We sit, tucked into a little patio just east of Ben Yehuda Street, and down the road from Gordon Inn in Tel Aviv, where I am staying for the night. Across from me is one of my best friends in the entire world, Ron, who was a major part of my life in Chiang Mai and, even though he is not there at the moment, continues to be one.
“I cannot believe I am here. I. Am. In. Israel. Can you believe it?!?” I keep asking him, needing someone to pinch me as I overflow with excitement.
Its only been a few months since our last time together, in sultry Chiang Mai. To be here, in Israel, a place I love with all of my heart, and with him, makes my blissfully happy.
A few minutes later, two of my other best friends join us — Cody and Giselle from Mindful Wanderlust.
We first met in Thailand, too, where they volunteered at the foundation I work for. During the year-plus they spent in Thailand, we had many late patio nights and lazy meals together.
And now, I am with them all. With friends I love so entirely much, it overwhelms me. Sitting with them at the restaurant as we sip on wine and dine on lentil salad, just overwhelms me with a happy I haven’t felt in a long time. It is a happy which is only achieved in the company of people who truly make my world go ’round. Who know how to make me smile. Comfort me when I’m down.
Our time in Israel is planned — as much as a trip can be.
Tomorrow, we’re off to Jerusalem to learn about life in the West Bank. But, tonight? We’re here. In the moment. Laughing. Catching up. Enjoying the simple pleasure of friendship and company.
After dinner, we head to a shisha bar only a few meters from the sparkling Mediterranean, and then later, we have our dance offs at a club before we retire for the evening.
But, not before we cement plans.
“Let’s just rent a car,” I suggest when Ron says he is doing Shabbat at his family’s the next night, which impedes his ability to get to Jerusalem since there is no public transportation during the holiday. “It will be fun! And then we can do whatever we want! And, ohmygodyouguyscanyoubelievewearealltogetherinIsrael!”
(Yeah, I pretty much live in exclamation points when I’m this happy.)
So, the next day, we do just that, stopping at Budget on Hayarkon to sign over a four-door automatic to me for three days (cost: a little shy of $200 USD). In the afternoon, I hit up Jaffa and then at night, we make the drive to Jerusalem, arriving to the large, but really cool Abraham Hostel late in the evening.
That night, the four of us have a slumber party. It takes me back to life in the dorms, but with people I love versus other travelers. It is the first time I’ve ever had this experience — being surrounded by friends and traveling. The first time I’ve ever felt so comfortable with other people and actually wanted to travel with them for more than a few days. The first time I have ever had relationships with people I have traveled with instead of just meeting at a hostel and decided we get along well enough to travel somewhere else together.
The entire weekend goes like this: laughter, smiles, laughter, smiles. It’s what traveling with others is all about.
There’s something to be said for that. Normally, I don’t want to travel with others, but with these three, it is perfect. It is comforting. It is home. In Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem. In my heart.
And it is a happy that doesn’t stop the entire time I am in Israel. It fills every waking moment of my life. It is an unbelievable feeling. An addictive feeling. And something I will treasure forever.
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.