Saturday, June 30, 2012

Traveling and then going home

To me, the best traveler is the person who can go anywhere and ensconce themselves so deeply into their surroundings that they can easily imagine settling down and living in the alien land. That person was me. Until about two days ago. Everywhere I went, I hung on to every detail of the foreign life I could live there. Imagining myself waking up in the mornings, walking down the picturesque streets, catching the various forms of public transportation to my job, lunching at the local cafes, partying with friends at the city/town/village's expansive nightlife, and taking day trips to the sites that dotted the outskirts of wherever I happened to be.

This yearning to live wherever I happened to travel brought me to live in some of the most interesting and exciting places in the world - Shanghai, Beijing, San Francisco, Jerusalem. Over time, though, the feeling of needing to live where I wasn't began to make me feel extremely unsettled. I imagined life in Kauai, Portland, Boulder, Burlington, Berlin, Charlottesville, New Orleans, and essentially anywhere I traveled. Returning home to wherever I happened to be living at the time brought with it a feeling of unease for giving up on an exciting new life full of possibility.

I spent the last ten days Amsterdam, a city touted as one of the most open, diverse, and sophisticated cities in Europe. Its streets are clean, historic, and lined with the most elegant sites - canals, houseboats, handsome multistory row houses, open-air cafes, tall blondes on bikes, flower shops, and museums galore. The city has a vibe of calm prosperity and order. It's the type of city that would have me endlessly daydreaming of my life as a Dutch resident as I wandered Amsterdam's streets for those ten long days.

But something was different this time. I managed to observe Amsterdam as a settled outsider. I enjoyed everything as a passerby might, knowing that the ten days would soon end. I had the things I wanted to do, the places I wanted to go, the delicacies I wanted to eat all lined up and went through them one by one. Visiting the Van Gogh Museum, getting lost in the Jordaan, dipping a fresh croissant in steamy hot chocolate, and riding a tour boat along the canals were among some of the
 highlights. And as the time wore on and the trip began to come to a close, I longed for Israel again.

I missed the shuk, the streets teeming with emotionally charged people from all over the world, our Prius, our beautiful spacious apartment, the cool evening breeze, the pool up the street, the feeling of being amongst family, the idea that simply living where I'm living has a meaning of its own. Essentially, I missed home.

Returning to Israel with a renewed sense of respect for where I live and what I'm doing here was the most valuable experience of this trip to the Netherlands. Back at home on my couch, sipping homemade hot chocolate, overlooking the wide valley that snakes beyond our veranda, through the hills and off to the Dead Sea, I feel very much at peace. 

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