“This time Israel will be different.” I tell everyone who will listen to me, not really for them, but to remind myself how much I have changed.
“This time, I’m going for different reasons.”
“This time, I won’t be miserable. I won’t cry into my too expensive glass of wine each night, wishing away my time here. I won’t sit on the beach and close my eyes and feel like I am sinking, sinking, sinking into the soft sand. I won’t wander the holiest city in the world and only see it in one dimension. This time …”
It’s been eight months. That’s it. Eight months since I last landed in Israel. Eight months since I last wandered Ben Yehuda in Tel Aviv, hopped on a motorbike and checked out the flourishing street art scene in Tel Aviv. Got so drunk, I cried myself to sleep. For three nights.
Traveling solo isn’t supposed to be one dimensional. It isn’t supposed to be going through the motions. It is supposed to be — at least for me — about waking up. Seeing life. Feeling alive, alive, alive. And yet, there I was, in Tel Aviv, feeling as bad as I have felt in a long, long time.
Because Life. Yup. I call Life. See, I went to Israel last time for the wrong reasons. I didn’t go because I wanted to see, I wanted to eat (although, the idea of sinking my teeth into juicy figs, plunking soft bits of challah into my mouth and stuffing as much falafel into pita as I could did keep repeating in my mind). I went because I was silly. Because my heart — which trumped my mind — whispered just the right sweet words into my ear, even though my mind said “nonononono.” I went because of someone. And, if there is one thing I have learned from traveling solo, never go because of someone. Go because of me. Go because I want to go. I want to see. I want to be.
I executed my own cardinal sin of travel.
And, to make matters worse, the headspace, the mindfuck, I was giving myself about every facet of my life while in Israel was just about the worst thing in the world I could do. It clouded everything. The beautiful moments (and I promise, there were some, because it is traveling, and traveling is the thing I love most in the world) were dulled.
I pushed myself. I let myself sink deeper and deeper into my sadness. Into my absolute confusion of what I was doing with my life. Where I wanted to be. Who I wanted to be. I was a mess. I was depressed for a multitude of reasons.
So, for almost a week, I zombied my way through one of my most favorite countries in the world. I’d visited Israel 11 years earlier and fell in love with it. I found myself identifying so much with the culture, with the place … the country reached its desert-interior, history, Mediterranean coast, deep, deep, deep into my heart. But this trip? There was nothing. Just me. Hating myself. Hating the position I put myself in.
Even before the trip, I found myself sitting with my friend, telling her I didn’t think I should go. I should cancel. I should just go back to America early and spend time with my family. I knew going to Israel was going to hurt me, was going to wake me up, and the thing was, I was already awake. I knew what my life was at that point, I had realized. But, like a car wreck, you drive by and you slow down. Only, I was that car wreck. And I didn’t know how to exit the wreck gracefully.
So, I went.
Today, I’m heading back to Israel. Back to Tel Aviv. Back to the scene of my crimes. When I booked this ticket, I got wary looks, frank comments about my decision to return.
“It isn’t a good idea,” I was warned. “Remember last time?” “How are things going to be different this time?”
I didn’t get defensive. I didn’t get anything, because I knew. I knew what I was doing. I was going to create different memories in a place which deserved far better than I gave it. Like my later trip to Paris (’cause I absolutely hated Paris the first time I went). Tel Aviv deserved a second shot, and Israel as a whole deserved a third … because I’m not the same person I was eight months ago. I am good. My head is in the best place it has ever been. I feel good.
This time, I go for me. I go to erase (well, replace) the last moments I had in a country I love with happy times. With smiles. With fresh eyes, a fresh mind and a content heart.
So yes, this time will be different.
This post is part of the D Travels Europe series. Stay up-to-date on all of my European adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,Trover, G+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.