I recently wrote about the feelings of dread I had before I visited Sri Lanka, a trip that ended up being far worse than I expected. (And that was before authorities slept on intelligence that could have prevented almost 300 people from getting blown up on Easter. Give Sri Lanka a pass, boys and girls.) But as I get more years under my belt as a travel blogger, good anticipation before a trip is less and less common.
That’s not to say that I take the places I travel to for granted. Some of my favorite destinations like Cambodia and Macedonia, I’ve discovered within the past year. But the pre-travel excitement you get a couple of days or weeks before a trip when you’re planning, prepping, and packing is sort of dulled when you do it once a month. Like all good things, too much of it makes it habitual and chore-like.
So I was pleasantly surprised in the weeks leading up to my trip to Israel to feel an unrelenting level of excitement that I haven’t felt in years.
I wasn’t always amped about Israel as a travel destination. In fact, my girlfriend has been trying to get me to go with her since we started dating, and I’ve been too scared. People who read my blog would probably be surprised to find that I have a lot of travel fear. Sometimes I go anyway, but I do so terrified. And Israel always seemed like the kind of place where I would have a higher than average chance of getting blown out of existence by an incoming rocket.
But I’ve learned this year that if that can happen to you in some garbage country like Sri Lanka, you might as well take your chance in a fabulous and historically significant place like Israel. After I got over the logistical concerns of getting to the West Bank and the obvious threat of being in crowds for the Eurovision competition, which was taking place in Tel Aviv while we visited, I realized I was excited as fuck. For all of it. I wanted to float in the Dead Sea and leave a prayer in the Western Wall, and party in Tel Aviv like Israelis who have no fear. My somewhat irrational concern that I might die there translated into an exhilaration that if I didn’t, I was going to have the time of my life.
Like bad anticipation, there’s no guarantee that your preconceptions will accurately reflect your trip and experience in any way. In fact, too much pre-trip hype could ruin your vacation if a destination fails to live up to it. However, it does make a trip feel more like a journey when you’re anxiously and eagerly looking forward to it for weeks.
In this case, Israel was just as amazing as I expected it to be, and it provided me some of the best travel experiences I’ve had in recent memory. But I wonder if that feeling wasn’t due in part to my fear of being there, and not in spite of it. It makes me feel like I earned that trip a lot more than if I had just taken a weekend trip to Italy.
Maybe everything just tasted sweeter because of my anxiety about how difficult it would be to visit safely. Maybe that’s the payoff for doing something so completely out of your comfort zone. Maybe that’s why people risk their lives to climb Mount Everest – the rush of surviving something you thought could kill you.
Whatever it is, I hope future trips bring me more of that good anticipation. But I might just have to travel to more dangerous places to feel it.