Bonus: Waylon tells about his first travel in 40 years.
My eyes have never in 39.9 years seen the rest of our world, except in pictures and movies. But this planet is not a postcard. It’s time! #telaviv #sweden #florencethen #washingtondc & #richmondMany more photos of this trip: @waylonlewis on Instagram.
The Flight: from DIA to Toronto, layover, Toronto to Frankfurt, layover, Frankfurt to Israel.
I haven’t had a window seat, sadly, so I’ve missed my first flight across the Atlantic and haven’t seen Ireland, England, Europe as we’ve flown in. And I don’t have a window seat to Israel, though I’ll try and fail again to switch—the flight’s booked.
Normally, I love looking out the window–it’s like flying, being an angel, seeing the world and my life with some perspective, outside of time.
Everyone else watches Anchorman 2 and all, that’s fine, but I just want to stare out like a 10 year old too young to know better than to be anything other than fascinated with life.
I’ve slept well, despite being a big boy, big shoulders getting bumped all the time, and I need some yoga and exercise. I’ve been taking all the walkways and skipping all the escalators and autoramps.
I just had my first glimpse of Europe, though someone else’s window, but because I was in the middle of a big plane, couldn’t get an angle to see much. Then when we landed the door was open in the back and I could see the concrete below, that was my first glass-less glimpse of Europe in my life.
Memo to self: make sure I get window seats, it’s my bad I didn’t make sure. That applies to all of us: if there’s something important to you in traveling, be mindful of such and make sure you make it happen, it’s our responsibility.
I’ve been feeling somewhat giddy, but also quiet, like a freshman at high school on his first day. I’ve had really nice seat neighbors–a mom who helped me squeeze into my sweater (hard to move around when you’re in your seat) on the first flight, to Toronto, and then a German family. The food was absolute US crap–all white flour, processed, sugar. A few cubes of fruit, this morning. The coffee tasted like warmed up rainwater, only worse. I’ve used three plastic cups already–not sure why planes, esp. European (they should know better than US) can’t use waxed paper or compostable paper.
Tel Aviv. Met a few nice folks on the plane, switched for a window seat so I could stare at the Mediterranean for the first time, the clouds, the farms, the country. One of them lent me his phone on the way out after the plane landed (always a kinda fun moment to touch down on new earth for the first time; I love flying) and I called Dave, the number written on a scrap of paper in my wallet in case my phone died. I call him, he took the train in to meet me since I was nervous about catching a cab on my own (it’s Shabbat, no more train after 330 or something)–I’d need to catch a cab with others going the same way. Traveling seems scary, sometimes. But I was ready for it and woulda nailed it. But he felt my nervousness, came out, met me, and I felt right at home from the get-go thanks to him taking time out of his day.
We met two tourists from Netherlands looking to find an airbnb or hostel in Tel Aviv, and we got a cab with them to save some shekels. Nice people, we talked and though I was in the front facing away from them I held my own, often I get introverted when traveling, but we all had fun and I continued to just feel right at home, as if I’d just walked into a new neighborhood in San Francisco or New York.
Then we sat and had a coffee on a median just a few blocks off from the beach, on Ben Jurion. I poured some water on a scabbed up overheated dog with super thick fur and petted him a bit. I fell in love for the first of five times today.
Then: went to our apartment, then biked around, played volleyball in that sand (I haven’t played for years really other than once in awhile, was playing today with some real dedicated non-pro pros and we came back to tie after being down 1-9. Before and after I saw / swam in Mediterranean (before during and after sunset) for the first time!
We went to #bicycletta for dinner, tonight–well, my second dinner after a curbside falafel with hot sauces and peppers. Bicycletta is an open air outdoor cafe, we watched the #worldcup, me asking questions about the rules, enjoyed lots of good Mediterranean food, solid #vegan options, I ordered the pricey great local beer, there were four nationalities at my table, there was good wifi for a moment of work on my laptop. We enjoyed the fresh cool evening air (after a hot, muggy day). There was hash in the air, forward women and stale free popcorn. Not coming back.#wholetthewayout #telaviv
I just swam in the salty beautiful sea again, it’s 1 am. Walked from our apartment with no keys, no wallet, no phone, no shirt, no flip flops. Just our shorts, walking past club-goers and a strip club then swimming in the saltwater beneath the colorful city lights and light-obscured stars. This is living.
Thinking about being nearly 40 and finally enjoying abroad. Dave saying it’s easy having me out here, I’m outgoing or comfortable or something. I don’t know about that but I am happy, joyful at all the differences. Tel Aviv is amazing, ugly cheap architecture, amazing food, beautiful yougn and old people and bicycles and obnoxious cars (no turn signals, our cabby watching the world cup while he’s driving). Now we’re watching Muscle Shoals while I update this here little journal. Our cheap apartment via airbnb is a block off the beach.
At 39.9 Years old, I’m out of the US for the first time.
Well, I’ve been to Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Halifax—and across the border for lunch and a cuban cigar in Nogales, Mexico.
All the more, I haven’t taken a real break in 11 years. Elephant just turned 12–6 years in print as a national ecopaper-printed magazine (state-of-the-art recycled paper, still bad, printed in the US, 80% sell-through rate [average is 30%]) and six years as a web site, video series and virtual community.
Elephant’s not making good money, but we have a good staff for the first time, and what money we do make (largely from your $1/month subscriptions) we pay (and pay well) to our staff, editors, and best consistent writers.
We pay well enough that I’ve been able to pay a mortgage (for my home and our home/office) and buy a good bike every few years and help out my momma (who I owe more than I can ever repay). So I’ve been happy. But I work 16 hours a day, quite literally, and never really travel unless for work. It’s been a rewarding but difficult path of sacrifice and joy. Many of us serve in our own ways, and experience that joy. Many of us don’t, and focus on making a living. This generation is about figuring out how to do both: do well by doing good. If we can do that, we can save the world through business, instead of endlessly exploiting it.
And it is us, so we better figure it out.
So it’s a rare pleasure for me to take off—literally—into the unknown. My flights totalled 1.5 days, from DIA to Toronto to Frankfurt and finally to Tel Aviv, where I’m spending five days. Then on to Sweden, for a weddding of a dear friend of ours, then on to Florence, where I’ll spend a few days with elephant’s founding food columnist. And then a few final days in DC, for July 4th, and to see my family, and hopefully meet up with an idol and friend of mine.
But what’s interesting isn’t my itinerary—it’s the notion that if we work hard, and focus, and sacrifice, and build, we can finally let go. And letting go can be scary—I’m tired, I’m lonely even when surrounded by friends, which I have been. I’m out of my bubble. And this is more than happy—this is delight. Delight at new food, new conversations, new friends, new experiences, it’s mind-blowing. Seeing architecture and plants and a culture I’ve never seen. Tomorrow: Jerusalem and the West Bank, if we’re able (tons of strife there, now, a diplomat friend says it’s worse there now thanks to police crackdowns following a kidnapping of three kids than any time since 2002).
The world is full of history, of sacred awe, of new joy, of sad anger. It’s a world we need to work to heal. Buddhists term it “creating enlightened society.” But our work isn’t just out there. It’s right here. All over Tel Aviv’s beautiful beaches, people toss plastic bottles and wrappers and styrofoam. I mean, these beaches are world class. The sand is so fine, it’s like walking in chalk.
Taking care of our kitchen sink, or laundry, our relationships, our parents, our beaches—we have to walk our talk, and learn to create peace as we go. But we can’t be suckers either—all we can do is try, with joy. We can let go, if we have to, too.
It’s a world full of suffering. But good God, it’s a Wonderful World, too. It’s both. And our every action creates this small world, this society, for good or ill.
So take a moment today to take care of something you’ve been ignoring. I’m facing my fear of loneliness (I’m usually surrounded by folks who know me). But loneliness ain’t so bad, it’s sad and sweet and fun to be brave, instead of cowardly.
I’m working with remembering to do my dishes, and to eat mindfully, and to repair things with my pa. I’m also letting go of relationships that don’t work, if they don’t work. It takes two to tango.
And it takes a village to create a kinder community.
#telaviv is full of frank conversation and longing for peace –through business, climbing, NGOs–not politics. But everyone seems to feel it’s hopeless.
Day two. Three?
#yaffo One town over and the architecture and people are v. different. Two hours later our party has doubled and we’re still breakfasting. #telaviv #vegan #coffee#casinosanremo #israel @daverogers #itai#techshoptalk
Today went to that great brunch spot, sat around for 4 hours…amazing food and the coffee, you’d be in heaven. I haven’t sat around with friends for four hours for…years. An old buddy, 29, good looking Israeli kid showed up, we talked about his love life and tech business. We biked around old Yaffa (more Arabic), visited a huge gallery owned by a buddy of Dave’s, cute girls , very different culture here–I feel like I’m the target, opposite of Boulder where it’s all on the guy.
We went all over this historic museum site, everything’s 3500 years old, including the shoppes, they’re built in curving old stone caverns, relics from Napoleon on back to Romans, even Egyptians. Way before Christ. Exhausted, I still have barely rested but haven’t complained once, which helps me forget I’m jet lagged,
Surfing, volleyball, a gay beach, tourists, beautiful men and women, cafés, #worldcup fans, beaches…and only a few miles away, the kind of unending societal strife I’ve never been close to. #telaviv #israel
we biked back along chaotic long beautiful shoreline (like much crazier version of bike ride up boardwalk from Venice to Santa Monica, south-north, and ran across our favorite beach with volleyball friends and we surfed (without boards) the waves for a long time, fun and exhausting, then played volleyball for a few hours.
Played volleyball ’til dark, eight courts going simultaneously between big community dance and boardwalk and beach, bodysurfed the sea before and after. #telaviv
I’m on autopilot, about 8 hours past when I wanted to nap. Now we’re going out for dinner to another hipstery place. There’s lots of consciousness and talk here (it’s liberal) about the West Bank and Israeli BS, lots of transparency, which makes it tolerable. Interesting–everyone serves in military at 18–everyone. I guess everyone knows that, but blows me away. Biking all over this town, super comfortable even with the insane traffic.
Then went out for dinner–saw a few friends–amazing food, best yet, vegan tapas for me, strong beer (yummy, but made me sleepy). World Cup. Now home, working for an hour, it’s 1 am now, gonna work for a bit and get up at 6 am for Jerusalem.
Many more photos from today to come. But I’ve got to go jump in the salty sea now and wake up and get out it’s 1 am and I just worked on laptop instead of napping ’cause I’ve been offline all day, in Jerusalem.
So good. But this working in all my gaps, instead of napping like my friends…I’m getting progressively sleepier Dead Sea tomorrow.
It’s a real adventure for me, getting out and being present and having fun and adapting and being at home wherever I am. It’s been pretty easy, largely thanks to being with one of my best buddies. Still, I’ve been in a thousand new situations, it’s exhausting, and I’m loving it. Eyes wide open.
It’s about time.
It’s hard in a funny way but incredibly healthy and fun and just mind-opening.
Yesterday: the holy city of Jerusalem. We woke, cabbed to bus, saw the country, talked work (Dave works with me a bit and argued pleasantly, I love Dave’s criticism, the best friends are kind but frank), arrived in Jerusalem, trammed to the Holy City…and found that the time our paid tour was leaving was wrong on the web site. So we had four hours until the next one. So we went back to Jerusalem, to Mahane Yehuda (short video on @WaylonLewis on Instagram). I bought dates and figs, which I love, and probably got slightly hustled on the price though Dave double-checked and pushed back and had him weigh stuff. The market was the first of its kind I’ve ever seen–open baskets or barrels of food, some of it fresh or real, some of it disgusting and fake…the whole gamut. Dave had breakfast (nothing vegan, I enjoyed coffee and then my dates and figs) and we walked around lots, sampling Halva. We then trammed back and met up with our tour, led by Yalev. He has a practice humor and good strong gentle voice that carried over the chaos. He’s a pro. We tipped him at the end.
The tour was forever–five hours–up top on the Temple Mount, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall, Grave of Adam, following the fourteen stations of the cross (Via Dolorosa), Discovery of the True Cross (maybe), Mount Zion, room of the Last Supper (only, not), King David’s Tomb.
We began walking through the turreted castle-like walls of the Holy City. The place goes back 5,000 years, layers of city upon layers of city. We began walking through the Armenian section, past bullet-riddled walls, a lady playing mournful fiddle, past dozens of young soldiers (men and women, half of them beautiful, half of them on ipods and biking around, so human and ordinary about it as if they were off to a picnic, only they’ve got an automatic weapon slung on one shoulder. We went underneath an outdoor archway with crystal chandeliers—everything was really old, really really ancient, really really really ancient, or just old, or really new and tacky (the marketplace with its tourist tee shirts, one of which I successfully haggled way down for, and its inappropriate child’s automatic gun toys). We looked over a city in a valley (built in the worst spot, defensively, because it had to protect the water at the base) where Jesus did something or other (sorry, so many stories…can’t keep it straight). The place looks straight out of Sunday School, which I attended for years as a child, though I was raised by a Buddhist mommy. We saw children playing football on a roof, and bright flowers, and chaotic cars driving fast down narrow streets, looking to kill wayward tourists, I asked questions, we got to know a few of our fellow tourists (from everywhere on earth–Israel, El Salvador, Switzerland, San Francisco, a lady from New York City who knew friends of ours in Boulder…). We left the Wailing Wall, which we only saw (we later visited another section of the Wall) for the high security Muslim area, where groups of old religious folk gathered to pray, study, or just gawk at tourists. Children played soccer/football. Everything everywhere was built in the time of the Crusaders, or the Turks, or far earlier, or much later. So many layers of history. Old olive trees. The Temple on the Mount, closed to all except Muslims. A fountain where kings and crusaders were baptized. 50 feet away, the site where King Abdullah?, friend to Lawrence of Arabia, was assassinated. We went to the Wailing Wall and wrote our notes to God. With all the talk about riots between religions in the holy city, and murders in the West Bank, and unending history of warfare between faiths, and the stations of the Cross (a path of torture of many), I asked Him to focus on peace.
We went into the great Holy Sepulchre church, where more aggression was evident–priests fight with priests, apparently, rather often, women are yelled at if their shoulders are uncovered…it was all so beautiful but felt so mythic, and strange that humans would hurt one another over their beliefs in these stories–blood dripping through rock from a cross and a resurrection of a rabbi (yes, Jesus). Powerful, beautiful, awe-inspiring, depressing, sexist…and everywhere everyone was just taking photos of themselves pretending to pray (with some exceptions–there were some “real” pilgrims). I took photos, of course, but focused on enjoying the present moment as I went. No point looking at my effing phone as I travel.
I went in a burial cave, like the one where Jesus was buried, I touched the center of the world, according to Christianity.
Last photo from all-day 5-hour walking tour of #holycity of #jerusalem–Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites. Jesus did this here, that there–a lot of learning and fun. By the end we were exhausted, empty, tired feet–so we went for another half hour walk in the rooftops then tram, bus, then walked another Hal hour. Getting #vegan pizza watching #worldcup now at best pizza joint in #telaviv. —-dint worry this was my only selfie–appropriate since the site behind me is the exact #centeroftheworld in Christian tradition. By this time I was, as you can see, I’m one tired cowboy. 😉
By the time the tour was over, we were beat, exhausted in only the way museums can exhaust you, only far worse. So we kept going, exploring some rooftops, then finally bussing home (I feel asleep for a few) and then walking a long ways home (surprisingly, walking more woke my body up, instead of making me feel more tired).
Dave napped for a few hours while I worked on my laptop, catching up on elephant and a girl I like, and then we ran out (at midnight) for a salty sea swim to get clean and rejuvenated. We then bicycled like madmen, delightful and dangerous, but I’m a pro, across the city to two bars to find a good place to watch the US match in the World Cup, and we drank and made US friends and yelled and screamed and I learned about football and immediately got it, somehow, and enjoyed my first match (I don’t watch, or play) and drank more, and fell over twice screaming with victory, then we settled in the last 10 seconds for a tie. Crushing, but still a great result (we’re underdogs).
We went home, I worked for another hour, then fell asleep at 4 am.
Missing a few days here. I’ll update when I get a pause.
Long lost walk around Israel–deliberately lost, thanks to my buddy Dave, who set me off with 3.5 hours with instructions to check out a food market and then get lost, find a cafe, then find him and Julia, his love, in a cool Georgian vegan restaurant bar at 8:30. I followed his instructions to a tee–including getting lost, though I knew where in Tel Aviv was, I had no wifi and no sense of where this place I was supposed to be heading was. The experience of asking folks for directions was, perhaps because of my mood, surprisingly difficult.
Finally I saw a beautiful hipsterish girl in a yellow dress and, though intimidated, asked her. I figured, given her style, she’d know where a popular vegan restaurant was. She did indeed. Turns out I had walked about an hour in the wrong direction, toward the beautiful beach, so I walked back and enjoyed the sights thoroughly. Exhausted, walking now 2 hours in flip flops, I found an amazing old school cafe. I was rather alone-feeling by that time, so sitting down and working and drinking coffee and seeing the city flow around me, instead of being part of the flow, was a welcome change.
But I enjoyed the walks along the boulevards thoroughly–I asked more folks directions and felt increasingly comfortable.
Getting lost intentionally in a huge city ad not relying on wifi / smart phone turns out to be a somewhat transformative, empowering experience. At the cafe I asked a neighbor for the wifi code, how much to tip…and was comfortable. He asked me to watch his bags when he walked off for a cigarette. It felt ordinary, home-like, suddenly.
The dinner spot, Nanushka, was amazing. I arrived on-time, which turned out to be early, and watched a bit of the World Cup in an outside area. Dave and Julia arrived, we settled on sitting indoors by the bar though the effing AC was on full blast and they were both half-sick with being tired, stressed. But the indoor areas were much cooler than out, so we went for it. The food was heavy–manly–Georgian–but vegan. Turns out the restaurant was super-popular, then the owner had a vegan conversion and couldn’t serve meat anymore, so turned the restaurant–then the furthest thing from vegan–into a vegan establishment. And the popularity has only expanded, though it was a radical shift for the clientele. Interesting story, business-wise.
The place was very cool–hipster, party scene, DJ, old world…the food was good, yummy, comfort food–it got too loud to talk, so we left, got coconut ice cream on the boulevard, and talked love. Sad, a bit. Then Dave and I walked home. Last night at our airbnb.
As usual, worked for awhile on my laptop, meditated to clear my mind a bit, slept like a rock. Woke and was in a hurry to get to airport from get-go–made time to swim one last time in the salt sea, had coffee and final ad/business meeting with Dave, who’s moving back to Boulder on trial basis for elephant, helped Dave move some stuff, then he helped me big time getting me in a cab with him, and onto train. Confusing ticket thing at train, you have to keep the ticket to get out, glad he was there. A final hug and I was off, on time, with 2.5 hours to spare.
You need 2 hours, supposedly. I used all that time–I was wearing an Arab tee-shirt and that plus being a big man got me saddled in the questionable people line which took forever. But all the Israeli TSA folks were so sweet, smiling, eye contact, personal, human…so unlike TSA folks back in the US, who look tired and distant.
Farewell, #israel. (Where every 18-year-old in the country serves in military for 2-3 years, learning leadership (good), feeding war effort (sad). It’s so ordinary you see them as young humans, not soldiers: iPod headphones, chacos, biking…everywhere. Sometimes with automatic weapons strapped to their back. ~~~~ I’ll miss the people and the beach. Too short of an exploration—was here 5.5 days. Another 1.5 in the air. Saw #telavivcafes, beach, sea, #worldcup , then #holycity #jerusalem #muslim #christian #judaism , then #kibbutz and #deadsea , then day of #elephantjournal meetings. Love to my best friend Dave, Tamar, Tal, and my new friends.
Flying to Sweden. Another first. See you soon, Rachel & Dennis (and Jessica of Sup Yoga fame )
The airport gate is already culture shock, vs. Tel Aviv.
PS: security in Ben Gurion Airport takes forever, but the Israeli TSA are the nicest I’ve ever seen (far nicer than US, particularly)—genuine, eye contact, smiling, efficient. Note: do not wear Arabic tee shirt and be a big man if you want to get through quickly.
Tried to sleep on the plane, but on the aisle, so got bumped constantly though I squeezed my wide shoulders between the aisle and my neighbor, who got up and down at least 12 times. Sweet people, though. I always miss getting to stare out the window–flying is a miracle and it’s best to treat it as such.
The lady by me was beautiful but I don’t like coming on to people–so I just left it. Toward the end of the flight we kept looking at each other, so I said something, and we had a long conversation without flirtation–just a sweet young lady. Iraqi family, fled Iraq long ago, born and raised in Sweden, fluent in English, had just (like me) visiting Israel. She’s Christian, so it was for more of a religious purpose (seeing Nazareth, the Holy City in Jerusalem, Dead Sea etc.). She helped direct me to train vs. cab or bus, since it’d be rush hour. I deliberately left it without trying to make a connection–we exchanged names and had nothing but fun but I want to get into the comfortable habit of just connecting with folks on the road, without it being a thing.
Then another Swedish gentleman helped me find the train, and get off at the right spot, and showed me where to walk instead of getting another train. So I got to walk through the city.
I’m feeling comfortable being alone on the road, by now, so I struck up an easy conversation on the elegant train (wood gray chairs, wood paneled windows, high-speed train, even the shutters had a leather tab–the whole thing was straight out of Wallpaper or Monocle) with two fellow travelers.
I was wowed by my first sight of Sweden–woods, old houses, like something out of Rhye. I’m in love with it here. My walk through the city was pure heaven–I love old architecture, and while we Americans have some of it in NYC, San Francisco…nothing like Europe. This was my first site of Europe in 39.99 years.
Checked into my rather lovely old yet modern hotel in the downtown party/posh district of Stockholm, by a big park. I was hooked up a bit here via a friend of a friend.
Elephant just turned 12. I’m on the road for the first time. In my absence, my team pushed elephant to 8.6 million readers a month ….with me off duty, that’s a birthday present for both of us.
Rachel and everyone are out drinking, Stockholm is being awesome, and I’ve now been working online (first chance in days) in my little posh room for two hours instead of running around seeing amazing society and celebrating with new and old friends. That’s the life of a sillysad entrepreneur. Among other things, I just wrote my weekly Editor’s Letter for our newsletter that goes to 50,000 readers: