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August

2015

Inside a Traveler’s Walls: Amanda Mouttaki

INSIDE A TRAVELER'S WALLS

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Hola friends. It’s Wednesday somewhere, but definitely not in Japan. We leave today to head back to LA, then on to CR. Our plan is to be in LA for a couple of days to meet with clients and see old friends before heading back home to be with our guys. Oh how we miss them. So please forgive me if this is a day late, day early or right on time. I have completely given up on keeping track of what day it is, hey, I’m on vacation.

If you are new here I would like to introduce you to our weekly series “Inside a Traveler’s Walls” where we feature families living in less traditional, unique homes. If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being featured please contact me for details.

Another fabulous week. Another fabulous family to share with you. Plus, our first family from the continent of Africa. Woo Hoo! Get ready for another warm story about an amazing family living in a unique situation.

It’s a very different way of growing up than I had but I can see the benefits already. ~Amanda  

From the moment I read the opening paragraph about Amanda’s housing situation I was touched. Her children are living under one roof with extended family. Although I recognize this does not work for every family I do see how it can be a huge benefit if the family is able to respect each others privacy. Good job mama for making it all work so well.

Reading to kids isn’t a thing in Morocco, but I try to read to mine every night. Even though we’re living in a different culture, we have our family culture that we try to keep in tact. ~ Amanda

I love your honesty Amanda. It is great to read about how others live and look at all the cool pictures, but the real take away from this series is the honest truth about the good, the bad and the ugly. I can totally relate to the noise issue within a home. When we travel, sometimes we end up with families that stay up later than us and it can be challenging for sure. Nothing is worse than being up early with cranky kids while everyone else is sleeping in. I think it is admirable that you have come out of your comfort zone and stretched your life beyond how you were raised to provide this unique situation for your kids. I am sure one day they will see the true value in the “out of the box” life you have provided for them.

I especially like that you are keeping some of the traditions from your culture alive, as well as introducing these holidays and traditions to your family in Morocco. It is so beautiful to see generations learning together and growing together.

Ok, are you ready? Enough of my chatter. Grab your coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.

Introduce us to the people you live with?
Two years ago we moved from the Midwest USA to Marrakech, Morocco, my husbands’ hometown. We live in a traditionally styled Marrakechi home sometimes called a riad. This style home was built for extended families to live together and that’s what we do. My husband and I live on one floor with our two boys aged 8 and 11. My mother in law lives below us as well as one of my sister in-laws and her three children. It’s very common for more sisters to be over with their children visiting or spending the night, especially on the weekends.

How do you make a living?
I work from home as a social media consultant and blogger. My husband and I also run a food tour business in Marrakech.

Where are you in the world and what are you living in? 
A riad house in Marrakech, Morocco.

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
When we thought of moving to Morocco we knew we would have a really tight budget and so living with family made sense. My husbands’ mother is also getting older and he wanted to be close to help her with daily needs. We also knew that by living with extended family we would have help with our kids and they would be forced to speak Arabic daily instead of only using English at home with us.

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
One thing that I really loved about moving to Morocco was the attention to details. We basically had a shell of an apartment and had to buy and choose everything from cabinets to couches. I love the mix and match nature of design here and so I have found a way to incorporate the Moroccan things I love with the global elements that I identify with. For example a good friend created a shadowbox collage with fall leaves (she lives in Norway) and brought it to me when she knew how much I missed autumn and changing leaves. It’s hung in my hallway along with my Moroccan rugs and lanterns.

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
My favorite space is my living room. I think because it’s the first room I actually completed and am more or less happy with it. It also is covered in Moroccan tiles and the color makes me smile. My least favorite room is my bedroom. It doubles as my office and has a crazy high ceiling with bare walls. The walls are textured so it’s hard to hang pictures or anything to dress it up.

What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
That it would be somewhat private. We live on our own floor with a door but the middle of the house is open so noise is always an issue. My family goes to bed early but the rest of the house does not – this is problematic.

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
I am really not attached to anything but one thing I like to have is a quilt that I made when I was in high school. It always brings me comfort when I’m stressed out. I also like to have a really good knife. I cook a lot and have discovered all knifes are not created equal.

What do you miss most about having a permanent, stationary, traditional living?
Privacy. It’s really a challenge for me to live in a communal living environment having not grown up this way. Couple that with different cultural expectations and ways of living and it’s really a tough situation some days. I was never very good at sharing and so living this way is taking a lot of patience on my part.

What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
They each have a stuffed animal from their grandparents in the US that seem to make every trip we take. But, as they get older I notice they care less and less about things like that and are more concerned about their electronics. In a way it’s good because they can carry music, games, books, pictures etc all on one small device!

How do you educate your children?
The children attend local schools. You can read all about it here.

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
We don’t have many things like this in Morocco. There are people who sell things second-hand and that is an option. Both my husband and I love antiques so we tend to pick up pieces here and there that are nice. However I prefer going to the artisans and having what I want made. That way it’s completely customized and a unique piece that has my fingerprints all over it!

If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?
space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
Above average internet. That sounds so sad but it’s one of my daily struggles. My life and work are online and the internet makes it possible!

If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
A Kitchen Aid mixer. Good quality, timeless, and it’s possible to mix up anything you want!

How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
I try to keep things as we have always done them, so my kids do have set bedtimes even if the rest of the house doesn’t. Reading to kids isn’t a thing in Morocco, but I try to read to mine every night. Even though we’re living in a different culture, we have our family culture that we try to keep in tact.

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
One of the first holidays we really missed was Christmas so we went out and bought a little tree for our living room. It’s a tabletop tree but every December it is there. I also make a big Thanksgiving dinner for the entire family. My in-laws love and look forward to this. We try to keep things as much the same as possible.

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
There is always someone around for my kids. I don’t ever have to worry about finding a babysitter or leaving them alone. They also always have playmates either in the house or in the neighborhood. It’s a very different way of growing up than I had but I can see the benefits already.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
I struggled with this a lot. I spent my entire childhood in one place. Our “motto” is home is wherever we are together. No matter where in the world we go we will always be away from a part of our family. This is one of the realities of international marriages. We have to create our own sense of home to transcend that boundary.

What makes you love the place you live?
I love the weather for 90% of the year and the relaxed pace of life. Living in this way allows us to save money and do things we otherwise couldn’t afford. I also appreciate the relationships my kids are forming with my husband’s family. Finally living like this has forced me to learn Arabic faster because I need to be able to communicate and no one else speaks English!

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
Living with your in-laws is a HUGE adjustment. For some people it’s really easy while others (me) struggle. I wrote an entire blog post about the realities of this situation which has a bunch of takeaways and points to consider. If you are thinking of living in a Moroccan riad – do it. But know these are old homes and require constant upkeep and attention. That being said they’re gorgeous and practical in a climate like Marrakech.

Quote to Ponder:
Our “motto” is home is wherever we are together. No matter where in the world we go we will always be away from a part of our family. This is one of the realities of international marriages. We have to create our own sense of home to transcend that boundary.

Amanda Mouttaki is an American expat living in Marrakech, Morocco with her husband and two boys. She blogs at Marocmama.com and shares snippets of their daily life on Instagram.

Ok, first I must say that I want that sofa. Can’t you just see yourself settling into that for a good snuggle with the Mr./Mrs. or a movie night? Then there is this food tour business. Wow! I am ready to move to Morocco just so I can go on the tour. One of the experiences during our time in India that I remember the most was our cooking class. Can you tell I am a bit of an experimental foodie? Who wants to go to Morocco for the weekend?

Are you inspired? Have you ever thought about tossing the American Dream or The Dream of your home country for the homeland of your spouse?

Finally, thank you Amanda for your honesty. It is truly appreciated.

Thanks again for coming with us into the unknown of unique, less traditional homes. I hope you were inspired. Who is next? Any backpackers?

Besos,
Jessica

COMMENT

One thought on “Inside a Traveler’s Walls: Amanda Mouttaki

  1. Amanda, I understand the challenges of living with in-laws particularly for those of us who didn’t grow up with the mentality to expect or prepare for that. My dh and I did that for a couple of years, having lived on the same acreage and then built a standard North Am house that we shared with my in-laws. Many great things come from that arrangement, but its certainly difficult esp for introverts and noise-sensitive people.

    I hope to make it to Morocco sometime. Our eldest dd spent a few weeks in Marrakech back in 2006 and said she particularly loved the spice shops and the vividly coloured tiles. Didn’t appreciate the men hitting on her, though, took some getting used to 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your space.

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