This article explores migrant existences in the border zones around Europe. Drawing on ethnographic research in Morocco undertaken in 2012, 2013 and 2015 and in continued engagements with migrants using social media, the article analyses three extended migrant stories, detailing their experiences of uncertainty, waiting and hoping. By elucidating the objectives informing migrants’ pathways and the material and moral considerations underpinning the ways in which they navigate migrant life in Rabat, the stories unveil how different temporalities and spatialities intersect and influence their decisions and ability to endure hardship and waiting. The article argues that uncertainties and risks inherent in migration, and in irregular migration in particular, have transformed collective expectations of the migratory project as a means of upward social mobility and economic security into hope and into a mode of hoping that individualizes success and failure. Meanwhile, the rising costs of migration and structural marginalization render the opportunity to travel elsewhere contingent on assistance from transnational social networks or international institutions. Individuals’ success or failure thus comes to depend on how understandings of hardship, waiting, opportunity and moral obligation are configured and reconfigured by lived experiences in different places.