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Travel stories

Capturing beauty on tour in Morocco and beyond

Jan 20, 2017 by Jamie Mc Laughlin

For traveler and creative professional Michael, beauty shines wherever he goes. Perhaps it’s the way golden lighting filters through an archway. Or, how a building’s architecture complements a landscape. Here, he shares some of his mesmerizing photos and talks about being wowed while on his first tour in Scandinavia and his second in Portugal, Spain & Morocco.

Hassan II Mosque, Casasblanca, Morocco

Plaza de Toros, Seville, Spain

What do you love about traveling?

I love to travel because it opens my mind and my heart to experience new things, and it teaches me to be more adaptable. In order to have a richer life, I make sure to save up for a trip, big or small, every year. I believe that the more I see the world, the more I appreciate it. And, while seeing a destination is now just a click away, nothing beats the real-life experience.

How does travel impact your work as a creative professional?

I grow tremendously as a creative person whenever I travel. Seeing the world allows me to learn about new cultures and to connect the dots from what I learned in the classroom a long time ago. Plus, I’m a very visual person, and I enjoy the sense of discovery that comes when looking at things as a photographer.

Drottningholm Palace, Drottningholm, Sweden

Fes, Morocco

What do you look for when capturing the perfect snapshot?

I’m not a photojournalist, and therefore my photography is not meant to inform, but merely to illustrate beauty wherever I go. I love to capture simplicity in noisy places, and I feel like I got more out of my trips because I was constantly looking for something beyond what a typical traveler would capture. Lighting is everything, so the time of day makes a big difference on the outcome of a photo. I’m also always drawn to shapes and patterns, especially from architecture.

It seems like you enjoy reliving your journeys on your Instagram page.

I think the most valuable things in one’s life are our memories, so I’m always seeking opportunities to have extraordinary experiences and create new memories around the world. For me, Instagram serves as a visual journal that helps trigger memories of special moments after returning home.

Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

The Royal Palace, Oslo, Norway

I’d love to hear more about each of your tours! What initially drew you to Scandinavia?

I like to visit places that I’m less familiar with, and Scandinavia was one area in Europe that I wanted to learn more about. All I knew was that Scandinavia is full of beautiful landscapes and beautiful people. Plus, I’m a big fan of modern furniture design, and some of the great furniture designers are from that region.

Were you drawn to Portugal, Spain & Morocco for similar reasons?

Portugal has been on the list of up-and-coming places to visit lately, and while I know more about Spanish culture than many other European cultures, I’d never been to Spain. However, the most attractive part of the trip was Morocco, hands down! If you want to visit Africa, seeing Morocco should be at the top of your list. In all three countries, the architecture and the beauty of the Moorish influences were truly magical.

Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal

Islands Brygge, Copenhagen, Denmark

Are there any special on-tour moments that stand out for you?

The most memorable moment was when my 12-year partner proposed to me on top of Fløyen mountain overlooking the beautiful city of Bergen, Norway. Of course I said yes! We’ve now been legally married for over a year. Our visit to Seville, Spain was also extra special because my home is in Kansas City, Missouri, which is Seville’s sister city. My husband, friend, and I were giddy to see the real La Giralda because we have a smaller replica of the bell tower in our hometown.

Of all the things you saw on each tour, which struck you as the most beautiful?

In Morocco, the light was mesmerizing. I’m still dreaming about the country’s beautiful mosques, and how the cinematic sunlight filtered through openings. I loved the simplicity of seemingly intricate architectural details, and the play of light and shadow. Also, many Moroccan medinas were color-coordinated, and the hilltop town of Chefchaouen was painted in different shades of blue—it was such a feast for the eyes! Some say that it was Jewish refugees who painted the town blue, representing the sky and the heavens, as a reminder to live a life full of spiritual awareness. Others believe that the buildings were painted blue simply because it helps keep the mosquitos away. It was stunning.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Asilah, Morocco

Are there any tricks for staying inspired and tapping into your creative side on tour?

I think the best advice is from Nike: “Just do it.” Don’t overthink it. Inertia is our biggest enemy. I stay inspired by looking at the others peoples’ work and reading their blogs. All great artists inspire each other.

Which photographers or other artists do you admire and look to for inspiration?

Elizabeth Kirby is the author of localmilkblog.com. She coined the hashtag #theartofslowliving. Everything through her eyes (and lens) looks more beautiful and meaningful, whether it is travel, food, or relationships.

Cueva de La Rocio, Granada, Spain

Tapas at Don Juan de Alemanes, Seville, Spain

What were some of the best meals you tried in each destination?

In Portugal and Spain, the entire dining experience was just as memorable as the taste of the food itself. I loved the atmosphere of the Mercado da Ribeira in Lisbon and the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid. Spanish tapas were amazing, and the smaller plates allowed us to sample a larger variety of foods. While we were a little cautious about what we ate in Morocco because of the water, I will never forget trying beef kefta in Chefchaouen—it was the best meal of the entire trip!

What did you like about traveling on guided tours?

I saw my trips as introductions to destinations that seemed a little too foreign for me to travel to on my own. Having a good first experience is very important, and traveling on a guided tour reduced the stress because I didn’t have to worry about navigation, language barriers, safety, and costs. It made each experience more pleasant.

Quartier Habous, Casablanca, Morocco

Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, Portugal

Which destinations inspire you? Tell us in the comments below, and head to Michael’s Instagram or personal website to check out more of his stunning work.


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About the author | Jamie Mc Laughlin
It was Jamie’s homestay in Germany that made her fall in love with travel (and her studies in Florence that really sealed the deal). When she’s not writing and sharing the magic of seeing the world with others, she’s usually on the lookout for her new favorite memoir, testing out recipes at home, or visiting her family on Cape Cod.

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