I often find it hard to comprehend how it is that I have had the chance— in a short few years of being a flight attendant— to see places, not just once, but multiple times. It took London and I about fifty introductions before I fell in love. Copenhagen, Denmark was a constant in my career; splashed with summer days in Stockholm, Sweden and seaside adventures in Arendal, Norway. As much as I traveled for work, this blog (and kiting) fueled much of my travel for fun. Some say, “Kara is always traveling.” Maybe. I just say, “Thanks baby blog”
In blogging, I have had my noteworthy moments of awe; benchmarks that make me pause and think, “Wow. Working this hard— consistently— led me to this place, introduced me to this person, and gave me this experience.” It was a trip to Israel with Celessa, in January 2015, that was one of the first significant adventures that inspired so much confidence, belief, and happiness in myself for creating story— for creating this blog. On a very personal level, it was a huge benchmark.
I told the wonderful companies and people who sponsored the trip for Celessa and I, that I would come back sometime soon. I always say that I will come back soon (and it’s always true), but it’s hard to find the time, money, and energy to travel back to the same places, when there are so many new places to see. I want to, but the possibility isn’t always there, and so, I find it quite ironic— or maybe serendipitous is a better word— that it was a trip to Israel a few weeks ago that was a catalyst to quitting my job and fueling my faith in my “impossible” dreams.
My first trip to Israel was one of those trips made only of great moments. It was a place that challenged my understanding, opened my mind, and made me feel the warmth of new friendships. Golan Heights— an area surrounded by conflict— was one of the most loving, raw, and refreshing environments. Nazareth, once known for its dirty Old City, was alive with vibrant sunrises and exquisite stories. Haifa showed off a reverence, unexhibited in most churches, when one wandered through the Bahá’í Gardens. The machine guns of soldiers dangled from their young shoulders, as their baby faces stared inquisitively at blonde hair and foreign skin. The muscular Palestinian guard cracked a smile when my eyes locked in mesmerized adoration at his handsome face. This was the first round of Israel that I took in, and this round barely scratched the surface.
My second trip to Israel— that happened a few weeks ago— was my chance to see all that I had missed on the first trip. Maybe, there would be time to kitesurf in Eilat. Finally, I would witness all that Tel Aviv was. Hopefully, I would climb the Mount of Olives. I had so many big ideas and great expectations for this trip. Like the first trip had been a huge benchmark of blogger accomplishment, this one was even bigger. This trip was a “blogger trip” with 20 other international bloggers. It felt like ‘kind of a big deal.’ It felt like it was going to be so much fun. I felt like I was one of them. You know, those really cool accomplished bloggers.
And, really? What happened? Well, to be honest, this second trip to Israel was as mixed and layered as the country itself. I can say for a fact that I’m so glad I had the chance to experience Israel a first time, because I would have hated the place so much if the second time was all that I had. Israel, or it’s people, cannot be to blamed for any of my dislikes, but are due to the fact that the first three days of the trip were COMPLETELY structured— with no time for exploration, curiosity, or observation. It was a “blogger trip”— meaning other people had their own ideas of the narratives that they guided us into seeing and telling. In my humble opinion and experience, travel maintains a beauty and purity when you let it be ‘free.’ Travel is the one entity that most of us step into in an attempt to find freedom, find ourselves, and find meaning. You will never find anything if you try to control everything. Let the things that need to be free— be free. Give travel a chance to be open-ended, and watch travel give back to you ten-fold.
In addition to being creatively restricted while visiting Jerusalem (as the three days there were scheduled down to 20 minute blocks by the travel company who sponsored the trip), I came down with a nasty case of food poisoning. Food poisoning will tarnish the taste of any place, guaranteed. What food poisoning can also do is create a new appreciation for Tel Aviv gelato and Dead Sea swimming. There is always a positive way to look at any negative situation.
It was Tel Aviv and the daily afternoon walks for gelato (as that was my diet for days after coming down with that bug), Abraham Hostel TLV and one of the partners of the establishment; Maoz, and a sunrise trip to Masada that reintroduced the deep sense of sureness as to why I said ‘yes’ to this trip and why I was there. “Yeah— these are the ‘once in a lifetime experiences’ you cannot understand by reading, by seeing an instagram photo, or by watching a YouTube video.” When you are in a place and you feel that place— like really and completely feel it— you become greater than who you are; while simultaneously feeling like such a small piece in the puzzle of the Universe. I could be the best travel blogger in the world and yet, I cannot explain what ‘being somewhere’ is like until you “be somewhere.” This is why you just must go. This is why you must travel.
I didn’t want to travel to Masada at sunrise. I was tired. I had to wake up at 230am. I had to hike. I still felt like I may or may not throw up at any moment. It was not the time that I wanted to go, but it was my opportunity to go. My only opportunity. And, when you are thousands of miles away from your home, traveling on someone else’s dime, you learn to suck-it-up a bit. You learn to take opportunities. You learn to smile when you don’t feel like it. You learn to cry later. You learn that sometimes all we have is this moment. So, you make it fucking brilliant.
Let me tell you something about the brilliance of Masada. Rising high above a barren desert is the most daunting plateau that— from a distance— looks fairly small, but at the top, offers endless 365 degree views of the Burnt Sienna colored landscape surrounding the space. You see the Dead Sea floating below a bubbling sun; which casts your sweat dripped skin with short shadows as the wind tosses your tangled hair. Masada was a place of safety and security for ages and incredibly, it still exists. It still communicates a message of strength, instills a sense of disbelief, and tells of a quiet peace amidst its unwelcoming location. When you are standing at Masada all you hear is the wind. It’s reverent and unreal; unlike any other place I’ve been.
I felt that my days spent in Kyoto, Japan were spiritually enlightening, more so than my original trip to Israel or even this most recent excursion. But, I don’t believe that God requires one place, person, church or location to express His existence or love for humanity. Maybe this is one of the reasons why religion fails us (and often fails God). It tries desperately to place him in a mold—and True Love will defy every human understanding, break all the molds we set, and capture us in awe when we least expect. I didn’t expect to be captured by Masada. I had been told it was amazing, but I was sick. It was effort to go. I was just “getting through this” experience. How sad that sometimes that attitude permeates our existence when there is so much beauty to discover.
The most incredible moments and miracles are steps from the silent cries of desperation that we make; the times when we say, “I don’t know how much more I have in me. Am I almost there yet? This is really tough.” Two, five, ten more steps…you’ve almost made it to a safe place. The sunrise up there is worth the climb. It’s worth it to wake up before dawn for “your moment.” Masada carried my thoughts away with the breeze, while the undeniable magnitude of where I was, how I ‘got here,’ and how this place existed hit me. Incredible. Just incredible. I thought to the Bible, and how it documents history and claims that God is, ‘a stronghold and a place of safety.’
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” —Psalm 18:2.
Growing up with the Bible stories as a child of what God— and these Biblical places— are supposed to be like is one thing, but seeing the magnitude of words expressed as landscapes, or a true existence by witnessing a location, brings the ethereal to meet the earthly. It felt so tangible to the point that I thought, ‘What if the God (who I thought that I believed in) was actually like this impenetrable fortress or strength and safety, and I was always safe— no matter what? What if…?’
Because, if that was true, that could change the entire way I viewed myself and my life. I had quit my job, not knowing what was next. I had left my security of career. I was scared. I had said goodbye to someone, and I was just so tired of saying goodbyes to ‘Someones.’ But, what if no matter how fearful I felt inside, I was truly always safe? If I thought that way, how would my entire existence change? How would that change my life?
I am not saying that Masada will change the way you see God, or if you see God, or that Israel will be a spiritual experience for you. Hell— Due to conflict, prejudice, hate, and evil in our world, any place that you visit in this world may cause the exact opposite to occur. I can’t say what will happen, but what I can say is this:
keep your mind open, your heart kind, and your soul grateful.
And be prepared to become someone completely different if you choose to travel. I’ve said this before; that travel never leaves anyone unaffected. For better or for worse, it will continually shift your paradigm and you will never be the same.
Many thanks to Abraham Tours, Abraham Hostel, and TBEX for the opportunity to experience Israel, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.