Making Moroccan memories

This time last year my life felt empty and I was painfully lonely. My only son, Scott, had gone to university leaving me with massive empty nest syndrome. I lost a right arm and a role. What was my purpose in life?

historic town in moroccoBeing lonely does not, in my mind, mean being alone. It means being without a reason. I was bored too and felt I needed a change in business direction.

Sometimes known as the itch or the midlife crisis, it’s something I know many people experience.

Some people buy a motorbike or start going to rock concerts. I started a Moroccan holiday company.

It might seem like quite a drastic approach to filling the gap in my life, but I was inspired by a series of events. I spent my 49th birthday last year climbing Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. My friend bought me a birthday card which read ‘Life is not measured by the moments that we breathe but by the moments that take our breath away’.

The view from the top of Toubkal was amazing and I realised I wanted to have more breathtaking moments in my life.

waterfall in MoroccoThe birth of a business

While I was out there I met Essaid (known as Said) and we kept in touch, gradually developing the idea to set up our company. Said is a professional, qualified guide and I thought this, along with my hotel and marketing business experience, was a winning combination.

Our aim is to provide an escape for people to get away from their busy lives; whether at our seaside Retreat Guest House, a walking tour into the traditional villages, an adventurous mountain climb or a trek over the never-ending Sahara.

A bureaucratic battle

Setting up the company was harder than I initially thought, thanks to a mountain of a very different kind – UK red tape. Just getting a bank account and the right types of insurance was a battle. Offer camel rides and you get charged an extra £250 in case they bite.

And everything has to have a medical consent and disclaimer. But we’ve jumped over all the hurdles and come out the other side.

A learning curve

Setting up the business has taught me about much more than complicated legal issues. I’ve learnt to take things slowly, I’ve built up a clear understanding of the holiday industry, and I know an awful lot more about budgeting than I did at the start!

People power

Moroccan villagePerhaps one of the best things I’ve learnt along the way is that I was right about the importance of people.

I am quite a spiritual (but not religious) person and have found that the right people seem to have come into my life just as I need them.

There were times when I felt like quitting, but surrounding myself with positive, wise, experienced and qualified people helped me to stay grounded.

Everyone involved has worked and worked to make this business grow. I really don’t believe ‘if you want it to happen it will’. Sorry – it is about damn hard work and not magic wands.

Looking to the future

We’re now up and running and have lots of interest for different bookings, such as walking groups, coaching, swimming clubs and the news is stirring regarding our retreat centre.

Moroccan desertI am so passionate about our company and believe every step of my journey will help make the business stronger. I learnt so many lessons and no doubt have many more to learn.

Now, I am never afraid to ask people for advice. Or, as a very impulsive lady, to stop and go to sleep on it!

These days, life is full and fun. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes get down. I still get frustrated. I still want things yesterday. But inside now I have an inner peace that I can see the rainbow with the pot of gold after the rain of hard work.

Gold as in happiness, hope and contentment.

Diane Carter

About Diane Carter

I run a marketing business called Marathon Media. Said and I run The Atlas Discovery. Our team unites a group of both Moroccan and British people who understand our mission statement to offer ‘a true journey’ for you and support our ethics to employ local Moroccan people and be part of the traditional village community. To find out more visit The Atlas Discovery. And I am Chair of It's Women's Business Club, Nottinghamshire.

  • Deborah

    Quite a year Diane, love your story and happy birthday!

  • Thanks Deborah – you never know where one step can lead you! What a 50th year and more to come.