Lessons Learned Part 2: "On The Trip"

Trip Start May 14, 2008
Trip End Jun 17, 2008

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Flag of Israel  ,
Friday, June 20, 2008

ITINERARIES AND CONFIRMATIONS.  Always have your trip itinerary and confirmations with you!  Even if you are on a multi-day guided trip, have the itinerary with you!

DRIVING.  When we are walking in a city, we allow time to wander.  When we are in the countryside, we look for small side roads that allow you to wander and stop and look.   Try to take advantage and stop at scenic overlooks, although they may come upon you quickly so you will need to react quickly. (reference experiences:  small road just south of Rosh HaNiqra, scenic overlook near Gamla - in both places we met interesting people.)

ITINERARY REVIEWS.  Review guided day and multi-day trips itineraries with your guide. When start the trip, go over the itinerary and ensure the guide's expectations are in sync with what you have coordinated in advance.  Make sure the guide and you are clear on what you signed up for (reference experience:  camel ride).

TOUR GROUPS.  As an independent traveler, sometimes it is fun to listen to the guides of tour groups.  We try to ask the tour guide for permission to listen, or at least thank the guide after his presentation.  We have never experienced a group that was not warm and welcoming.  On occasion we have stayed in the same spot and listened to several guides with very different presentations. 

DRINKING WATER.  Stay hydrated by always carrying water with you.  Pickup drinks as needed by stopping in a café or local market.  This gives you a break and refreshes the body with the needed hydration!  Be aware that dehydration will creep up on you because your sweat evaporates so quickly!  We were told to aim to drink 3 liters of water per person per day in the desert.  (reference experience: Jordan on June 1st)
HEBREW AND ENGLISH.  In Israel, you can speak English just about everywhere.  However, Harvey did a really good job of remembering how to read the alphabet from religious school and figuring out words.  He was good at learning key Hebrew words and it was fun and useful.  Don't over do your practice.
PUT YOURSELF IN SITUATIONS WHERE YOU WILL EXPAND YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON ISRAEL.  I had my favorite question that I liked to ask:  "why can't people be tolerant of one another and why can't we all live in peace".  This usually expanded into a discussion on the prospects for peace.

By reading our journal, you know that we came in contact with many different types of people.  We encountered (not in any particular order): men and women soldiers, tourists from all over the world, hotel desk attendants, restaurant servers, music performers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, flight attendants, security personnel, technology workers, school teachers, tour group leaders, private guides, shop keepers, workers from other countries, students of all ages (elementary, high school, college), former ballroom dancer, soldiers on reserve, entrepreneurs, business owners, Rotary Club members, farmers from a moshav, people who live on kibbutz (young people in their 20's all the way to 67 years old), brides, grooms, brothers of the groom, professional and amateur photographers, tourist information desk staff, Israeli Jews (of course) - some born in Israel, other who immigrated from so many different countries, Druze, Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, Christians, secular Jews, religious Jews, very religious Jews and Hassidic Jews, Rabbi, Bedouins, mothers, fathers, homeopath, street vendors, Lebanese, Jordanians, Americans, Russians, Brits, Argentineans, Yemenites, South Africans, Swedish (and so many other countries!). We also met: dogs, kittens, cats, camels, donkeys, horses.

Tips for meeting people.
o       Carry a digital SLR (they think you know what you are doing!) and smile at people.  It is interesting how many people asked for their photo and this provided an opening for conversation. 
o       Stay in a bed & breakfast or zimmer.  We really loved our stay at Villa Carmel in Zichron Ya'acov. 
o       Sit in a restaurant, on a train or any public venue in a location that opens you up to meeting others.  Look around you and smile.  Start a conversation!
o       When standing in line, start a conversation. 
o       At the hotel morning buffet or near your restaurant table, start a conversation.
o       When walking in a tourist site, you may catch the eye of someone who looks interesting to talk with. 
o       In a theatre or concert, the people next to you, in front or behind may be open to talking. 
o       Look lost with a street map open in your hands, scratching your head and having a puzzled look on your face. 
o       Look for people who have shirts on with the name of the site you are at and ask any questions you may have. 
o       The entrance attendant at a site you are visiting, if it is quiet will normally be open to conversation. 
o       Stop at scenic overlooks and talk to people who also stopped. 
o       Walk up to people taking photos and talk about what they are photographing.
o       You get the idea...be open and smile!
BE OPEN TO DIFFERENT CULTURES AND TRADITIONS.  If ever in your wanderings, you come across people and are invited to do something with them, be open and absolutely GO!  (reference experience: Christian Arabs on May 25).  Sometimes it's a stretch to let a situation develop with people who act or think differently from ourselves.  It's so much easier to stay in our comfort zone. But why go to for all the time and expense to travel to stay in that comfort zone?  We agree that if we ever meet another Atef, we'll accept the invitation.

DON'T OVERSCHEDULE A DAY.  Allow time to get lost, allow time to wander and explore a neighborhood.  Allow time to meet people along the way and engage in conversations.  In the trip planning, you have prepared a list of possible activities for each day.  Take out that list everyday.  Let that be the springboard and let each day evolve.  Pace yourselves.  Create a balanced day!

FOR POPULAR SITES, CHECK OUT THE BEST TIME TO VISIT.  We don't like to be places that are crowded.  Check with your hotel or on TripAdvisor to find the best time of day, sometimes it is early in the morning and sometimes it is late afternoon.  (reference experience: Old Jaffa, May 17th, a good time was early in the day; Florence to see the statue of David, the best time was late afternoon.)
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