The Sea Of Sand


Peyton Sammons

Payton and friends on a camel in the Sahara

It was finally the day that we had all been waiting for — the journey to the Sahara Desert. A desperate need for a trip that was scheduled completely for our pure enjoyment had been sitting out of our grasp for the last few days, but now we could finally reach out and graze it. Our time in Morocco had been different compared to groups in the past, making this trip more important than it may seem to others. The clock struck four in the morning and it was time for the adventure to begin. Most of my friends had pulled an all-nighter, a poor attempt at falling asleep on the ten-hour bus ride. Tiny buses might I add, but the amount of excitement coursing through our veins made it difficult for us to close our eyes. The last twenty minutes of the journey were the most excruciating minutes of my life. My legs were begging to be stretched and my heart was feigning for some sort of activity. Boy was an activity right around the corner! 

Stepping out of those confined white buses, all twenty-three of us practically sprinted to the doors of the hotel entrance, but we were quickly summoned outside. Helmets were shoved into our arms and we were ushered to the line of ATVs waiting for our arrival. We didn’t even have any time to soak up the extraordinary view before one of the workers rushed around to start all the engines. We coasted around the world’s largest sandbox for an hour, our laughter filling the air when the groans of the engines dissipated, but the adventure didn’t just end there.  

After a night of a long-needed rest, we went drifting through the dunes in cars, only to be dropped off at our next abode for the night. It felt like one huge family holiday as we all crowded around the tables in the shade for lunch. We laughed, chatted, and feasted before exploring our tents in the middle of nowhere. As the camels walked on the horizon of one of the dunes, our cheers reverberated off of one another and we ran to make friends with the animals in this arid place. It all felt like a dream.

Sunset in the Sahara (Peyton Sammons)

Climbing up on the camel that had a matching nose piercing to mine, I called down to the leader of our line. 

“What’s his name?” I shouted as if the height difference felt like I was on a mountain.  

“Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix,” the short man responded with a chuckle. Once the camel rides commenced, I finally had the opportunity to soak in the scenery I felt like I was taking for granted this whole time. The sun danced off the red-hued sand while my body swayed from side to side with each step Hendrix took. I was waiting for a camera to come out of nowhere to tell me this was all a prank, that I was dreaming and soon I would wake up back in Maine, but that camera never made an appearance. As the wind whipped the sand around in the sky, I pulled the scarf around my mouth and nose to protect my airways, but later I would find out there was no use.  

After we reached our destination, we all desperately tried to climb up the highest sand dune, our feet slipping on the soft, cool sand. The workers of the camp pulled out Burton snowboards, but there wasn’t any snow in sight. Instead, we were being given the opportunity to sandboard. I mean, how many people can say they went sandboarding in the Sahara Desert during sunset? The answer: a very select few. We giggled and joked as people wiped out at the bottom of that steep dune and then struggled to climb to the top once again. It was the plot of a storybook.  

After a stressful week of classes and struggling to finish the homework before the trip, we were greeted with a DJ when we returned to the camp. Let me repeat that once more. We were greeted by a DJ in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Yes, you heard that right. We danced on the rug adorning the sand in front of his booth and it was exhilarating. Our voices melded together as we screamed at the top of our lungs to the old classic American tunes that were pulsating out through the large speakers. My smile was tattooed on my face while all of our differing energies blended into one: pure bliss. The vibrant flashing lights highlighted all the faces on the dance floor. It made me realize that just about two months ago, most of them were strangers. I never saw them in classes or passed them on the Biddeford campus and quite literally learned all their names on the first day of arrival. Yet in that moment, it felt like I was dancing and laughing with lifelong friends.  

After the DJ booth slowly died down, we all ventured over to the nearest sand dune, climbing to the top before collapsing in the cool sand. It was so smooth it felt like I was lying on silk. Our laughter filled the arid environment around us as we made sand angels and rolled down the dune. As we tumbled down the hill once more, I felt like I was back in elementary school during recess time. That small fraction of a break between the school day where you raced your friends, tripped, fell, cried, laughed, but overall you were just a joyous child. That was the emotion of the night: childhood.  

I stood and walked away from the rest of the group, standing in one of the most desolate places on Earth. I just needed a moment to truly absorb everything that had happened in the last 48 hours. My body collapsed onto the cushioned sand while my head tilted up to the sky. The twinkling stars decorating the sky stole my breath away. I had never seen them so clear and when my friend fell down beside me, we pointed at each constellation, shouting out the names before the other could beat us to it.  

Before I climbed into bed that night I realized that not once did I lose my smile during the day. Even when the sunset and the night bleeding into the day, I never lost that feeling of joy, of childhood happiness. It felt like all my worries were washed away. For the first time in my nineteen years of life, I finally felt free. It was a feeling I had been dying to grasp for so long, just to remember how it felt, and now I had finally achieved it. The Sahara changed my perspective on life, but it granted me the best gift. Freedom.