This year my (American) family and I left San Francisco to spend a year in Tel Aviv. It has been the most exciting, inspiring, insane, and invigorating thing I have ever done. I’ll tell you a bit about our year.
To begin, all of my life I have taken the road more traveled.
Which is to say, when I was 12 years old, my Mom gave me a clipboard with a list on it. It said I should go to High School, go to a decent cheap college, get a job that covers the rent, marry someone (Jewish), buy a house, travel to Italy for a week, have two kids, buy a sensible Hybrid SUV, retire, and live in Del Boca Vista sub division two near Seinfeld’s parents (actually she didn’t give me this list, but it was implied).
So you may ask, why now, why Israel? Here are the reasons. I am 45 years old. I’m married, and I have two daughters ages 11 and 14 who are in 6th and 9th grades. My thought was that if we didn’t go now, right now, this year, the opportunity would vanish. In a year or two, the older kid will need to stay in high school as she plans for college. And after that the younger kid will go to high school. The girls are the perfect age. Old enough to be fun to hang out with and remember the experience, yet young enough to pluck out of school. I dread the day they grow up and leave me for college, and adulthood.
Another factor was work. As a marketing- and ad-agency guy, I know that jobs for me tend to last a few years. I had three years under my belt at my job, and I felt that I had accomplished enough at that position to have a great story to tell, even with a year abroad between full time gigs.
The last but possibly most important reason was that my wife said O.K. The year abroad has been a real relationship builder for us, and I have been so proud of our teamwork in this adventure.
In terms of why Israel, I am Jewish, and I have a brother here. I have visited him in Israel ten times for weddings and other events, but this time I wanted to come as a “local” and not a tourist. I believe in the Jewish State, and I liked the idea of my kids being exposed to a different flavor of Judaism and picking up some culture (also I liked the idea of getting them briefly out of the Marin County bubble which can be a bit homogenous).
So what have I done while here, and what are my impressions? Well, we – found an apartment, got cell phones, got bank accounts, borrowed a car, got cable tv, furnished an apartment from Ikea, got a cleaning guy, ordered the New York Times Friday delivery, learned Hebrew, joined gyms, ran the Tel Aviv marathon, spent time with my nieces and nephews, spent more time with my brother in one year than in the previous 45 years combined, visited Jerusalem, Eilat, Tel Aviv, Ein Gedi, Haifa, Istanbul, Petra, Rome, Positano, Athens, made new friends, attended a Lithuanian Independence party, ate at 94 cafes and drank at 61 bars, learned a new city, drove in a new city, worked for a cool startup called Consumer Physics, and learned to fight for our place in “line” among unruly Middle Eastern line jumpers.
So what did I learn?
I have learned three key things.
First, I have a great brother. It’s nice to have a sibling nearby, especially for a guy who grew up as an only child in the house. Second, my family and I are more durable and adventurous than I knew. And last, and most importantly, I learned that in life, it is possible to do things just because they sound amazingly cool and exciting.
You just have to go for it. This was maybe the first time I ever did something so ridiculous, and it has been the best thing I have ever done in my life.