The past 7 days have involved a hectic and exciting trip across three continents; six planes have brought me from Israel to Germany, to New York, to London, to Chicago. I had better intentions about blogging while I was travelling, but sitting online writing about my adventures seemed to take away from my time actually having these adventures… so this post was put on hold until now.
Leaving Israel and the majority of my family behind was an emotionally exhausting experience, but I was lucky enough to be welcomed to beautiful Germany by my first little brother, B. He’s been living in the quaint, little city of Düsseldorf for nearly a year while preparing to study art for university in the fall. Düsseldorf is a fairly quiet city where to my pleasure, like much of Germany, the food is delicious and cheap. It was an easy pleasure to indulge in scrumptious pizzas, bags of Haribo gummies, and a glass or two of wine. Historically, it lacks the dark and fascinating past of cities like Berlin; it’s biggest historical site to visit is a 900 year old tower, the remains of a castle, and it leaves with a you an impression of a relatively peaceful, posh place.
My favorite part of Düsseldorf, and one of the best parts about travelling in general, was the interesting people we met just wandering around the streets. In a small pizzeria one of the cooks started talking to me about my travels and where I was from (a sore point in most conversations for me), so I reversed the questions on him. The other cook and a server joined in, and we had the most pleasant conversation where I learned a little bit about their backgrounds: one was from Indian, another from Portugal, and the other from Italy. It was so heart-warming to see such comradery amongst diversity.
Later on that day, my brother and I stumbled upon what looked like a second-hand store, but was actually someone’s garage. The man was next door talking to a few friends and saw us stop outside his garage, and me embarrassingly, without thinking, reach for an old leather book that was on a shelf. He came over to say hello and we quickly realized we were invading his private property, my brother apologized in German, telling him how impressed we were with his belongings and that we didn’t meant to intrude. They started talking and it turns out the man was an artist, who kindly showed us some of his pieces (they were quite remarkable!). We learned that he was from Colombia, so he and I started speaking Spanish together and what immersed was this incredible transaction of language… my brother and I speaking English, my brother and the man speaking German, and the man and I speaking Spanish! He was wonderfully wise and we enjoyed a rich conversation about life, culture, travel, and art, right outside his garage/studio. He too was kind enough to let me take a portrait.
After a couple days in Germany, I was on my way again, back to the US at last. I had a long day of flying… Germany to Amsterdam, then to London for a 7-hour layover where I went to the city and met a friend for lunch, followed by my final touchdown in New York City. Upon arrival to the city, B and I ventured to a pub in the financial district to meet our host for the weekend. We found a place to stay via couchsurfing, an online community where people offer up their couches (or spare rooms, or air mattresses, etc.) for travelers to stay on for free. It is a great resource for travelling on a budget and even greater for meeting new people and getting a glimpse of a place from a local perspective. You get to search and apply for someone to be your host, and likewise they have to approve of your visit… so with a little looking around the site you can often find people in which you have a few things in common that make for great travel companions. B was in charge of finding our host and he did an excellent job, we forged true friendships with whimsical and immensely clever, Randy.
In some cases, couchsurfing hosts accept more than one guest at a time, and Randy’s generosity was extended to a lovely British couple, with whom we also became friends. The five of us explored food markets, thrift stores, cafes, restaurants, and the New York City skyline in one blissful, magical day filled with much philosophy and laughter. The most magical moments were the simple ones… gliding on bikes together along Brooklyn’s waterfront, enjoying pizza on a bustling, restaurant patio at sunset, watching the night lights of the city twinkle in the reflection of the East River. As beautiful and magnificent NYC is, most of my photos were filled with the people I spent my time with… their inner lights were brighter than the lights of the most phenomenal city, and I was enchanted.
It was an incredible week and an excellent exploration of cities before my send-off into the wild lands of the Philippines. I’m currently in the suburbs of Chicago, visiting friends and family and gathering last minute goods for my trip. In just NINE days I will be on my way to LA for my last US stop before my Big Departure… I can feel the excitement in my fingertips!
Until sometime soon,