After nearly three months in Morocco, I thought I’d seen it all. But there was one last place I had yet to visit—a place of legend, a place from my childhood dreams. A place so big, it makes you feel so small. The Sahara Desert.

To say I was excited is an understatement. Matching that excitement was my friend Ronnie, who had flown in to join me for what would become the most epic of adventures.

First things first though. A few days in the maze and haze of Marrakech. Even having spent all this time, in all these various places, nothing can prepare you for the living chaos that is Marrakech.

I arrived a day before Ronnie and got settled into our apartment. A nice enough place, down possibly the most touristy street in the city, its highlight being the balcony overlooking the madness below.

Upon her arrival, Ronnie oscillated between “I can’t believe I’m in Morocco,” and “I love it here.” We wandered through the medina, where the chaos enveloped us to the point of overstimulation. Then we would retreat to our apartment for a calming session of Moroccan chocolate and a respite from the mayhem.

Early in the morning on our third day, our grand adventure truly began. We had booked a four-day desert tour and our guide, Mohamed, picked us up before the sun was shining. We had a long day ahead of us, but not before one more stop to pick up another soon-to-be forever friend.

We were fortunate to have been graced by a change of plans by our tour provider. At the last minute, they switched us from a 16-person tour to a three-person tour. Amazing! But our luck didn’t stop there. Our third person turned out to be an absolute legend. Michael is one of those energizer bunny types. Always full of energy and happiness, no time to waste on not living life to the fullest. As we pulled up to the pickup spot, we could already tell he was going to fit our vibe so perfectly.

The Sahara is about a 12-hour drive from Marrakech, but thankfully the drive was broken up into two parts. First, we would drive into, and ultimately over, the High Atlas Mountains. Before we had even made it out of Marrakech proper, the vibe was set and our friendship solidified. What may have started as just four people in a car, turned into an epic road trip of four friends.

As we passed through the mountain passes, Mohamed told us about what we were seeing around us. At one point, we were passing by an area filled with salt mines. We mentioned how it would be cool to see one, so he immediately and spontaneously pulled off the road onto some dirt path and we went off-roading into the mountains. We stopped near an active mine and proceeded to wander about for a good while, enjoying the sun and the scenery.

This really set the tone for the rest of the trip. While Mohamed had said that “it was our tour,” this showed us that it was all up to us, and he was willing to show us things that the normal tours do not. This spirit bonded us all even more, and we made every opportunity a chance to make Mohamed feel more like our friend (because he is) and less like our tour guide.

Our next stop, while touristy, was supremely cool. Dubbed the “Hollywood of Africa,” the Ksar of Aït Benhaddou is an ancient Berber village and the scene of many famous movies, including Lawrence of Arabia, Kingdom of Heaven, Babel and Gladiator.

As the day pressed on, we stopped for one of our favorite pastimes, roadside coffee, before finally arriving at our place for the night. We arrived a couple of hours before dinnertime, so after a quick rest, we decided to go for a nice walk through the village and surrounding farmland.

Within seconds of entering the village, we were greeted by a horde of kids playing footie, so we joined in for a quick match. With our lungs bursting, we had to call it quits quicker than we’d probably like to admit. But the children weren’t done with us yet. As we started to walk through the village towards the river valley, they were insistent that we follow them. It felt like we didn’t have much choice, so we let them lead the way.

For the next 45 minutes, they walked alongside us, guiding us on what they thought was the best route. Shy but curious, their energetic spirit had them showing off a bit. Jumping over creeks, throwing stones and plenty of shouting. We sort of just went along with it all, enjoying the infectiousness. After scaling a cliffside, we were back at our hotel entrance and said our goodbyes. We made our way to the terrace just in time to watch the sun disappear beyond the mountain peaks.

The next morning we were up early again and ready for another full day of adventures. After a needed stop for roadside coffee, Mohamed took us to one of his favorite sights in the area, the Gorges du Todgha. This place was simply stunning. Arriving when the sun was at the perfect angle, we were mesmerized by the sun’s rays beaming down.

Most of the rest of the day was spent crushing KMs on our way to the desert. As it got closer, and the landscapes changed, our excitement became palpable.

Mohamed comes from a Berber family, and grew up a nomad. He spoke so beautifully and lovingly about it, and we couldn’t wait to see it ourselves. Before reaching our ultimate destination, he took us to visit his aunt who still lives as a nomad. We shared some beautiful moments over delicious Moroccan tea with her, while getting a chance to see how the Berber nomads live.

After saying our goodbyes, we made our way to the moment we had been waiting for. We met up with our new friends and their caretakers.

The moment had finally arrived, and overcome with excitement we mounted our camels, ready to set off into the dunes of Erg Chebbi. If we’re being honest, that excitement wasn’t enough and after about 10 minutes on the camels, we were ready to get off. They are not as comfortable as you’d think, they move pretty slowly and the novelty wears off pretty quickly.

Thankfully the journey is less than an hour, and with mercy bestowed upon us, we reach our desert camp, where we would spend the next two nights. After another long day, and with dinner a few hours away, we relaxed in our tent. After dinner, the campsite came alive as we were treated to a traditional Berber jam session around a fire.

The next morning, while the rest of the camp packed up to head out of the desert, we had the luxury of sleeping in. We took in a quick breakfast, before getting back in the 4x4. Mohamed took us around the desert to several unique locations. We stopped to visit some more local nomads, went to a cobalt mine, visited an odd 4x4 museum, and enjoyed a local Berber jam session … all before lunch.

With our bellies full and our energy restored, we set off into the dunes for the highlight of the trip for me. Mohamed showed off his drifting skills as we went 4x4-ing across the dunes. He graciously stopped near one of the larger dunes, and we spent the next hour feeling the massiveness of the desert.

This was a photographer’s wet dream, and I went wild with my camera. The red sand set against the blue sky and fluffy clouds made for some of the best photos I’ve ever taken. Everywhere I turned, I found a multitude of photographic moments.

Michael, Ronnie and I climbed to the top of the largest dune near us. From this vantage point, we could take in the absolute vastness of our location. We sat on the ridge line and savored the moment, knowing this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Having sufficiently soaked it in, we decided to run down the slope in exhilarating fashion.

Back at camp, we rested till dinner, exhausted from an extremely full and filling day. That night, rather than join in on the festivities, we opted to hang together in our tent, just the four of us. We enjoyed our group dynamic, telling stories and solidifying our unbreakable bond.

On the final day, with an 11-hour drive in front of us, we climbed into the truck ready to make the most of our last moments together. After some morning car naps, the ride came alive when the music started flowing. The hits just kept on coming, and we belted each one out at the top of our lungs, laughing the whole way home.

Arriving back in Marrakech, we said our goodbyes, but not before promising to make more memories together the next day. Exhausted from the last days, our night was met with take take-away dinner and an early end.

With one last day together, Ronnie and I went to Jardin Majorelle, a garden oasis in the city, but were left disappointed. While the cost wasn’t crazy, we were shuffled along like a herd of sheep barely able to enjoy the beauty of the gardens amongst all the influencers.

Thankfully, we had made better plans for the afternoon, and after a quick stop for Jus d’Avocat, we went for tattoos! We were met at the studio by Michael and Mohamed, but couldn’t quite convince Moha to get one … not yet at least. That evening we walked into the medina, to enjoy a few drinks and a few laughs on our last night together.

In choosing these adventures, I am getting to realize many of my childhood dreams. Yet nothing could have prepared me for this journey into the Sahara. Expectations were thoroughly exceeded and even my childhood brain couldn’t have dreamed of a better trip.

The longer I’m on this adventure, the more I’m learning that it’s the people that make life special. The trip itself would have been amazing, it was elevated to an extraordinary level by the people I was so blessed to experience it with.

I truly believe that the energy you put out into the world will come back to you. As I continue to open myself to the world, I keep getting rewarded with amazing people who enhance my life and make me a better person. It’s a beautiful cycle of positive energy that I hope goes on forever.

Ronnie has become one of my best friends in the world, and I feel so lucky to know her. Getting the chance to have her along for this adventure was truly special. And getting to add both Michael and Moha to the ever-expanding list of forever friends feels like a cheat code to life.

To wrap up this Moroccan adventure, and to try to articulate what this adventure felt like, I’m going to close with the words I wrote on TripAdvisor, GetYourGuide and Google as my review of this trip. I think they perfectly capture the moments the four of us just shared.

Simply put, an amazing experience. The stops on our way to Erg Chebbi were beautiful and awe-inspiring. The accommodations were great and all the staff we met along the way were wonderful. And the dunes were epically beautiful, I didn't want to leave. The history and landscapes were amazing, but our guide-turned-BFF, Mohamed took the experience to the next level. He was such a kind and generous person. We instantly became friends and this trip wouldn't have become what it was without him. He was funny and fun-loving. As a Berber nomad himself growing up, his personal stories helped us understand what life in the desert is like. He didn't just take us places, he actively joined in on our experience and it made everything so much more fun and wonderful. I will miss the vistas, red sand and sunsets, but more than anything I will miss spending time with Moha. It's rare to make friends of this caliber in real life, let alone on a four-day tour. Shukran Habibi. Till we meet again.