In 1968, at age 23, I left Los Angeles with my husband. Although I had attended college part-time for a few semesters while working full-time, I had many more semesters to go. And I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I decided to quit my job, take a year off, see the world, and then decide on a career. Felt sort of like dancing to the theme song from The Wizard of Oz. “Off to see the wizard,” I sang as I prepared for my adventure. Off to see the unknown. Why? Because, because. Why not? Best decision I ever made.
We sold our possessions, purchased tickets and several sheaths of American Express Travelers Cheques, packed clothes, books, and cameras. I stashed my passport and travel journal in my purse, and said tearful goodbyes to family and friends. “Back in a year,” I said smiling, then hopped aboard the Union Pacific’s Streamliner “City of Los Angeles” passenger train to Chicago where another train would take us on to New York, and an airplane would fly us halfway around the world to London. Then on to Israel to study Hebrew and Jewish History in an ulpan (an institute of study) for six months.
Gliding smoothly across the open, wild desert, I oohed and aahed over the awesome natural beauty of the American West. The train traveled east past Pasadena, Pomona, San Bernardino, Barstow, Needles. On to Kingman, past Williams, Flagstaff, and Winslow, Arizona, past ranches and hillsides of shrub pines. Into New Mexico, past missions and pueblos of Native Americans with corrals of horses, and roaming cattle as far as the eye could see. At dusk a spectacular sunset painted the sky indigo red and a full moon guided us north from Albuquerque into Colorado.
The second day we traversed snow-capped mountains that glistened in the bright sun, then moved down into the farmland and flat plains of Kansas. Onto Kansas City, Missouri and Iowa with miles and miles, and miles (Did I mention miles?) of wheat and cornfields. The Wizard of Oz. I thought of my adventure and realized I wasn’t in LA anymore.
By late morning we reached the Illinois heartland. Glimpses of people and large structures filled the landscape as we neared our destination of Chicago’s Dearborn Station. After another day of travel—over bridges, through dark tunnels, through the crowded Eastern corridor—we were in New York. Coast to coast in three incredible days! What a beautiful country!
JFK Airport to London, another flight to Tel Aviv, and after a long bus ride through the Negev desert, we finally arrived in the village of Arad, where we began our studies.
On weekends we often took a bus and traveled to see the many attractions and places we longed to visit in Israel. From the famous old city of Jerusalem, the Arab souk (market stalls) where I almost got traded for 3 camels (another story), to Tel Aviv beaches, Haifa, the Dead Sea, Masada, and many more.
Once we completed our language and cultural studies, and received diplomas, we decided to fly to Istanbul and explore Turkey with another couple. Beyond the incredible mosques and palaces of Istanbul, we toured the ancient ruins of Ephesus, and hiked the spectacular eroded-yet-inhabited landscape of Göreme.
A few weeks later, we traveled west by train from vibrant Istanbul to the starkness of the Communist countries: Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Czech Republic. Taking a break from the paranoid officials who kept questioning us, we headed south to Austria for a few days respite. But Slovenia was so close,why not?
By the time we crossed into Italy we were running low on cash. We couldn’t imagine leaving Europe without seeing Greece. We thought about it and wondered: could we find jobs, save money, and continue traveling and exploring?
The year was 1969. Family and friends reacted with shock when I informed them that we planned to travel on.
And so began my life-long learning about time-zones, geography, history, languages, cultures and their customs, body language, philosophies, religions, banking and currency exchange, planning, packing, wine and culinary differences, businesses abroad, and so much more. Curiosity pushed me onward. I wanted to live a life fully examined. A wise decision.
By exploring places around the world through my own personal perspective, my mind expanded and my heart opened. Looking back I see that I have probably earned a few Master degrees by becoming a citizen of the world.