In 2010 I was feeling pretty excited because looming on the horizon was the Road Junky Film Festival – a hybrid event where we were going to show short films about travel and also have travellers come in to give motivating speeches and tell stories about their journeys around the world. We worked for 5 months on getting the festival ready, 500 people came along and had an amazing time, and then BAM! It was over and we had made just enough to cover a nice dinner.
I had been so busy during the festival that I hadn’t had much time to just hang out and meet people though I could see they were all having a good time. It occurred to me that wouldn’t it be nice to take more time with less people to really get to know them and hear their stories? Maybe we could even do a bit of meditation and yoga, too.
So I looked at the map and began to let my fingers trace over the map at the same time as my imagination was given free licence to go on a wander; passing over the Arctic Circle I wondered about sledges and huskies pulling us on towards the North Pole…but maybe we’d end up eating each other in a snowstorm…
Passing down to the Balkans I wondered about a gypsy caravan with horses and carts, camping at a new spot each night with violins and barefoot dancing around the fire…but I didn’t know the first thing about Gypsies and after a thousand years of persecution from white people they might not appreciate us turning up full of a Romantic vision of roaming around in little old wagons…
Could we instead build rafts and go down a big river somewhere, maybe the Danube on a homage to Huckleberry Finn? But something told me that a day on a raft would be an adventure. A week might be a nightmare.
Trying to do anything fun in Western Europe involves skirting health and safety regulations, getting moved on by the authorities, and generally spending more money than you can afford. So when my fingers reached Morocco and I remembered a trip to the Sahara I had made some 12 years before the idea of a meditation retreat popped up like the words to an old song. I had been to few places as beautiful as the sand dunes and I thought that in the middle of the emptiness and silence would be the perfect place for a bunch of travellers to come together and share some stories.
People began to sign up and I went to Morocco three weeks early to find the remote desert camp I had so confidently described on the website. I found exactly what I was looking for in a matter of days, of course, and the rest has become history. The meditation retreat goes from strength to strength each year and now I look forwards to heading back to the dunes every winter!
I have so many ideas each year (correlating to my caffeine intake) and, it has to be said, a lot of them are terrible. But the Sahara Retreat was one of those fertile seeds that sprouted right up and is now bearing fruit for everyone who comes each year.