I spent the past ten days in Israel-Palestine, alias the Holy Land. An exploratory trip through my university, it married faith, culture and academics into one life-changing, soul-shaking excursion. It also taught me a lot about being low-maintenance. I am continuously that girl with the massive suitcase who sets her alarm earlier than everybody else for prime shower time.
Israel-Palestine does not cater to needy American girls with uncontrollable hair like me so my buzz word for this last week was flexibility. I left home determined to embrace each difference – cultural or otherwise – and I can honestly say that it worked. I may have even fallen in love with Holy Land living.
Obviously there were deep, sentimental lessons learned, but here are some food and fashion takeaways.
1. Ladies. Maxi skirts are a must. No matter where you’re spending your summer, they work with everything – loose tees, scarves, gladiator sandals, wedges, flats, light sweaters, bikinis. They’re a life saver. A majority of my lodging was in Bethlehem, a Palestinian city with very limited water. I could not justify taking an hour in the shower to shave, but the beauty of the maxi? Nobody needs to know when you’ve skipped a day or two. Conservation at its finest.
2. While I’m not a huge bread person, I did discover the versatility of the pita. Pita bread is a Holy Land staple and usually served as an appetizer. On our first night, we sat down to a table spread of warm pita, hummus, baba ghanoush, tahini, tabbouleh (tomato-cucumber salad), yogurt sauce and beets. There were tons of additional chutneys and salsas so we played some Russian roulette and experimented. Granted we also didn’t realize that was our appetizer so by the time the main course came out we were in food coma territory. Pitas also make great sandwich alternatives. You can stuff them with whatever you have left in the fridge. We usually went with falafel (fried chickpeas or fava beans), hummus and mixed greens. Chicken is a popular falafel substitute and works nicely with a yogurt based sauce.
3. I’ve loved Burt’s Bees products (aside from their toothpastes, just can’t get on board with those) for ages. We were strictly bottled water consumers on this trip so that meant not swallowing water in the shower etc. My mum bought me Burt’s Bees facial “towelettes” (wipes for the nonfancy folk) in pink grapefruit. These smell wonderful and are so refreshing. They took a majority of my makeup off and were useful on the plane, too. There are other scents like cucumber and sage and white tea extract.
4. Shoes are half the problem. If you bring the wrong footwear on any trip, you will be miserable; it’s a proven fact. I wanted versatile shoes because we were walking dusty roads, hiking, encountering water of varying types (Dead Sea minerals are interesting) and spending extended time on our feet in general. My Toms were troopers. They go with a variety of outfits and are comfortable. I also picked up a pair of Jeep J-41 Tahoe shoes. Mine are grey and blue but there are other fun colors and they weren’t too expensive. I had no idea Jeep made footwear but I’ll be using these whenever I go hiking in future.
5. This one might be a little cheesy but hopefully it’s pertinent. Every Palestinian-Israeli person we encountered had an overwhelming amount of generosity. The American way is patriotic and courageous – even hospitable – but the welcoming nature of these people transcended what I’ve experienced at home. Whether or not you follow Middle Eastern politics, it is fairly common knowledge that the average American has it better than a majority of the global population. Yet we struggle to find joy and satisfaction. Why? The answer is another blog all its own. I was humbled by the baskets of fruit, cups of coffee and laughter I was given. I was taught Arabic and made a hummus connoisseur. A people in the midst of great conflict still found room in their hearts and their homes to invite in me, a complete stranger. Suddenly I found myself wanting to ditch the high maintenance label as fast as possible and return to the States an advocate for awareness in all things.
What causes are holding you captive right now? Comment below & enjoy a few shots from the trip!