An International Women’s Day Special Feature
Her name is Azhaa. A native of Florida, but spent her years growing up in Southern California. Her love for nature and adornments made from the tiny pieces of the Earth came naturally as she was born on the Earth Day, April 22nd in the early 80s.
I met her last year in Fez, Morocco. We were both a volunteer in an English Academy that time. She was one of the most amazing women that I have met in Morocco. During those lazy days, in between coffee breaks, I had a chance to listen to her adventures in Europe. Her story inspired me and made me imagine of the world outside the zone of comfort, thinking that one day, I would be able to do the same thing— travel, let loose in the land unknown to me.
Since today is the International Women’s Day, I am featuring Azhaa. I believe that she is an example of a woman who never allows society to dictate who she is and who will she become.
A Taurus woman, Azhaa displays a strong and independent character traits common to all Tauruses. She is a businesswoman and lets her artistic side turns into soulful creations. She is the founder of We Crave For Beauty.
A feminist, fierce and free-spirited lady whose advocacy is gender equality and discovering the soulful beauty in every woman.
Azhaa, a traveling soul, and a fire-y spirited angel of adventure and dreams… this is her story.
A Yearlong Journey to the Other Side of the World
Written by: Azhaa Cosho
I have never had a real permanent home. I have been on the move since I was young, first with my mom and then when I got to be an “adult,” I did the same thing! I have lived in other states and traveled here and there in my teenage years. That’s why it’s necessary for me to create a nucleus of comfort; no matter where I am, I always make an altar of some sort of things I always carry with me, stones, textiles, dry flowers, and other little treasures.
I spent a short spell in northern California which ended in March of 2017 and decided I wanted to get out and roam the world again. I decided on some spots in Europe where I would do a bit of couchsurf, vagabond in a city, camping and a tiny bit of work exchange.
I flew to London and stayed for 2 weeks with a kooky but welcoming Italian girl. Later in March, I took my first neon green flix bus to Paris, France. Then I felt a wild desire to see a number of cities without spending much of the little bit of money. I had only bus fare and simple eats from cheap grocery outlets– I love that I did it!
I rode the flix bus at night from $10-20 a ticket going from Brussels Amsterdam Berlin Prague Vienna Hungary and then over to Milan. What I did was to stop off in a city, lock my luggage up in a locker at the station and then explore that city. When the night came, I would find a park to camp in (only I had no tent just my colorful scarves and textiles and layers of clothes to wrap up in to stay warm!) or if the bus station stayed open all night or at least until 2 or 3 AM, there I would be staying.
Early in the morning around 6 or 7, I would rise head back to the station bathroom to refresh myself and then depending on how I felt, either stay another day to explore more or head on to the next city! I did this sort of inner-city vagabonding for 2 weeks that time. In Budapest, I spent one night in a huge wooded park area just a few blocks from the bus station.
At the second week of April, I took flix to Verona, Italy and was picked up there by my work exchange boss to help with his hemp growing project. I and a few other helpers fed the animals (a llama alpaca cows and one lovely and wildcat), ate yummy food with hemp oils and hemp protein with hemp noodles! I slept in a newly constructed minimalist house with hemp bricks, lived on top of a several thousand foot mountains, enjoyed his organic grown wines, and enjoyed a quiet yet highly routines life. It was sweet. I was there for 2 months.
My plan has then been to head to Turkey but at the last moment, I opted for Morocco.
I took trains and a bus to Genoa, spent the night out on a quiet harbor and early in the morning, caught my ferry to Tangiers. After the 3-day boat ride, which was a fun crossing over to Tangiers.
After landing, I made it to the center, then took the longest night train to Fez… and spent the last 2 weeks of June working at a gorgeous traditional riad hostel on the edge of the medina- a great space with the colorful tile, central fountain, low seating, 6 stories with the open balconies and the terrace chill out space.
I met an interesting guy on my first day wandering around who introduced me to his friend, the owner of a local cafe hidden in the small tunnel-like streets. That ended up being my hangout spot and I broke fast with the owner and his family many times those days. The working atmosphere was a tense one, the owner was a bit crazed, so I set up another work exchange at a language center in Fez proper. I ended up staying at a very comfy office center with classrooms where the teaching went on and bedrooms on the one side for us volunteers. For July and August, I helped out by having mini speaking sessions with the center’s English learners. The last 2 weeks of August I transferred to another location of the center outside of Casablanca in a town called Berrechid.
My new spot in Marrakech was a semi-fancy complex on the outskirts of the city. A guesthouse that has several groups stay for yoga retreats. I helped with clients and doing inventory and managing the on-site boutique shop the lady of the house filled with local goods. It was lots of fun being in a place surrounded by old tribal artifacts and thick furry traditional rugs, being cooked for by the small kitchen staff and hanging out by the side of the turquoise jewel tone pools in the back. The property was several acres and we were greeted by rose and rosemary bushes and super wide and lush groves of olive trees. The dynamics of the house and the family were not ideal and by mid-November, I decided it was time to be heading to Turkey!
My volunteer post in Turkey got pushed back a bit and I found I wouldn’t be starting until the middle of December. I ferried back to Italy and got a flix bus up to Rome. Again, I locked my bag away at the train station and spent my days walking around. It was so cold at that time. I was not expecting it! I found parks to rest the night in and since I was there for more than just a few days, I got a train/bus pass and was able to ride around and see lots more of the city. After about a week I took another bus to the coast and another ferry over to Croatia.
Landing in a split, I knew it was different here. The sophistication and general ease of Europe behind me, I was in southeastern Europe and the atmosphere was heavier more suburban and provincial. I took a handful of small super local van buses through the rocky gray interesting Croatian countryside and into Bosnia.
After so many checkpoints, I was finally there in Sarajevo for my next couchsurf experience. A very sad mean man was my host and with the cold outside and its feet of snow, I wasn’t able to see much of the city. I spent my week there catching up on writing and dreaming of the warmer Turkish weather. So there it was the first week of December and I thought to save money by heading by bus through a handful of countries straight to Istanbul.
The scenery was captivating, I love riding on land and seeing the world fly by. After getting g to Montenegro, there was an early bus in the morning heading directly to Turkey and arriving in 40 hours! We passed through Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia and into Bulgaria. After a number of identification checkpoints, we were nearing the border to Turkey, finally! But there was an issue with my passport and I needed to get off the bus to speak to some clerks in an office.
I was told I would not be able to cross over into Turkey without first going to a Turkish embassy for a visa stamp! It’s funny, months earlier I had read about needing a visa but had completely forgotten about it until just then! So long to my bus to Istanbul, I was left stranded in Bulgaria!
(here is where the trip turned very Odd!)
I made it back to the Duty-Free mall and got online to buy an electronic visa at a site, I had bookmarked before, but for some reason, the site was not allowing me to choose the USA from the country list for visa processing… Uh-oh. It seemed like the site was down. so I would have to get to the embassy after all.
I bypassed social and instead chose the closer city Plovdiv, more local vans, and I was there. A bit late as the embassy was closed, but late that night, I got far away from the city center and found THE cutest most economic hostel in the old town cobblestone part of the city. It was freezing and I was so thankful to be sleeping indoors!
A super huge all dark cherry wood plank house with many floors and rooms. Hardly anyone was there and I had a 3 bedroom all to my self, so cozy and a yummy breakfast included!
The morning I went to the embassy. After a little tense hassle at the reception from the doorman, I waited to speak with someone. A lady appeared took a look at the paper, the border people gave me then said it was hard times now. A travel ban had been put on U.S. citizens and she could not give me a visa there!
She suggested that I fly to Istanbul as the security at the airport’s was different and I could get a visa there. I was determined so I pushed on. After another 2 days just relaxing in Plovdiv, I took a bus to Varna and then up to Bucharest, Romania. The nearest place offering economic flights to Turkey. My Turkish host gave me a tip on an airline that would head from Istanbul down to his family business in Antalya.
Bucharest was gigantic and cold and gray. I made my way to the airport bus stop in the center and got to the airport a number of hours before my flight.
It was time for me to check in and as I was doing so the girl at the counter had a puzzled look on her face… she asked for my Turkish visa!
I said, I did not have one and told her a little of my embassy adventure. She went and spoke with her supervisor…
I thought to my self– well! Guess I wouldn’t be going to Turkey after all…okay! She returned and said because I was transferring to another flight and not ending my destination in Istanbul at the main airport there (the only airport they issue the visas!) they would not let me board at their end and thus ended my journey to Turkey and decided to go back home before 2017 ended.