I got back from my conference Saturday night and although I'm woefully jet-lagged (a condition not helped by my crazily affectionate cat), I feel refreshed and renewed. It's funny that I used to think of myself as someone who didn't much care for traveling. This changed in 2010, because I had to do so much of it, and somewhere along the way I realized that I was loving it - the adventure of being in new places, experiencing different cultures and sights and smells. I've decided that going to new places is something I want to keep doing, even if it's just new places in the US and even if it's just by myself. This was the first time that I ever visited a place alone and it was not scary and it was also not lonely. Granted, I was only actually alone for the first and last segments of my trip (and almost everyone in Israel speaks at least a little English, plus the country is quite safe for women) but I think this is something I can do. And I'd rather do it alone than not at all. So I think I will try to plan one trip a year at least and save my pennies for this. Owning a house of my own used to be my major financial goal, but I think traveling might top that now. From this trip too, I found out that I am more of an outdoors person than I thought. I loved hiking in the desert canyon and eating around a fire and running my hands over rough and smooth rocks and scrambling through streams. It makes me wonder what else I might like.
I've also decided to treat the place I'm living (currently Portland) as a city I'm visiting. Because when I live somewhere, I tend not to be terribly adventurous once I find some places I like. I tend to stick to those places and not venture to look at the rest. When I'm visiting a city though, I explore and roam and sample as much as I can and that is something I should be doing here. When I leave Portland, I should know it like the back of my hand. In Tel Aviv, I went to the art museum and had a really grand time. (Actually, my visit coincided with some kind of Israeli art event so I got some free wine and strawberries dipped in yogurt. I may also have wound up in the background of some kind of show, because there was a camera crew wandering around and many trendy arty looking people). I used to go to museums and galleries when I lived in New York, and for some reason I never did this when I lived in Philly. It's ridiculous that it took going to another country to remind me that this is something I enjoy. But now I remember and so next weekend I will take myself to the art museum here for a leisurely afternoon. And once a month I will try a new restaurant. And when it gets warm here again, I will go on hikes, because I am now a person who likes to go on hikes.
I'm not going to do a detailed post of my travels because that will just be too much and too boring, although I kept a diary of sorts for myself. Above are representative images of the three places I visited: Jerusalem, Ein Gedi and Tel Aviv. They were each remarkable in their own ways and I wish I had had more time. Each place had a strong sense of history but to generalize: Tel Aviv was modern, Jerusalem was religion and Ein Gedi was nature. Tel Aviv was a city after my own heart, jumbly and energetic, with a lovely beach and markets and shops. It was a very walkable city and I spent my day walking everywhere.