The Travel Seven: Nia Groce

Name: Nia Groce 
Home City/Country: Brooklyn, NY / USA
Occupation: Writer, Photographer
Website/Social: Instagram: @niag / www.eclectic-culture.com
Passport Stamps Include: Spain, Curacao, Morocco, The Bahamas, United Kingdom, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Portugal, The Netherlands, Qatar.

1. My best travel memory so far is… It is truly hard to pick just one! But one that definitely stands out in my mind is my trip to Morocco for my 26th birthday and specifically, the hot air balloon ride I took. I made it to Marrakech early in the morning (or late night) of my birthday, around 1 AM. The riad I was staying at had arranged for me to be picked up at the airport and when I found my driver, he took me to the riad where I was in awe of the room but had little time to explore or look around because I had to be up in just three hours for my first activity. I woke up around 4:30 AM and got dressed to get ready for my first birthday excursion- a hot air balloon ride! It would be my first hot air balloon ride, something I had always wanted to do, and it was also my first time in Morocco.

The SUV drove the group of us that were taking the ride deep into some unknown, flatlands about an hour away from the city center. It was pretty cold outside but as the sun started to rise the beauty of the landscape made me forget all about the brisk air. As the hot air balloon workers, for lack of better words, worked to pump up the air balloon we saw other balloons around us take off into the sky. I was getting super excited! Finally, our balloon was inflated and the workers yelled to us “come help us,” and we all had to run and jump in the cart so that the balloon would not fly away lol. Very quickly, we were floating above the ground and soon we were 3,000+ feet into the sky. Everyone in my group was extremely quiet during the ride—even whispering to one another instead of talking normally. It’s as if we did not want to disrupt the serene, silence of daybreak over the peaceful landscape. I rode for about 45 minutes above the lands of Morocco, enjoying the view and having to tell myself many times that this was REALLY happening.

Throughout the journey, I thanked God for allowing me to spend my birthday morning in such an amazing way. When the ride was over, we went into a tent near the launch site and had a traditional Berber breakfast of Moroccan pancakes, orange juice and of course, mint tea, something that they have at EVERY Moroccan meal. I was finished with my trip before the afternoon had even hit in Morocco and ready to take on the rest of my birthday and explore the new country.

2. My favorite hotel & why… Riad Jardin Secret, if you can call it a hotel. The riad I stayed at in Marrakech for my birthday was so elaborate, gorgeous and perfectly decorated. The interior was so inviting, colorful and there were cool, chill spots everywhere to hang out and relax. My favorite part of the riad I think would have to be the terrace. I loved having my breakfast there every morning and lounging in the bright sun on one of the many wrap around couches available. The riad also has its own cool gift shop with unique finds. It is perfect for hip individuals looking for a cute and cozy spot to relax and unwind after braving the hustle and bustle of the city center.

3. My must-haves on any flight are… Headphones, toothbrush/toothpaste, wipes, lip balm (I use Smith’s Rosebud Salve) and my favorite blanket scarf that my mama randomly bought me one time, it is one of my absolutely favorite travel accessories.

4. When I’m on the road, I absolutely hate… Sitting in front of that person that likes to move around a lot and kick your seat every 30 seconds in the process. Lots of praying when this happens!

5. My dream destination or vacation is… The Maldives- it is absolutely beautiful! But on top of that, we always see the Maldives for its beautiful resorts and beaches but I am curious to know about the culture that is underlying in this gorgeous escape.

6. The three things I can’t travel without are… Outside of my passport and iPhone… 1) Nikon 2) Mac 3) A backpack of some sort for day-to-day excursions

7. The top lesson I’ve learned while traveling is… Be prepared for anything and everything but roll with the punches! I’m currently in Spain and, as a blogger, it is a no brainer to take my Nikon with me everywhere and shoot with it everyday. Well, my first week into my 6-week trip here my camera went out on me and I was so upset! I was not expecting this or prepared at all. I had to invest in a new camera and was not planning to drop those hundreds on top of me being in another country as is. I realized that some things, you just can’t control. I know this, but it really hit home for me when my camera went out of commission. A few weeks after it died out, I bought a new one but it definitely changed around a lot of my travel plans and what I had wanted to do with that money. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the ability to even buy a new camera and it just means that whatever I had planned maybe was not meant for me at that time and I have to adjust my journey which might be for the best!

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