Still kickin’ in the Dead Sea

Yep, still alive. My master’s course has not consumed me whole (yet). A special occasion has brought me back to the ‘ole blog (and an all-consuming desire to avoid reading for my dissertation): my first solo travel!

After eight months watching my skin fade into translucence – thank you, England! – I finally found the sun again! I spent four magical days in Israel on my first truly solo trip. I don’t count study abroad, seeing as I was never truly ‘alone’ during those travels. Safe to say, I hope there are many more such trips in my future: the experience was beyond liberating. Especially when my hotel rather suspiciously cancelled my reservation the night before I was meant to check in…

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Despite the surround-sound baby cacophony that serenaded me on my flight to Israel, I was in chipper spirits upon arrival in Jerusalem. A kind Australian lady in a coffee shop gave me tips about the city, my Airbnb host invited me to watch football with him and his mates later that evening, and I got just the right amount of lost in the bazaars of the Old City.

A kindly, ancient Bedouin jeweler I ran into truly made my first day in Jerusalem memorable. After directing me to a gorgeous terrace with stellar views of the city, he made me fresh mint tea and gave me all the life advice I never knew I needed for well over an hour. “We all walk our own paths: no one can live your values and truths but you. Nor should you live anyone else’s.”

“You are a tree. Dig your roots deep and strong, and sprinkle kindness like seeds. But don’t forget to water those seeds: one good act should not placate you for a lifetime.”

“Life is beautiful and painful.”

“Feel free to ignore all my advice. It is your journey, and you are in charge of every triumph and every mistake.”

Thank you, Mounir!

A few days before I came to Israel, I was struck with the inspiration to book a sunrise tour of Masada, Ein Gedi, and the Dead Sea. When 2 am rolled around my next day in Jerusalem, I was less than impressed with past me. However, it was beyond worth the ungodly hour! I met some friendly travelers who became my de facto personal photographers. These guys are also the reason my shins will never be the same – what should have been a 45 minute steep hike up Masada turned into a 30 minute race to the top my legs will never forgive me for. The clouds stymied the sunrise, but the views of the desert and Dead Sea were still incredible. We lucked out with sunshine for the next hike (truly, RIP my legs) through the waterfalls of Ein Gedi and just caught the last rays when we floated in the mildly turbulent Dead Sea.

I would have had dinner with my new friends were it not for my hotel in Tel Aviv deciding to cancel my booking at the very last second. Expedia came through for me, however, and found me a charming place worth twice my original room. Not too shabby! (Shout out to my dad for saving me a truly outrageous international phone bill and handling most of the calling).

Tel Aviv was the perfect, quiet end to my vacation. It’s definitely the kind of place you want good friends around for – the thought of turning up at the clubz alone was most unappealing. I took the time to stock up on spices and souvenirs, which later became quite the hassle at Ben Gurion Airport. Bless their hearts, the agents there decided I was the highest security risk and I was treated to quite the charming screening. After sweet talking them into letting me keep my shakshuka spices (hand-mixed by the vendor!) I was en route to Sofia, then London, then a close friend’s birthday party – travel bags and all. What. A. Day!

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What will I miss most? This bad boy above. My hummus addiction is in full bloom and I have no ragrets.

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