Where I’ve Been…
Every so often I disappear. From this site, from my friends and family, from life. As an extroverted introvert, I have the best intentions when it comes to keeping people updated on what I am doing with my life, being social and making time to see people when I am home. I make plans to blog, to grab drinks with old coworkers and to call my mother. Then I immediately regret making those plans. Sometimes, I would much rather just sit on the couch with a
glass bottle of wine and catch up on John Oliver or Chelsea, sue me. Traveling can be exhausting and when I am home, I feel like I deserve at least a little down time, a vacation from my vacation if you will.
For those of you who are thinking, c’mon B stop blabbing and tell us about your latest journey since that is the only reason we follow your blog in the first place, fine. I suppose I can catch y’all up real fast.
I returned from SE Asia, specifically the Philippines (I will get those posts out eventually), in the beginning of June and spent a few lovely weeks back in Seattle where summer had decided it didn’t want to visit this year. The 4th of July was met with a bit of rain and high winds and the sun never did make an appearance, even though that bitch RSVP’ed. On the 6th of July, I set off for my first trip to the Big Apple. Weird right? A travel blogger from the states who hasn’t been to New York? I finally went, okay, get off my back…jeez. It was alright.
What does one do with 4 days in Manhattan in July? Eat mostly. At least that is what I did. Sure, I saw some stuff, i.e. the Highline, the 9/11 Memorial, the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park, but mostly I wandered aimlessly, walking into and out of bars and restaraunts in a constant search for AirCon. Why did no one tell me that New York in the summer is unbearably hot? The first day I was there I made the mistake of wearing a light blue crop top which was light blue for all of 8 minutes, and then it was dark blue for the remainder of the day. Sweat dripped down my back and pooled in places I would rather not speak about. How do people live in this place??
Anyways, the food was great. I made a point to check out some classic New York staple restaurants including Katz’s Deli, Ess-A-Bagel, Murray’s Cheese Bar, and more. I also made time for some more obscure choices like Victory Garden which serves goats milk ice cream. That was a new one for me, but it made my lactose intolerant tummy very happy.
Four days in the heat was definitely enough, though I do think I would like to visit New York again when I won’t feel like my Chucks are going to permanently fuse to the asphalt. That is big coming from a girl who has always said that she has no desire to EVER visit NYC. I guess it has its charm…whatever. I kinda get why people like living there.
On the 10th of July, I boarded the subway bound for Newark. It was time for the highlight of my summer, my trip to Israel and Cyprus!
This trip to Israel was one that I had been dreaming about for a couple of years. Two years ago, I found out about a program called Birthright which grants people with Jewish heritage a free trip to the Homeland. When I say free, I mean they pay for the flight from NY to Tel Aviv, hotel rooms and some meals for the entirety of your 10 day stay. It seemed like a pretty sweet deal to me. I applied last year and was not accepted into the program (they get A LOT of applicants, so apply early if you want in on this trip), and so this year I decided to try one last time. The age range for the program is 18-26, and I turn 26 this year so it was basically my last chance. A once in a lifetime opportunity, some would say. I found out I had been accepted into the program on my last day at Amazon. It was the best news that I could have hoped to have dropped on me that day.
I won’t go into a ton of detail in this post about my experience on Birthright because I plan* (remember how I feel about plans…) to dedicate a full post to the program at a later date. Basically, Israel is an incredible country, and everyone should visit at least once. I mean… If you can get a visa. It changed my perspective on “the situation” that is occurring in the Middle East. It helped me connect to my heritage, and before I visited I never realized a country could be more patriotic than the US. Israelis fucking love Israel. In 10 days, I saw more Israeli flags flying than I have ever seen on the 4th of July in the states. People eat, sleep and breathe patriotism. Maybe it has something to do with the mandatory military service, or maybe it is because the country is only like 60 years old. Whatever it is, it an amazing feeling to be surrounded by that kind of community. My only wish is that I had learned a bit of Hebrew before I went.
Just as a disclaimer, even though I went on an organized tour, you should not worry about planning a trip to Israel on your own, even solo. I never once felt afraid or threatened. The cities feel very intimate and the military presence, though a bit overwhelming at first, reconciled any fears I had about my safety.
After my 10 days in Israel were over, I decided to take advantage of another benefit of the Birthright program, which is the ability to extend your trip for up to 3 months. I decided to extend for an additional 10 days and visit the island of Cyprus which was a cheap, 1 hour flight away.
Most people that I have spoken with about this portion of my trip know nothing about Cyprus. That is of no fault of their own, because this little island nation doesn’t get the media attention that it deserves. First of all, the history of Cyprus is fascinating. It has been fought over for centuries by all sorts of different groups. It is actually still a contested territory to this day and boasts the title of having the last remaining divided Capitol in Europe. Firstly, Cyprus is its own country. It is not a Greek island, despite what most people think. Not that that is a completely ignorant thought because the southern half of the island is dominated by Greek Cypriots. Everything you see is in Greek. It makes sense to think you are in Greece, but you aren’t. The northern half of the island is known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. You have to show your passport to cross the border and everything. The Turkish occupation in the north is a point of contention because Cyprus joined the EU a few years back and technically the Turks are occupying EU territory which is a big no no. But, no one seems to be doing anything about it and the Turks have existed in this portion of the island since the 70’s. Information overload…sorry. I digress.
I rented a car for 10 days and decided to drive around the coast of Cyprus. Though I didn’t stick to that plan entirely, I did get to see most of the island. My favorite part was the Blue Lagoon on the northwestern coast. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The water was warm, but not too warm, and the white sand beaches were comparable to Koh Lipe, Thailand, my favorite place in the world. I definitely liked the vibe of the Turkish half of the island a bit better than the Greek half though. The Greek half seemed to have sold out to the tourism monster a bit too much for my liking. The Turkish half felt a bit more lost in time. The buildings were older, the streets smaller and the people were more open and willing to embrace outsiders. If you are planning a visit to Cyprus, I would say spend at least 5 days up north. The beaches aren’t quite as nice but there are plenty of diving opportunities. I even got to see a sea turtle on my dive there, which was pretty exciting. I hadn’t seen one since I was in Indonesia.
After my ten days in Cyprus came to a close, it was time to return from the Middle East to America, unfortunately. Getting back to Seattle was a bit of task due to, in part, Israeli security and because of my need to seek out the cheapest flight options which typically results in 24+ hours of fly time.
So what’s next on the agenda? Well, first of all, I am going to be moving back to my hometown, Spokane, WA on the 6th of August. I haven’t lived in Spokane for 7 years, so I am kind of excited to see what has changed since I left. I will be grounded there for a couple of months, which will be hard since I haven’t been stuck in one place for more than a few weeks since I quit my job in April. However, the monotony will be broken in the end of September when I will be jetting off to Japan with one of my beasties for our first international trip together. She and I have very similar ideas of how one should travel so I think this is going to be an amazing experience for the both of us. After Japan, there is some big news on the horizon, but I am going to keep that a secret for awhile at least.