Recently, Zoe, part of the Flight 001 Wholesale crew by day and a Stylist by life, traveled West Africa and the West Sahara to visit Liberia and Morocco. Her trip was full of colorful textiles, fragrant spices, and lively people. We interviewed Zoe to get her take on these two seemingly close, but very different locales and the people behind the culture.
F1: First of all, how do you even prep for a trip like this?
Z: I used to be a last-minute packer but now that I’ve made an effort to become more organized, I plan out everything by day of the week–and I usually have two outfits per day. Not to plug, but Spacepak has actually helped a lot with this.
F1: So, this isn’t your first time visiting Liberia. How often do you go to Monrovia?
Z: My mom is actually the Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection–it’s a cabinet position in the executive branch–so I go there every other year to see her and visit the kids she works with. It’s great because I get to immerse myself with the culture and people there instead of just being a tourist. I’m able to get involved in various events and programs, which is really enlightening and humbling.
F1: What hits you first when you step off the plane there?
Z: The humidity. It greets you with a smack in the face as you walk down the steps of the plane, but after about an hour you get used to it, so it’s not too bad.
F1: How would you describe Monrovians, or at least the people you’ve met there?
Z: Noisy. Lively. Colorful. They’re very straightforward and do not like to sugar coat. There’s no tip-toeing around there. At the same time, they’re super friendly and everyone I’ve met has been more than ready to make new friends. They’re very welcoming.
F1: So going from a primarily government-based harbor city like Monrovia to a more industrial naval city like Casablanca, why did you choose Casablanca for the second leg of your trip?
Z: I had been once before. This time, I flew Air Maroc and had a 2-day layover as a nice buffer between the major part of my trip and returning home.
F1: Name three things you loved about Morocco and one thing you could do without:
Z: I loved shopping at the bazaar. There were so many cool textiles, spices, foods, and people. I loved that almost everyone spoke English. That made this trip so much easier to navigate and eliminated a lot of stress. I also loved how developed it is. There’s so much to see while you’re there. I could do without the persistent merchants at the market. And the food.
F1: Ok, what’s the deal with the food?!
Z: (Laughs) Just a little bland for my taste, that’s all.
F1: How would you describe the street vibes in Morocco?
Z: The people there are very modern and super relaxed, and they are traditionally Muslim. The streets are clean, especially compared to home (NYC), but there seemed to be no rules on the road when it came to driving. Looking back, I think I would’ve taken the train instead of a car from the airport.
F1: What would you say you took away from this experience?
Z: As a first-generation American, visiting Liberia has created less of a disconnect for me. From traveling, I’ve realized there is no better way to learned about a place or its people, than by going there. Now I have a better understanding of my lineage, like the tribes from both sides of my family, as well as the languages and traditions from each.
The two I identify with are Vai and Bassa–my name is actually a popular name within the Vai tribe. This past trip I was also able to visit my grandmother’s village which was so humbling. Spending time in a place so quiet and slower-paced was a great contrast to spending so much time in the city.
F1: That trip sounds like a lot to take in and an opportunity for some major jetlag. How do you decompress when you come home from a long trip?
Z: First thing I do is find something to eat. I’m usually really exhausted, so right after finding a good snack I like to rest up and reset my internal clock so I’m ready to get back to work by Monday.
F1: Well, since you’re always traveling, what’s up next?
Z: Greece. The plan is Mykonos, Santorini, and Athens. Can’t wait!