Journey, family and everything in between
November 30th, 1993
I said goodbye to my family and friends, and boarded a Turkish Airline flight to Bangkok. I finally arrived right into a wonderful dream of scents, flavors and colors, an unexpected gift on my twenty-fourth birthday.
In those days, when I was sure the world belonged to the young, on a bus-trip to my next destination that felt never-ending, I met a German tourist. she seemed to me so old in appearance but yet still so young in spirit. We talked at length and in a moment of candor I dared to ask for her age.
"50 years old," she replied with a smile.
"Wow," I thought to myself, "one day, I would like to be just like her, at her age."
That journey to the East forever determined my fate. I knew I would never be able to go back to my old life: the wanderlust had been aroused within me.
This is how I found myself over the years traveling to South America, Central America, again to South America, Cuba and more…
But Asia, somehow Asia has been left behind as a distant memory.
March 28th, 2018
Fifteen strangers met at the Menachem Begin border crossing on the way to Sinai, for what was about to be a wonderful six-day journey, under the guidance of Gili Sasson and Shuka the legendary guide. “From the top of the Great Mountain to the depths of the Red Sea.”
It was a challenging and magical trip. We were a strange group of all ages and from all shades of Israeli society. We grew closer day by day as we walked side by side. Eventually, after walking together for a while, we found ourselves wondering, "Where is Noa?"
Noa was always found sitting at the edge of a cliff scribbling in her notebook…
One time, when we found her sitting like this, focused, her hand floating above the paper, I looked over her shoulder. on the page I saw the wonderful view of the desert in front of us. She looked up from the page and our eyes met.
"Amazing" I whispered…
Jokingly, I told her that I think our group should be named "Finding Noa…"
Her raucous laughter washed over the wadis and we sank into one of the most fascinating, exciting and powerful conversations I have ever had.
In a rare moment of unreserve, she revealed Noa: an artist, photographer, painter and a fascinating conversationalist dealing with fibromyalgia and manic depression.
In my mind's eye her image is forever intertwined in the wadi leading to picturesque Santa Catarina. Later, Noa of the Desert fulfilled her dream of the “Masa el kav hashver” as she called it, a bicycle journey from the Hula Valley along the Syrian-African rift to the Great Mountain in Sinai.
March 28th, 2019
I collected from our mailbox a large, thick, and illustrated envelope.
"Noa?!" I thought in surprise.
I open the envelope enthusiastically.
Into my palm slipped a wonderful drawing from her journey: “Masa el kav hashver” My heart fluttered happily. I dug further into the envelope and was met by another beautiful print from the magical landscapes of Sinai.
I turned over the print and In her beautiful handwriting she had written a note:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.Mark Twain
My heart was beating wildly… I fumbled for my cell phone, dialing Itzik. It felt like an eternity had passed until he finally answered.
I read him the note and without stopping to take a breath, I added: "in six months, I will be fifty years old! We are going on a journey to the Far East." It wasn't a question.
"Okay." He consented without hesitation.
"Okay, that was easy." I thought to myself and breathed a sigh of relief! In relief?! How could it be?
That weekend, our minds reeled over all of the possibilities, bouncing between immense excitement about potentially fulfilling our dreams and apprehension over all of things that could go wrong.
What could possibly go wrong? Everything!
Would we be able to leaving our jobs? How would we fund this adventure? What about the children's studies? Will we rent our house? What will we do with the furniture? Will we rent the house with the furniture?
Mark Twain Definitely knew what he was talking about when he wrote: "throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor…"
March 31st, 2019
I dived into the various flight sites, finding four, one-way tickets: Tel Aviv – Bangkok. I entered our passport details and my credit card number then dialed Itzik.
I told him about booking the flights to Bangkok and that all I needed to do was to confirm the payment by clicking on the confirmation button.
"click," he said on the other end of the line.
April 1st, 2019
I announced at work that I would be leaving and told the team that in August we would be going on a family trip to the South-East Asia. I tried to explain that the tickets were one-way and we would be going as a family into the unknown…
Then, I needed to convince them it wasn't an April Fool's prank.
April to August
We went through many months of endless organizing, including: renovations, finding tenants, packaging and cleaning out the house. We also had to arrange for our vaccinations, set up meetings with the children's teachers, and other various tasks to be finished before we could leave.
August 1st, 2019
I packed the last of the clothes in a bag. I looked around and surveyed the large, empty room which up until this morning had been full of our personal belongings. I Closed the zipper and decided to tour the barren house: walls devoid of pictures, looking so lonely. I walked through the abandoned rooms, taking in every detail of my beloved house before saying goodbye.
It was amazing. Despite the fact that my cherished home was now completely bare, my heart was filled with indescribable happiness. The strange echo created in the empty house seem to fill me with a joyful melody. "This will be your second chance". I thought to myself as I lock the door for the last time.
Embarking into the unknown, looking at the backpacks that would soon become our home in the coming year, I started to feel excitement for the journey I have dreamed of for so many years.
Is it even possible to explain this feeling?!
Only 23 days until the trip, meanwhile we stayed with Itzik's mother, who generously doted on us until we left.
August 12th, 2019
I woke up at 6AM, the sound of the alarm clock struck me with a thought: this is going to be a long day of saying goodbye to the first group of patients, most of whom I’d been working with for many years. After that, I would be attending the annual Beit Issie Shapiro swimming event. The theme of the event is: “Anyone can.” The program focuses on helping individuals with special needs improve their motor-function, skills, and confidence using hydrotherapy. This is an event that I used to look forward to every year. We would prepare all of our swimmers to show their progress for the year. The swimmers are grouped based on their individual needs, and abilities, depending on how much emotional or physical support they might require. At the end, everyone gets to take home a medal.
That morning, as I laid in bed wondering how I would get through this day, I thought about how bittersweet the day was going to be and just couldn’t control the tears.
But, of course, the clock had no time for my tears. It went off on its own and brought me back to reality. I pulled myself together and started to prepare for this unforgettable day.
The day seemed to pass so quickly. Maybe it was good, at least this way I wouldn’t have to think so much…
Then, I heard them call my patient. They were preparing the participants in his group to start. I looked at my young swimmer. We had been together for a year. He was sitting on the modified starting block, looking at me with a confidence I would never have imagined a year ago. He leaned low in the water, ready for the opening whistle and I whispered, “I’m so proud of you!”
The opening whistle blew.
When I watched him push off into the water, a thought overtook me, “Oh my God, what did you do? What were you thinking to leave all this behind?”
He swam resolutely and I could notice how he applied everything he had learned. With every movement in the water, I could see how far he had come since that day when we first met. He had been so shy, quiet and hypotonic, but he had managed to tell me that he wished to be able to swim. It hadn’t been easy for him learning how to swim… until he reached this glorious moment when he touched the end of the pool. When the stopwatch stopped, and they announced that he’d finished in 43 seconds, we were both amazed. In all of his training laps he’d only managed to finish in 48 seconds. His gaze was so proud and happiness flooded his face. I embraced him strongly in my lap.
“I will miss you!” I said.
“I will miss you too, Gal!”
Michael Jordan once said:
.Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, and others make it happen
You did good," I thought to myself, while my eyes flooded with tears. Luckily, we were in the pool and no one could notice it. “You made the right decision.”
In the coming days, there would be many more encounters like this, but finally I felt I could meet them.
August 16th, 2019
Tu B’Av (the Jewish festival of love)
Our last weekend in Israel with friends and family. The following Friday we would already be on the road.
Next stop: Happiness!
And the happiness was bound to come…
August 23rd, 2019 Surprisingly, Arkia flight: IZ591, departed with only a slight delay. Despite the many warnings, the service was good and the staff were very friendly, the flight went smoothly, and prior to landing the chief flight attendant congratulated Shahaf on behalf of the flight crew in honor of her thirteenth birthday. Of course, Shahaf blushed and was so embarrassed.
Okay, maybe not the best surprise for a teenager, hmmm…, or at least I wouldn’t recommend it for your teenage children.
On the 24th of August, we arrived in Bangkok. Although we had already made plans to celebrate Shahaf’s 13th birthday, the sleepless night flying from Israel had overwhelmed us and we found ourselves celebrating on the famous Khao San Road and Rambuttri Road instead.
The young and vibrant atmosphere brought me back to the early nineties when I first visited these streets. True, the place has changed a lot since then, but the feeling was the same. Shahaf was flitting between stalls selling all kinds fruit, smoothies, banana roti (or “Loti” as the locals call it), pad Thai, spring rolls and much more. As we walked down the street, we gathered to watch some street performers: live music, jugglers, etc., all the while many young tourists came to compliment her and she would blush and smile.
I noticed a change in her body language, something in the way she smiled, the way she spoke and acted. I felt in those moments that I was looking at a familiar stranger. She was no longer my baby, there was something recognizable there, but it was clear she was changing. As the days would pass, the feeling would intensify. But, that evening I reached out to her, to walk with her hand in hand as we always had, I so loved the feeling of warmth that I got from the palm of her hand. I could feel it not only in my hand, but also in my heart.
“Mom, you’re embarrassing me. I’m grown already.” She whispered, pulling her hand away and brushing her long hair out of her face as she walked away from me.
My heart sank, “am I embarrassing her?” If only I could walk hand in hand with my own mother…
“My eldest daughter is changing so much,” and suddenly it hit me: “I don’t really know her. Yet, she, on the other hand, knows my full range of emotions.”
Then I felt a small, warm palm holding my hand. His gaze was soft and loving. “Mommy, Kibuk.” (This mispronunciation is how my son has always asked for a hug, since he was a toddler.) My heart soared again.
In the days that followed our family went through many emotional upheavals, awkward moments, funny moments, disturbing, exciting, and unforgettable moments. We were engrossed in experiences that strengthened, empowered and especially solidified our relationships…
My name is Gal and Itzik is my partner, we have been together for seventeen years. We are the proud parents of thirteen-year-old Shahaf and ten-year-old Kfir.
Until the trip, I worked as a hydro-therapist at Beit Issie Shapiro's house in Raanana, Israel. During my years at work, I learned a lot about the meaning of determination and fulfilling dreams.
Two years ago, we had been traveling in Brazil, which left us wanting more…
We just have to walk steadily towards our dreams. Whatever we might find at the end of road may not be a glorious destination, but we will see the beauty of our footprints that we left along the way…
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at allHelen Keller
You are welcome to join us on the journey!