Life is so full of the unexpected, beautiful amazing things, if you’ll just let yourself be open. Sometimes that’s tough because as humans we kind of like our predictability, our routines, our status quo and circle of life that’s comfortable.
When I first got the invitation to be part of TOI (Taste of Israel), I wondered what it was~~no idea who was inviting ‘me’ to come spend, all expenses paid, five days in Israel. I was skeptical. I mean really we’ve all heard the saying, ‘There ain’t no free lunches in life!’ However, I was intrigued. I was fascinated. I felt compelled to learn more and to trust my instincts. And, after some digging into the program, which is part of Stand with Us, talking to bloggers who went the previous year, emailing back and forth with Elad from TOI, and finally getting Ben, my husband’s blessing, I was ready!
I had no idea what to expect. There was no itinerary sent in advance. Flight reservations were received only within 48 hours of departure. I had no idea where I was staying in Tel Aviv when I arrived (and, yes, I was like Gomer Pyle at JFK when I went to check in with El Al Airlines and I was being bombarded with questions about my trip!)~~I only had my emails, my tickets from the Israeli Office of Tourism, and my bags packed.
Part of the adventure, the excitement, and the personal growth of this trip was going it alone—only me—there was no Ben, my seasoned savvy traveler hubby, by my side. And, that push to be on my own started at JFK when I had to go from my domestic Delta flight to the international El Al flight. After asking many people along the way, red jacket folks, where to go and what to do (and I learned that it would mean leaving the terminal and re-entering and going through security once again), I finally was escorted to the El Al area by none other than the head of JFK’s TSA Security, Paul Leyh—a delightful and quite dapper Englishman—I suppose I just hit pay dirt when I stopped to ask the lanky tall silver-haired handsome gentleman in a navy sport jacket and carrying an official looking clipboard about El Al! And, obviously he saw the deer in the headlights look on my face, recognized a Southern accent and sensed my country bumpkin navigation skills! He was quite accommodating and genteel—the antithesis of what one would think of a New Yorker. Settling into my seat on El Al, I was ready to fly halfway around the world ready to open a Pandora’s Box!
Without boring you about the flight over, which was so exhilarating that I couldn’t sleep, and I was running on a near 24 day, I landed in Tel Aviv, got my luggage, wandered around aimlessly for about 30 minutes, then spotted my other comrades. I knew none of them other than from their pictures and blogs, but I could tell by the immediate chemistry when we met, and probably using some of my psychology training background, that by the end of these about 104 hours, we were going to be friends for life—foodie friends connected by a powerful DNA and passion that brings immediate understanding, compassion, and love.
Now the 5 of us were like a herd of aimless sheep wondering where to go~~yes, for about 20 minutes we were the blind leading the blind—where were these people who were supposed to meet us we wondered. There were other travel and tour guides standing around holding signs, but no TOI. Finally, we decided to clear Customs and walk out. As the doors opened, we say the big sign ‘Taste of Israel’ and smiling faces! We were greeted by Elad—our main contact—an adorably cute and happy young guy who signed his emails ‘sweet wishes’—and Shira, a stunningly beautiful young woman who was also part of TOI. There was an undeniable electricity of excitement in the air—there were hugs, and I sensed a tingly warmth that permeated the atmosphere—Elad and Shira were there to whisk us away to the Dan Hotel and commence about 104 hours to fall in love!
See what can happen when you let yourself know that you can’t fail~~a spirit of adventure and accepting the unknown are fertilizersof life that promote healthy growth~~and, this positive growth makes us better people. What’s next? My next blog~~’Taste of Israel~~The People’~~don’t miss it…this is only the beginning of the love affair!
PS~~I promise to keep these blogs short and sweet~~there’ll be one about every week~~I hope! xoxoxoxo