“Often when we set out to do something new, it’s fueled by impulse. An urge springs unbidden and soon becomes a desire, then a plan, and before we know it we’re careening down a mapless road– and while we can look in the rearview mirror and see how we got there, we’re not always sure why.” –Lavinia Spalding, Writing Away
Sitting here at Keflavik Airport, typing away on my laptop, the delirium begins to set in as I’m only a few hours into my 13-hour layover in Iceland. I’m leaning into it, trying to accept that I booked three red-eyes in one week for the cheapest flights. After traveling internationally for over 14 years, you’d think I’d learn. I’d think I would learn, but I may not.
“What the hell am I doing?” is a question I oftentimes ask myself at random moments throughout my life, as well as the occasional “Where am I?” upon waking up in a strange place.
I’m on my way to Tel Aviv, Israel, for the first time. If you would have told me two years ago that I would have the cojones to set off into the Middle East by myself- for the second time- I may not have believed you.
Back when I was getting my Master’s degree, I took a six-month break working as a shipping specialist for an Israeli IT company. My boss had a wallet that read “Bad Mother Fucker” on it, and that gives you an idea of how things were run there. Everyone around me was direct, to-the-point, and efficient while maintaining a dry sense of humor. Aside from my duties of packaging, shipping, and data entry, I carried around a small notebook at all times. I would jot down words and phrases in Hebrew, after taking notice when certain (vulgar) phrases were repeated into recognition.
“Ze tov.” That’s the phrase that stuck in my head interminably. It’s good. And you know what? The fact that everything comes full circle, that I would have never even considered visiting Israel 10 or five or even two years ago, and today I will be boarding a plane for Tel Aviv: It shows that life is not just good; it’s all beautifully interconnected.
To be honest, this trip for me is completely out of my comfort zone; it’s scary and uncertain. But what is life if you never challenge yourself? There’s always an excuse not to do what frightens you. There’s always someone who will warn you against what they don’t know; there’s always that future fantasy time period when you will know more or have researched better before you set off. But, for me, the time to visit Israel has to be now. This is my birthday present to myself: exploring new cultures within the Middle East; forcing myself to expand my awareness and understanding of others throughout the world. As a global citizen, a world traveler, this is my duty.
It all began with a video I saw on Facebook. Seriously. You know those cute, addicting videos of animal sanctuaries where some person is petting pigs or goats or cows, and you just wish you could have that opportunity? Well, after watching that video, I knew I had to visit wherever that place might be. It just so happened to be the Freedom Farm Sanctuary, located in Olesh, just northeast of Tel Aviv, Israel.
After looking up flights, I realized that I could fly to Tel Aviv from the US for as little as $129 USD one-way. That rush of butterflies flooded my stomach and up into my throat as new opportunities tend to inspire. I tried to convince myself that I needed to hold off, but that impulse had already crystallized into a passion.
Memories of people telling me that Tel Aviv was akin to the vegan capital of the world started popping up in my brain like bright purple bubbles. An idea was spawned, and I couldn’t stop it from gestating. Doing a quick search on Happy Cow, one of my go-to apps for finding vegan food, the options sprung up like wildflowers.
In my day session at Book Passage this past August, we had to come up with a pitch. It was there that this fantasy would become a real quest. I would travel to Israel not only to learn more about the country’s vast culture and history, but also to research why veganism is working so well in this corner of the Middle East. A week later, my flight was booked.
And now, I am en route to Tel Aviv. I have no idea what to expect, but I know that it will be an experience that will stretch my mind in ways that I can’t yet fathom. Ze tov!