kind in Morocco, and the phone store’s owner spoke with him and even waited with us until he arrived, which took over an hour.

He and his wife shuttled us into a taxi, and we quickly found out that seatbelts are not a thing. Also the taxi driver was super casual, stopping at a juice stand on the street like a drive-through, and even running out to order a sandwich, leaving us with the car door open and the engine on! We also tried to get the correct address, but apparently it was on an unnamed road! The nearby streets were all in Arabic, so at least that was helpful. Thank God for Google Translate!

Other fun tidbits — there are barely any crosswalks or lights for pedestrians, even on the big roads, so it’s a game of chicken out there on the streets, there’s no toilet paper, as it’s custom to use one’s hand instead, and almost everything is cash only in Morocco, and most citizens don’t even have a bank account! M had not even finished setting up his AirBnB account since he had no way to receive the payment! We had fun troubleshooting and helping him out, and eventually talked him into setting up a bank account.

M and his wife Z were fantastic hosts. They went above and beyond for us. They took us out sightseeing, showing us the best spots known only to the locals, and we shared a delicious Moroccan dinner almost every night. We learned that they were both self-employed and could make their own hours, but worked hard. But they were happy, and said several times that “life is simple here in Africa.”

They didn’t make very much, but also didn’t need very much. Everything was so affordable; a good-sized meal was the equivalent of $2-3, and most taxi rides $1-2. But it seemed everyone had to hustle. There were so many little shops and stands all along the streets, and even little children were going around trying to sell tissues or pastries, to help their families out. M told us that many parents could not afford to send their children to even primary school. Education was not valued and many were illiterate. Healthcare was also grim; he cautioned us “don’t go to hospitals here” if possible, unless you have the money to pay for a private one. And Morocco has one of the best economies compared to other African countries.

It struck me how much tourism was helping their country, and how much our AirBnB money would mean to them. What was incredibly cheap to us was their normal. A $15/night rate with them was a third of their daily income. I felt so humbled by how people who had so little could act like they had so much and be so generous to strangers. They were so upbeat, joyful, and down to earth. It truly hammered home that money does not buy happiness. Of course, a certain amount is needed to meet your basic needs for food and shelter, and it varies depending on where you live. But beyond a certain “satiation point,” there is no further increase in happiness with more money.

Instead, what fuels lifelong happiness is almost all under our control. 10% is due to our life circumstances, and 90% is how we react to them. “The Happiness Equation” by Neil Pasricha was a life-changing book for me. I know it sounds cheesy, but we can purposefully create happiness for ourselves in many ways, such as practicing gratitude, giving to others, and being in the state of Flow as much as possible, among many other techniques. Happiness is a muscle, and flexing it matters.



When I realized that I had learned to be happy no matter how much life as a medical trainee threw at me and tried to beat me down, I felt this incredible sense of power, contentment, and reassurance that everything will be okay. No matter what choices I make or risks I take, I can find a way to be happy, wherever I end up. Of course, I try to take calculated risks, since I do need some money to meet my basic needs.

However, despite how important a certain amount level of wealth is, under no circumstances is it ever worth it to sell your soul/sacrifice your happiness to an extreme extent, just for the money. America is so workaholic; to me, it does not make sense to spend your life sacrificing your physical, mental, and spiritual health to chase wealth, (as so many medical workers and others do and even brag about. 24 hour shifts, 80-100 hour workweeks, answering medical questions even while on vacation…) only to have poor health later on which will cost you the very wealth you worked so hard to get in the first place.

Why is it seen as “lazy” or “selfish” to know yourself and prioritize your health above all else? We only get one life, one body, one mind. When you are not in good health, everyone suffers. You are not in the right state of mind to give to others, others who need you, such as your family and other loved ones. When you have enough and are at peace with yourself, that positive energy and abundance overflow to others naturally. Why not enjoy your life in moderation and learn to want less? After all, “wealth consists not in having great possessions, but by having few wants.” It’s also been found that spending money on experiences rather than material things leads to greater happiness.

America’s consumerism culture makes us think we need brand name houses, cars, and lots of stuff to be happy. But other people all over the world are living with so much less and are just as, or possibly even more, happy. At the end of your life, all your possessions won’t matter. All that matters is how much you loved, how much you gave, and how you made others feel/how you touched or changed their lives. That is a legacy that lives on well after you die.

Traveling opens our eyes. It makes us better people. Seeing different ways of live and others who have different things truly make us appreciate all that we have. “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Quote by Helen Keller. That is why I love traveling so much, and believe it is vital for lifelong growth and self-improvement.

I truly recognize and appreciate what wonderful people like M and Z gave to us and the lessons they taught us. I greatly believe in karma, and want to pass that along to others in whatever ways I can.

One response

  1. […] I’m so thankful to report that so far my dad has been recovering. He hit a turning point a few days ago when he stopped fevering, however he is still weak and short of breath with walking.He isn’t out of the woods yet, but we are appreciating every moment with him. I don’t have any regrets because I have been, am, and will be doing all that I can, to love my loved ones.I appreciate that attention was called to what is truly important in life. He even admitted that he learned from this experience to be kinder to himself, as he had still been working overnight and weekend shifts. But he plans to cut back from now on. After all, wealth is not worth sacrificing health for. […]

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Who am I?
Hi! I'm Dr. Toni, a carTOONIst. I empower, educate and advocate for women and minorities through my art and coaching, while traveling nomadically. I help others also follow our hearts and live true to themselves, no matter what others say!
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