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From fashion designer to surf camp owner in Morocco: Franky from "Wave Gypsy" - Femtastics article

Resetting life and starting all over again: Franziska Siegler (38) aka Franky did it four years ago. When the former fashion designer lost her job, which didn’t fulfill her anymore anyway, she decided to turn a three-week surf holiday in Morocco into a longer stay. Today, Franky, who is originally from Erfurt in Germany and her partner Taoufiq live in the village of Tamraght at the Moroccan Atlantic coast. Together they run the surf & yoga camp "Wave Gypsy". femtastics co-founder Katharina and photographer Magdalena Mitter spent a week at the camp and accompanied Franky through her everyday life, talking to her about her new start, living and working in Morocco and her love for the perfect (longboard) wave.

femtastics: Four years ago you were still working as a fashion designer in Düsseldorf, among others for Esprit. Today we are sitting in your surf camp in Morocco. How did this big change in your life come about?

Franky: I was single at that time, I wanted to learn surfing in a surf camp. So I booked a trip to Morocco. From day one I was in love with Morocco and surfing and I was happier than ever before. Two days before I was fired from my old job. That was the door opener, otherwise I probably wouldn't have even thought about emigrating. In my first week in Morocco, while lying in bed, I was imagining how I would sell my stuff in Germany, give up my old life and just go surfing. Nothing felt better than that.

Has it been a dream of yours for a long time to go somewhere else and start over?

I have never planned it, there has only been this idea of living by the sea. I had never consciously thought about doing that, there was no particular trigger. I was in Australia the year before and would have loved to stay there, sun and sea – that’s a completely different lifestyle than sitting in a puffy office.

So you never thought of being the owner of a surf camp at some point?

That was a mere coincidence! I didn't really want to open a surf camp. It's a common cliché around here: Having a Moroccan partner and then opening a surf camp. After living in Morocco for half a year, I met my current boyfriend Taoufiq. At that time we were offered to manage a surf house. After one year we found out that we could actually do it on our own and set up out own camp. In May 2019 we signed the rental contract for this house and renovated and modified it until August 2019. It took us one year to find the perfect house. All this is not as easy as it looks, many things are very complex here.

Did you liquidate your entire household in Düsseldorf back then?

First I sublet my apartment, then I sold my belongings piece by piece. After two years I set myself a dealine: Once my tenant moves out, I'll give up the apartment. That's what I did then. You should always follow your dreams. Life is really too short not to do that. That's my bottom line.

How did your environment react?

I was always the crazy noodle, but mom still wasn't thrilled. I had to listen to "Oh God, what are you doing? Your pension? Your health insurance?" Although I grew up in the system, I don't have the compelling feeling that I need it. I'm a free spirit.

In retrospect, would you call yourself brave?

I wouldn't, it just felt right. I'm an absolute heart-belly person and I don't think about it anymore.

What would you recommend to others who want to emigrate but don't dare?

Do it! There is no patent remedy, every person is different, you just have to listen to yourself and what is right for you. Emigration is not for everyone. It isn’t easy to adapt: Different language, different country, different culture. It is one thing to go on holidays. Living in another country is something completely different. You have to try it to find out. You don't have to give everything up and sell it all, you can first dip a toe in. Always follow your dreams. Life is really too short not to do that. That's my bottom line.

Has the move to Morocco changed your view of life?

I appreciate many things much more. Like what kind of passport I have. I can travel anywhere, my partner can't. He is from Morocco and cannot simply say he is moving to Germany. I have also learned to appreciate little things much more and now know that you don't really need much in life. I had fulfilled all the clichés as a designer, and here I realized that I don’t need all that. I still care about looking good and dressing neatly, but I don't need the latest and hottest clothes, no make-up, none of that matters!

So the "Fashion Franky" used to exist?

Oh yes, a hundred pairs of shoes, designer handbags, huge filled wardrobe. I was always dressed awesome. This has definitely changed and saying goodbye to it was very liberating - I can recommend it for everybody!

What is your everyday life like at the surf camp? How do you divide the tasks between you and Taoufiq?

I do all the communication, the marketing, I have created the homepage myself - I always very ambitious. That's where my German roots comes through, perfectionism and punctuality. (laughs) I want to create something cool, that's where I get demanding. I'm not good at handing things over and I prefer to keep it in my own hands. Then there's the communication with guests, organization, online marketing and photos. Taoufiq does everything here where I my language skills reach barriers, such as bookkeeping and so on. That runs quite smoothly with us.

Running a surf camp as a couple sounds romantic at first, but at the same time means that you are almost always surrounded by guests. Do you manage to take time out as a couple?

We decided to take one day off a week, which is quite unusual here. But we have to do this, for us and for the guests. When guests arrive, of course I'm there, but it's still a day when you can sleep in and just do your thing. I still don't see the surf camp as a job, I love to meet people and I really like being at the beach. I have learned to get out a bit, in the beginning I was more on the spot. You have to let the whole thing have its own dynamic, I don't have to be in camp 24 hours a day. You learn a lot about yourself and others, about group dynamics, which is great. Our time together as a couple could be better, but it's our first year with our own house, where we just have to work a lot more. We need time for ourselves and try to retreat. Then we go out to eat and surf, we try to make time for each other.

How did the name "Wave Gypsy" come about?

In my first year in Morocco I had the idea to upcycling clothes. I had started tinkering and needed a name for it. The name "Wave Gipsy" and also the logo came within five minutes. The logo is now a bit more adapted. The name fits me, my style and also Taoufiq.

What do you associate with the Gypsy lifestyle?

That what I live: To be truly free. There could be a bit more traveling involved. We actually went to Bali, Taoufiq for a month and I for two. We didn't have our own house back then. We would like to close the camp in August and travel for a month. Maybe to Sri Lanka or Bali again. We always have to see where Taoufiq is allowed to go. Indonesia is very easy because it is a Muslim country.

Your concept is based on the motto "home away from home". How do you create this atmosphere of well-being?

Through my personality - you love or hate that. (laughs) I get up and am already in a good mood! I am interested in people and like to get to know them. I find it exciting what stories they have to tell. You can take so much from other people and learn, just by listening, being inspired, that's the key. And then of course our house-fairy Fatima. She can convey this feeling of home, she is something like my Moroccan mum. Besides, we create the atmosphere with delicious food. Every day Fatima prepares the breakfast, lunch at the beach and dinner. And because our house isn’t that big big, it all seems very familiar. It was very important for me that there are no more than ten to fourteen guests in the house at the same time. I want to know them by name, know what they do and be able to talk to them. That way it's perfect.

Do you often have visitors from Germany?

Meanwhile, yes. After everyone realized that I’m actually staying here, they’re visiting me. (laughs) My sister is visiting for six weeks at the moment, working from here - she does that every year, which is really nice. My mom was here twice last year, my best friends* were visiting last year. I also have a large circle of friends here now. It has become my home here.

To build up a circle of friends in a foreign country is certainly not easy.

No, it takes a long time. At the very beginning, for the locals, I was a person who is probably leaving again. Now that I am staying, I have a circle of friends. Most of them have a surf camp or yoga studio. And there's a belly dancing teacher.

Nowadays you are also a surf instructor. What training did you have?

I was thrown in at the deep end. When I came here, I was made a surf instructor at a surf camp pretty quickly. That was funny, because I had just learned to surf myself. There is the "International Surf Association", short "ISA", which had offered a training here in a hotel complex and I took part, including lifeguard training. The training takes one week and then you are a surf instructor. But it isn’t an official job. After four years I have learned a lot and I can judge people and situations quite well. In our camp Hassan and Tarek give surf lessons. Both have been surfing for a really long time.

How would you describe the Moroccan surfing scene?

It is very different from other countries I have been to. You generally don't see many women surfing, but it’s becoming more and there is a Moroccan champion, Maryam El Gardoum, who is pretty great. Otherwise the surfing scene is relatively big and has grown in the last few years. Investments are now being made and the fact that the "World Surf League" took place here earlier this year was also pretty great for the scene in Morocco. Morocco has a lot of potential.

What fascinates you especially about Tamraght, the place where your surf camp is located?

This down-to-earth and cordiality of the people I meet here is often not to be found in Germany. Whenever I looked at apartments here, I was immediately invited for dinner, although it was hard to communicate. And you can also see that many people are satisfied with little. I'm not a religious person, but I think it's really nice to experience the Islam here. The topic has been so controversial in the last decade, but here the picture, which some people may have in mind through the media, is not confirmed.

You're very emancipated. Is there sometimes such a thing as a culture clash?

The men here are already the princes, you can often tell by the way they deal with things. You don't always have to look at it negatively. They take over a lot of work, which is rather unusual for me. I've done a lot of moving around by myself, lugging stuff around. Here people say: You don't have to carry this as a woman!

It's more of a culture clash, because the way you work is completely differently. For example, regarding correctness and neatness. It's really a completely different world here and that often becomes apparent in small things. You don't see many women on the streets, they are staying at home cooking most of the time. Especially here in the village there is the typical role distribution. Women don't sit in the café as much as men. People here are usually either very religious or very open-minded. The women often don't dare, because if they are married, they shouldn't sit at a table with other men – in some aspects especially the veiled women are very limited. I know many women who have decided against the headscarf, but also many who have decided to wear one.

You are a great animal lover, you own four street cats and a dog yourself and you are involved in animal protection on site. How do you get involved?

For every year that I am here, I have taken in one cat! (laughs) We also have a dog. We found them, without a mother, abandoned; I raised one with the bottle. Our last adopted cat was hit by a car, all of them were emergencies that needed a home. So now we have a big cat family at home and our dog Billy. We rescued him, he was lying in Paradise Valley next to his dead sibling, without mummy, and you don't leave him like that. He lives in front of our door, is fed, vaccinated and sterilized. If the animals are healthy, so are the people. We try to teach that to the people here. Cats are not such a problem, but dogs are considered unclean animals in Islam. If you have touched a dog before praying, you have to do a big ablution first. We try to show the people and especially children that they don't have to be afraid. That's why I am collecting money to support my friend Corinna from „Moroccan Animal Aid“, so that the animals are vaccinated and sterilized. Another friend from Australia has a big project as well, we founded it with her some time ago. It’s called "Moroccan Animal Aid". She has at least a hundred dogs and donkeys. She does it so well and has many volunteers, but needs every thaler, because the animals have to be fed and that is expensive.

What are your future plans for Wave Gypsy? Do you want to live here forever or could you imagine to change the country?

I don't plan far: Go with the flow! Right now I want to be here, I don't know what tomorrow is. I'm often asked this question and I've been really busy with this question. I think it is beautiful here and I am happy. I have no idea whether I will go back to Germany one day. Once you have emigrated, you realize that nothing is impossible. Maybe I will become a winemaker or beekeeper again! The path of life is absolutely not straight, things change. I never thought that I would become a surf instructor and live in Morocco at the age of 38! I always wanted to do fashion design, that was my dream, and I loved doing it. To a certain extent, because a lot has changed. The society, the kind of fashion - it hasn't been my cup of tea anymore. There were also restructurings in my company, everything was supposed to become even faster, but I already had to come up with forty designs every month. This didn’t have much to do with being creative. Sometimes I miss it, especially my old colleagues. I want to do this job her really well now, and then one day I can hire people to do my job. Until then, I have to get it started and develop systems.

We have already heard it in some places in the interview, but tell us your life motto at the end? Being free, enjoying the moment and being present. Morocco has grounded me, that's really good for me. I can really live in the moment. It is not always easy, but at the end of the day I know I have arrived here and I am happy. I only need myself at the end of the day to be happy, it's a great experience!

Thanks a lot for the conversation and the great time in your surf camp!

Credit: Femtastics and the amazing team Maggie & Katha

Find the original article in german here:

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