Chillin in the new year

After a whirlwind six weeks crisscrossing Türkiye, I was definitely ready to slow down a bit. I had been chatting with my dear friend Mel about visiting her in Israel for quite a while.

My plan had been to come visit her after my time in Italy was up. But her words still ring in my head when I asked about cheap places to visit in the country … Cheap and Israel don’t go together!

This had me rethinking my plans. That’s when she offered me an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. She was booked to travel to Cambodia and Vietnam over the holiday break and was looking for a cat sitter. She casually asked if I’d be interested. The chance to spend over three weeks rent free in arguably the world’s most expensive city was a no-brainer and I said, “absolutely,” immediately.

Arrived in the White City, the first couple days were spent catching up with Melanie after a 20+ year absence. We went for cocktails at the excellent Guest Room bar the first night, and celebrated the end of the semester with her colleagues at The Library Bar the next.

The next day she was off to SE Asia, and the big chill began. With three weeks to explore the city, I took my time.

Given the expense of EVERYTHING in this city, I did my best to keep costs down. Meals were prepared and enjoyed at home, Alcohol was consumed in moderation and activities were limited to the free variety.

I did indulge in a few ways however. A couple mornings spent savoring deliciously expensive coffee in some excellent third-wave cafes. I also bought myself a Christmas present at the local liquor store when I saw Buffalo Trace in its window. At $46, the price was nearly double what it costs in the states, but getting to enjoy my favorite bourbon on Christmas Eve was worth it.

Tel Aviv is a wonderful city and quickly rose up the ranks of my favorites. It has everything I wish for in a city. Amazing food, coffee and cocktails. It’s hip and happening, with lots of great neighborhoods full of cafes, bars and restaurants. It’s easily navigable, infinitely walkable, extremely bike friendly and has excellent public transportation. The beach is always only a short walk away and the weather is amazing all year round. Not to brag, but the temperature hovered right around 21º (70ºF) pretty much the entire time ... in December/January.

One of my favorite amenities is the massive HaYarkon Park. At 375 hectares, it’s actually larger than New York’s Central Park, and double the size of Hyde Park in London. Being only a 10 minute walk from the apartment, I visited frequently and enjoy multiple long runs on its miles of trails.

My days were spent with relaxing mornings over coffee and good books. A late breakfast followed by an exploratory walk. Evenings were spent watching sunsets at any of the 12 named beaches along the Mediterranean, followed by a home cooked meal and a dram of the aforementioned bourbon.

Much as in Torre A Mare, it was nice to settle in and feel like part of the city rather than just an observer of it. I’ve said many times, I’m less interested in the sights of city and more in seeing how the people live in the city.

Spending this time here allowed me to see the relaxed nature that people have in this city. It’s one of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with it. There’s an ease with which people go about there days.

The fact that Shabbat is so universally observed is a refreshing feeling. Shabbat (or Sabbath) is the day of rest in the Jewish faith, and falls on Saturday. From sundown on Friday evening, pretty much everything in the city is shut down. People truly take the time to relax, enjoy time with family and reflect.

This also means that the “weekend” is actually Friday and Saturday, and Sunday is the first day of the work week. If I hadn’t been traveling for the past 10 months, I would probably have found this very jarring. Instead, I found it quite enjoyable.

The three weeks went by simultaneously slowly and quickly. Days took their time crossing from morning to evening, yet the weekends seemed to arrive immediately following the previous one.

Such is the nature of things when you are in a groove. The relaxing pace of things made everything seem as though time was crawling, yet Mel returned before I knew it.

Her return signaled the beginning of a new phase of hustle and bustle. One for which I have absolutely no plans. At this point, nearly a year into the adventure I am truly winging it. I don’t know what next month holds, let alone tomorrow.

Taking things as they come is both freeing and anxiety inducing. It’s a new challenge and discomfort that I don’t think I truly respected before I began this adventure. I am learning to manage the wild swings in emotion that brings, swaying from excitement to anxious.
Ultimately, it is a challenge I accept with eyes wide open. Always ready to learn about the world we live in and, mostly importantly, about myself.

What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country we are seized by vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go a back to the protection of old habits. This is why we should not say that we travel for pleasure. There is no pleasure in traveling, and look upon it more as an occasion for spiritual testing.
Albert Camus