There's nothing quite like traveling. Exploring new cities, towns, countries, sightseeing, observing how other people live and simply getting out of the daily routine to view what else the world has to offer.
In 2008, I embarked upon my Taglit Birthright Israel trip with no major Jewish connection (I stopped going to Hebrew school after my bat mitzvah), no real sense of what the trip was going to be like, but I knew I wanted to do it independently, not with existing friends. The trip was life altering -- I met incredible people from different parts of the United States and Israel, ate delicious food, learned about Israel and the Jewish people and explored a lot of things that I would have never done on my own.
By the ninth day of my trip, I called my parents hysterically crying telling them that I didn't want to come home. They reminded me that I get homesick in the Hamptons, and that I better get on the plane the next day because I had made a commitment for a temporary job.
I did. I worked this temp job, saved all my money and returned to Israel three months later to staff a Taglit Birthright Israel trip. After staffing the trip and meeting more amazing people, I lived in a hostel on the beach in Tel Aviv for two months. A year later, after the recession hit hard and the company I was working for in New York closed up shop, I decided to move to Tel Aviv. I got a work visa, an apartment, a part-time job, took a photography class and lived blissfully along the Mediterranean coast for four months. I went back the next summer and the summer after that for close friends weddings.
There's not a day that passes that I don't think about Tel Aviv.
Over the holidays this year, I went for a visit. It had been three-and-a-half years since I had last been and I was really itching to get back.
The entire trip I felt a sense of heaviness. A sense of belonging. A sense of confusion care of that sense of belonging. I felt at home. I questioned where home was.
There was something quite relieving about being there -- I could be my true authentic self. After all the personal development and discovery that I've done over the past few years, this felt like it all came together in this one place and made sense. It felt like there was some level of validation that everything that led up to that time in Israel was part of this journey that I created for myself. Lots of forks in the road and managing to get over or around them in order to find my way.
People work to live in Israel, they don't live to work. Family and friends are the biggest priority. The sense of community and bonding amongst the people, instead of the constant hustle, is truly appealing and honorable to me.
The crazy part that I can't wrap my head around is that this feeling wasn't short-lived. It wasn't just when I was with my friends. Or when I was alone. It wasn't when I was walking aimlessly around the city. It wasn't when I went to a concert. It wasn't when I saw a photography exhibit. It was everything and everywhere. It was constant.
I kept feeling as if my life was trying to find its way on a see-saw. One way was my fast-paced, nonstop, hectic New York City life that I've always known, enjoyed and loved, where all my family is and so many close friends. The other way was Tel Aviv, which was much more laid back, slow-paced, relaxing and, yet, still productive with a whole other group of amazing close friends.
It's hard to ignore these feelings and these signs, even if they're not clearly defined. I can't recall a time I felt like this. I know I'm not moving to Israel anytime soon but maybe spending more time there is something in my near future.
I sat on the beach, alone, halfway through my trip, watching the sunset, writing in my journal and all that kept going through my head was this:
DO MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.
Whatever that means to you, do it. This is your life. You only have one life to live, so live it to the fullest, in the most authentic way that makes you the happiest.
Returning back to New York after traveling, especially after being in Israel is always a huge adjustment for me. I want so badly for those laid-back ways to be engrained in the New York life, but what I realized is that I need to create that for myself, not the society in which I am a part of.
I've been seizing the moment and exploring more that New York has to offer, whether it's trying new spicy foods that I had no idea I would ever eat, or connecting with new people who have similar aspirations, values and desires as I do. I'm finding my own way and creating my own path towards bringing what I love about Israel here as much as possible and finding ways to get myself back there again soon.