by Stephanie Smith, Executive Vice President
I found myself a little sad this weekend when I realized I was supposed to be on an airplane headed to Israel. This is a trip I do so often that I have a travel routine:
✔ Grab a coffee at Starbucks before heading to my gate.
✔ Settle into my usual place in the lounge with a Coke Zero—to work and mentally prepare for the tour.
✔ Treat myself to lunch in an airport restaurant.
✔ Board the plane for the long flight across the North Atlantic Ocean.
✔ Catch up on movies and try to get a few hours of sleep.
When I land in Israel I immediately feel at home. In many ways, this is my second home, my home away from home. I love this country and its people. As the driver takes me to my hotel, I love gazing out over the coastal plain while my mind settles.
In May, the spring flowers in Israel are still blooming and the weather is typically beautiful. The winds from the desert are starting to blow as summer approaches.
This particular trip was supposed to begin in Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee. I’ve stayed in many hotels around the Sea of Galilee, but there is one in particular that has become home. The employees there are my brothers and sisters, my true friends. I miss seeing them.
I was in Israel this March and so much has happened since then. When I left my friends in Israel, I thought I would return in two months. I was wrong. Now we don’t know when it will happen, but we know it will happen.
Many people have been feeling hard-to-explain emotions these last several weeks, and for the first time, I find myself grieving the loss of travel. Before this week, I was saddened at the idea that travel had stopped. But now, I have an actual trip to grieve. This particular trip to Israel, which I take every year, is one of my favorites. The people I travel with are incredible.
In the meantime, there is so much I am missing.
I miss my lunches at the falafel bar down the street from my hotel. I miss the walks along the Sea of Galilee. I miss the passengers I get to travel with and watching their expressions as they experience Israel for the first time. And then there is Jerusalem. There is no city in the world like Jerusalem.
While I miss my daily coffees—café hafuchs—and walking through the Old City searching for the right thing to bring home, what I miss most of all is the feeling that travel brings.
Freedom. Freedom to leave behind the routines of home and see more of the world. Freedom to interact with other cultures. Freedom to see something other than my neighborhood. And yet, I know this is not the end of travel. I will get to go to Israel again.
And the Caribbean.
And yes, even the mountains that I can see from my house.
Travel is part of me and I will be one of the first to fly when it is safe to do so.